I was chatting to a guy I know and he was worried that with the advent of cheap digital cameras and edit suites, his skills in the professional world would be diminished. How can a filmmaker shine with so much content being made? What brought on all this paranoia? Well, we separately just watched the doc, Side by Side about the transition of the chemical film process to digital, which has polarized the film community.
My personal view is that it’s a great thing for a number of reasons. I started when you shot on film as “that was the way” and it was bloody expensive to get the film processed and this limited to how much you could shoot. You really needed some heavy cash behind you to afford such luxuries. In terms of editing, I also had the fortune back then to work for a post house that had invested in an Avid (retail: 80 grand!), which was an immense cost saver. Some filmmakers weren’t so lucky.
I still love the look of film and am more than happy that digital is now at a better quality compared to Spike Lee’s Bamboozled and Mike Figgis early digital efforts. Even though these filmmakers were pioneers their films still looked like digital video and hence flat and inferior. Now, Red and Arri have both closed the gap and for me the peak so far is the lush quality of Skyfall. It helps that people like Steven Soderbergh and David Fincher try to push the digital limits for quality so the audience benefits.
Starting on film is a great learning curve for me because you were physically have to splice the film (I cut on a Steenbeck!) so you had to really think about the cuts you were going to have to make otherwise you have to unpick the film and start again. Every film editor will also say that when you spool through a 500 foot roll you might catch something that you might use. On an NLE you tap a number and go to that scene. In digital editing you can make as many sequences and edits and to the undisciplined eye you can really get bogged down with too many options and lose sight of the film you envisioned. I have seen it with new editors when going through their bins.
The short film I recently did was a godsend due to a low budget and cheap gear! Also you have to note that just because everyone has access to cheap kit doesn’t mean it’s going to be good and there are some really dreadful shorts out there which also is good as it makes the great projects shine. The elitism of filmmaking is eroding and people like Shane Meadows get a chance to have a voice. Hell, even those from Black and Asian backgrounds can now create content which used to be the exclusivity of the middle class.
Take a look at this clip from Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse made in 1991. Francis Coppola had the same vision right there, one that I wholeheartedly share.
I thoroughly recommend watching Side by Side to see how much of a revolution is taking place