Saturday, August 18, 2012

Side by Side


The Old vs. The New                     
by Zac Sanford

For over ten years the industry has bemoaned the end of celluloid..  Those who are for the photochemical process of filmmaking point out the shortcomings of the newer technology.  The filmmakers and DPs who have already jumped on board will spout off the countless benefits to the digital process.

In Side by Side both positions of the argument are given their fare share of screen time.  And before the casual viewer scoffs at a film about the filmmaking process and the merits of the changing technology, don't let the film's subject matter scare you off.  How can you be afraid of such a subject when the person conducting the interviews is none other than Keanu Reeves.  Yes, Bill of Bill and Ted sits back and lobs softball questions at such luminary directors and below-the-line talent that any layman can grasp the discussion at hand.

The documentary has such heavyweights as Steven Soderbergh, Robert Rodriguez, George Lucas, Danny Boyle and James Cameron, who have all been on board with the digital revolution for over a decade.  On the other side of the argument, Christopher Nolan is probably the most vocal about the downfall of cinema and is backed up by the always entertaining Wally Pfister.  Countless other Directors and cinematographers go into deep detail of the digital age, from the first CCD camera developed by Bell Labs in the 60s to the latest in technology from Red and Arri.

But the documentary doesn't just cover the film production, but delves deeper into the digital revolution, helping filmmakers from pre-production through post.  The talking heads continue through an array of special effects gurus, editors, colorists and even a little bit about exhibition and distribution.  The only lacking area is the shift into digital distribution on the web and VOD, but that may be better left to a different documentary - one that isn't littered with so many Hollywood staples.

In the end, the film (can we even call these films anymore when they're not shot on that format) covers both sides evenly, including throwing in some of the newer generation of filmmakers who may never know what it is like to shoot on film. But they all do agree on one thing. There is limited time left on the film format.  It is just that no one knows when that day will come.  As Robert Rodriguez put it best, right now film may be above digital overall, but film can never be improved from its current state.  Year after year, new cameras are released and the technology improves, it is only time before digital surpasses the film format.

Side by Side is currently playing in Los Anggeles.  The film will open in New York City and additional cities next week and launches on VOD platforms on August 22nd.

1 comment:

  1. I learned shooting and editing on film. It was an irreplaceable experience: the physical act of editing, and even loading the camera, I got to the point I could cut simply by holding the take up to the light (if sound wasn't a factor of course), I love the smell of film, I even wax somewhat nostalgic about combing the floor for individual frames.
    However, I'm with David Lynch on this one.Since 2004 I've been shooting DV (a variety of shorts); and i am shooting my first feature "Day of Wrath" on DV. None of this would have been possible if film were the only option.
    A roll of raw stock was actually quite cheap, 2 mins of 16mm color was about $30. But the processing, the printing, negative cutting ect ran could end up costing $900 per two minutes. This is money a director can be putting in front of the camera or giving the cast and crew.
    Economics aside, i learned quite early in when I was shooting on analog video - how to make the camera get the image I wanted- not just composition but the quality of the blacks, color, lighting. I.e. whether you're shooting on hi-8, s-vhs, film or digital video- the basics remain. What's important is what you actually shoot and edit together and ask an audience to sit thru. Audiences can be pretty forgiving of grain and the occasional soft frames if you've got a good story told well with interesting visuals. I know for a fact that there's still a few people at the major studios who believe the same.