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Old September 25th, 2003, 05:16 PM   #1
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Video as a cheap imitation of film.

I'm a student at SFSU's Cinema program. We had this guest speaker yesterday in one of my production classes that annoyed me and I thought I'd share.

He made this big presentation about how film is how the human soul wants to take in information and that film is analogous to the way we all dream. Video is just a cheap imitation of film, see. I was getting really tired of this guy by ten minutes in. He said that one of the big differences between film and video is that film is projected, of course the classroom we were in has a video projection system. He had to fire up a film projector and show the images side by side with the video projector so we could all see how much more pleasing the film images were. He also said that the flicker is what makes film so special and that all projectors flicker 24 times a second. I said, "Hey, projectors flash each frame twice, don't they." He'd never heard that.

Then he said that video isn't a complete frame and that it consists of alternating interlaced frames, so I told him that progressive scan video doesn't interlace and can run at 24 frames per second if you have equipment set up to run it that way. He said that film images are inherently higher resolution than digital images and I pointed out that digital still photography has already surpassed the usable resolution of 35mm film. I was talking about my experiences last summer using a Canon EOS 1-Ds, which I explained was outputting 11 megapixel images that I found superior to my experience with 35mm film. He sarcastically said, "Oooh, that's a lot of megapixels." Then he said that even if I'd had a positive experience with digital it was just another example of how desperate manufacturers are to copy the look that film already achieves.

Then he said that data vanishes unexpectedly ("sometimes I try to burn a CD and end up with three or four coasters before the data "sticks" to the CD", the guy said) and that we still have films that are a hundred years old. I asked him how many movies made before 1940 had spontaneously combusted or dissolved in their cans.

Then he started talking about how he soaks his film in urine or berry juice or digs a hole and buries it for artistic effect and asked me if I could do that with video. I told him I could do more interesting things with my video than urinate on it.

Finally he started talking about how video is too inexpensive and how anyone can afford to shoot on video, so it kind of removes the incentive to work hard to get to a place in your life where you have the opportunity to shoot film. He also said that you are more discriminating when you're burning money up every time you fire the shutter release.

I'm no kid. I'm 38 and just now getting to film school, so I'm kind of opinionated and set in my ways, anyway. I've worked in video for nearly 20 years and I've watched quality improve from the old U-Matic decks to the various digital formats we have around today and I try to keep an eye on what's announced and coming. On the other hand, I've shot a lot of double-8mm and Super-8mm home movies and student films, as well as a lot of 35mm still photography. I like film and I know there's a lovely tactile experience to be had when you have a negative. I just think fetishing over format is a waste of effort. If I could shoot video right now in the same resolutions that digital still photography is currently able to achieve I'd never even think about film again. And I'm sure someone could write me a convincing filter to simulate soaking my negative in urine if I really needed to feel like an art school student.

I'm done ranting. I guess my point is that I think we're being fed a really counterproductive message about what's important about filmmaking. In fact, I said the phrase "digital motion picture photography" during the lecture yesterday and was told that there's no such thing. There's motion picture photography and then there's video (said with sarcasm). Ugh.

-Rob
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Old September 25th, 2003, 05:53 PM   #2
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<<<-- Originally posted by Robert Jackson :
Then he started talking about how he soaks his film in urine or berry juice or digs a hole and buries it for artistic effect and asked me if I could do that with video. I told him I could do more interesting things with my video than urinate on it.
-Rob -->>>

ROFLMAO ! That's a good one !

Seems he must be really pissed off (no pun intended!) to see filmmaking (and I do mean filmmaking) finally accessible to more people.

The part about people being more careful about what they are doing because film costs more money than tape is a classic argument, but a very crappy one. You are careful because you want your images to look good.

I believe we have just scratched the surface as far as video's potential for filmmaking and storytelling.
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Old September 25th, 2003, 06:36 PM   #3
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Sounds like he is Pissed off about film not being so elitist for only the upper-class elite. He sounded like he has unrinated on to many films over the years and his brain has gone out of his hole.

