The Future of Cinematography is Here, and It's Digital: But How Do the DPs Feel About It?
We live in a time of unparalleled choice. The number and types of high-powered tools of our trade has never been this great, nor have advancements and price thereof been in such aggressive opposition to each other before. We’re definitely at the midpoint of a truly glacial shift – that’s glacial in magnitude, not time elapsed — and we’re all pretty well aware of the technology available to us. Something we don’t get to hear about half as often, though, is what the men and women in the creative realm most directly tied to this technology, cinematography, have to say about it, or their view of the brave new world in which we all work and strive to remain relevant. Film and Digital Times has just posted some fantastic pamphlets of short essays written by a number of working cinematographers, and the perspectives within are a must-read.
The documents contain honest and in some cases confessional testimony from American, British, and French cinematographers. Here is an excerpt from one of the essays, written by Oliver Stapleton, B.S.C. (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark). His words here represent just one of the many truly pertinent concerns, issues, and insights raised by these posts:
If everybody is purely measuring cameras in terms of how many stops of latitude it has got, what’s the resolution, and you throw everything else in the ditch, that is wrong. I certainly welcome these new devices to add to our armoury of tools for making moving images, but I don’t see why one has to take technical parameters (that are so subjective and specific to a given movie) and make that the criteria for choosing how we make a film.
We need to learn how to work with digital and learn what to protect and who needs to be involved. If we don’t lay down those ground rules very rapidly at this point, the opportunity will be lost for the habits to form. It’s a very important time in the next few years for the established cinematographers who have the clout to set some rules and standards, because if we don’t speak up now, our job will be seriously diminished.
Topics range from reluctancy to begin shooting digitally, the potential pit-falls of the DI process in taking controlling of the image out of the DP’s hands, dissatisfaction with the qualities of digital acquisition over those of film, the dangers of relegating too much power to DITs who may have to coach DPs who are new to a certain system, the moments in which it’s okay to lose some highlight detail because something just plain looks right, the abilities in low-light digital can have, the problem of archiving something that will never exist in a tangible physical form — the list goes on and on, but at this point I’ll just let you guys read the goods for yourselves (or click on the links below). The value of all this candor really can’t be overstated, nor can how well the materials covers the full gamut of pros and cons, possibilities and problems, the good, and the bad.
It’s truly fascinating, not to mention enlightening, to read of such a well-rounded variety of experiences, and I think great value can be derived from checking it out regardless of what side of the fence you stand. Many kudos to Madelyn Most for the work, and to the cinematographers in the trenches out there who, regardless of how they feel about it, really make each of these new technologies shine.
What do you guys think about all of the points the essays bring up? What experiences have you had in the field that you feel are echoed here?