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Digital Style vs. Filmic Style 
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Post Digital Style vs. Filmic Style
This is some serious shit, not only on the mainstream level but at the student level as well.

So I'm watching RE5 on my laptop and a fellow student comes up to comment on how bad it looks. But wait - he's not talking about the acting, story, or the fact that it's a videogame movie or anything like that. What he says is, "it looks too DSLR-y." DSLR is a type of digital camera which maximizes the point of digital: hard, crisp images; devoid of the mysterious, musty look that you get with film. It's high definition taken to the absolute maximum. A camera for the blu-ray age.

Now, the student in question shot his film on 16 mm. Most others in the program used the same DSLR I did, but they all try to light their scenes for the filmic, musty look. So what you get is a clear digital image trying to force itself to look like film. Naturally, I didn't do that. I tried to maximize the purpose of the camera I was using by creating the hardest, clearest images possible. In a month or so, these films will be judged against each other so I will feel the pang of this conflict on a personal level.

The difference between filmic and digital styles is simply unmistakeable. Compare Skyfall to Looper. Looper is designed in the filmic sense; its color scheme of vague browns and grays may looks great when projected; provided with that filmic context. On Blu-ray, not so much. The browns and grays become crisp and clear, so naturally they seem ugly. The extreme definition of blu-ray will kill the mystique of a film like this.

RE5, on the other hand, has no visual mustiness. Everything is clearer than the human eye sees things in real life. Some people claim this makes it look fake or cheap. Here's what I think it does. It rips the curtain out from the "mystery" of filmmaking. Direction and acting become crystal clear; so clear that if they are bad, they'll be very obviously bad. More obviously than if you saw it projected in a theater. It's like Wizard of Oz: "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," says film advocates. The digital advocates reply, "stop bullshitting us and show us your true face; a good artist should need nothing to hide behind."

I believe that the digital style is how filmmaking should be. It's the clearest, sharpest measure of a director's talent and skill. Yes, it looks different than what we grew up with and takes some getting used to. But it's a taste worth acquiring. And let's face it, it's inevitable at this point. The future is digital; directors must adapt stylistically to this future. Don't try telling that to film students though; they must find a way to be superior to everyone else, and right now this is their main way. The Artist, atrocious as it is, to me represents a digital style, as does The King's Speech. So perhaps the Oscars are coming around to it.

All I know is that with my short film, I have nothing to hide. I'm confident in the material I came up with. So why wouldn't I want the images to be sharp and clear as possible? Interested to hear what others think, and what the ultimate future will be for this issue.


Sun Dec 09, 2012 6:51 pm
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Post Re: Digital Style vs. Filmic Style
MGamesCook wrote:
So I'm watching RE5 on my laptop and a fellow student comes up to comment on how bad it looks. But wait - he's not talking about the acting, story, or the fact that it's a videogame movie or anything like that. What he says is, "it looks too DSLR-y." DSLR is a type of digital camera which maximizes the point of digital: hard, crisp images; devoid of the mysterious, musty look that you get with film. It's high definition taken to the absolute maximum. A camera for the blu-ray age.


Might also have something to do with watching the movie on your laptop.

MGamesCook wrote:
Now, the student in question shot his film on 16 mm. Most others in the program used the same DSLR I did, but they all try to light their scenes for the filmic, musty look. So what you get is a clear digital image trying to force itself to look like film. Naturally, I didn't do that. I tried to maximize the purpose of the camera I was using by creating the hardest, clearest images possible. In a month or so, these films will be judged against each other so I will feel the pang of this conflict on a personal level.


You do agree that even when everything was shot on film, movies had wildly different looks and aesthetics? Lighting, colour schemes, film stock, and many more techniques that you're probably more aware of than me can be used to help create atmosphere, tone, immediacy, etc. It all depends on what you're wanting to achieve. If the student shooting on 16mm has a reason to do so, in that it will allow him to more accurately achieve his vision, then that's his decision to make. Same with high clarity digital. If the aesthetic that it creates matches your vision for the film, and will create your desired effect, then you've made the correct decision. The other student shouldn't criticize you for your decision, nor should you criticize him. Let's just hope that both work.

MGamesCook wrote:
The difference between filmic and digital styles is simply unmistakeable. Compare Skyfall to Looper. Looper is designed in the filmic sense; its color scheme of vague browns and grays may looks great when projected; provided with that filmic context. On Blu-ray, not so much. The browns and grays become crisp and clear, so naturally they seem ugly. The extreme definition of blu-ray will kill the mystique of a film like this.


