Film vs Digital Creation

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In this week’s book Streaming: Movies, Media, and Instant Access, Wheeler Winston Dixon discusses the shift into digital technology that inevitably changed the way television and films is now consumed. It used to be that people needed to ensure that they were right on time to catch a movie or the newest episode of a television show, but now almost everything is readily available for streaming on various technological devices instantly (computers, tablet, cellphones, gaming systems, etc.). What used to be a social event has now become, a Dixon puts it:

“a solitary vice in which one person tunes out the rest of the world and tunes in to a digitally perfect copy of a film, without having to participate in a group experience” (Dixon, 23).

banner2_35mmfilmThe digitalization film has inevitable brought a massive change to the way people are able to access and consume movies, television programs, books, music, and more. However, Dixon quotes Mark Olsen’s claim that digital cinema is still in its infancy stage (Dixon, 40). In time, this switch to digital will, “bring about permanent change in the habits of viewers, who can now see films on everything from cell phones to conventional theater screens” (Dixon, 1-2). But what will happen to the conventional theaters? John Fithian, head of the National Association of Theater Owners, strongly suggests the theaters, “Convert or die” (Dixon, 32). Movie theaters that still screen films reel-to-reel on projectors ought to convert fast, as this conventional approach is becoming obsolete. Many professionals in the industry defend the use of traditional film stock, as they find it almost threatening to the filmmaking process. Director Christopher Nolan is one advocate for film, as he believes that switching to digital runs a risk of devaluing the filmmakers craft (Dixon, 38). The differences between film stock and digital video are quite clear:

“Film comes with one set of values inherently present in the stock itself (a tendency toward warmth in color for some film stocks, or towards cooler hues in others, as well as characteristics of grain, depth, and definition that are unique to each individual film matrix), while digital video image offers another entirely different set of characteristics, verging on a hyperreal glossiness that seems to shimmer on the screen” (Dixon, 2).

Below is a short video comparing some of the visual differences between 35mm film and digital, and what it would look like to transform the digital footage to match the favored visual aspects of film:

Similar to Nolan’s stance, Quentin Tarantino also strongly sticks to the “magic” of 35mm filmmaking. Tarantino, who owns his own art-house theater The New Beverly , feels so strongly, in fact, that he refuses to ever go fully digital. In the video below, he discusses why he feels so truly connected and in awe with 35mm:

Knowing how strongly these two well known directors’ favor the conventional film process, and oppose the digital process, I wonder what will happen the day they may be forced to “convert or die.” With so much of their passion stemming from the connection that 35mm has to the history of cinema, what will happen when they are left with no choice? Who knows when, or even if, the extinction of 35mm all together will come, but Dixon strongly suggests that this shift is only in the midst of occurring and becoming permanent. Although I often stream content myself through Netflix, I worry most about what will happen to the original “magic” of filmmaking, and that “illusion of movement” that Tarantino defends in his interview. I am interested to see whether the rest of you think digital improvements threaten the creative process, or open up new possibilities.

Work Cited:

Dixon, Wheeler W. 1950- Author. Streaming: Movies, Media, and Instant Access. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky, 2013. PDF.

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