Side by Side

by Louise Adams
Tuesday Feb 5, 2013
Side by Side

Keanu Reeves hosts Christopher Kenneally's exploration of new digital filmmaking techniques in "Side by Side."

Lots of old white guys, from directors to directors of photography, talk about 100 years of silver emulsion photochemical film from "acquisition to exhibition." Just like music aficionados lament the loss of vinyl, many movie-makers miss the "grit and grain and texture" of celluloid.

But pros of the rapidly emerging technology- championed by George Lucas and his Industrial Light and Magic, James Cameron, and Robert "Sin City" Rodriguez -- include immediate feedback on elements like lighting, eliminating old-fashioned dailies, or rushes. Plus more accessible technology allows lower budgets and more freedom such as hand-held surreptitious filming, as in Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire."

Actor John Malkovich notes that since digital chips hold over 40 minutes, verses a 10-minute magazine, performers can avoid the waiting that kills momentum. Plus, editors have more work and directors have more choices due to all the extra material.

Drawbacks of digital formats include the obnoxious Lars von Trier shaky-cam, and sometimes muddled and amateur picture resolution: quantity not quality. Some directors feel the footage can be "manipulated to death," not to mention that formats like 3D make some viewers, including me, really nauseous.

Analog film can fall apart, but it can still be played a century later, while some digital formats are antiquated soon after invention, and without playback equipment, are essentially lost.

Other of the numerous director interviews include David Fincher, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh, and Lana and Andy Wachowski. Bonus features include deleted scenes and additional filmmaker interviews. This documentary is an informative overview, but has a limited shelf life. Film students should watch 100-minute doc soon, to see where the genre has been, and where it's headed. It'll be yesterday's news tomorrow.

"Side by Side"

Louise Adams is a Chicago freelance writer at www.treefalls.com (and a nom de guerre).


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