Prognostications on film's demise may be premature.

Kodak declared bankruptcy. Film is poised to take another big hit in the near future as projection completes the transition digital, and processing facilities soon won't be able amortize overhead costs striking theatrical prints. 3D and the coming move to 60 fps projection are not film friendly.

As audiences become increasingly desensitized to degraded, over-compressed video viewed on the web and digital television, the financial calculus against investing in image quality is moving ever further against film. Besides which, I'm guessing that digital image capture has about five years to go before surpassing film in terms of image quality and capability in every regard.

However, there's one thing special about film which digital doesn't capture. Shooting film requires discipline. Takes are expensive. There's no WYSIWYG monitoring. Every department head lives in fear of missing something and having it show up in dailies.

In my experience, attitudes and behavior on a film set are markedly different than a digital set, especially after the magic words "Roll Camera" are uttered.

Digital frees a filmmaker from many constraints.  Some of those constraints are helpful. With digital, I find there's tendency to roll on everything, even rehearsals, and hope to get lucky. I'm not saying the disciplines of shooting film can't be applied on a digital shoot. Just that digital makes it easier to lapse. Shots very commonly get taken before they're ready.

So you start getting twelve mediocre takes for every setup. The first three are rehearsals. The next three have technical issues that were overlooked during the rolling rehearsals because the camera was rolling. The next six are spent with the actors trying to recapture the performance of take four which was out of focus because the marks got changed but the camera rolled right away to maintain the energy from take three or something like that. And so on. With film, I see far fewer wasted takes.

My experience is that four takes on film will reliably yield a better result than any number of takes on digital. The difference really comes in the cast's performances. Actors are able to conserve their energy and give each take their best, knowing that the whole crew is truly ready to execute smoothly and give the performance its due.

Under the pressures of production and long hours, the mechanics of shooting film create a buffer against slipping into doing sloppy work. Film helps actors give their best performances.  With film you increase the likelihood of fewer and better takes and things move faster. If I'm right about that, film won't be disappearing any time soon, though it might become an endangered species.

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