Quentin Tarantino Says Digital Projection is the 'Death of Cinema As I Know It'

Quentin Tarantino has not been shy about his distaste for all things digital. He has stayed true to shooting on 35mm film, but most theaters and distributors are moving away from projecting in the format. Speaking at the Cannes Film Festival (where a 20th anniversary screening of Pulp Fiction is the only film showing in 35mm), Tarantino again reiterated his displeasure about digital projection, going so far as to say that the loss of 35mm projection means that what he knew as cinema is dead.

Here is the entire press conference from Cannes, skip to 5:22 for the conversation about 35mm and digital:

Yeah as far as I'm concerned, digital projection and DCPs is the death of cinema as I know it. It's not even about shooting your film on film  or shooting your film on digital, the fact that most films now are not presented in 35mm means that the war is lost and digital projections -- that's just television in public. Apparently the whole world is okay with television in public but what I knew as cinema is dead.

Skipping to 42:15, Quentin talks about the good side of filmmaking, that young filmmakers can actually buy their own camera and put together a small crew and an interesting story, and actually make a film. He mentioned that back in his day, it took at least 16mm to make a movie, and that was just a mountain that not as many were able to climb. Even though there is a lot more work being made when things are democratized, he mentioned that there will be that one "flower in the dust bin" that wouldn't have had the tenacity to make a film in the old days. He finished by saying that while he understood why you might choose digital if you're just starting out, "why an established filmmaker would should on digital I have no fucking idea."

Speaking about this subject before, here is what he said in 2012 during the Hollywood Reporter roundtable of directors:

Tarantino: No, I hate that stuff. I shoot film. But to me, even digital projection is — it’s over, as far as I’m concerned. It’s over. So if I’m gonna do TV in public, I’d rather just write one of my big scripts and do it as a miniseries for HBO, and then I don’t have the time pressure that I’m always under, and I get to actually use all the script. I always write these huge scripts that I have to kind of — my scripts aren’t like blueprints. They’re not novels, but they’re novels written with script format. And so I’m adapting the script into a movie every day. The one movie that I was actually able to use everything — where you actually have the entire breadth of what I spent a year writing — was the two Kill Bill movies ’cause it’s two movies. So if I’m gonna do another big epic thing again, it’ll probably be like a six-hour miniseries or something.

Watching a movie shot on 35mm and projected on 35mm is certainly a different experience, and for a lot of older films that have (ironically) been restored digitally and then printed back out to 35, they look amazing. I've seen lots of these restored films, which probably look better than they ever did due to improvements in technology. While there are plenty of movies still shooting on film, pretty much none are finished on film -- they've got some sort of digital intermediate going on in-between.

More to the point though, the real source of his disdain is the loss of the magic of the theater experience. While it's hard to describe the amazing experience of seeing a brand new print of a cinema classic (I saw The 400 Blows the first time this way), 35mm prints don't stay pristine forever, and after many showings can degrade significantly. Projecting digitally might not have the same feel, but after the 1000th screening, it still looks like the same movie you started with.

I think what might be most interesting about the conversation is that if Tarantino was a new filmmaker starting out in 2014, his first major film Reservoir Dogs, which cost $1.2 million, would probably have been shot digitally, and it also probably would have been distributed through digital means -- if it got theatrical distribution at all. Any great art form goes through periods of significant change, and we happen to be in one right now. I think there is a time and a place to respect and cherish what has come before, but in the end the majority of the viewing public doesn't really care how a movie is made or projected, they just want to be entertained.

Link: Cannes 2014 - Quentin Tarantino -- The Press Conference -- YouTube

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176 Comments

Ridiculous. If you shoot film rather than have audiences watch a print slowly degrade over time you get to see the print exactly as the original. If you are so concerned with an audiences perceived desire to watch something degrade you can a) leave some fruit to slowly rot in the lobby or b) digitise your print at various stages of degradation to give people that "film feel". I guarantee NO ONE will go to shows of a sub par print. Tarantino's arguments about print are justifiable regarding production (to some degree at least) but about projection hes talking bollox. The closest argument you could make would have nothing to do with image quality and more to do with studios shutting out Indys with their VPF deals. Why not address the real problem? The politics of money in cinema? Rest is just self serving waffle (And Tarantino to me is a genius - just needs to reorganise his arguments into ones that make sense)

May 27, 2014 at 6:29AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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Shaolin

Another Gem interview with QT. Funny what he said about Italian american culture I think it was offensive what he said about the indian guy's voice. The poor guy rolled with it but you can hear people laughing at him. Not cool Quentin. When your riding high for so long and people give you a platform to say whatever is on your mind. I think you can forget how your words sound to others.

