For some of us, digital never looks as good as film, period. Nevermind better. Even at the theaters with the highest end arrangement, I can usually tell through at least 33% of the film that I am looking at digital, and it's not because I'm blown away. I feel like I'm watching a TV, and it is usually apparent in the brighter scenes. Films shot on digital do not look better projected digitally vs on film, they are instead twice compromised instead of just once. Again, this only affects those of us who can tell the difference. But it's still the case. And it's particularly glaring.
I'm glad the Laurelhurst is excited. I hope that's true, for their sake. (Maybe at least now they will matte the image, and put some duct tape over the back of that one exit sign that pointlessly fills a third of the screen with a green glow during darker scenes.) I hope they are still able to get 35mm prints for older stuff, and say so on the website when it is...
Ron--3D, yes, probably. But I was married to the assistant to the president of a major studio, and I feel safe in saying that a) it's gross ticket sales they go by (not accounting for costs of any sort), and b) they were doing this long before the press made a fetish out of it. I'd say the problem with the press is lack of interest in tracking when you are seeing a projected DVD or 35mm print or whatever inbetween. Not that doing so wouldn't pose challenges--one of which is dodgy theater owners refusing to specify to papers what the format will be (yes, that has happened in Portland).
Ugh, I guess I just wasted my time on a troll, having looked at Graham's other comments (sample: "What's a hipster?"). Hopefully this was useful to someone who honestly wonders what the fuss is about anyway.
First off, Garahm, I have probably never been at a digital screening where I couldn't at some point tell the difference. And most, although not all, of my problem concerns all the screenings that are done on something less than the highest-end digital projection. When Cinema 21 showed Metropolis digitally (something they claimed was the only option, although it did not play in NYC until they had a print) I knew instantly. Instantly. I had no reason to expect anything other than a print--otherwise I wouldn't have been there. The lines of introductory text were clearly jagged. Did anyone else know the difference? Apparently not, and if they did they judged it minimal. To me it looked horrible, so there was no point in staying. And that was a decent projection considering a lot of what's done, whether it's at PIFF or the Baghdad or Clinton St or NWFC. I've seen a lot of video projection at those places that compared to fullscreen youtube video or worse. IT just looks WORSE--like I said before, the digital seams show. I have seen projections of vastly higher quality, and those can have other issues. In those cases, the text onscreen will not be jagged but eerily clean and exact, without the soft, grainy give of film, as though the credits are being superimposed onto the image live by computer rather than integrated as one with the image. However, most of the time, credits aside, it will look like a brand new, perfectly projected print. That's great. Except when it doesn't. Usually the brighter scenes will reveal to me a sort of dull, thin flatness, especially open sky, or bright fire. There is not as much room for bright, slight detail to blend in well with the rest of the image. Digital just doesn't have that capacity. Film can never fail in that regard, because the image is just there. Digital strives to replicate. Film just is. It's not philosophical, and I'm not talking about appreciating art (nor was I before). Film always has all of it's information, digital seeks to make you think it's there. The grain and physicality of film causes the information to merge seamlessly with itself regardless of age. Digital leaves gaps. Seeing True Grit on the highest-end system was basically ruined for me. Two thirds of the movie looked great and I would have never known. One third reminded me I was watching something ersatz. Even without those flaws, I would prefer celluloid. What I was trying to say before is that film can never degrade to the point where it's flaws are anything but natural and organic in look. Digital's flaws are not. It's like the difference in snowy static being mixed in with your image in an old broadcast (if you are old enough to know what I am talking about), versus a perfect high definition image that disappears into jagged blue sputters when the reception is poor. You, Graham, like the jagged blue sputters, or more to the point, cannot see them, while we can see them and would prefer to have an image that includes a little snow mixed in with the image instead if the reception is poor. I do have a romantic notion of film, and love to see battered old prints, but that's not what this is about. If I see a digital presentation that leaves me unaware that I am not seeing film, I can live with that. But the substandard visual experience digital currently provides has not brought us to that point. You are at that point, clearly, and don't feel bad. You are not alone in not being able to distinguish the difference. But why come barging into a funeral, yelling how the smiling android of the deceased is a perfectly nice guy and we are all being silly? You can read all the studies of digital resolution you want, but the proof is there on the screen for some of us, and that's all there is about it.
All this nonsense about lines of resolution is beside the point--if you are incapable of telling the difference between celluloid and the digital, you have nothing to worry about. If you think that a well-worn piece of 40 year old celluloid falling below the crisp ideal of Blu-Ray somehow proves its inferority, than you are in luck! The rest of us, those with souls and the ability to watch something flawed but still beautiful over something perfect and sterile (when not showing its digital seams), are screwed. DA Pennebaker recently was forced to spend 15,000 bucks cleaning up a print to show for one weekend somewhere, because digital has led people to become incapable of viewing a print that has flaws. That's ridiculous. I'm the guy who has tried occasionally over the years to warn about this, and to get "film lovers" like Ranieri and Sonstein to prove it and TELL us when they are showing digital, including via that I, Anonymous piece. If you have noticed, they DON"T do that (adding to the culture of complacency with digital that hastened film's demise). What both do instead is mention only when a film is 35mm, as if they are delivering a special treat to you. This backwards-thinking advertising evasiveness is quickly becoming the approach that makes sense, since in a year or two we can safely assume that what we are seeing is digital unless told otherwise (execpt at NWFC, perhaps, which still refuses to tell us what we will be watching until you get to their front door--thanks bunches!). I have felt like a voice in the wilderness the last few years, but now that the end really is here, I am honestly shocked at how quickly and thoroughly it is coming, like a man standing with his "the End is Near" sign, going, "Really? It's TOMORROW?"
I at least appreciate that Erik did this piece, esp since he has come down so squarely on the side of digital projection in the past. At least he can appreciate the ramifications on others.
And in New Zealand, they are way ahead of us:
The Clinton, McMenamin theaters, NWFC (who you think, as a high-falutin museum-related enterprise, would know better than to do things like screen an Antonioni film off a raggedy DVD, but do it quite often), Cinema 21...and of course The Living Room, where apparently you don't know if you are getting a decent digital projection off a hardrive (a la Roseway)--which I still think sucks, but at least you don't see pixels--or a projected DVD...I've heard only bad reports about image quality there either way.
All Comments »
All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
Contact Info |
Production Guidelines |