<<"data vanishes unexpectedly">>........Like you dont have to take care with film? What happens if your pee is a little to alkali, you could loose valuable film stock And you cannot use one of the good old school classic....the dog pee-ed on it! with the crew could you?

I would have loved to have been there and asked him to show so of his filmed stuff.

<<"Then he started talking about how he soaks his film in urine or berry juice or digs a hole and buries it for artistic effect and asked me if I could do that with video.">>..........mmm maybe Rodriquez should have washed film in tequila to give it an authentic mexican feel.

I would have asked him for a quick draw gunfight-style on Film vs Video and then asked him to see who can film and playback to the audience the film footage the quickest, for a little show of flexibility with different formats. You could have recorded it, edited artistic effects on the footage and played in back using HD or DV format even before he finished his bottle of water to build up his urine content to urinate on his film to get "artistic style". Never mind develop and fix his film stock properly.

Holding on to the past is a bad trait....just imagine if we had not burned sand to make lenses, as artistic paints were better. Of if AGFA or Kodak had been just content with Black and White film...where would we be today I wonder?
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Old September 25th, 2003, 06:45 PM   #4
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Quote:
Robert Jackson posted:
He also said that the flicker is what makes film so special and that all projectors flicker 24 times a second. I said, "Hey, projectors flash each frame twice, don't they." He'd never heard that.
You're right. Projectors flash each frame twice because they have dual-bladed "bowtie" shutters. Some projectors like the Christie P35 have a single blade shutter, but it spins twice as fast. You can also get three bladed shutters for projectors on which the light output is extremely high, thus having an image that cycles at 72Hz instead of 48, pretty much eliminating flicker and producing an outstanding, flickerless image.

I think film is a better method to shoot on than video for the time being if image quality is your main concern and/or you want a theatrical release. But I certainly wouldn't use the guy who visited your class to try to make that argument for me.
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Old September 25th, 2003, 08:03 PM   #5
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This guy doesn't know what he's talking about or he's one of the real artsy types with long hair and tie-dyed shirts.

By the way, 35mm film is generally considered 12mp to 25mpixels depending on the study.

There's nothing wrong with shooting in black and white.

One of the things I think he's ranting about is the ability of anyone to just pick up a camera and shoot a "movie". And here is where the true film artist and others diverge.

The shortest time spent in making a movie is the actual filming of the scene. Months are spent just deciding camera angles, lights, lenses to use, colors, background, etc. Each job is done by an artist, including cinematographer and soundman. Even the actors are generally a calibre higher than actors in your local area.

I just got off the set of a department store commercial that took 4 days to shoot using 35mm. But DV would not have sped it up in anyway.

Some in the film industry find this "anyone can pick up a camera" as a watering down of the quality, beginning with the amateur lower quality cam market. Today, some films coming out are poorly done because it was under time pressure to rush it through and some will blame it on the dv revolution creating a "I don't want it done right, I want it done now!" environment.

Uh, oh. I'm spinning off into a tangent!
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Old September 25th, 2003, 10:49 PM   #6
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Robert J, thanks for posting that. I'm sorry to hear that an individual who is so mis-informed with the facts and biased against new technologies is being presented to impressionable ears.

For myself, with a background that has some early parallels to yours (I too started in video), I've found that my background has helped me now that digital is infiltrating all levels of filmmaking. I have very specific opinions about the merits of both film vs digital origination, depending on the project.

Christopher: I appreciate your humor, but let's not counter one guys blindsided-ness with similar thinking. No question that digital is a quicker medium to work in than film, but unless the project requires speed specifically, quicker is only better if the results are as good. If however you feel that DV or HD is every bit as good-looking as 35mm film, then fair enough.

