A conventional approach in modern day cinema (7 replies and 11 comments)
Good morning Roger and everyone here on the forum! I've had this presumption for quite a while now and I wanted some external perspective. I can't help but to fret when scrolling through the next popular streaming service or the next "Hollywood blockbuster" and coming across the same color pallet, composition, and character of an image or a lack thereof. And this is definitely not a "digital is ruining cinema" argument because at this point I think digital has more than proved itself with the amazing work created by yourself and many other great DPs working today. But I remember you mentioning in your podcast Roger, something to the extent of: cameras and equipment are becoming more accessible to everyone but the quality of the work is not getting any better. So my question to you and everyone on the forum is, do you think the accessibility, convenience and reliability of modern technology have created an adverse effect on cinema. Almost to a result of stagnation?
Maybe there are some who have become complacent as it has become so easy to capture an image that is deemed 'acceptable'.
I totally agree with this, as a professional photojournalist and newspaper photography editor, I see that mindset has taken over a lot of the "professional" created images. Digital technologies have freed the really creative but have also created a mindset of "ahh got it, good enough" I see this a lot with newspaper/wire shooters. Back when we all used to shoot film we had to cover so many bases and exposures. On location at a news site, there are no redoes and there isn't much planning. With digital a shooter will go in, do the assignment, look at the back of their camera and say "good enough" and go onto the next assignment. I found the takes over all have less exploring and experimenting as a result.
Story will always be the determining factor. A good story can be filmed in 1920 in Germany with grainy film emulsion and no sound...and it stands the test of time. Right?
Overall, ignoring some peaks and valleys, I don’t think the ratio of good to bad cinema — or art in general — changes due to technology, the highest achievements are due to the skill of the artist, not the tools.
New digital technology lifts the bottom to the middle perhaps but it won’t lift the middle to the top.
Yes, I'm with Jacob W. Nicely put David! Profound and hilarious. This could be said of so many other endeavors. Popular music comes to mind.
Though I would love to agree with David, I wish there were always as many peaks as there were in 1969 or 1984, just to randomly select two years. I wish.
I can't say that technology has zero effects on artistic quality. I doubt the invention of the typewriter and then the word processor lowered or raised the quality of writing, but perhaps the rise of social media and texting has had an adverse affect on writing, I don't know! But in general, I think it is too easy to blame or give credit to tools and not the artist, it's lazy thinking. It's like when you post a nice photo on the internet and half the people say "that's a great camera!" It's fine to be less-than-enthusiastic about modern movies, for example, but to blame modern tools for that seems misplaced. It's like saying that movies have gone downhill ever since the emergence of sound... or color... or widescreen... or stereo sound... or digital intermediates... or digital photography...
I can tell where the technology did have an effect, talk to anyone in the newspaper world. With Iphones and digital cameras, many newspapers have laid off their photography staffs and have let the reporters shoot photos with the Iphones. That being said one of my favorite mentors a photographer named Eric Mencher is someone else who left the newspaper world and he now shoots only with an Iphone. His photos are real photos. The thing is the technology has allowed the money powers at be to be "ok" with things when in the past, you had to be pretty damn good to be "ok."
When I was getting into sports photography one of the staff photographers at Sports Illustrated, Al Tielemans wrote me this( and this was back in 2000). "Now, you must also consider the market you are entering. You, like me and all the other people who shoot sports these days, have a problem. That problem is that the skill I was once so proud of--follow focusing--is now a purchasedcommodity. YOU are no longer special as a sports photographer. Noone is. There are amateurs running around on weekends making pictures and selling
them cheap. The card companies, which once provided legitimate sports photogswith extra cash, are now the employers of many second rate photogs...who of course work cheap, and whine relentlessly about how little they make. DO NOT become one of these whiners. " I am just giving some perspective of technology and the effect on creative people being able to make a living.
Taking the example of sound in movies, while I think it would be absurd to claim movies have gone downhill ever since the introduction of sound, one could argue that for a certain time a lot of moviemaking became lazy. I'm thinking about Hitchcock's account when he said that a majority of movies during that time was just "photographs of people talking" using the same formula of coverage without making use of the visual artistic expressiveness developed for the whole lifespan of silent movies. But maybe that's just a case of "there are always bad movies"? I don't know. But maybe there is some truth in that and a similar thing happens (or happened) in digital filmmaking although with different circumstances. But even if that's the case I'm sure as time passes people will probably mostly only remember the good ones anyway.
Would say that the economic realities of producing, marketing, and distributing films -- as well as the larger media ecosystem they find themselves in -- has been the far greater factor in their degeneration as an art form than has the technology.
And because the technology is such, they have less artist or skilled people doing the stuff at cheaper rates because the technology provides a "good enough" product. I think the thing to remember is the original poster posted about blockbusters, and I as the film goer feel the same way, that many modern movies are all looking, feeling the same way overall and that has been blended into the mix with the streaming services.
Definitely! I think for the most part the major studios/streaming services nowadays are so laser-focused with bombarding the consumer with excess content to the point that the artistic value seems to be decreasing. A definite tragedy. And also the fact that filmmakers and cinematographers in the new social media age are only being referred to as 'content creators' in my opinion diminishes the value of the artform and converts it to a consumer/product mindset.
That and another thing that visual effects supervisor Michael Fink told me when I interviewed him for my BTTF book, that many movies now are "made by committee." Many times that committee is market researchers, and the voice or vision of the director is actually quite limited. He noted on some of the Marvel films he worked on the director would be very limited by the studios. I am in love with the collaborative creative process that is needed in film making. There is a big difference between a collaborative creative process vs by marketing committee. I think that is why the most successful films are the ones where there is a strong director that gets to put his vision out there. * and the director of photography gets to really be the one to help the director the most get that on screen imo* Fink gave me this great quote that I ended my book with: "Back to the Future was Robert Zemeckis’ movie. The script he wrote with Bob Gale was terrific, and it was very clear it was his movie. It has his sense of humor, and everything about him shows up there. His best films are always the ones in which you watch it feeling like you are looking at Zemeckis through this story. This is true of all the great directors. Francis Coppola once told me, “You know, when I finish a film, I sit in the screening room and I watch the movie all by myself — and you know what I see?" I said, "No." He answered," I see myself." That's really the point of it all, I think."
While it may be true that 'there are always bad movies' are there always great movies? Technology is not to blame for the dearth of great movies but is just one of many factors driving a change in the ways we 'pass our time'.
Yesterday I was watching a speedboat careening around the bay at about 30 knots. It was a 30' inflatable carrying about 15+ 'adventure tourists', out for a roller-coaster ride at sea. Heaven knows what the fish or the seals made of it all. Whether for the good or the bad, a passenger or a fish, things change!
It changed for two teenage girls who died last year careering around Torbay in their uncles inflatable RIB. They were bounced out of the boat as it turned over going at a high rate of knots, their uncle stated that they ‘screamed for speed’.
What is the price for ‘Euphoria’! What happened to the simple pleasures in life!
Do films have to ‘shake and stir‘ you to make it a memorable experience?