So last week I wrote about storyboarding (an important practise in pre-production work), but this week I shall return to ranting about films in general. Now the focus of this week’s blog is about some remarks which Christopher Nolan has made recently. Instead of disagreeing with what he has said (which a lot of people have done) I actually agree with most of it. What has Nolan said I hear you ask…..well I suppose I should divulge otherwise this blog won’t make much sense.
In recent interviews (well some recent, some fairly old), Nolan has expressed his concern on the change in tide for the film industry; from 35mm film to digital. A lot of directors still use film and expressively state that they will never change to digital, such as Tarantino. However Nolan received some backlash when he blew his own trumpet quite loudly. His argument began about why he cannot understand that the film studios push for digital over film, especially when film is cheaper, looks better and is more reliable. This part of his argument I completely agree with. Of course I feel I should weigh out the other side of the argument surrounding film vs digital before continuing to comment on Nolan’s remarks.
Film is overall cheaper; the camera and film stock becomes cheaper than the cameras of the same standard used in Hollywood. Of course film can take longer to set up and overall is bulkier and heavier. Both however can have equally as troubling issues when it comes to the developing process. The film could be damaged within the developing stage and compromise the project. Likewise digital suffers the on-going problems of files which enjoy becoming lost on systems and corrupting themselves. However digital does have the delight of being accessible straight away rather than having to wait for it to return from the developers, although problems can arise which will lead to rendering, the bane of every editors life. Obviously for filmmakers who don’t have the support from the film studios, digital is the cheaper mode of filming. The element about digital which I find often bizarre however is when ever it progresses people always remark ‘it’s now even better because it’s got a film like lens’. It gets to the point of digital is trying desperately to mimic film in every aspect but it just isn’t there yet, but people are still preferring it to film.
Anyway back to Nolan. He then went onto say that it is ruining everything that has worked for within film. Now this remark is what I disagreed with. Certainly Nolan has made a large contribution to film with the ‘Batman’ films, ‘Momento’, and ‘Inception’. However I wouldn’t say that he has made enough of a dent in cinema yet. He has definitely led the way forward for IMAX, but his contribution to film as a whole has been limited simply because of the impact his films have made hasn’t been strong enough yet.
Nolan has however also spoken out against 3D cinema, which as I am sure you are fully aware of by now I absolutely detest. Nolan’s reasons come across as more technical than mine; the best cinema experience is by viewing the image as big as it can go (hence his
love for IMAX), yet 3d cinema actually shrinks the image to allow for the 3d effect to happen. He also goes onto to state the obvious (this is however the obvious which everyone seems to ignore). Film and photography already appear 3D as they have depth to them. Why add an effect (stereoscopic to be precise) to make some parts of the film appear vaguely more 3D? It’s just pointless.
Either way I shall move away from Nolan’s remarks, however stay on topic. I have recently watched some good old films from the 90′s, back when they were pushing special effects, especially to try and break away from the embarrassment of 80′s CGI. Watching ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘The Mummy’ and I released that if these films were made today then the effects couldn’t have been much better. ‘Jurassic Park’ used a lot of animatronics to achieve the realism of the dinosaurs, yet at times CGI was used. Where as ‘The Mummy’ did certainly use CGI as opposed to animatronics. The point is that the effects don’t look dated. Certainly there are times where you are aware that you’re watching some CGI which you don’t want within a film as you’re trying to be absorbed by it. But considering that ‘Jurassic Park’ was released in 1993 and ‘The Mummy’ back in 1999 it seems hard to believe that these effects are over a decade old (similarly ‘The Matrix’ was released in 1999 and had equally good CGI). Now the CGI of today is better quality than these films, I won’t deny that. However these films were shot on 35mm and then had CGI layered over in post-production. All the current films which rely heavily on CGI, so pretty much every new Michael Bay film or alien based film; they praise that it was because of digital filming that they could achieve the standard of CGI they get. The point I’m getting at is simply that statements like this are complete and utter bullshit. Equally good CGI can be used on 35mm film. It also is a disappointment that animatronics aren’t used as much any more and instead the easier option of CGI is used, especially as it’s common place now.
So the next time you see the 35mm vs digital argument, side with 35mm. It is a filmmaking form which doesn’t belong in a museum but in the cinemas.