Rob: regarding this statement:

""The shortest time spent in making a movie is the actual filming of the scene. Months are spent just deciding camera angles, lights, lenses to use, colors, background, etc. Each job is done by an artist, including cinematographer and soundman. Even the actors are generally a calibre higher than actors in your local area."

I only wish that every show I've worked on, or even some of them, afforded the opportunity to plan out angles, lighting and lenses ahead of time. Production design is decided in advance of course, because it requires blueprints, material costing, prop shopping etc...but that's not to say that last-minute fiascos are thrown at production designers every single day. The DP hopes to be able to create a lighting scheme for a given set and have his pre-rig crew do as much as possible, but many times the lions share of lighting is done immediately after the rehersal and just before shooting. Angles and lenses--again, occasionally there's things in mind, but more often than not you pull this out of your a** on the day. This is the way of most features. Commercials require more specific storyboarding because of the input of the agency. And then you have your Coen Bro's who storyboard every frame well ahead of time, but they are the exception in this day and age.

Long and short of it, even with all those trucks and people, I've worked on many movies that have about as much pre-planning as your average DV film, weird as it seems! It's the way a lot of directors like it these days.

"" Today, some films coming out are poorly done because it was under time pressure to rush it through and some will blame it on the dv revolution creating a "I don't want it done right, I want it done now!" environment."

Once again--virtually all films these days are under extreme time pressure, except for those select top filmmakers who have earned the right to spend a lot of studio money making films their way.

For everyone else, the studios push the production to get the show done as quickly as possible and cut every corner they can, and pay everyone the least they can, because the studios are all run these days by friggin' bean counters. It's ugly and getting uglier. Watch me get off on a tangent about this one--the industry is not at all what it was when I was a humble PA, watching the camera crew like a hawk, waiting my turn to get in.

OK, I pulled out of it...! I'm back.

Anyway, the DV "revolution" hasn't really hit Hollywood significantly. It was flavor of the month a year or two ago, and is back out again for the most part. Digital in the film world is really more about digital intermediate than origination; there's not a whole lot you can capture on HD that you can't on film, but there's a LOT you can do in post with a digital intermediate that you can't with chemical/optical printing.
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Old September 25th, 2003, 11:14 PM   #7
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Do people actually soak their film in urine for artistic effect?
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Old September 25th, 2003, 11:44 PM   #8
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The more interesting question might be, "What do you have to drink to achieve certain effects?".
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Old September 26th, 2003, 03:58 AM   #9
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<<<-- Originally posted by Charles Papert : Digital in the film world is really more about digital intermediate than origination; there's not a whole lot you can capture on HD that you can't on film, but there's a LOT you can do in post with a digital intermediate that you can't with chemical/optical printing. -->>>

This is another aspect of the process that didn't come up in class, but it's a really good thing to point out. A digital interpositive really frees up filmmakers to use existing cameras and lenses and still use digital technology to achieve results in their film that would have been impractically time-consuming, if not impossible not long ago.

I'm kind of over my freakout now, but it really caught me off-guard to hear someone talking like that about the process. He showed us Mothlight and said that Brakhage would never have been able to tape moth wings to videotape. Comments like that annoy me. It's so shortsighted. Right here in my little workroom I could scan high-resolution images of moth wings right off my Firewire flatbed and assemble a project like Mothlight a frame at a time, probably about as fast as Brakhage was able to assemble his work. It's about inspiration and creativity, IMO, not which tools are used to do the work. If Truffaut or Godard had been all wrapped up in worshipping the way people worked before them there would have never been a French New Wave movement...you know, 'n stuff like that. ;-)

It's a double-whammy for me, though, because I really do like film. I love shooting film. I really like pretty much everything about the experience of shooting film and I'm usually pretty indifferent to video. It doesn't stir passion in me like sitting down to a 70mm print at a good theater does, but that's all image quality. Digital stills may be there already, but digital as a motion picture medium has got a little way to go still. When you can pick up a six pound camera that can capture Imax quality images to whatever digital storage medium is available by then I won't think twice about the loss of film, though.

