By Danny F. Santos (doddleNEWS)
Just a few days ago one of Hollywood’s best cinematographer, Roger Deakins, said that film is over. With the collapsing infrastructure to support the medium and very few choices in stock, he just doesn’t see it being a viable alternative to digital recording.
Just because Deakins says it’s over, however, doesn’t mean we’ve already buried it. Star Wars: Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow was asked at a panel at the Sundance Film Festival whether his Star Wars film would be shot digitally or on film. Trevorrow prefers to shoot on film (Jurassic World was shot on 35mm film), and defended the medium (via Variety), especially when shooting period pieces, by saying that:
“There’s something in my brain that says, ‘Well they didn’t have video cameras then.'”
He then confirmed that Star Wars has to be shot on film, because:
“It’s a period film. It happened a long time ago.”
Also on the panel were Christopher Nolan and Fruitvale Station cinematographer Rachel Morrison. Nolan is adamant that filmmakers be given an option when choosing how to shoot, and not be locked into digital.
“There needs to be a choice. As a medium it will continue to exist. It has to continue to exist. It’s pointless to pretend it has to go away.”
Shooting on film is only one half of the equation, while lab processing is another. The choice in stock and the ability to treat the medium is what made film so versatile. That is no longer the case, and in almost all circumstances, anything shot on film is then digitally processed anyway for post-production.
On the flip side, the biggest issue with digital is that it is too good, as it can record and be projected at higher frame rates with far more detail. While this sounds like a bonus rather than a curse, ask anyone who saw the 48 fps version of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ,(aka, HFR, high frame rate) and you’re more likely to hear how cheap and ‘video’ it looked. The irony is that as ubiquitous as digital is in the industry now, most productions try as hard as possible to make it look like film.
In the case of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, I think there is also a component of returning to the aesthetics of the original trilogy. The prequels relied on so much digital technology, that these sequels have backlashed by returning the series to its roots. JJ Abrams relyed on as many practical effects as possible, and shot Star Wars: The Force Awakens on film, while Episode VIII director Rian Johnson will be continuing that trend.
In some ways, the best reason for Trevorrow to shoot on film is just to keep the same aesthetic Abrams began. You can even say that Trevorrow will finish what Abrams started.
Star Wars: Episode IX is expected in theaters in May 2019.