May 27, 2014 at 11:59AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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Hells Yeah

First off Tarantion is a prick. He is good but he is a prick. Secondly most of your audience can't tell and doesn't care. Also digital has all of the potential to look like film and have a "look" to it if the DP has the knowledge to do so and is willing to really understand the workflow. Yes film is great Yes I hope to shoot 35mm at least once someday yes I think that film is "unique" but is moving forward hurting cinema? Hell no!! Thats like saying moving from cooking over a fire to using a stove ruined food. Yeah there is a difference but really in the end you can't really tell and you still have the same food. Same goes for film vs digital at the end of the day you have a product of the same quality don't you?

May 27, 2014 at 12:29PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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Jacob

I believe that Mr Tarantino is where he is today because he's a great storyteller. Ultimately content is king regardless of the capture method. Digital capture at 24p combined with classic motion picture camera moves, great lighting and 'considered' colour grading will give a filmic look that cinema goers are all to familiar with. Digital will not be the death of cinema. It's simply evolution. Bad content will be the death of cinema. DSLRs alone have liberated independent movie makers. As with any media, there will be some dross, but who knows what cinematic gems have yet to be seen...

May 28, 2014 at 9:37AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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I think most people commenting in this thread that defend film with all their might, have never actually shot film and just mindlessly support whatever Hollywood opinion they wish to steal/quote when talking to their friends. It seems like people are just trying to jump on any bandwagon they can so they don't feel alone.

Okay, don't get me wrong, this isn't a stab at "film". It, to me, is a wake up call. Yes, Tarantino made some cool ass movies, but if he only eats Nutella on spaghetti, does that mean you have to? No. Form your own opinions people! Hear what the "pros" have to say, but don't defend it if you don't have your own research and legwork.

Ever have someone (a photo noob perhaps) look at a film you shot or a photo you took and say, "Gosh, that must be a good camera you shot that on!!!!!!!!!".... and you just glare at them and say, "Yeah, but maybe the dude pointing it is also worth a shit."? Same thing happens to me. Film has a "style" or "character", but how much of that are you relying on to make you look "good". Shit, give me a "plain", true to life image any day. I'll do my best to make it look cinematic. It's not the tool, it's the artist that counts at the end of the day. The shittiest movie in the world could be shot on Vision 3 and Panavision Primo lenses and still be shitty. Same goes for digital.

TL;DR - Stop giving so many fucks about what others think, and go make your goddamned movie on whatever you have to shoot it on. If you're worth a shit, you'll go somewhere.

May 29, 2014 at 7:38AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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Jakob

I always wondered why it seemed, that every movie I watched when I was younger always had a 'burn spot' appear in the mid to upper righthand corner of the frame that lasted just a moment in either the opening previews or the feature itself. Good old film, Mr. Blue!

May 29, 2014 at 12:42PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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Well now, ya see Son .....What..? Oh, forgot - No looky here Sonny ,ya see ,them Spots ya See'd - ah ,they woz the the Spots ,that told the Operator. WHat ? What's a damn Operator ? Well ,He was the guy who loaded the FIlm Reels. You know ,back when - WAY........back ya see ,when Folks had Jobs ! And the Spots ,yup ,them Spots woz thar to tell em' when Ta line up them Reels and switch to the Next one ! Yup yup
Ya Know - I hear FIlm is -a - comin' back. Yup. Not these damn little TV's Folks got in there Pockets now ! Ya ,it's a Comin' back......you just wait & See !

June 3, 2014 at 5:10AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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Dheep'

And this newfangled hip-hop "music" is just NOISE!

May 30, 2014 at 12:48PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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Only Quentin would care about style over substance, after all, he has built a career on it. Tarantino is actually the enemy of true cinema, I mean real film that challenges and provokes thought and is utterly original and inventive. The more doors are opened to film makers on a lower budget Who actually have SOMETHING TO SAY, the better. This snobbery about film is just based on fear that the safe, uncontroversial world of mainstream cinema will have its bubble well and truly burst. Of course that is not a given because the popcorn chewing majority will eat up Tarantino and his ilk until the cows come home. So stop panicking Quentin and keep on making your predictable dross and just be a bit more open and enlightened. . . Cue flying pigs.