I told someone after class Wednesday that I wondered if all the "No Digital" film fetishists with their PETA stickers and Meat Is Murder buttons had any idea where the gelatin layer of film emulsion comes from. ;-)

-Rob
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Old September 26th, 2003, 05:51 AM   #10
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Oh man!... Where to begin....
I had a few teacher like that bak in film school... not for one lecture.. but for a whole trimester (twice)...

Anyway I think there are few missing point around here:

1. - The STORY. Donīt get me wrong... I like to see great images... but Iīd better like to see great stories with crappy images... than great images with crappy stories... I donīt care if itīs video or film or a flash movie or a slide show peed by an elephant... but this people usually never give the STORY, the importance it has...


2.- Why there is allways someone making an "artistic-subjective-competitive" compairson between media?... thatīs what they are... just tools and technical stuff to help you tell your story... So I think compairson between these should stay in the technical side, and avoid the "which is better" instead of the "What can each achieve".. and also leave the fetish-religious-fanatism out...

3.- So, you get whatever media you can or need, and start telling your story...

4.- And afterwards you drink the berry juice, dig a hole and pee in it.. the film? just send it to the lab...
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Old September 26th, 2003, 08:23 AM   #11
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If Truffaut or Godard had been all wrapped up in worshipping the way people worked before them there would have never been a French New Wave movement...you know, 'n stuff like that. ;-)
Funny you should mention Godard, he was the first big proponent of pushing video way back in the 80's, he switched all his filmmaking to video. Just a little tidbit.

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Old September 26th, 2003, 09:11 AM   #12
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Robert,

Tell him that there are a lot of us here who are open to both film and video and that to show our willingness to show support for his opinion... and that we don't discriminate against film... we'll be glad to urinate on some of his films for him.
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Old September 26th, 2003, 09:22 AM   #13
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I totally agree that the story is the most important ingredient.

I got in another conversation with someone, I don't think it was here, about the audience not knowing the difference between something shot on film vs video.

It's a paradox because because the audience DOES know the difference when they have something to compare it to or it's obviously video like Blair Witch. For the production company to choose the lesser of the two means short-changing the audience and not giving them all you can. Excepting of course when a certain affect is desired, such as 28 Days. I'm also assuming the company has the funds to make an either/or choice, also.
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Old September 26th, 2003, 09:27 AM   #14
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A great example of this is the original "Blair Witch Project" and the sequel. The original had a great story, but was pretty rough around the edges production-wise. In contrast, the sequel was polished but had a lousy story.

I've watched the original several times. I only watched the sequel once...about 3/4 of the way through I put in another video.
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Old September 26th, 2003, 12:59 PM   #15
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This guy sounds like the pick of the litter. I wonder how much he was paid for this speech, er, lecture? I belive that one day, Digital will replace film outright. It is just a matter of technology and evolution. I personally love film, and if it was affordable, would use it.

I'm not sure if this guy was operating on an agenda or not, but, with the invent of DV and 24p (both of which we will continue to see quantum leaps in quality) it has opended up the playing field for wannabe filmakers. Something the world has not seen since, hmmm, the 60's?

It's an exciting time. I am 33 and have spent my entire life wanting to make films, working on lo/no's, etc and was literally about to just forget about one day making my own films, and then, wham! DV 24p, etc. I'm on pace for my first DVX100 24p and have a renewed passion in filmaking. Something I at once thought was never going to happen. Are there better cam's out there than the DVX100? Hell, yes. But for my budget and level, it will do just fine in learning the art of DPing and Directing.

Sounds like you gave him a tough time. Good for you! Your right, film has really become an elitists club. Not anymore. There is alot of talent out there and artists who are finally being giving a chance to make some really great pieces of work without maxing out 10 credit cards and mortgaging the house for a feature film shot on Super 16!
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