Chris Nolan’s DGA interview: the film vs. video argument and much more.

Ahead of the release of The Dark Knight Rises, Chris Nolan talks to the Directors Guild of America on a variety of topics. Here’s the full interview transcript from the DGA site.

I loved reading that Mr. Nolan prefers using film to digital video. This is music to my ears; in recent times I have been quite disappointed with the look of movies shot on digital video, such as Michael Mann’s Public Enemies and Collateral. Of course, I can understand that with much of Collateral having been shot at night time, the video format gave Michael Mann a lot more flexibility than film would have.

But for me, the possibilities of film were best illustrated in Saving Private Ryan. Here, Spielberg and his DP Janusz Kaminski (who won an Oscar for his work) use different types of film stock, different film speeds and different levels of color saturation to heighten the intensity of the battle scenes. It’s no surprise that Mr. Spielberg is another director, like Chris Nolan, who continues to use film stock rather than video.

My own dislike for the video format stems from way back to the analog days of 1986 when the Indian partition-era epic drama series Buniyaad  suddenly switched from film to video after the first few episodes. Of course, in the case of a TV show, it is the done thing to shoot in video so in fact, it was the film stock used for the first few episodes which was the exception. Nevertheless, the switch served to highlight the differences between the two formats and instilled in me an enduring dislike for the look and feel of video.

Of course, today when we say ‘video’ in the context of a feature film, we no longer refer to the old analog video format, but instead the digital video format which is far more flexible and can indeed be made to mimic the look of film stock, if put through enough post-production processes. Here is a link to an interesting article on this subject.

But, as Chris Nolan says, why go to all the cost and trouble of making video look like film, when you can just shoot with film? This is the same thought that runs through my mind when I see animation filmmakers trying to make animated characters look as photo-real as possible…why not just shoot a live action film then?

Chris Nolan also talks about his preference for physical special effects, enhanced by CGI rather than pure CGI. Again, I couldn’t agree more. I was so disappointed with the flat video game look of the 2nd Star Wars trilogy or Michael Bay’s Transformers movies. Contrast that with solidity of visuals in Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element or Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 or Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Indeed, Nolan’s the man! The Dark Knight Rises releases in theatres in the 3rd week of July. After that, the next time we will see his name in the credits is when the new Superman movie Man of Steel  releases in June 2013 – Mr. Nolan has a co-writing credit on the story.

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