Lens Flares and the End of Film

Mindel shares these concerns.

"Until very recently, most cinematographers were left alone to shoot and manipulate because people were afraid to engage in any technical conversations—because they really didn't understand the process," he says. "What has happened with the advent of Photoshop and iPads is that a lot of people know a little. Therefore they feel, especially directors, that they can manipulate the film in any direction."

He pauses, the language of this new world having not caught up with the reality. "Should I rephrase that? Not 'film'—'images.' So, the relationship between the director of photography and the director has to be built on trust."

With digital, he says, that amalgamation of art and science doesn't exist.

"[Digital] is something else, and that's fine," Mindel says. "But personally, I love the aberrations that film gives me—the grain exploding under stress from light sources that one doesn't want to control. It enables me to add texture and sympathy, empathy, something that's indefinable."

Digital photography continues to replace film. Physical prints of feature films will no longer be distributed by studios to theaters by the end of this year. So even if directors and cinematographers continue to shoot on film, the result will still end up being projected and seen in a digital format. The larger issue here, as Mindel points out, is not new technology and equipment, but the loss of an art form that took a century to develop on the basis of a particular (analog) medium, and its usurpation by an imitative one that is unresponsive—and, ironically, too responsive—to tactile craftsmanship.

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Contrast the purists' comments with that of director Sidney Lumet, who was 83 when his film, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," was released. In the DVD commentary, he praised digital to the skies and claimed he could make anything he shot look exactly like film.


So Mindel wants to be left alone to do his mysterious craft with autonomy and complete creative freedom. And that is one of his main concerns with going over to digital? I thought filmmaking was a collaborative art? At the end of the day film is about feelings, evoking emotions with images and sound. As long as what is being captured is worth being captured, as one cinematographer put it, the thing could be shot on gaffer tape. Personally, I loved Deakins' work on both "Assassination of Jesse James..." AND "Skyfall" (the movie not so much, but the images were outrageously well crafted). One was 35mm film and the other shot on digital. It's more about the man behind the art, not the box itself, that is at the core of this "argument" if there was one.



A: Lens flare is not unique to film, it happens exactly the same in digital cameras. It's just that they overused the hell out of cgi versions in the new Star Trek film. You may also notice that the space battles happening around the lens flares were cgi.
B: Before fumbling into the digital/analog debate (which is clearly over), people should be made to explain concisely the various photochemical processes that take a film from exposed negative to finished, titled, analog sound-tracked film print. This would show their understanding of what they are talking about. Also they should come to my office and repair a few thousand feet of vinegar-syndrome affected acetate film.
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