Film or Digital?

When choosing a format you should consider the following:

– The cost of renting equipment.

– The cost of the format all the way through to the final product.

– The look you are going for and is film or digital better at achieving it.

– The archival stability of the medium.

Here is some information you may find useful about all of the above.

The most expensive cameras to rent are the high end digital cameras.¬† Just renting a complete Arri Alexa, Sony Venice or Red V-Raptor package can easily cost $2,500 per day. Instead consider shooting with my Red Komodo which will provide comparable results for far less. You may also want to consider 35mm film. I can provide my Arriflex 35mm package, 1000′ feet of film, processing and transfer for about $2,500.00. 1000′ feet of film runs 11minutes, plenty to shoot a commercial and it looks wonderful. All but two of the commercials on my reel were shot on film.

Many people assume that the cost of renting a high end digital camera package is worth it because there are further costs (film stock , processing, transfer etc) and they can just edit their project and be done with it. However this is often not the case. Many editing systems cannot handle the large 4k, 6k or 8k high bit rate Red, Sony or Arri raw files generated by the latest digital cameras so you may be looking at an expensive down conversion followed by having to conform the original files at a post house. Also like film, these files should go through a professional color timing process to achieve the final look you are going for. This usually costs as much as film to digital transfer. You may not save the cost of processing or transfer so many people expect to save by shooting with high end digital cameras. You are just replacing them with other costs. Film can be transferred to any format you want, so you can use your existing post production workflow. I suggest that you research the cost of the format you are considering all the way through post production before you decide.

The best digital cameras now available can produce superb high resolution images with a big tonal range. However the image usually looks very modern with no grain and often a artificially sharp, flatter look. This may be fine for certain films like Avatar but if you are doing a period drama set in the 70s it may not be the look you are going for. Also I haven’t seen any digital camera that can compete with films ability to reproduce bright highlights and the look of natural sunshine. With its extended tonal range film reproduces light the way the human eye sees it with plenty of detail¬† and color in the highlights, shadows and everywhere in between. In fact any type of lighting involving bright highlights (sunlight coming thru windows etc.) always seems to look better on film. Many modern digital cameras claim a 12-16 stop dynamic range but I have yet to see one that handles highlights as well as film does.

The main drawback to film other than the cost of 35mm film stock is that you are limited to 500 ISO or lower. This can make shooting night exteriors difficult and require bigger lighting packages than digital cameras which can generally go up to 2000 ISO, some even higher without any noise problems. So if your film has a lot of night exteriors and your lighting budget is limited, digital is probably the way to go.

Film is the only proven archival medium. Even movies that are shot digitally are being archived on film. The long term stability of memory cards is unknown since they haven’t been around very long. The archival stability of hard drives is at best poor. Think of all the computers and hard drives you have replaced in your life.

I offer both Arriflex 35mm and Super 16 cameras that provide the beautiful look of film at a great price. Think of all the great classic films you have seen in your life that still look amazing on blu-ray and 4k blu-ray. You can still get the classic look of film for your own project. However if your project is better suited to digital or you don’t have the budget for film I offer the following digital options.

My Red Komodo provides Digital Cinema quality images at a great price. It combines Reds Super 35 6k sensor with global shutter and 16 Bit Redcode Raw with 16 stops of dynamic range for amazing image quality and incredible flexibility in post. I offer Red and Zeiss cinema lenses for the highest picture quality.

My Panasonic GH5s shoots excellent 4k or 1080p digital video at a very affordable price. It shoots great looking footage right out of camera or can shoot v-log for color grading later. It features 4:2:2 10 bit video and high bit rates up to 400Mbps. Vintage Nikon lenses provide beautiful picture quality and more precise focusing than modern still photography lenses.

Overall for any project that need to look as good as possible I would suggest shooting 35mm film or Red Komodo. If you want to save some money and still get the look of film try Super 16. For lower budget projects that are going on the web but still need to look really good the Panasonic GH5s is a great choice. For live events my Panasonic UX90 with it’s powered zoom lens is perfect.