The film documentary, Side by Side, takes a thorough look into the evolution of film to the digital era. I found the film to be incredibly interesting, and learned a lot of things I didn’t know about some of my favorite movies. Digital journalism and film production are foreign to me, but the documentary, narrated by Keanu Reeves, is easy to follow. Following a linear timeline, Side by Side takes the audience through the history of film production and it becomes quickly evident that there are two “camps” among those in production and the art of film making: movies that are made with photo chemical film and movies made digitally using pixels to create images rather than traditional film.
To many filmmakers, making a movie isn’t just about the end product, but the journey taken to create a piece of art. Most of these directors, cinematographers, producers and actors believe, that while more time consuming and expensive, the use of traditional photo chemical film is crucial is creating the art that is filmmaking. Since the 1980s and 1990s, digital slowly made its way into the hands of filmmakers in the form of digital cameras and camcorders. Directors were able to see their recorded scenes instantly, rather than waiting on reels of film to be developed over night.
But some in the industry, like Christopher Nolan and Martin Scorsese, believe it isn’t as accurate as one might think. With traditional film, directors believe everyone working on the set tends to be more focused when filming, as the sound of the film reel equates to dollars being spent to get each scene. When you can hear the money running through the camera, each clip matters that much more. And to those old school artists and filmmakers, that’s often where the “magic happens”.
With the reinvention of an old medium, digital film has brought fresh faces into the film industry that might have never made it otherwise. While some artist believe that film making must be kept sacred with art and tradition, others believe this new era is an exciting time for new and old filmmakers.
Digital film is lighter and therefore more portable, allowing access to shoot almost anywhere. The results are immediate, allowing directors to quickly make changes on the spot, which can save time and money during the editing process. Using digital as a means of film and production also means little to no interruptions while filming.
With traditional film, after ten minutes of filming, the actors would stop for the film reel to be changed which could break concentration or ruin the flow of a scene. But digital allows for endless filming, giving actors the ability to focus for as long as necessary.
There are so many valid pros and cons when it comes to the argument of digital versus film, and Side by Side does a great job education the audience on both. Does digital move too fast, allowing too many choices, while film is much more decisive, taking time, diligence, and craft? Or is film an old way of the past, keeping new colors, locations, and bright young directors away from an art guarded by traditionalist? Whatever your opinion, this film certainly opens your mind to the ideas and endless possibilities of a digital world.