Passing thoughts : The DV vs. FILM debate

Discussion in 'Professional Video Production' started by Martin McNeill, Apr 1, 2004.

  1. Any thoughts/comments on the following are welcome:

    Using electronic music as a model, why would anyone consider a
    technological advancement such as DV replacing traditional film
    entirely, rather than become another tool in the craft (and art) of

    The DV revolution has more recently happened, just as electronic music
    did ten years prior. When music production became available to a wider
    audience, they did not rise up and render traditional musicians
    useless. There was a new genre of etc. But
    hardly a "revolution" - as seems to be stated more often with DV.

    But both are very similar (a technical tool for artistic endevours).

    I don't know why there is such a hang up on process...I have yet to
    see a Pulitzer Prize ahnded out with the obligitory "Written with word
    run on PC" ??
    Martin McNeill, Apr 1, 2004
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  2. Martin McNeill

    nappy Guest

    let's see.. Because a great deal of music is made nowdays without a single
    acoustic instrument ? Thank god, too.. I design that stuff. !
    Electronic music transformed from additive/subtractive synthesis to
    romplayer to Modeling through the 80s and 90s. I still consider everything
    that is not recorded-acoustic instrumentation to be electronics music. Even
    though the technologies for actually generating the waveforms are different.
    The first samplers were 8 bit samplers, so the sounds they generated were
    low resolution replicas of the acoustic analog equivalent. Now they are
    virtually indistiguishable from their acoustic counterparts and are used as
    replacements for analog acoustic instruments as the norm. I see DV, or any
    current video format, the same way . The future path of digital imaging will
    certainly eclipse film. Ask the Kodak emplyees recently laid off. I may be
    wrong but wasn't it like.. 20,000 people?

    I was building synthesizers in the late 60's and prior to that electronic
    musicians used razorblades and tape decks as part of their arsenal.
    Electronic music is over 50 years in the making and more when you consider
    the Therimin and other esoteric devices.

    ?When music production became available to a wider
    In the early years you could not be in the musicians union if you played a
    synth. !
    A lot of musicians now compete with electronic devices in every aspect. I
    don't need to hire a drummer as often as I used to. Or a string section or a
    harmonica player or a horn section...

    There was a new genre of etc. But
    DV is an improvement on prior technology. Not a revolution. If anything the
    revolution is in the fact that anyone can now shoot and edit imagery of a
    quality that most consider at least broadcastable if not in direct
    competition with real film. I tend to think that DV is certainly making
    inroads .. I see enough DV movies They used to be shot in 16mm. And aside
    from film artifacts that are not reproducable easily in DV, some of these
    movies look spectacular. Better than they would in 16 ..if only because
    video offers immediate feedback on the set so lighting and color and
    exposure can be predetermined while you are shooting instead of waiting for
    dailies to find out that you have to use the take that had the jet in it
    because there was a hair in the gate and part of someone's banana.

    People who prefer film to video are correct in most of their analysis as far
    as I am concerned. But so are those who prefer analog recordings of music to
    44.1Khz CDs. At some point the ease of dealing with the medium becomes more
    important than the quality of the medium. When we kind of instinctivly
    decide that some format is at least good enough that we can retire the old
    method.Usually because the processes for using the medium become so simple
    comparitively. Once something can be digitized the sky's the limit. That's
    where film is going. Like it or not. It is environmentally bad, expensive to
    process and ... all that. But to most it is the very best way to capture
    nappy, Apr 2, 2004
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  3. Martin McNeill

    Guy Guest

    This should be the shortest thread as Nappy has absolutley nailed the
    arguement spot on....