Firstly, I'd like to know what your setup is to watch movies. Are you using a projector, plasma, LCD, LED-LCD? I can guarantee that the look of a blu ray is very much dependent on what you use to visually display it. LCDs can look quite different to plasmas. What kind of colour scheme, contrast ratio, brightness, noise-filtering, ect, are you using? As was discussed a while ago regarding this article here, the visual output can vary wildly depending on your configuration.

Compare this more film-like screenshot of Inception:
Image
The this digitally enhanced one:
Image

Many blu rays (especially anything released by the Criterion Collection) try and capture an image as close to the original film print as possible (clearly defined film grain, filmic colour reproduction). You can easily alter that depending on your TVs configuration, but that's nothing to do with blu ray. I'm not arguing that blu ray looks exactly like film (it doesn't) but I don't believe it's as drastic aesthetic change as you're implying.

I'd love to go into more detail with responses to your post. And I think it's very interesting and worth discussing. But I have meetings I must attend.


Last edited by Awkward Beard Man on Mon Dec 10, 2012 4:12 am, edited 1 time in total.



Sun Dec 09, 2012 7:30 pm
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Post Re: Digital Style vs. Filmic Style
Inception's looks better with the first screencap because a filmic look is what Nolan was going for. But I imagine Skyfall may look nicer with the second screencap. I suppose it is conditional, but I think it's safe to say that the digital style represents the future.


Sun Dec 09, 2012 8:17 pm
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Post Re: Digital Style vs. Filmic Style
MGamesCook wrote:
Inception's looks better with the first screencap because a filmic look is what Nolan was going for. But I imagine Skyfall may look nicer with the second screencap. I suppose it is conditional, but I think it's safe to say that the digital style represents the future.


I think it's a part of the future, but unlikely to be solely the future. The digital look is something that we weren't able to achieve before with film. Digital represents a new aesthetic that films are able to have. But I don't think it should be the ONLY look, because some tones and atmospheres simply wouldn't work with the use of high clarity digital.

Moonrise Kingdom was shot in Super 16mm. The added softness of this approach creates a more dreamlike visualscape that helps in establishing the painterly picture-book atmosphere of the film. The medium on which the movie was filmed on, in my opinion, enhanced the film through it's whimsical aesthetic, like remembering your childhood through a dream. Digital, especially the digital you're describing wouldn't work, and would likely diminish the effect of the film.

Skyfall's digital photography worked especially well because it also linked into one of the themes of the film, being the "old world" and the "new world". Bond's been around for 50 years, and I think it's appropriate that in a film where the villain is using technology that none of the characters were prepared for (Bond being a distinctively "old world" character type, a person your grandfather can relate to), that the film should be made using technology that results in the film looking like nothing you'd ever seen before (especially in the Bond franchise). It just works, and the digital appearance of the film is organically part of the film's DNA, seemingly from inception.

I think the appearance of films should depend entirely on the type of film that's trying to be made. That's not to say the digital is bad, or that the film look is now redundant. Digital is quick to be attacked because it is new, because it's different. But it will soon find its place (I think it found the perfect sweet spot with Skyfall), and will be accepted by the wider film community. But let's not be so fast to dismiss the past, as I feel it should still have an important place in the future.


Last edited by Awkward Beard Man on Mon Dec 10, 2012 4:16 am, edited 1 time in total.



Sun Dec 09, 2012 10:26 pm
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Post Re: Digital Style vs. Filmic Style
Awkbeard Ward Man makes an excellent point, but, as with so many new technologies, viability as an artistic choice will take (and is taking) a distant second place to economics.

Perhaps there will one day be a Schindler's List-esque resurrection of the lost art of shooting on film.

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Sun Dec 09, 2012 10:30 pm
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Post Re: Digital Style vs. Filmic Style
Ken wrote:
Awkbeard Ward Man makes an excellent point, but, as with so many new technologies, viability as an artistic choice will take (and is taking) a distant second place to economics.

Perhaps there will one day be a Schindler's List-esque resurrection of the lost art of shooting on film.


Thanks man. I realize that film is on the way out, and in the future we'll probably see about as many films shot on film as there are as many movies shot on 70mm today.

But MGamesCook is also arguing that digitally shot films should stop trying to imitate the look of film. And this is where I disagree, since not every film is suited towards the obvious high-clarity digital look. Really, digital could give us more power, allowing us to faithfully replicate the look of any film-stock or colouring. The ability to apply a filter and have a digital film look identical to the old technicolor colouring process. With more time and fine tuning, I wouldn't be surprised if it got to the point where it was nearly impossible to spot the differences. That's an exciting prospect to me. Sure there'll always be films that are suited toward the hyper-real clarity that digital can offer (a film like Zero Dark Thirty would probably be a decent match). But I'm excited about the many more possibilities of this brave new world.


