The Debate over Film vs Digital

film vs digital super 16 camera

Aimimage rent digital cameras and rent film cameras also, so we are well-placed in the film vs digital debate. Film has been used in the shooting and projection of movies for a long time, but this is changing with images increasingly being captured, edited and projected digitally. Director Chris Kenneally says “film and technology that’s been around for over 100 years, has been the standard means of making movies, is being replaced by digital technology, digital cameras and digital projectors.” Kenneally’s latest project is Side by Side, a documentary starring Keanu Reeves that examines this issue.

Directors such as David Lynch enjoy the freedom that comes with using a digital camera. Director Kevin Macdonald didn’t have any regrets shooting the forthcoming How I Live Now on digital: “If you were going [for] a certain spontaneity and capturing a sense of life as it happens, then digital is wonderful for that.”

Film vs digital, is film dying out?

In 2006, the BBC said it would not accept 16mm source material for its high-definition programming. A recent BAFTA and Directors UK panel identified the rise of digital projection as a cause of the decline of film stock, as it makes it tough for companies who want to produce it. This is thought to have influenced Fuji’s announcement that it will stop manufacturing film stock in 2013.

Director Iain Softley’s latest project, the forthcoming Trap For Cinderella, was shot using Aimimage super 16mm cameras: “The perceived wisdom was that digital is quicker and cheaper than film. The message that was getting across was that film’s time was up. This is not an attack on digital, but a desire to keep film as an available option.”

Advantages of film vs digital

Christopher Nolan is a fervent advocate of shooting on film, citing its superior quality. John Mathieson, Director of Photography on films such as Gladiator and X-Men: First Class, says the “level of craftsmanship and expertise is being pushed aside” in the switch to digital. He has also complained about the way flesh tones look when shot digitally, but for certain films, does see the point of shooting digital: “It has its place”, he noted, pointing to films that worked on digital such as urban thriller iLL Manors. This is the directorial debut of singer and actor Ben Drew, aka Plan B, shot on Aimimage cameras and a lot of the interiors in The Camden Studio.

‘Case-by-case’ in film vs digital

The issue of cost doesn’t enter the equation as much as one would expect in this debate. Kevin Macdonald goes on to state he makes the decision on “a case-by-case basis” – his next movie will be shot on film.

Billy Williams, Director of Photography on Gandhi, might summarise the issue succintly: “At the moment we’re still in the position that we’ve got horses for courses. I think it would be a sad day if there was only one horse left standing.” We might be entering a time when directors have to ‘use it or lose it’ with regards to film. Aimimage hire both types of camera, and have all the latest models.

Trailer for Side By Side, a documentary examining the issue of film vs digital