Shooting film in 2022

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  • #170736
    gcconnelly
    Participant

    Hi Roger!

    Unless I’m incorrect, the last time you shot a feature on film was on “Hail Caesar” in 2016.  You said on your podcast that it’s very unlikely you would shoot on film again, but I was curious if you feel like your process with film would be any different now than it was in 2016. Have there been any technical innovations that would change your process? How do you think you would go about dealing with the difficulties of maintaining your intended exposure since development and scanning practices are so inconsistent these days?

    And lastly, do you think you would light a feature shot on film differently than you would if it was shot on digital? Obviously, you would need more exposure for something like a night exterior, but do you think there’s other facets of film that would change your lighting tendencies? For instance, I’ve heard some cinematographers say that they use more hard light on film than on digital.

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  • #170756
    Roger Deakins
    Keymaster

    A hard question. I doubt I would do things very differently if I were to shoot on film again. Yes, a little more light for night shoots but I wouldn’t think much else would change. I don’t agree that film requires more hard light. I might even suggest the reverse is true but projects are always different so it is hard to judge that.

    Perhaps some lab work is a little less consistent than it might have been but there should be no issues with scanning.

    #170765
    gcconnelly
    Participant

    That’s very interesting about the hard versus soft light! I don’t think that’s a popular opinion since a lot of people say film handles highlights better and so hard light can be more pleasing. Why do you think that you are more likely to use soft light when shooting film?

    I’m curious also, if you think your recent digital movies would look substantially different if you had shot them on film. Obviously, Blade Runner and 1917 would be nearly impossible to do on film, but do you think something like Sicario would have a different look to it? Do you think your exposure choices would be substantially different? If I remember correctly, in that movie theres a couple of prolonged scenes at blue hour which would require a very precise underexposure and exposure adjustments in-between takes/angles to keep it consistent as the sun goes down. On digital, I assume you are placing your exposure on set exactly where you want it in post, but if that was on film, would you have chosen to underexpose less in camera and bring it down in post instead?

    #170798
    Roger Deakins
    Keymaster

    I don’t think I would do things very differently on ‘Sicario’ or that any films I have shot would have looked substantially different if they had been shot on film. I know I would have used a little more light for the night scenes but that would have been just using slightly brighter bulbs or units in the same places. I would always allow myself a thick negative for dusk work so I would have underexposed some and printed down some which is not necessary shooting with the Alexa. There is a similar extended ‘magic hour’ sequence in ‘No Country for Old Men’, which was shot on film. Certainly that was difficult but it was also more complex than the sequence in “Sicario’.

    It was true that film used to handle highlights better than digital but that certainly isn’t the case with the higher end cameras today.

    #170884
    gcconnelly
    Participant

    Interesting! Thanks again for answering all these questions!

    To flip the question, how do you think you would’ve handled exposure if you had shot “Jarhead” on digital. I might be mixing up projects, but I think I remember reading that you did a pull process on that film combined with a slight bleached bypass. Would you attempt to do something similar on digital where you overexpose the exteriors to get more shadow detail and then pull it down in the DI?

    I’m also curious in general how you tend to expose day exteriors. Obviously, it varies depending on the intended look, but I was curious how you would meter on a backlit exterior shot like this one:

    I’d imagine the key to fill ratio was pretty extreme on this. Would you just split the difference between the key side and shadow side or is there a certain number of stops below middle gray you will always keep the shadows?

    #170903
    Al Duffield
    Participant

    You might be surprised, look at all that light tan sand acting as a huge bounce, I bet the contrast wasn’t as extreme as you’re assuming 🙂

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