Feb 22, 2010

Che and the Digital Cinema Revolution


This weekend I watched this video segment from Criterion's DVD of Che, which focuses solely on what the filmmakers were up against when using a production model of the RED camera, which at that point hadn't ever really been out on the field.

It's pretty fascinating how everyone was so passionate about putting RED into the pipeline and going out of their way to handle all of the bugs they encountered, when they weren't really going for anything extraordinary. Star Wars II I can picture had tons of problems all over the place because it was the first digital feature *ever,* and there wasn't anything to compare it to. I imagine The Matrix's bullet-time effects caused a lot of headaches because those were some really complicated, incomparable shots, and the filmmakers probably weren't even sure if they'd come out right. But by the time Che was in production there was already the Genesis, VIPER and two generations of Cinealta; what was the fuss about with the RED (and especially when Soderbergh admits he's not crazy about shooting to 4K)?

Though I did like to hear two things from this. One was Soderbergh editing the film in the back of the car as they're driving to location for the day's shoot. This is something I've done a few times, and the fact that he's doing this optionally (ie not because they were under a time-constraint) really shows how passionate he was about the project, because under every one of those times I edited while on location or traveling I was always exhausted and jealous that everyone around me was sleeping.

The other part was how Soderbergh acknowledged the time save by having everything digital, and that it allowed the filmmakers a chance to reflect on the film and carefully weigh their choices in the edit. A few years ago when digital cinema was really exploding, there were stories of actors going berserk when shoots wouldn't end and directors were getting carried away with weeks worth of footage. To Soderbergh's argument though, Pirates of the Caribbean 3 was under such an incredible rush to delivery that director Gore Verbinski never had a chance to see the entire cut of the film from start-to-finish in one sitting.