The Ditch – yes, it’s a proper film!

Those of you who have been reading this blog regularly, and may have got the feeling you were watching a man slowly drowning, will be relieved to hear that there’s some good news. The Ditch is going to be shot on 16mm film and not, as originally planned, on digital video.

English: 16mm film

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why is this such a big deal? Well, for those who don’t know, film is still the standard format for major motion pictures. While these movies are generally shot on 35mm, there’s also the smaller 16mm format which has been used for several feature films – including Black Swan, The Hurt Locker and the cult classic Clerks (you can see a list of significant feature films shot on 16mm here). This means that The Ditch is, from this point of view at least, a ‘proper’ film.

Despite advances in technology, video still can’t quite capture the look and feel of film. Although HD video images are extremely high quality, and crisp and sharp (sometimes glaringly so), they still don’t have the depth of colour and the ‘glow’ of film. It’s almost impossible to explain to the layman how the difference manifests itself, although you can start with this Wikipedia article if you want to get into the debate.

We’re not abandoning digital. For the sheer convenience (and to keep the cost down) we’re having the film images scanned into a digital format for editing. Most cinema projection these days is done via digital projectors (which has put not a few projectionists out of a job…), and it’s a lot easier to edit digitally because it allows for flexibility and speed in adjusting the image. However, the source material – the stuff we shoot on set – should look magnificent, so there should be less adjustment to do! The look of The Ditch is very important to us and we feel shooting on film gives us the edge visually – not to mention the added benefit of raising the production’s ‘status’.

But, you might ask, isn’t it a lot more expensive? We’d have thought so, too. But we found it’s surprisingly affordable – because fewer people are using film, now that digital has been declared The Future, it’s possible to get better deals on renting film equipment. And if you’ve got a camera team that’s been trained to use film, as ours has, then you’re able to exploit all the benefits of the older format. Our director of photography is as excited as a small boy with a train set!

You’ll be able to see shots of us using the equipment on set after the weekend’s shoot.

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