Does Celluloid Still Matter?

Films used to only be shot on film, hence the name. 35mm was the main production and exhibition format for major motion pictures for decades, but now it is all but extinct. While film was, and remains a viable medium, digital offers advantages that the studios just couldn’t pass up. Movies can now fit on a hard drive that costs only a couple hundred dollars and costs very little to ship, as opposed to 35mm prints, which are expensive to make and send to theatres.

Digital is also much more cost effective in terms of shooting. Film costs money to buy and process, requires frequent magazine changes, and can only be viewed once it has been processed. Digital is so cheap that many productions simply leave the cameras running in between takes, and the results can be viewed instantly on-set, which makes the director and cinematographer’s jobs easier. Amateur filmmakers also benefit tremendously from digital’s versatility and ease of use. It is entirely possible to shoot a whole movie on a camera that costs a couple thousand dollars, and editing and mixing are possible on your average laptop.

Despite this, some directors are adamant about only shooting on film, including such heavy hitters as Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino. 35mm screenings are now so rare, that many film buffs head to them for the sense of nostalgia that ensues.

However, does the average moviegoer notice or care? Almost certainly not, which is all that the studios really worry about. If the public is happy, then they are, too, especially with the millions they are saving in print and shipping expenses.

One area where digital falls short, however, is preservation. No one knows for sure how long a digital file can be stored without corruption, but a properly stored negative or 35mm print can last as long as 100 years. Thus, film will almost certainly continue to have its uses going forward and that ought to make buffs happy.

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