    I do see the digital world as a revolution, as with music, people who would
    not have had access to making videos now have the opportunity. The medium
    is no longer the preserve of the wealthy elites which, in my view, is a very
    very good thing...
    Guy, Apr 2, 2004
  4. Martin McNeill

    Phil Crawley Guest

    I do see the digital world as a revolution, as with music, people who
    The fundemental difference between the digital music revolution of the
    80's/90's is that it liberated musicians by giving them access to tools
    which performed as well or better than what had come before (sampling at
    44.1Khz, 16 bit or better out-performs a Studer A80 - what was the
    definative multitrak analogue recorder). In the case of digital video there
    isn't yet a consumer/pro-sumer broadcast format. DV (in all it's guises -
    miniDV, DVCam and DVCPro) is sub-broadcast 4:1:1 (or sometime 4:2:0) 8 bit
    format. The compression is too heavy for proper TV and it is why it is still
    the preserve of the Guild of Wedding Videographers and cheap television. It
    is definately not a film replacement format (some would argue that 2k
    resolution HDCam still ain't good enough) - and the fact that it is used
    "seriously" is more a reflection of the fact that accountants have too much

    People do notice that the overall technical quality of TV has dropped over
    the last five years and it is almost entirely down to the widespread
    adoption of DV.
    Phil Crawley, Apr 2, 2004
  5. Martin McNeill

    Guy Guest

    This is true if you believe that technical quality of the images to be the
    determining factor. In my view DV has brought stories and pictures to the
    screen that would never have reached us.

    I have learnt to look beyong the technical limitations of a format and
    instead look towards the message. Let's put asside broadcast material for a
    minute and consider the benefit DV is having on campaigning and self
    advocacy. Groups that would never would have had the chance to express
    themselves now can with cheap and effective tools of the trade. I believe
    its very important not to censor oppinion from "poorer" groups in a vibrant
    democractic society.

    Consider the impact of a video produced by handicapped adults to record
    their efforts in producing and art exhibition at their local day centre.
    They see themselves on screen working on their exibition and have a long
    lasting and good quality record of their achievements. We the outsiders see
    the trials and tribulations and gain a better understanding of the issues
    they face and the work of their carers. These handicapped adults are also
    included in the process with careful tutoring and without intervention also
    make the programme. This is where the revolution is. Without an affordable
    format such as DV these people would be without their voice.

    In my opinion just to compare DV with so called broadcast standards is
    missing the point.
    Guy, Apr 2, 2004
  6. Martin McNeill

    Phil Crawley Guest

    This is true if you believe that technical quality of the images to be the
    Couldn't agree with you more old boy - I love the fact that me and my kids
    can make little films about whatever we like BUT I don't expect anyone to
    broadcast them.

    Every amatuer artist can afford the same kind of pigments that would have
    cost Leonardo's patron the equivelent of a year's wage for the average
    person - has art improved because of this?

    Did the DTP recolution of the late 80's cause an improvement in design or
    just a torrent of bad typesetting?

    As television becomes more like moving wallpaper and tiny cable/satellite
    stations have single figure number of thousands per hour then it becomes
    clear that this stuff is only going to be cut on DV and edited by people
    with months rather than years of experience.
    "So called" broadcast standards evolved over the years to ensure a quality
    of service to the viewer - it's interesting that ten years ago the term
    "digital video" meant quality, now it means compromise.

    BUT - this thread started as a discussion about DV and film - talking about
    standards seems entirely appropriate.
    Phil Crawley, Apr 2, 2004
  7. Martin McNeill

    Guy Guest

    I must admit I read DV in the original poster's message as the all
    encompassing Digital Video which includes Digibeta, DVCAM and HD.

    I think we are singing from the same hymn sheet. I agree some producers see
    DV as a cheap alternative. I don't know where you live but here in the UK
    we are plagued by home improvement programmes. DV cameras are used a lot
    particularly during daytime slots. I don't personally believe the quality
    of these programmes would increase if they were shot on film or HD. DV is
    supposed to only be used where absolutley necessary but of course it is
    absolutely necessary for producers to make as much money as possible :).

    Maybe the HDV revolution will come maybe it won't but sure enough technology
    will improve to the point that film resolution work will eventually end up
    in the hands of most of us mortals. What we do with it is up to us but at
    least we will all get a chance in time. I take you point about DTP. I
    guess its like every new technology its used and abused and we all find a
    concensus on what is aesthically pleasing. Thankfully PIP which featured in
    the series 24 has been relegated to the realm of being cliched now. If we
    don't experiment then we don't go forward.

