Its the pioneers who get the arrows in their backs. This is an expression that often comes to mind as I delve into the relatively new field of shooting feature films on digital video. Back in 1977, I formed Jim Mathers Video/Films with the intention of bringing film-quality lighting, sound, and production techniques to video. Even back then, everyone wanted to make video look like film, so I was very busy with a growing list of clients. I become increasingly frustrated, however, as I realized that producers were only interested in shooting video when they wanted it quick and/or cheap.
Following my passion for cinematography, I eventually made a conscious decision to get out of video and concentrate solely on shooting films. Recently I was approached by producer Geoff Garrett to shoot the feature Extreme Close-Up digitally. It was then that I had to ask myself: Is the time finally at hand to achieve real quality using digital origination? Or will I simply be collecting more arrows?
All things being equal, I think any cinematographer myself includedwould still prefer to shoot on 35mm film. Theres a comfort factor in using a system weve grown up with, one that has been in place for over 100 years. From a cinematographers point of view, there needs to be a pretty good reason to originate on digital. Our job is to visually tell stories, and so we want to select a capture medium thats best for that, not just because its the fastest or cheapest. But all things considered, there were reasons enough to shoot this particular movie digitally.
|C. Thomas Howell as seen from two angles via the background image onscreen. This and the next two stills in this article are taken from the 480P tape.|