An illustrious selection of directors, DOPs, producers and editors joined representatives from some of the best-known camera manufacturers and post-production houses to debate the merits of both film and digital in front of a packed house of industry figures.
D-UK Film Committee Chair Iain Softley set the tone for the evening with an introductory speech, highlighting some of the major talking points for the discussion, before he handed over to Wendy Mitchell, Editor of Screen International, who chaired the panel. DUK Film Committee member, Kevin Macdonald spoke of his experiences with both formats, and concluded that he felt there are advantages to both.After testing a variety of digi and film formats for a feature he was making, he felt that film depicted the human face at its "most beautiful",but that there are benefits around the cost and ease of use for digital which might better suit some productions or situations
John Mathieson talked about the issues from the perspective of a cinematographer. John expressed concern that the upsurge of productions shooting in digital meant craftsmanship was being overlooked, and the integrity of colours was being lost. Brian Tufano, a DoP and tutor at the NFTS, reflected that the school still teach students to shoot with film, because they believe "if they can shoot with that, they can shoot with anything". There was a general concern that if film continues to be used less often that the processing labs will no longer be able to afford to keep running and that film stock will cease to be made.
The view from the post houses was that they could work with either film or digital, but that digital, being available in so many separate formats, brings further complications and considerations in post. Further discussions considered the costs and staffing implications of each. Camera manufacturers Arri and stock suppliers Kodak advocated choice, but in expressing their support for film they emphasised that in order to keep film as an available medium people needed to continue to shoot on film. Meanwhile Charles Fairall, Head of Conservation at the BFI National Archive, gave some insight into how each format was stored to ensure the legacy of cinema.
All things considered, the consensus by the end of the evening was that the most important thing was preserving choice. Although most preferred one format over another, each believed it was crucial to ensure directors and DoPs were given the option of both film and digital. However, for this to happen and for manufacturers to keep supplying film, , film needs to continue to be used and productions must be willing to allow creatives to choose their medium.
Thanks to all our panel members and speakers at the Film vs Digital debate, and to all those who attended. You can see photos from the event below (if you can't see them, click here), and read a report on the debate from Screen Daily here. A podcast of the event will be available here soon.