Jun 17, 2007

The Death of Film

Yesterday I attended a talk about Apple's Studio 2, or whatever it's called, which is the new bundled program that includes Final Cut Pro and a bunch of other things. I'm trying to learn the technical aspects of the craft, you see, so I don't stand like a moron in the middle of my next shoot, looking like a Neanderthal in Einstein's lab. That means that I go to shilling sessions like this, where a major geek explains horribly complicated (to me, that is) digital shit to other geeks.
Yesterday, the geek in question, who was a very nice guy, was talking about the cameras of the future and the postproduction of the future and the workflow of the future and I detected some terrifying glee in his voice as he spoke of the imminent demise of film. Hollywood is going digital, bla bla bla, soon film will be a thing of the past, like 8 Tracks or Betamax or even CD's.
To me this is tragic. Why? Because film is beautiful and digital video, as far as I can tell, is not. Because film spools and purrs and breaks and scratches and digital video is zeros and ones living in a scary virtual limbo of data files and hard disks. Film is sensual. Digital is not.
I know, we will get used to it. Supposedly, the visual aspect of the technology is going to improve. They are trying hard to replicate the beautiful textures and depths of film in digital video. I know for some my apprehension must seem like pining for a computer the size of a fridge, instead of enjoying a laptop. It's like those people who still prefer LP records to mp3's. Same thing. Mp3s are wonderful and the iPod is the eighth wonder of the world, but we miss the sounds and the touch and the hiss and the purr of the old technology. I miss the sound of rotary phones. I miss the hum and click of the IBM Selectric typewriter. That doesn't mean I don't love my laptop (I do hate my cellphone with a passion).
I look at the footage of my film, shot in HD. The actors' features, good and bad, are enhanced, as if you were looking at their every pore with a magnifying glass. Not even the most flawlessly beautiful actor in the world can withstand such scrutiny. And still everything seems kind of flat, or too perfect. Too defined. Human sight doesn't seem that defined to me. It has softer edges, no?
Sure, digital has huge convenient advantages: there is minimal processing -- it's called downloading and it's a bitch, but it's not like taking the negative to the lab. Video is also cheaper to produce. You don't have to worry about burning feet of film; now you have to worry, like I do, of losing footage that was not copied correctly, that is irrecoverable. I hate technology.

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