Film is dead, they say. It’s cheaper and easier and more efficient to shoot a film with digital cameras, and these days the end result can look almost as good as a 35mm source. Almost.
These are the reasons why most movies you see – particularly most big budget blockbusters – are shot on digital, but a few filmmakers still hold on to the tradition of shooting their films on, well, film, and the medium is richer for it. Zack Snyder is one of these filmmakers.
While the film wasn’t as well received critically as your typical Marvel Studios joint, it’s hard to argue that Batman v Superman aesthetically was more vibrant and distinct than the often flat-looking digital photography employed by Marvel. But, of course, that quality comes with a trade off.
When I sat down with Batman v Superman‘s Second Unit Director Damon Caro and Visual Effects Lead Bryan Hirota the subject of working with film came up and we got to discuss both the benefits and difficulties that it affords.
This is an excerpt from a larger interview. Look for the full interview later this week.
And speaking of the look of it, the film looks gorgeous. There’s a lot that can be done with digital photography these days, but the fact that it was shot on film pushes it to a level that not a lot of other superhero movies are at, at least in terms of visuals. How different is it doing the VFX work working with the raw film? Obviously there’s the digital intermediary, but does it change substantially working with film elements versus digital?
Damon Caro: Not for my department. I defer to visfx.
Bryan Hirota: I mean, film complicates things. Nowadays, even on this movie, every bit of negative was scanned. So we’re still receiving frames from some DI house. But a scanned piece of negative has a different look and different artifacts than something that comes off, like, an Alexa. The actual process itself, aside from having to match the film look, I don’t know that it changes our workflow that much. I think it changes shooting more, because you’ve gotta reload, magazines are limited to a certain amount of footage.
Right, you can’t just keep rolling like they do on a lot of digital shoots.
Hirota: Yeah, and you have to develop the negative, so it costs you a lot more.
Caro: But I do love the look of it still. I admire that Zack still does shoot on it. There are some convenience factors so I don’t know how long that’ll happen, but there’s a subtlety about it. As far as ease of workflow on the post side, it’s so much easier to deal with digital, but I still love it. Anything to make his work harder, I’m in favor of.
Hirota: (Laughs) The fact that it was shot anamorphic is a bigger deal than using film.
Caro: And I never actually saw it projected on IMAX, I’m not sure if you did.
Unfortunately I missed it.
Caro: Yeah, me too. I saw dailies and I shot a bunch of it. The Batman versus Superman fight was all shot on IMAX and it was stunning.
I’m sure that would’ve been incredible to see.
Hirota: I saw it in laser IMAX at the Chinese and it was great.
Caro: We had to make it work for the aspect ratio 99% of people saw it in, but there was some gorgeous stuff we shot in IMAX.