Tower City Cinemas may have gone all digital for the 38th Cleveland International Film Festival, but 35 mm film has not reached the end of its reel in our town. Two movie buffs tell us what’s to love about both film and digital formats.
John Ewing, director of the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque
Cinematographer Wally Pfister, who shot The Dark Knight, Inception and five other movies on 35 mm for Christopher Nolan, was once asked whether he would ever shoot a film digitally. “I’m not going to trade my oil paints for a set of crayons,” he replied. Pfister is right. Film still looks better than digital: higher resolution, truer and more subtle colors, a richer, warmer picture. Digital is so sharp as to be almost synthetic. It has no soul. Film prints — with their scratches, splices and other blemishes — have a provenance that makes them unique. But beyond beauty and tradition, 35 mm film is also an archival medium and a universal standard. Digital is fine for the short term, but as technology continues to evolve will 2014 digital content be accessible in a few decades? It won’t without a lot of care.
Jonathan Forman, president of Cleveland Cinemas
More than a decade ago, the major film studios in Hollywood started the transition from traditional 35 mm film to digital cinema. Improvements to digital projection systems finally made the image quality comparable to film, thus allowing this long-discussed conversion to happen. There are advantages to the new digital format. A digital image will look as good the first time it’s projected as the thousandth time, and there is no fear of the image getting damaged. Digital cinema also allows us to present special programs such as the National Theatre productions at the Cedar Lee. The expense and logistics of film would not allow these types of alternative programs. While some people long for the look of a well-worn 35 mm print, most patrons prefer the crisp and pristine presentation of digital.