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Renowned cinematographer Roger Deakins says: "Whether I'll shoot on film again, I don't know"

02.09.2011

If you're a fan of gorgeous-looking pictures, then you likely have cinematographer Roger Deakins to thank for it. The man is a nine-time Academy Award nominee and a regular collaborator with the Coen Brothers (he's nominated this year in fact for their western TRUE GRIT), as well as being responsible for the look of films such as Martin Scorsese's KUNDUN, Andrew Dominik's THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES (pictured), and Andrew Niccol's upcoming sci-fi thriller NOW.

In fact, it's NOW (formally I'M.MORTAL) that marks Deakins' first attempt at shooting a film using digital cameras. So what are the thoughts of the master cinematographer that's been shooting on celluloid now for over 30 years? This is what he had to say in a recent interview with /Film:

"This film Now, Iím shooting on a digital camera. First film Iíve shot digitally, because, frankly, itís the first camera Iíve worked with that Iíve felt gives me something I canít get on film. Whether Iíll shoot on film again, I donít know. [Shooting on Digital] gives me a lot more options. Itís got more latitude, itís got better color rendition. Itís faster. I can immediately see what Iím recording. I can time that image on set with a color-calibrated monitor. That coloring goes through the whole system, so itís tied with the meta-data of the image. So that goes through the whole post-production chain, so itís not a case of being in a lab and having to sit and then time a shot on a shot-by-shot because this has already got a control on it thatís set the timing for the shot, you know?"

But for all the talk about film vs. digital and which one is truly better, Deakins cuts through all the bullshit and states the fact that has and always will remain true:

"The grain is unique, but on this film Now that Iím doing, Iím probably going to add grain for certain sequences where I feel that they would benefit having grain, just the look and the texture of it. Yeah, there are certain things about film emulsion that I love, and for certain projects, absolutely. I would certainly consider shooting film again, but you can add grain to a digital image. And, frankly, itís not the technology that makes the great movies. I mean, if you went back to see Citizen Kane and you looked at it on a big screen and you looked at the quality of the image, I mean, frankly, some of it is not veryÖwell, goodís not the right word, because technically itís not as sharp. Some of it is very grainy. The lens quality is not as good as modern lenses. ButÖ[Laughs] itís still a better film than ninety-nine percent of what are made today. So, you know, itís not just about technique and equipment."

You can read Deakins' entire quotes on the subject RIGHT HERE.
Extra Tidbit: Will film inevitably go away completely? Or will there always be someone like a Steven Spielberg that will keep celluloid alive?
Source: /Film

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4:30PM on 02/09/2011
Yeah, its easier to shoot on, but it also looks like fucking shit. Especailly when it is transfered over to blu-ray. I've noticed digital to digital transfers loose a great deal of detail. Film looks better all around.
Yeah, its easier to shoot on, but it also looks like fucking shit. Especailly when it is transfered over to blu-ray. I've noticed digital to digital transfers loose a great deal of detail. Film looks better all around.
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4:26PM on 02/09/2011

I have passion on this subject...

I've shot every format out there and I have to say as much as I love the ease of use of the new DSLR's and the Red cam (for the most part) 35mm is hands down still the best thing to shoot on. Even beyond the quality of the product there is a certain mindset that goes along with shooting film (esp. on low budgets) that is excellent discipline for filmmakers. It's more expensive yes, but that is what puts you on your game to really try and get things right. With HD people are now just shooting
I've shot every format out there and I have to say as much as I love the ease of use of the new DSLR's and the Red cam (for the most part) 35mm is hands down still the best thing to shoot on. Even beyond the quality of the product there is a certain mindset that goes along with shooting film (esp. on low budgets) that is excellent discipline for filmmakers. It's more expensive yes, but that is what puts you on your game to really try and get things right. With HD people are now just shooting everything and relying on post to fix it. It's that "shooting blind" skill that is invaluable to filmmakers and if you really want to hone your craft as a director/dp have the balls to shoot film.
The secret to shooting on film on a low budget? Become a good editor so you know when to call cut on set. That's what I did and I've shot short films and music videos on 35mm for less than probably a plate of food on a Bruckheimer set but the quality ALWAYS gets people's attention. I love HD for it's availability etc. but don't let the desire for immediate gratification overshadow the discipline and quality skill set required to shoot film.
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4:16PM on 02/09/2011

