Originally Posted by Marc Wielage
You missed a decimal point! Close to $200K for the F900 in 1998/1999. I think the F35 was also around $150K. Everything changed with the $40,000 Red camera (initially $17,000), and prices have come down quite a bit... though the Arri Alexa is still between $50K and $80K, depending on what options you get.
I think above a certain budget, it is possible to shoot on film, but the truth is once the film is shot, it's digital from that moment on. Even guys like Abrams and Clint Eastwood do 100% of their post in digital. (Nolan tries to do as much as possible in the lab, but he's a rare holdout.)
I think a lot of the exodus from film to digital was largely because of speed and turnaround. I'm not 100% unbiased, since I worked for Technicolor in Hollywood for about 20 years, but my observation is that shooting digitally didn't wind up really saving any money. In many cases, the producers wound up taking the $20K per day in film costs and just giving themselves raises, or applying the money to other facets of the production. (Strictly my opinion.) Shooting digitally was much faster, since instead of a film lab and dailies operation, you merely had a DIT on the set copying files and setting looks, which can be very fast and efficient.
It's a standard deal that some high-speed shots still look better in film, especially when you have explosions or crashes or any kind of one-shot scenes. The problem with high-speed digital cameras like the Phantom Flex is that a) they require massive data storage, and b) they can't run fast enough and also shoot at high res. You can have high res and slow speed (up to maybe 120fps) or you can have low res and high speed (over 1000fps), but not both. With film... you get both. But: how long can you process the film?
Heck, I'm curious how J.J. Abrams is getting the Star Wars footage processed. Technicolor closed its London lab about six months ago, so I'm hard pressed to know where there's another big lab that could handle this level of work.
Given that films can look as beautiful as Gravity and still be shot on a digital camera, I'm not concerned that great images are never gonna happen again. I've often said, the final image quality is more a combination of the cinematographer, the lenses, and the lighting, rather than the choice of camera per se. The camera might be the single least important thing about it.
If i had not read the article in the Film Journal, i would have called someone a liar to there face for saying SW 7 was being filmed, not recorded. I'm like you, all the film processing studios have shut down or moved on. I know ILM has no more film department attached to it. George shut it all down was his "were all digital" speech back in 2007-08. I to am trying to figure were JJ got the film for one, were talking a whole 2 plus hour movie here, with all the outtakes, the cuts, on and on. Were probably talking a mile of film or more. Last i looked, maybe he is using left over Fuji stock, i really don't know. And, and on top of all of that, they are shooting in IMAX, with film! It's like were did they have this film hidden at? Under the mattress? The last data i personally looked at, for film showed cinema like 40% and TV like 8% or something lower. That was 4-5 years ago. I know those numbers have to much lower, probably 1 on the TV side. All the new LOTR are being shot on RED cameras, no film use there. Peter is happy about it, i attended a seminar he was at after the release of Hobbits last year in LA, and he plainly stated "Film has a certain look, feel, and presence, almost unimaginable depth rendering, but digital is so much faster in every aspect." I figured with him, George Lucas, Cameron and Spielberg saying film was good, but old school, i though for sure that was the end of film in any commercial Hollywood productions. The i read SW 7 is being actually filmed.
When i was at Universal, i made it a priority to learn what i could about digital capture. From tape or hard drive. They were having all these digital handling workshops and i think i went to all of them. And you also had these "old-school" camera man, lighting directors, directors, producers, you name it. Everybody was trying to figure how to use it and make the most of it, most importantly to stay on top and not get pushed aside. As you know, Hollywood is brutal when it comes to weeding out unneeded people. As far as me in the distribution department, digital was actually more work than film. It was a slow transfer process. Then DCI hit the scene full force, that slowed it down even more. It was like none of the major studios were ready for what they had been preaching for the last 5 years. I know Lions-gate was blinded sided by not being able to keep a supply of 35MM film and used 65MM until they got some digital equipment and camera rentals. And there were similar stories form the other smaller studios. WB and Paramount, like us, made sure they warehoused what was need for 4 years. When i was leaving Universal in late 2002, we had shipped over 2/3 of our film stock out. The film warehouse was being used as a back up sound stage, they were filming 24/7 in there, i think it played those warehouse looking parts in every Law&Order SVU ep's from 1999 up. And i can't even name all the other movies filming there. But you know, 2 years later it became NBCUniversal in i think march of 2004, and the same today.
Here is a funny for you,
IMAX job posting for a projectionist in Boston. HaHa. I laughed hard when Eric sent me the link. I thought for sure all the IMAX theaters were 100% digital projection, except for the dome locations, like zoos and stuff.
I know that Film and digital has it's negative and positives, it is still an ongoing debate over what is better, i'm old-school i like film, but digital content is so much more forgiving and easy for the novice to use. Like Ron Howard told me, "It's so easy you can do it."
When i first saw Gravity i saw it in IMAX. I was already at the theater doing bulb changes and other nick knacks in between showing on the other screens. I came into it after about the first 20 minutes, so yeah i missed a lot the first time, but man, it sounded sweet on those Quested speakers and amps on IMAX, not to mention looked very good. The second time i saw it was at a Atmos theater with a AVX(almost IMAX quality, almost) screen and it blew me away. So much i stayed for the next showing. Gravity was just made for Atmos, as well as IMAX. That picture just rocked. I know $100 million budget sounds extreme to most people, but that's a drop in the bucket, for what they were saying they were going to do with this movie. I think they actually came in under budget, and recouped it the first week at the box office. Even i was like, what 100 million? It's a space flick, CGI and models, and sets is going to consume that up, are they getting the cameras and crews for free? They did a very good job all the way around. The one were they built a rig for 1.8 million individually controlled LED lights for a pure light score, was what i found interesting and a new lighting approach.
They hit the mark.