PostHeaderIcon Shooting Film in a Digital Era

I’ve always been a film guy. I cut my teeth on 16mm. My first child was an Arri 16SRII for which I traveled to the factory in Munich factory 30 years ago to take the delivery. At the National Geographic, that’s all we shot, day in and day out, and there was something reassuring about it: we could hear the film and sprockets chugging away, and we knew we were recording images.  With our many years of experience, we had absolute confidence in what those images actually were.

This month I’ve been shooting second unit camera for Moonrise Kingdom, directed by my old friend Wes Anderson. Wes and I date back to the pre-Bottle Rocket days, when I used to shoot commercials and industrial films for Owen Wilson’s dad in Dallas. In those days the film medium was all we had if we really wanted to make a movie. The digital thing was still at least a decade away for serious filmmakers.

Which is why this shoot for me on Super 16 was like a breath of fresh air.  The S16mm camera strapped to the underbelly of a 270-horsepower Cessna seaplane would be challenging enough for any imaging system, given the physical stress and massive volume of water pouring back over the lens on take-off.  Employing a digital camera however in this setup would be sheer folly, given the force and volume of water and the tight waterproofing required to protect the camera from the massive assault. A modern digital cinema given its thermal characteristics would likely not be able to sustain the heat buildup inside many layers of water-tight plastic – without substantial re-engineering with respect to the camera’s cooling fan and concomitant changes in the aerodynamics of the aircraft.

Here the simplicity and reliability of perforated film chugging over sprockets made the most sense, as the film camera was clearly the right tool for the job. The versatility and latitude of the Vision 3 7213 film proved to be just as critical; the lighting conditions aloft changing dramatically as we darted in and out of the thick clouds of an approaching storm.

Comments are closed.