CHOOSING THE RIGHT MEDIUM

By Erkan Umut

According to my strong belief, the human being, when observing visual arts is entertained by virtue of accepting the imperfections and artificial things visible. With celluloid film – aside being of extraordinary high quality – certain artifacts can readily be observed. Amongst others these are a measure of grain providing structure, a very slight - though subtle unsteadiness, clouds of dye moving at random, the stroboscopic effect which occurs when panning and tilting on film etc. Some of these imperfections closely resemble our own developed sense of vision and  – as is the case with film – these are not so much in the foreground, but rather perceived subliminally. The human brain - our personal CPU - works in an analog fashion and analogue media – such as celluloid film - encode information as a continuum. Inside the film, light can have any intensity and color anywhere.


In the digital realm, the recording process and showcasing of images, does not involve any of the aforementioned imperfections. No grain is apparent; the images are clinically clean and absolutely rock-steady. In addition to this, digital technology pursues to mimic analog imagery with extremely high resolution. For all these reasons, it resembles nature too closely and without any of the slight flaws we have come to depend on in order to make an image feel truly normal or dramatically appealing. When flawless images without any artificial aspects are presented to us, our brain goes into a certain measure of chaos, manifesting itself in a degree of disbelief. Personally, I don't like the pictures which are crystal crisp and extremely natural without any skipping and strobe. In my opinion it is a sad development and proves the point that imperfections need to added in an electronic way, in order to make digital look like film.


It is universally accepted that when reading a book or long document, it is the best to have it printed on paper, as this helps the person to immerse in the matter and concentrate on the subject. Human beings like to connect to matter physically. In other words: touching things. The audience sitting in an auditorium may not be able to reach out to the moving pictures, they sure are distinguishing the subliminal imperfections mentioned earlier and will in no doubt appreciate this subconsciously. Touching however, is shown to be of great importance to those involved in the production phase of making a motion picture. Camera crews instinctively prefer being actually able to hold the canvas they work on. This human emotion helps the individual on set to be active physically in all steps of production. The enjoyment is simply greater and stress – through not being connected - is avoided. In contrast I fear that the digital-only solutions in our age make people stressful and impatient, ultimately opening the doors to depression. All this is simply human nature.


Students aged around 18 at the university where I teach technical cinematography, fully accept film as a medium of origination and enjoy the production process much more than the digital solutions they may have been used to up till then. They learn and understand that the analog process for film – from shooting till screening – involves more intuition and therefore more pure craftsmanship, compared to the digital method. These young people realize that a high demand on the personal skills of crew will result in true appreciation of the individual, more job-satisfaction and ultimately higher quality. Most of my students agree that the shooting process should be done the analog way; however they tend to finish in digital realm due to the beneficial possibilities in post-production. In my opinion the best way to educate young people, growing up in a world with just digital technology and possibilities, is showing them the analog way to be able to give them a chance for choosing the right medium by comparing and – where possible – cleverly combine the best of both worlds.

Erkan Umut
DoP and Professor of Cinematography
Istanbul, Turkey

01/06/2012