    I guess that I am pleased to be living now and having access to good quality
    cameras an very versatile editor so I can express myself even if it is badly
    :). Up until a few years ago I could only make compilation tapes for the
    car with rudimentary fades. Now I can mix, beat match and almost do a remix
    CD with an audio editor, Nero and a burner. I see the digital video
    revolution in the same way.

    Remember, the DV revolution brought us the Blair Witch Project.......oh f**k
    I've just proved you arguement......:)
    Guy, Apr 2, 2004
  8. Martin McNeill

    nappy Guest

    hmmm.. I don't know if it actually outperforms a Studer. I find the sound of
    a Studer to be remarkable. In fact, in 93 I was composing an orchestral
    score for a movie and I rented a Studer with SR to transfer music and stems
    for final mix. It certainly made my tracks sound beautiful. I suppose that
    supports my points ..At some point the media becomes so easy to work with
    that we sacrifice some forms of quality to get on with it. Eventually the
    new medium surpasses the old. I think 16 bit 44.1 is inferior to an analog
    recording on a Studer. But not so inferior that I don't use it every day!

    In the case of digital video there
    Right there. But I see some independent movies shot in miniDV or DVCAM and
    they are truly remarkable.

    nappy, Apr 2, 2004
  9. Martin McNeill

    Phil Crawley Guest

    But it's not the case! You can hire BetaSX for a small premium on DVCam -
    that's a broadcast format (and it's standard def!) - DV is viewed as
    fashionable. Producers like the ideas of their runners shooting ten times as
    much footage on PD-150s - however the current raft of lifesyle & reality
    shows is as much a symptom as the reliance on DV - at this point I must
    apologise - I was the tech supervisor on the first three years of Big
    Brother! But, the firm I was working for did manage to move Pet Rescue onto
    SX from series two. The camera hire costs increased a bit but the editing
    costs dropped considerably.
    Watch Windows Media9.
    Phil Crawley, Apr 2, 2004
  10. Martin McNeill

    david.mccall Guest

    Was Blair Witch DV? I thought it was a combination of Hi-8 and 16mm.

    Before there were synthesizers and midi, it was tough for a composer to pull
    together an orchestra just so he could hear what he has written, now he can
    get a good aproximation as he goes along.

    Before there was DTP there was hand written scrawl, and badly done cut and
    paste (with sisors and glue) on the bulitin boards and desktops around the
    I'd have to say that much of the DTP we see is an improvement.

    Before there was the DV/NLE resolution wedding videos, and much local
    was crash edited on VHS. I'd say DV/NLE is an improvement in technology.

    It pretty much depends on wether you are a broadcast profesional seeing the
    the demand for highly paid technicians dwindling, or a low end producer that
    has a format that doesn't go to hell in 3 generations (and wasn't that good
    in the
    first generation). If you ran a print shop, you would be against making Desk
    top tools
    available to the restraunt owner that can now print his own menus. If you
    were a
    recording engineer at a $500 an hour studio you would really be down on the
    the guy that used tyo come in for a week at a time, can now do most of his
    at home, and only needs the studio at the end to record the strings and

    No, a synthesizer is not as good as a full orchestra A DV camera is not an
    improvement over 35mm and a full crew of technicians. An amature with a
    DTP setup is not an improvement over A full publishing department and a
    profesional printer.

    It's more about your perspective, than technical quality.

