Having worked in every camera department position from utility or loader to a camera operator and DP using both traditional film and new digital formats I thought I would just share a few things about the differences.
Ill start with film, this one gets me nostalgic because this has been the way the industry has done this for years. A lot of the greats used film and still do. The most classic movies of all time used film and it carries a “true to the art” feel because of that. Being a loader and have having to load each mag and being an assistant camera and loading mags into the camera, checking the gate for film shavings that could mess with the shutter, it just has this old school sense. I love working with film, because it forces you to get creative at times, with film you have only a certain window of viewable light. if you’re film stock only has a 3 stop range its tough to get different parts of your shot light, so you have to get creative!
On the other hand digital offers a lot that film can’t. Cameras like the RED, in which I have worked with quiet a lot, offer a range of services that make is much more cost effective. For one they do not need film stock because it records to a drive, they also do not need developing which is expensive. You can switch the ISO in the camera instead of needing to buy multiple film stocks to accommodate different scenarios. Probably the most immediate difference is the price of the camera. Some things are the same though, I have learned that you still need to have the footage professionally colored to look right, and that one is very expensive, but the pros out way the cons. Probably the best thing about digital is the ability to instantly playback and see a performance, this has also been a nightmare with certain King of Queen actors that need to see each shot before moving on, because if you question if that last take really was the perfect one, you can check.
As a director that is obviously one of my favorite things about digital and the fact that the quality of image you get is easily comparable to film. So my suggestion is that if you have the budget and want to get that old school, doing how Orson Welles did it feel, you should go with film. If you want to save some money and get the same look, maybe have some money for distribution, you should try one of the amazing digital options that are available. Here are some that I recommend:
1. The Red One - I have shot 2 films and 3 commercials with this and they use it on a series I was working on. The image quality is pretty comparable and the cost is low.
2. Cannon 5D (or 7D) - For the price and size you aren’t going to find something better right now.
Try one of these out. Leave a comment and let me know how it worked for you!
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