Why on earth today would you want to shoot film? I want to first start off by saying that this post is not going to be a a film vs digital post. Film is an analog medium, so it doesn’t have “pixels” and there are so many variations of film stocks and sizes that to try and accurately and scientifically compare the two just seems insane. Film and Digital are two very different mediums and both have pros and cons to them. In this post, I will focus on film specifically and the pros of shooting on film in hopes that certain practices would carry over into your digital projects.
Going back to the basics.
When you shoot film, you are making critical choices before you even shoot the first frame. Great example is choosing your film stock and rating. Your film stock would craft a certain look and your film rating would lock you in to a certain “ISO”. When shooting on film, you have to understand basic concepts like setting correct exposure. Using tools like light meters has become less of a practice with modern cinematographers because of monitors, luts, and false color. However a cinematographer gets to the end result is their prerogative. I’m just encouraging everyone out there to understand all the ways to get to that result.
Being a cinematographer in the past took a lot of trust. There were only a few people on set that would look through the viewfinder and even then, the cinematographer had to know how film processing and finishing would work so sometimes what was seen wasn’t even the end result. Shooting on film is an expensive process. You have to be efficient when shooting film. You have to plan your shots, rehearse them, then hope you capture it in as few takes as possible to save film. There isn’t a DIT that can transfer the footage on the spot and hand you back your film to re-use. Something that i’ve personally been working on is shooting for the edit and considering the editor.
Why Shoot film?
To shoot on film is a hassle today. Finding a camera if you don’t own one. Finding places that still sell film. Finding a processor to process that film after you are done with it. It’s definitely a lot, considering you can just stop at an electronics store, buy a digital camera then leave the store shooting and editing within a few minutes. But think about things like High Dynamic Range. Having a smoother roll off in the highlights and recovering highlights is just one of the ways film can be beneficial. The color reproduction is great with film. As cliche as it may sound, film feels organic. It’s nice looking at film grain rather than digital noise. Companies now have started creating film stock emulation to give digital projects a “film look.”
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