    david.mccall, Apr 2, 2004
  11. Martin McNeill

    gothika Guest

    Well put. I've spent many years working in just about any mass media
    market you could think of.(I worked in graphics art as a scanner
    operator back in the early 70's doing four colour offset. Before that
    I got my fine arts degree in photography and film work.)
    I've worked in printing as well as having been a camera operator in
    film and video.
    I see the new technology as a good thing. It helps take the ability to
    create out of the hands of a few and gives it to many.
    If I'd had the same resources available today when I was a youngster
    I'd have been in heaven.(I stuggled and worked two jobs in addition to
    going to school to be able to afford enough money to have even a half
    worn out B&H km-70 16mm camera and the B&W film stock to shoot a bit
    of presentation stock.)
    Today a high schooler can shoot a full length feature on a mini DV
    that has as much resolution and image quality as most of the pro video
    equipment of even 15 years ago.(better in most cases.)
    I once spent nearly a million bucks to build a decent sound
    studio.(And went up to my eyeballs in debt doing it.)
    Today a young artist can build a decent studio in a box for less than
    1,500 bucks.(Even less if they want to do most of the hands on
    I remember many a band that had to kowtow to the major labels just to
    get a demo cut. Now they can do it all themselves from start to
    finish.(Had a friend whose band cut their first album on a pc based
    studio setup, had their own cd produced at a small local pressing
    plant and sold them right out of the clubs and indie record shops on
    their tour route.)
    When I was in film school we were taught the purist notion of only
    working with film, that video was the ugly stepchild.(In truth in the
    70's video was a poor substitute.) This line of thought really held me
    back though. I started using video in the early 80's, mostly as a work
    medium to shoot business conferences, weddings, parties etc...
    I didn't see the potential for actual feature work until the 90's.
    My rigid "no compromise" thinking really held me back for a long time.
    Sometimes compromise is a good thing.(Look at what Rodriquez did with
    7 grand and how it helped his career get started.)
    Sure I'd love to shoot a feature film on 35mm, but who has that kind
    of money?
    When you go to others for funding or work for a production outfit you
    lose much if not all of control in the creative department.
    After awhile you want to have more creative control than to just do
    the best you can with camera angles etc...
    You want to do your own project. And I can't think of anything more
    disheartening than to have to surrender a personal project/script over
    to a production company just to get funding. After they get through
    with it you won't even recognize it. Kinda defeats the whole idea of
    trying to get your own concept on film.
    With DV you can shoot on a shoestring, cut field production costs to
    the bone and still keep control of a project. This would have been
    impossible even 12 years ago.
    I got out of film in the late 80's except for an occasional job as
    cameraman shooting crap such as ad work.
    I watched video evolve and decided to break back in a coulple of years
    ago. My setup is low end, but I still can squeeze better quality out
    of it that I could with my video setup of the mid 80's which BTY cost
    me nearly 50 times as much as my current layout.(I had 3 tube cameras
    the cheapest of which cost me nearly 8 grand as well as a 3/4 inch
    editing suite. Just to do work that was only good for TV/video.
    My current DV setup has 3 times the resolution and only cost me 4
    And prices are falling all the time. I currently do most of my low end
    work on single chip cameras and lease 3 chip for the more important
    work. Now with the prices of 3 chips falling, the next time I do
    critical work I'll buy 3chip instead of renting, it's gotten that
    All in all I like the current state of technology. It's really
    democratized the creative process.
    gothika, Apr 2, 2004
  12. Martin McNeill

    david.mccall Guest

    There is one qualifier that I would like to add.

    While DV has made it possible for more people to produce decent
    looking video, it is still not a magic replacement to "big bucks"
    With the big budget formats like HD or 35mm, you usuallt get a gaffer with
    a truckload of lights, you get grips and dollys, you even get "craft
    to feed everybody, instead of sending out for McDonalds.

    I see DV as more of a replacement for VHS/S-VHS, Hi-8, and 3/4" Umatic.
    For these projects, DV provides an inexpensive alternative that produces far
    superior end result than was available with any of those formats using tape
    tape editing. People were creating TV shows, and Features (for TV), on those
    formats, but the video quality was very poor, most of the time. While DV
    improves the technical quality available, it still doesn't improve,
    lighting, sound
    design, acting, writing, directing, or any of the other aspects that are so
    important to a production. All of those "other" aspects are still just as
    hard, and
    as important, as they ever were.

    So all DV buys you is better looking video than you used to get at this
    price point,
    How much cheaper would a major feature be if they shot on DV instead of 35?
    2% maybe? the camera rentals and film/tape stock are often a very small part
    a big production. I think it would be silly to shoot a 20 million dollar
    feature on DV.

    But shooting a $20,000 production on DV might make a lot of sense. At that
    point, 35mm might eat up the entire budget, and you would have to borrow
    whatever lights you could find, get free locations, have the actors provide
    own costumes, etc.. Usiung DV could free up some budget for other thing that
    might make a bigger difference than the diference between the aquisition

    david.mccall, Apr 2, 2004
  13. Martin McNeill

    Steve Guidry Guest

    It's silly to pit DV - - or any video format - - against film.

