THE DIGITAL INTERMEDIATE - RESOLUTION
Aspiring filmmakers are incredibly lucky compared to years ago. Today, you can make a movie in just about any format and it will still be taken seriously, assuming you have a great story to tell. Even non commercial cameras are good enough quality to be taken seriously for television, the usual stepping stone to big production. That's the key though, if the characters and storylines are compelling or engaging enough then you will gain a following. Ultimately it does not matter whether it looks beautiful, the point is, if the plot and characters are not engaging, and then neither is the film, whatever format the movie was acquired on.
Portions of the film 28 Days Later were shot on a Canon XL1 digital video camera. DV cameras are much smaller and more manoeuvrable than traditional film cameras, it leant itself to the way in which Danny Boyle shot the feature. They would never have been able to capture the shots as quickly or efficiently as they did in such a short time scale, however ultimately the film was engaging, imaginative and distinctive which propelled it to success.
Prior to the digital revolution of the 1990s, things were a lot different. If the movie was shot on a format other than 35mm (16mm at a push), it did not stand a chance of being distributed, video was looked at as a joke. These standards were so ingrained in the industry; even actors were reluctant to work on non 35mm productions.
All that has changed now, well pretty much - old school still champion film. Where as lower budget, digital cameras have levelled the playing field. Although, 35mm film is still the ipso facto standard by which all video formats are judged and compete.
Has video reached the same quality level as 35mm? Old school filmmakers say a resounding no because the image capturing ability of 35mm is still far greater than video. Plus film is more, well, filmic than video, it has to be said that digital is great because it changes the demographic of production, possibly for the better but who knows? As digital replaces film completely I am sure it will become the vinyl we all hanker for.
The reasons for digital acquisition gaining momentum is traditional optical methods are being seen as archaic and still a little unpredictable, which it is. Within the DI lab, everything has checks and balances, known quantities and closed systems that maintain the image quality throughout the production. As it transfers back to negative, we then let a changeable medium take over, as we give it back to the unknown - an optical lab.
Arguments for and against still rage. Whether you should shoot film, HD or newer routes such as the Red camera which captures the image at 4K are all open to discussion, but with every 'new' technique, different post production routes and workflow need to be discussed and an understanding not just of the workflow but the image itself needs considering. Cost certainly plays a roll, especially comparing film stock, developing and scanning costs, against tape stock or data acquisition!
Is resolution in itself the key, is it enough? Or are we ever going to find a medium that suitably captures as much dynamic range as film? Are we in love with the organic nature of grain enough to hang on to it - or will it end up as vinyl did, within the music industry? Will the visibly clean, dust and scratch free quality of digital really out way the pros and cons? Ultimately with the advent of D-Cinema, everything will be displayed as a digital output via a DLP projector. Whether it is projected 2 or 3D, it really is a changing landscape, but isn't it always.