Sun Dec 09, 2012 10:44 pm
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Post Re: Digital Style vs. Filmic Style
There is a huge difference between digital photography and digitally enhanced analog photography. The "contour glow" is infamous among people who know a thing or two about photography. The latter is simply a matter of exaggerating digital enhancement. If you shoot on high def digital to begin with, there is no need for the exaggerated and "glowing" contours. "Skyfall" didn't suffer from any of these artifacts. The projection I saw was ultra clean, crisp, with vibrant colors (some of them look off to my old school eyes I must admit) - but without visible digital artifacts.
In stills photography there are many different approaches in todays digital age. One of these is the so called "hard look" which can be described as hyper realism. if the source is already hi def, the outcome will be "metallic" but crisp. If the source is soft, artifacts will become evident. There are also various approaches to photography and cinematography trying to resemble (and learn from) the old masters in oil painting such as Rembrandt.

I think we should not simplify this topic down to "digital" and "analog". Since the early 90s, almost all 35mm theatrical prints(=analog) went through digital intermediate states - creating a look which wouldn't have been possible otherwise. That is to say nothing of CGI. So any "true" analog film look should be looked for pre 1990s.
Digital recently has become able to resemble analog film (or the result of analog film with digital intermediate states) very closely. I think that "Skyfall" still has a lot of analog "film look" to it.

The bad "glowing contours" digitally enhanced look is mostly a "desease" caused by poor factory default settings of crappy tv LCD screens.


Sun Dec 09, 2012 10:55 pm
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Post Re: Digital Style vs. Filmic Style
Well the big problem with talking about the future of digital photography is that the digital of today will likely be nothing like the digital in 20 years. Now the film has become part of the digital market, the generational leap forward will be much closer together, to the point that it'll be difficult to keep up with the current technology.

This will place a considerable burden on DP's who will be constantly required to not only learn their craft, but also keep up with the constantly changing paradigms. As a Software Engineer, we have to deal with this problem all the time. Often the developers who become managers become borderline technologically illiterate in a number of years if they don't make an active effort to keep up with the changing technologies. With traditional film, the technologies were considerably more stable, allowing the professionals to hone their craft over time, without having the fear of being left behind.


Sun Dec 09, 2012 11:12 pm
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Post Re: Digital Style vs. Filmic Style
Awkward Beard Man wrote:
This will place a considerable burden on DP's who will be constantly required to not only learn their craft, but also keep up with the constantly changing paradigms. As a Software Engineer, we have to deal with this problem all the time. Often the developers who become managers become borderline technologically illiterate in a number of years if they don't make an active effort to keep up with the changing technologies. With traditional film, the technologies were considerably more stable, allowing the professionals to hone their craft over time, without having the fear of being left behind.


Absolutely! Same in music (composition/production), only that the two major changes occured already in the 90s (digital keyboards, computers and MIDI sequencing with comprehensive graphics came and stayed) and in the early 2000s (after years of transition, everything went digital and you can (and are forced to) do any kind of music production including notation/orchestration inside a computer or hardware based digital environment). It has been fairly "stable" during the last 6-8 years for various reasons, one of them being the fact that we are still stuck with the CD (and rarely Super Audio CD) resolution, and virtual instruments are still mostly stuck with audio sampling technology (way over 30 years old), only much improved.

Video and the movies (now finally the same technology) seem to be on the verge of a major leap after film being abandoned altoghether. So I agree with you 100%: lighting, lensing, framing, hardware, software and image storage will change dramatically in the near future, perhaps - similar to audio - in several huge leaps.
The tendency will be (most likely): less jobs and higher pressure to keep up with technology for those who still have jobs. To say nothing about editing and "movie grammar" in general.

The only force against this is the "peter principle", which you mentioned above: People will be given jobs higher up in the food chain and brought into complete incompetence. Often the people who call the shots are completely out of touch with reality. That probably won't change any time soon.

I come from a time when our parents still were mostly able to do the same job the same way during decades. it started to change a lot during the 1980s, bringing dramatic changes to just about everything during the 90s. I guess it's only as we speak that the last traces of the 20th century are gone. I trust that parents are now able to educate their children to think and plan in entirely different ways: you can't learn your craft and expect it to stay that way for the rest of your life. No can do. I reember how much I (and all my colleagues) had to learn about new equipment and software. It's all mostly garbage in our brain now, since every piece of equipment (with few exceptions) became obsolete. I imagine software developers: it must be tons of information which eventually becomes "data garbage" in our brains except perhaps for some of the concepts.

I still wait for the first movie cameras to use something different than lenses to capture light. A lot of innovation comes from military technology, so they very likely have it already such as scanning instead of using lenses and of course capturing more than just the visible spectrum of light. I most likely barely scratched the surface. Well let's wait and see...


Mon Dec 10, 2012 4:56 am
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