Sure why not

Roger Deakins is easily in the top three cinematographers working today. The other two being of course, Robert Richardson and Janusz Kaminski. Considering the look, versatility and ease of use for digital technology, and as the tehcnology develops further, I have no problem with its use becoming more widespread. Especially in the hands of a master like Deakins, who has a very classic, traditionally "hollywood" style of framing and composition. He wouldn't go for the more negative aspects of
Roger Deakins is easily in the top three cinematographers working today. The other two being of course, Robert Richardson and Janusz Kaminski. Considering the look, versatility and ease of use for digital technology, and as the tehcnology develops further, I have no problem with its use becoming more widespread. Especially in the hands of a master like Deakins, who has a very classic, traditionally "hollywood" style of framing and composition. He wouldn't go for the more negative aspects of digital, excessive electronic noise and horrible, horrible, shaky cam. BUt would certainly be able to capitalise on excellent clarity and color control. Not that this even precludes him using film in the first place. It's just another tool available to use.
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-4
2:41PM on 02/09/2011
Thank god there are at least some intelligent cinmatographers left who actually get and know that digital looks fucking disgusting (still).
If he doesn't see it, he shouldn't be a DP.
If actually every movie in the near future will be filmed digitally, that's the end of movies.

Even all those big blockbusters - since 3d, are going digital and it's just disgusting. the teaser for transformers 3 already had awful digital shots :(
Thank god there are at least some intelligent cinmatographers left who actually get and know that digital looks fucking disgusting (still).
If he doesn't see it, he shouldn't be a DP.
If actually every movie in the near future will be filmed digitally, that's the end of movies.

Even all those big blockbusters - since 3d, are going digital and it's just disgusting. the teaser for transformers 3 already had awful digital shots :(
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11:02AM on 02/09/2011

Red One

Some of the best digital efforts recently have been via the RED One: "Book of Eli", "District 9", "Che", "Valhalla Rising", "Winter's Bone" (for the film-look).
Some of the best digital efforts recently have been via the RED One: "Book of Eli", "District 9", "Che", "Valhalla Rising", "Winter's Bone" (for the film-look).
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11:24AM on 02/09/2011
Also Blue Valentine (for the present day parts of the movie).
Also Blue Valentine (for the present day parts of the movie).
11:00AM on 02/09/2011

Never Say Never

"film is superior and always will be": what a near-sighted statement. If it's good enough for Roger friggin' Deakins, it's not good enough for you? I'm sorry, but technology is improving more and more and even though film has a specific look that hasn't been replicated digitally as of yet, I'm never going to say never. That's dangerous.
"film is superior and always will be": what a near-sighted statement. If it's good enough for Roger friggin' Deakins, it's not good enough for you? I'm sorry, but technology is improving more and more and even though film has a specific look that hasn't been replicated digitally as of yet, I'm never going to say never. That's dangerous.
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10:01AM on 02/09/2011
To me film is superior and always will be. There are discrepincies with digital image that bothers me. Yes, its getting better, but none the less, film still looks more cinematic (if that makes sense). Regardless, Deakins is extremely talented and I'll still watch his movies.
To me film is superior and always will be. There are discrepincies with digital image that bothers me. Yes, its getting better, but none the less, film still looks more cinematic (if that makes sense). Regardless, Deakins is extremely talented and I'll still watch his movies.
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+5
9:00AM on 02/09/2011

A true master.

As long as it looks good and interesting I don't care what it's shot on.

As for the tidbit:

Celluloid will stick around, but digital will probably become more common. It'll be a preference type thing depending on whatever they're making.
As long as it looks good and interesting I don't care what it's shot on.

As for the tidbit:

Celluloid will stick around, but digital will probably become more common. It'll be a preference type thing depending on whatever they're making.
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+7
8:58AM on 02/09/2011

Still think film looks better

But Deakins has an amazing eye and if he says it looks good it probably does. Haven't been impressed by Michael Mann/Dante Spinotti's recent attempts but digital technology keeps getting better but nothing looks as gorgeous as film.
But Deakins has an amazing eye and if he says it looks good it probably does. Haven't been impressed by Michael Mann/Dante Spinotti's recent attempts but digital technology keeps getting better but nothing looks as gorgeous as film.
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1:40PM on 02/09/2011
Yeah, Mann's attempts look cheap and lack that cinematic quality which makes film such a unique world. It takes me out of the story.
Yeah, Mann's attempts look cheap and lack that cinematic quality which makes film such a unique world. It takes me out of the story.
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