Side by Side

August 5, 2012 at 6:22 am | Posted in Documentary Review, Film Review | Leave a comment
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The 41st Wellington Film Festival is on; I went to Side by Side – Chris Kenneally’s documentary film on the on-ging digitisation of ‘film’; narrated by Keanu Reeves.

Keanu Reeves interviews a number of directors and directors of photography to get their views and thoughts of digitisation. There are three camps: silver nitrate film is dead, and digital is the way; digital is still limited, and I will continue to shot films with silver nitrate; and it depends on what I want to do.

The directors include: George Lucas, James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, Steven Soderbergh, Martin Charles Scorsese, Lana Wachowski, and Andy Wachowski.

The debate seems to centre around a number of points:

  • Dynamic Range – apparently film is capable of a wider range of light frequency
  • Digital has fewer physical constraints – film canisters are expensive to move around (both shooting and eventual distribution), raw film canisters hold only 10 minutes of shoot time, and a full-length film is many reels
  • Film degrades rapidly the more often you project from it – why spend so much effort, when few audiences will see the film you intend them to see?
  • Digital is immediate – no more waiting for the ‘rushes’ / ‘dailies’
  • Long term archiving – will software still play digital films 30 – 40 – 50 – 60 years from now?
  • All editing and post-production is digital anyway.

The possibility that cinemas might disappear – as people favoured their personal devices or home-theatre systems – was also raised.

There was also a sense of potential loss: if anyone can make movies with their consumer High Definition digital cameras and home editing software, then films will become devalued.

At times the film took on the appearance of commercial for this or than professional digital movie camera.

The film was a tad long – 99 minutes – and might have benefited from some ruthless editing. Nevertheless it was informative and a ‘must see’ for students of film and film history.


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