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Transition to Digital: Issues of Film Printing, Shooting on Film, Preservation (VIDEO)

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood November 23, 2012 at 4:08PM

Two key articles are making the online rounds on the tricky and contentious transition to digital. Of the current Oscar contenders, while most are going to be seen in theaters via digital projection, "The Dark Knight," "Anna Karenina," "The Master," "Lincoln," and "Silver Linings Playbook" were all shot on film, the preferred method for their respective directors, who are loathe to give it up. But as Joe Wright told TOH, he may have to make the switch because the London labs can no longer handle the demands of a major production.
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Martin Scorsese

Two key articles are making the online rounds on the tricky and contentious transition to digital. Of the current Oscar contenders, while most are going to be seen in theaters via digital projection, "The Dark Knight," "Anna Karenina," "The Master," "Lincoln," and "Silver Linings Playbook" were all shot on film, the preferred method for their respective directors, who are loathe to give it up. But as Joe Wright told TOH, he may have to make the switch because the London labs can no longer handle the demands of a major production.

The Atlantic looks at a predicament recently faced by Martin Scorsese and his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker. Upon requesting a 35mm print of 1993's "The Age of Innocence" for a Museum of Moving Image screening in June, the director and editor were told by Sony that, alas, a print did not exist, nor could a new print be made -- Technicolor in Los Angeles no longer prints film. This represents a larger problem faced by museums and repertory theaters looking to screen classic films. Only a small fraction of older titles have been reformatted to DCP, and titles existing only on 35mm are increasingly difficult to access. Warner Bros. won't rent out a title unless it has two prints in the vaults, Paramount has virtually blocked off access to its archives, and Twentieth Century Fox usually requires an in-person guest appearance for a 35mm title to be loaned. It's a vicious circle: Because new prints aren't being made, archives and studios are understandably protective of the prints they do have, not wanting them worn down by myriad rep house screenings.

Meanwhile, Screen Daily reports back from a BAFTA and directors' UK panel on whether or not shooting on film is still viable in the quickly transitioning world. Filmmakers and other industry professionals looked at the commonly accepted wisdom that shooting on digital is cheaper than film -- but is that true? Producer Anita Overland, who recently worked on Ron Howard's "Rush," points out that high-end productions using digital often necessitate extra lab costs and personnel. "Rush" cost approximately $200K less on digital than it would have on film, but for a $50 million production, that's a relatively small margin.

While certain directors hold out for film (Christopher Nolan being a well-known example), problems arise that loop back to the Atlantic article. As fewer directors shoot on film, fewer companies have the financial capacity to keep printing film. It's a loss for them to keep up those facilities if they don't have regular film orders coming through. Hence Technicolor and Fuji's abandonment of the format.

Also, check out the moving and eloquent video introduction below by Martin Scorsese for the Cinematheque Francaise's upcoming film preservation festival "Toute la Memoire du Monde." The title of the festival translates to "All the memories of the world," and Scorsese sees this as an apt encapsulation of the need for film restoration: "The danger is of course, forgetting, losing our ties with where we've been, what we come out of, and then failng to care for what we've created. And in film and cinema, we've felt that potential and of course the real loss of the past, and we've felt it very strongly."

For more on the digital tranisition, check out the doc "Side by Side." We interviewed the director here.


Martin Scorsese présente le Festival "Toute la... by lacinematheque

This article is related to: Martin Scorsese, Video, Martin Scorsese, Digital Future, News


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.