Re: [Frameworks] Quo Vadis Celluloid?

From: Fred Camper <>
Date: Sat, 20 Aug 2011 00:51:33 -0500

Quoting Anna Biller <>:

> ...He suggests through these questions and through his statement: "I
> don't think we should have mystical, or fetishistic, attachments to
> any particular media," that people who insist on working with film
> are closed-minded luddites.

That was not at all my intent, and is an interpretation that is, I
think, completely unsupported by what I wrote. I do NOT appreciate
being accused of a bigotry I do not possess. Anna's post, however,
alternates between attempts seem even-handed and numerous expressions
of personal dislike for video. ("I much prefer how people look on
film" -- what does that even mean? Which people, in which settings, in
which kinds of imagery, with which editing, in which kinds of works?)

I might point out that 26 years ago I wrote an article against
transferring film to video, arguing that they were fundamentally
different, and that what was great about a great film did not
translate to video. (It's at
) This article, too, was misunderstood and mocked. It was said to be
evidence that I "hated" video.

That article was, however, written in the days of VHS and the CRT. And
this is my problem with some of the responses thus far. "Video" is not
one thing anymore, and some forms of video don't seem to me to be as
different from film as video used to be. I would suggest that the
difference between even a DVD seen on a CRT screen and a high quality
HD file run off a hard drive on a very high quality projector is
greater than, oh, say, the difference between super-8 and 35mm. I
didn't pose my question thinking of the old opposition between film
and "video." I wanted to know what it was about film that made HD
digital projected in the highest quality way any of you (making your
own judgements of quality) have seen such an inadequate, even if
different, alternative as to set the list to moaning and wailing every
time film seems threatened. Personal anecdotes about motion sickness
and lost video might explain one person's view, but don't really speak
to the larger issue. I don't get sick from video, and suspect most
others don't either, and I am not the only filmmaker or former
filmmaker who has had irreplaceable original footage totally ruined by
a lab.

Many of the things said about the awfulness of digital video are
similar to what I felt, and still feel, about the switch from 3200 K
incandescent lamps (on portable 16mm projectors) and carbon arc light
sources (on 35mm theater projectors) to sealed arcs that started, I
believe, in the 1960s. Carbon arcs have the color temperature and
spectral distribution of the sun. For naturalness, richness, and
intensity, they cannot be beat. The loss was (and is) particularly
noticeable for black and white film, which has never looked the same
to me. Even those old too-warm 3200 K lamps have a light that feels
organic and natural compared to sealed arcs, whose spectral
distribution is in fact uneven, with notable spikes. Yet who ever
complains about this?

I should make clear that I *do* believe that film might be the only
way for some projects. I just wonder how true that is for how many.
There is a difference between "liking" the "look" of film while
having, perhaps, not fully explored video for oneself, and finding in
celluloid some fundamental qualities essential to one's work.

Fred Camper

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Received on Fri Aug 19 2011 - 22:52:02 CDT