Thursday, 18 April 2013

Side by Side.

A modern digital camera.
Its not the first time that the future of cinema and filmmaking has been discussed at the Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre Film Club and it probably won’t be the last. In September 2012 we showed The Last Projectionist (2011) that touched on the demise of 35mm film and its replacement by digital technology. This week’s film club movie, gamely introduced by Mike Gray, was described as ‘The Science, Art and Impact of Digital Cinema’[1]. Side by Side (2012) is a documentary film directed by Chris Kenneally that investigates the history, process and workflow of both digital and photochemical film creation. It professes to show what artists and filmmakers have been able to accomplish with both film stock and the digital process and how their needs and innovations have helped push filmmaking in new directions. Enthusiastically introduced by Keanu Reeves it included interviews with directors, cinematographers, colorists, scientists and engineers and as Mike told us they all had their own opinions on the pro and con’s of each form of film making.

The discussion that followed the film included many of the points that Mike had raised in his introduction. The role of the cinematographer or Director of Photography as they are more often known, is the unsung hero’s of the movie making fraternity and although recognized as one of the most important people on the film set, are rarely mentioned in the list of credits in Film Guides or DVD’s. Mike had pointed out that the DoP was expected to provide his own equipment and assistant staff even on big budget productions! The consensus of the many people interviewed, a list to long to mention, seemed to be that both 35mm and digital filming had their benefits, a point agreed by the members of the RBC audience. It was also pointed out that the boundaries are constantly being pushed by the advent of the digital age, and not always for the best. Worries were also expressed about the archiving of digital films but no conclusions were reached. It was generally agreed that this documentary was an enlightening piece of work that gave an interesting incite, by the professional’s, into the technological mystery’s involved in filmmaking which most of us did profess not to know an awful lot about. Incidentally in 1999 there were only two digital screens in existence, today there are more than 85,000 worldwide, a figure that is expected to increase to 150,000 by 2015. I agree with the German cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, who worked on 16 Rainer Werner Fassbinder films including the brilliant The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978)if you do something with your heart, it doesn’t matter what you’re using’.
The legendary DoP Michael Ballhaus. 

[1] Side by Side Official Website.

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