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Digital vs. Celluloid: Tarantino, Nolan, Abrams, and DiRenna Weigh In!

Digital vs. Celluloid: Tarantino, Nolan, Abrams, and DiRenna Weigh In!

If you’re a fan of indie filmmaking, you’ve probably heard about the digital vs. celluloid debate.

Digital cameras have made filmmaking accessible to everyone; now anyone who wants to can be a filmmaker.

However, purists – and most notably great directors from the previous generation – still believe the only true way to make a great, atmospheric film is by using 35mm.

There’s something to this. The natural grain of 35mm film creates what many still consider to be the look of a true “film.” However, as digital cameras advance, their image quality is also constantly improving.

Can you tell which photo was taken on film or digital? Click the image to go the photographer's blog and find out!
Can you tell which photo was taken on film vs. digital? Click the image to go the photographer’s blog and find out!

A recent article on phys.org highlights both sides of the debate, with insights from Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, J.J. Abrams, and the Digital Film Academy’s own Patrick DiRenna.

DiRenna observes that “The only thing that’s lacking (with digital) at this point is a slight level of picture quality, but that will change and in exchange we have a democratisation with artists who are now really able to do their work.” This democratization owes itself to the fact that studios and artists can complete films on digital for a mere fraction of the cost of working with celluloid.

In the same article, Alain Rolleau, whose family runs the famed Studio 28 theater in Paris, seconds this opinion. The first time they screened a film shot on digital, he says he felt like crying, the images were so “icy.” Since then, though, he’s seen steady improvement with the images coming out of digital filmmaking – and it’s now rare that he screens a 35mm film.

Studio 28 - Paris' oldest theater, in business since 1948.
Studio 28 – Paris’ oldest theater, in business since 1948.

Rolleau also points out how 35mm film can face problems after being screened a few times, while digital film maintains the same perfect image over time.

However, Nolan, Abrams, and Tarantino come down on the side of 35mm. Tarantino is the most vocal on this point, saying that “digital filmmaking is the death of cinema as I know it.” During his recent appearance at the Cannes Film Festival, celebrating the 20-year anniversary of Pulp Fiction’s Palm D’Or win, he compared digital filmmaking to “television in public.”

Tarantino discussing digital at a press conference in Cannes.
Tarantino discussing digital at a press conference in Cannes.

“Great artists like Quentin Tarantino are generally uncomfortable when they come across something new,” says Patrick DiRenna. “Charlie Chaplin’s discomfort with talkies is a perfect example — but when he finally made the adjustment, he turned around and made the ‘The Great Dictator’ and his mastery showed through again.”

What do you think? Is digital filmmaking the best thing to happen since sliced bread? Or does it mean that cinema as we know it is lost?

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Read the full article here!

 

By Digital Film Academy Blog Manager Sara McDermott Jain

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2 thoughts on “Digital vs. Celluloid: Tarantino, Nolan, Abrams, and DiRenna Weigh In!

  1. Have you seen the documentary Side by Side? It basically looks at this debate – really interesting. One of their main points is that digital is only just at the beginning of it’s cycle, that it’s got a lot of developing and improving to do, but it is the future of filmmaking (for better or worse).

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