    The two are different, and in my view, such arguments miss the point.
    Steve Guidry, Apr 2, 2004
  14. Martin McNeill

    nappy Guest

    I don't think anyone is pitting DV against film. But film is certainly going
    to die in a few years.Good or bad.
    nappy, Apr 2, 2004
  15. Martin McNeill

    Gary P Guest

    Sure, but so much big bucks production is "shit, but well cooked shit" that
    it's wonderful that the alternative is available now.

    On the other hand, as far as I'm concerned, film is still a preferable
    medium to DV or ANY video as long as budget allows. I don't see any debate
    necessary. It's just oil painting vs watercolours (with an added wrinkle for
    budgetary considerations)

    Gary P, Apr 3, 2004
  16. Martin McNeill

    Gary P Guest

    I agree completely.

    It would be like sculptors arguing over marble versus bronze, or painters
    over watervcolour versus oils. Except one would hope they'd be too sensible
    to do so.

    Gary P, Apr 3, 2004
  17. Martin McNeill

    Gary P Guest

    Not for aesthetic reasons. Possible for budgetary ones, although as an
    acquisition medium it has its own merits that video cannot replicate.

    Gary P, Apr 3, 2004
  18. Martin McNeill

    gothika Guest

    Well... Film useage will probably become a rare thing.(I'm old school
    so don't get me wrong, I've been using film both still and cine for
    just over 4 decades. so I'm not against film per se.)
    Sigma has developed a video chip thats 3 layered just like basic fillm
    emulsion. It allows for better bit depth than todays single layer
    chips. (Thats 3 layers for each color.)
    I've seen prints from a still camera(dye sub and laser) usings these
    new chips and if anything the tonal scale is better than most film
    It's only a matter of time before these chips find their way into
    video cameras and with high definition will spell certain doom for
    film in the vast majority of applications.(I equate film to printed
    books in this sense. It's only a matter of time before it becomes to
    costly to destroy trees for the majority of books printed. The same
    will become true for film which BTW uses alot of organic resources and
    gets part of the chemicals used to make the emulsion curds from tree
    Soon dv will surpass film in quality(isn't one of the complaints of
    video is that it's too sharp compared to film stock? This sharpness is
    one of the plusses for production work in my opinion. You can always
    dial down the sharpness post production using various dither schemes
    to achieve that "film look". Ditto for color saturation and any number
    of other visual qualities as well.)
    Digital post production is a godsend for those of us who had to use a
    myriad bag of tricks to achieve desired effects in film. From jigging
    with the color settings in an optical printer to using risky methods
    of altering the developing process. Many of which required an extra
    generation in post further degrading the quality of the camera print.
    There will always be purists who refuse to work with anything but
    film. Fine for them if that's what they want to do. It'll be a much
    harder and more restrictive process for them though.
    I like the idea of using cine-video on location shoots. A tenth of the
    weight and bulk in equipment and the ability to see a take right away.
    No more sitting through early morninng "dailys" only to find out that
    the film was scratched in the gate or the processing was off ruining
    the film etc...
    gothika, Apr 3, 2004
  19. Martin McNeill

    Steve Guidry Guest

    Time will tell. But personally, I doubt that Film will ever die.
    Steve Guidry, Apr 3, 2004
  20. Martin McNeill

    david.mccall Guest

    I agree. Film will not die in the foreseeable future.

    There will be people that prefer film over any manner of
    electronic or digital media. There is a mystique about film,
    that puts the DP in total control of the imagery. With video,
    you have everybody standing around offering opinions.
    And worse, you have an engineer with his waveform
    monitor and vectorscope trying their best to correct for
    anything creative you might try to do with lighting. No
    I don't always want fleshtones at 75 units, and stop
    that incessant white-balancing away all of my carefully
    chosen colors. Good engineering is a big part of why
    most video, looks like video.

    I'm not convinced that video won't be "just as good"
    as film, but it will always be a little different.

    david.mccall, Apr 3, 2004
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