May 31, 2014 at 12:52PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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Eggnog

I agree, we are compromising on our viewing ,
so far their is no standardization!
No comparison !

June 5, 2014 at 6:03PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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kalaignani

In the end, it really does not matter. Film, digital, cinema or television. I wait until it comes to Redbox anyway. Therefore I can enjoy a moving picture at a price that fits my budget. So I say shoot on film or digital, because 3 months after its released in the digital cinemas, I'll see it at home on television and still have popcorn, candy and a soda.

June 5, 2014 at 10:34PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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FlopFilm

Yeah cinema is death.

June 7, 2014 at 9:07AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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Nelly

Yea. Cinema is dead.

June 7, 2014 at 9:09AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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Nelly

As a filmmaker, I am utterly embarrassed by this website and the type of sad, disingenuous "filmmakers" it attracts. You people are the reason cinema is dead. Look at yourselves. Look at the way you are acting. You're not classy artists, you are not deep thinking individuals, you certainly not any kind of idealists or philosophers wishing to share your creative and original vision with the rest of humanity. You're all just naive, technology-obsessed, progressive, band-wagoners who take little time to contemplate anything or question the norm. You're a bunch of pathetic pseudo filmmakers. I don't know why you guys are even in this business if you are not setting out to be exceptional and make the most exceptional art.

The fact that in 2014, it's apparently OK to call Quentin Tarantino a "dick" an "idiot" or "ignorant" or "dumbass." A man that has brought us some of the best movies in modern times. From his passion he has made true art. Why do you think you know more about cinema than he does? If he says digital is the death rattle, it probably is.

And to clear up a few things, digital is not getting better, but progressively worse. The 3 CCD analog sensors in the Genesis and CineAlta cameras picked up more visual nuance, depth, and believable color/detail than the newest CMOS sensors could even dream of doing.

But 1's and 0's can never look like celluloid, you have to stop assuming that in a decade somehow it just will. It's been 15 years since digital features began, and I just want to ask you all... where are the digital classics? Where are the digital masterpieces? Where is the digital Godfather, Lawrence of Arabia, Schindler's List, Casablanca, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Pulp Fiction? The only thing different with a digital feature is the medium of acquisition, so why are they nowhere near as good as movies shot on film? Same directors, same actors, writers, producers, vfx, sfx, same everything except that they are creating their art with 1's and 0's instead of shooting analog film, the latter of which people can actually emotionally connect to, because it's the way we experience life... in analog.

If you are looking for the cause of the death of cinema, don't be like Steven Soderbergh and blame the studio executives, or for heavens sake, the audience. The only thing that changed in his career was his switch from film to digital, and just take a look at his movies now. If you are looking for the death of the "film" industry and wondering why "films" and "filmmakers" aren't "filming" their "films" as good these days, the answer is easy to obtain. Just take off your lens and look into the shutter mirror... oh wait, sorry most digital cameras don't have real shutters. In that case, stand in front of any mirror and you'll find the answer.

July 3, 2014 at 5:59PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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Alan Smithee

Why so serious?

July 3, 2014 at 6:24PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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I think it boils to this- Every artist has their preferred method for creating and crafting their work. Quentin prefers film, its his favorite medium to work with, and thats fine. Other filmmakers prefer digital, and that is also fine. The end goal to to tell stories that entertain. Audiences don't care if filmmakers use digital or film, they want to be enthralled, to escape into another world. As long as the talent is there BEHIND the camera, its doesn't matter the medium. A good story is a good story. There is no such thing as the death of cinema, because that implies that there will be no more movies being made, ever. Death is a finality. What is really happening is that filmmakers now have an option as to how to tell their stories and as new generations of filmmakers come into the system, they have their preferred medium. So how about we chill out over "Film Vs Digital", crack open a cold one and just move on already.

July 3, 2014 at 6:52PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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Yor're right Quentin. Digital is as exciting as safer sex.

July 10, 2014 at 2:14PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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Clack

This is not about "nostalgia" or the sound of the film projectors or the 24 Frames Per Second flicker etc.

