Listen to Tarantino and Roger Deakins' Polarizing Discussion about Film Formats

The two top filmmakers drop some knowledge. 

Although many agree that the discussion of shooting on film versus digital is worthwhile discussion but almost pointless to debate, we thought it was interesting that Quentin Tarantino and Roger Deakins can have such polarizing views when discussing this topic. 

Tarantino has never swayed away from shooting on film, and he’s extremely passionate about continuing to do so. He argues that when you’re filming something on film, you are creating an illusion that creates the magic of movies.

“Everyone thinks that when you’re filming something on film, you are recording movement. You are not recording movement. You are just taking a series of still pictures. There is no movement in the movies at all. But when shown at 24 frames per second, through a lightbulb, it creates an illusion of movement, so thus, as opposed to a recording device, when you’re watching a movie, a film print, you are watching an illusion. And to me that illusion is connected to the magic of movies,” said Tarantino. 

Tarantino is also extremely displeased about digital projection. He thinks that the loss of 35mm projection means that what he knew as cinema is dead.

He does mention that there are some advantages with digital, in that young filmmakers now have accessible tools to make a film much easier than before. However, he doesn’t understand why an established filmmaker would shoot on digital.  

Roger Deakins, on the other hand, argues the complete opposite. He prefers shooting digital, as he doesn’t see a difference in it at all. He says that it gives him more options than what he can get with film. He loves the fact that you can see what you’ve just recorded, and that you can collaborate with the director with what you already have, as opposed to having sleepless nights worrying about the lab report the next day when shooting on film. He says that you can take it further because you know what you recorded, whereas on film, you are playing a little safe because you don’t fully know if you were over or underexposed in certain shots until the next day. 

“I think digital cameras, digital projections, they are all tools. It depends on the project, you choose a different camera like you used to choose a different film stock. It’s going to be digital projection, that’s going to be the norm. That’s the way the world is going. You make it the best you can, and it’s certainly got a lot of advantages that film never had. Consistency being a really big one. It’s about the eye behind the camera, it’s not about the bloody technology, it’s about the person behind it," said Deakins. 

Although Deakins often shoots on digital, at the end of the day, he doesn’t really care what he shoots on. He mentioned that the Coen brothers carefully approached him about the decision to shoot Hail, Caesar! on film, and he said that he didn't care and would shoot on an iPhone if the story called for it. 

We think both have pros and cons, and they are just tools that should be used to fit a particular project, and choosing to shoot on film or digital should be an artistic or economical decision. Many cinematographers work this way.

Rodrigo Prieto, for example, mentioned that when filming Silence, he would use both film and digital at times when they were called for. He used film for scenes that he wanted to look a little rougher and grainier, and he used digital (Alexa) for candlelit scenes for the speed. 

What do you think? Is the film versus digital still a necessary discussion, or is what's on the screen all that matters?

Let us know in the comments below.      

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Your Comment

9 Comments

Maybe it's just me, but I think we'd get more value out of hearing people in the same role discuss the topic. How does Robert Richardson feel about this? Writer/director/producer vs Cinematographers opinion very likely to be different. Roger just wants to continue telling stories with his craft and Tarantino is fighting to hold onto a declining medium. Of course Roger isn't being hard headed about film. He's a career DP and wants to help tell as many quality stories as he can. This means working with multiple show-runners who prioritize different parts of a project for different reasons. If he doesn't change with the technology it will limit the amount of projects/collaborators he can work with based purely on a tool instead of the story; which is his main priority when choosing a film. Tarantino is the writer/director/producer for his projects. He is in a unique position that affords him the luxury to say something like.. "You like this? Well, it only gets done if we use film." This video/article is only continuing to drag on a conversation that most professionals agree is nothing but a distraction. In reality filmmaking is an industry and it comes down to dollars and cents. You want to use film? Go for it! Be prepared to sacrifice portions of your budget to fit it into your workflow. Until you're in a position like Tarantino or Nolan; tell your stories with whatever tool is available to you. Let's stop this whole one is better than the other nonsense.

February 4, 2021 at 9:51AM

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Mike Miller
Director of Photography
120

100% agree with you. This wasn't really to continue the polarization of film/digital, we just thought it was really interesting to hear the difference in opinion and goals between Tarantino and Deakins. Most established cinematographers don't have this kind of polarization, some may prefer to shoot on film or digital, but they are usually open to both options as mentioned above

February 4, 2021 at 1:50PM

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AlterCine
Content Creator
74

there hasn't been any difference in the formats for some time now.

February 4, 2021 at 3:05PM

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Indie Guy
592

I've never seen anything shot digitally that looked like 2-perf 35mm or 16mm, or vice versa.

February 6, 2021 at 1:48PM

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Think I'd rather listen to Deakins than Tarantino, who I love but NOT on a technical level, he's a nostalgia-noob with regards to technicals and as opposed to his narrative and other knowledge....hell, he chose to shoot a 70mm western..... in one room!

February 4, 2021 at 9:29PM

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I like QT's flicks, but his argument against digital doesn't hold water. You can get a "film look" with digital... if you can't... you're a lazy DP!

February 6, 2021 at 2:56AM

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Jerry Roe
Indie filmmaker
1483

I can always tell an inferior or novice cinematographer when the first thing they want to talk about is equipment. As usual, Tarantino sounds like an obnoxious, self-indulgent infant.

February 6, 2021 at 9:34PM

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David Raines
Actor/Writer/Director
164

Directors like Tarantino and Christopher Nolan can tout film all they want. They also shoot films with budgets that let them wipe their asses with fifty dollar bills. Digital requires less crew, is less expensive overall and, as Deakins said, causes less stress on the DP in terms of exposure and overall look. Any look that film gives you can be achieved in post with digital. Even that "almighty grain" they keep going on and on about. Most directors and DP's love film for the alchemy of it. The "don't question me, I have an eyepiece and a spot meter. I'm the professional." There's a great interview with David Fincher about how the film DP on "Seven" screwed him on several scenes that were not lit or shot the way Fincher wanted, even though the DP assured him it was. Digital offers a democratization of the production process that film DP's despise, because it disempowers them.

February 8, 2021 at 5:45AM

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Anthony Wood
Writer/Producer
165