We live in a digital world, but celluloid still lives on thanks to a collection of passionate filmmakers. Many films are shot digitally nowadays because it costs less and can also be more practical when shooting, especially when considering how film can be ruined when exposed to light. The process of using celluloid can be time consuming and takes practice, so why are these directors making their jobs harder for themselves? Well, here's what Scorsese had to say on the matter:
"The cinema began with a passionate, physical relationship between celluloid and the artists and craftsman and technicians who handled it, manipulated it, and came to know it the way a lover comes to know every inch of the body of the beloved. No matter where the cinema goes, we cannot afford to lose sight of it's beginnings."
Scorsese believes that film fans should never forget how cinema started out. It started on film and you wouldn't be here reading an article about films (both digital and celluloid) if it wasn't for many films using celluloid that laid the foundations of the industry.
In modern day, it's easy for people to assume that films are shot on digital. However, this isn't always the case. Some films released today are still shot on film. Take a guess at the following list, deciding whether you thought it was made digitally or using film. You might be surprised by the outcome.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
How did you do? Whether you're a film buff or a fair weather fan, it can sometimes be hard to spot a film using celluloid, especially as this film could still be seen primarily on digital projections.
Ultimately, it's impossible to determine which is better, because they both have their advantages and disadvantages. Digital is considered to be easier to shoot, but doesn't have the nostalgic qualities or the "magic" of film's illusion.
Films like The Avengers are digitalized and it looks amazing, but it doesn't have the same feel to a film like Boyhood, which was shot on film and managed to keep its consistency throughout a 12-year production by the use of film
Naturally, as creatives, there are some directors who will only shoot on digital and some who will only shoot on film. Neither is better than the other — they have their upsides and downsides, it just comes down to what the director wants to use and how they want to film to look.
Beyond the creative side of moviemaking, there's also a consideration of the cost of movies. Cost is a major factor when shooting on film because it's very expensive and you're going to need a lot of it when making a feature. The average roll of film would give you 10 minutes worth of action and if the actors or camera man messes up then you're going to have to do re-takes, which will take up those precious minutes. The average feature length film is 90 minutes, which means you'll need at least nine rolls of film and half of that will be waste, so you'll need so much more than nine.
Once the film is shot, you need it developed so that you can edit, which also costs more time and money. In comparison, digital is a lot cheaper because all you need is an SD card and once you have that, you can film for as long as you like. You can also edit straight away without having to get it developed.
The world is changing as we know it and the limits we have in cinema are being pushed everyday to better our technology. It's exciting and people want to try new stuff, which is why celluloid sometimes feels like it's stuck in the past. However, this is not the case at all.
I made 'Batman' the way I made every other film, and I've done it to my own satisfaction — because the film, truly, is exactly the way I wanted it to be." — Christopher Nolan
So many films are still shot on film and they will continue to be shot on film because filmmakers still see a value in creating their art this way. Digital isn't better than film and film isn't better than digital, but we have to remember that film still lives on. Film is still very much a major factor in films today and it definitely isn't dying out. Ultimately, it comes down to how you want your film to look, feel and convey.
We should still tip our hats to the WFX teams who work tirelessly to bring some of the mind-blowing effect to life. Just look at what went into creating Star Wars: the Force Awakens:
What's your preference? Do you mind if a film is created using celluloid or film? Let me know with a comment!