Analog (or film in this case) has more BRIGHTNESS and SOUND. With digital, you literally are losing the awe of light and sound.

Here is a photo of the old Simpsons vs new HD digital Simpsons (yes, the cartoon).

Notice how much more VIBRANT the analog (on the left, as you ccouldn't tell is).

http://www.62stockton.com/likeylinky/uploaded_images/screen_2009-03-18-1...

With digital, you lose nothing more than the awe of light and sound (there is also similarly ust as much more sound with analog than digital); so yeah, light and sound, those are quite big things to lose.

Look at that photo, how dark and dim etc. the new Simpsons looks compared to the analog.

When you take away LIGHT AND SOUND from something you are taking away the very soul of it.

This is what has happened in the music industry, the television industry, and now, soon, to be the film industry.

For instance, look at television. Where are all the cartoons?

There used to be TONS of them everywhere. Now, where are they?

There's no real kids cartoons that you can probably even think of right now.

that's because they all went digital; no more brightness, no more sound....no more cartoons.

Then, look at music...well, first just look at the television theme songs , while we're still on that.

EVERY single tv show had a tv theme song that was sung and had "warmth."

Now, look at tv shows...no more theme songs.

that's the same thing that happened to the music industry.

Now, we can't have a comedy without them playing some song back from the 80s or 90s, because there is such a need to go back to the time of analog, when things were PHYSICAL.

That's what we lose here, in losing sound and brightness PHYSICALITY. The PHYSICAL.

With that means is there is actual PHYSICAL CONTACT with the images and sound.

With film, the physical image is literally PHYSICALLY on the film.

With digital, it's a laser or something reading it (not physical).

The only reason they are switching to digital is because they are trying to make money from 3D, NOT because it is superior or anything like that. In fact, because it is CHEAPER. You really think they are doing all this digital because they care so much about you and giving you the best possibly quality?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAH

(Sorry, should have just done a LMMFAOROFLPMSL; there better).

No, you get what you pay for. Analog, COSTS MORE, than digital. Film COST MORE, because it is actually PHYSICAL than digital.

Anyway, back to the 3D. the only reason they are doing this is because James Cameron WANTED everyone to go digital because HE thought it would be better (not realizing you lose BRIGHTNESS AND SOUND) and so decided to make Avatar.

He did, it made billions,and he got his wish.

Now, because the studios are SCARED that they may one day lose 3D, they decided to just throw the baby out with the bathwater...

and gave us a digital baby, a bit dimmer and darker and harder to see ...and hear....but a digital baby none the less.

Well, Tarantino is RIGHT. Everything that has gone digital has DIED. Look at MTV...as soon as they went digital, they STOPPED making music videos.

As there was no more brightness and sound, it just seemed dead and not worth it anymore.

They said, "ooh, look, digital cameras, not that tape shit...."...and look where they got them.

Then cartoons said the the same thing, "Ooh, look, cheaper digital" and look where they got them. NOT ONE cartoon I'm sure they you can think of today, that is on the Disney Channel or hel, the cartoon network, where as I'm sure in the late 90s early 2000s you could probably think of one (like maybe "Batman: the Animated SEries" or "Duck Tales" or something).

So, yeah, everything does go DEAD with digital.

Yeah, there still ARE cartoons on the Disney channel and such, but really, can you remember them?

Can you name ONE?

No, you can't.

We are for the rest of the years of cinema going to keep going back to this, quote unquote, "nostalgia" of the days of analog, pretty much referencing it until eternity...

when in actuality, it is always right there, and all we have to do is USE IT.

in order to get the masterpieces awaiting of TODAY.

July 27, 2014 at 5:01PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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Keith C.

Typo in my comment...

meant to say about Simpsons "as if you couldn't tell which one it is"...

July 27, 2014 at 5:02PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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Keith C.

I was very impressed with Julie Marchese's documentary "Out of Print".

How could I get a copy of theaters that still show 35mm films? It would be fun to begin a group that could travel to these theaters and promote them.

September 26, 2014 at 12:22PM, Edited September 26, 12:22PM

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I don’t care for his movies but I couldn’t agree more with him. The magic of going to the movies is lost with digital.

February 7, 2020 at 10:46AM

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John Bryan
Aspiring filmmaker. Film exhibitor.
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