Digital Motion Picture Sweeps The Oscars
The lovely Slumdog Millionaire found the same success at The Oscars as it did at The Bafta's and Golden Globes, taking home the top honors - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Cinematography. This is the first (mostly) digitally acquired feature film in the history of The Oscars to win Best Picture and Best Cinematography. Not bad for a small independent shot with a relatively new and radically different digital cinema camera. I think this is the greatest possible success for next generation digital cinema companies like RED and Silicon Imaging - makers of the SI-2K Mini with which Slumdog was mostly photographed with. It is a massive confirmation that film isn't the end all be all in quality and that digital imaging is not going to get in the way of audiences recognizing a wonderful story. It's very cool to be working in the business during this paradigm shift. There is a lot of great energy and excitement as the tools of the trade are becoming more accessible and affordable to people with big ideas. When a film like Slumdog Millionaire can win the highest American industry accolades it should give independents and people working outside the mainstream a lot of hope that their work can find its audience and earn worldwide recognition.
Regarding the film's cinematography; when I first saw the film I noticed what I thought was sensor noise in the game show scenes. Since then, I've heard from numerous folks that this was an intentional look done in the grading process to match the grain of some other materials (mostly Day Ext's) originating on film. I also read Anthony Dod Mantle saying that the SI-2K images picked up a lot of noise as they traveled through the post pipeline. I'm still looking into this but if it's the case that it was done in the grade, the effect might have been pushed a little too hard. Don't get me wrong, it didn't wreck the scenes but one of the points of this blog is to evaluate the quality of digital images and if there are noticeable issues in a widely seen film such as this, they will be commented on. Other than that, I think what's really strong about the film's cinematography are the great angles and fluid movement that are only possible with a tiny, discrete camera like the SI-2K. The film's camera language has this great "fly on the wall" observational quality that I think is the most successful aspect of its storytelling.
Another aspect of the cinematography that I really like is the slightly rough around the edges, almost handmade quality of the images. In an era where "perfection" is the norm in motion pictures, it's really refreshing to see something so different than what we're used to seeing be so successful. It just goes to show you at the end of the day audiences want a great story more than they want perfect hair and makeup and perfectly consistent exposures and prefect camera moves. I don't want my movies to look like they were made by highly skilled robots. I want the human touch and Slumdog has it!
Go read this on ProLost >>> I failed to mention the film's very effective use of 12fps material. Stu has some great points about cinematic motion and some current industry trends that are a little disheartening.