Death of a Medium?

Such sad news, the film lab at Park Road Post is to close – this is a lab that has been operating since 1941, and has processed some of New Zealand’s most iconic films. Its bitter irony that of my entire careers work, my favourite projects were all shot on 35mm film, and I am not casting the net very far back in time to say that. Recent favourite projects shot on film include THE ORATOR in 2011, BOY in 2010, and EMPEROR in 2012. So if digital is THE answer, why were these projects shot on film?

That is the most sad aspect of this news: a creative choice has been removed from film making in New Zealand. No longer can a cinematographer or DOP in New Zealand ask what is the best medium for a project. The format is now dictated to them: it will HAVE to be digital. And given that New Zealands most experienced & imho best cinematographers are people who love to shoot film (Leon Narbey, Alun Bollinger, Stuart Dryburgh) I cannot start to imagine how this very sad news effects them.

Films Not Dead!

But on a slightly more positive note, despite Park Road Post being ‘the last Lab standing’ I can say without a doubt that shortly that won’t be true. While they will become a part of history, a new boutique lab that I happen to know has been in R&D for the last 2 years is nearing launch. I understand it won’t be offering 35mm processing, (nor could they likely cope with an entire feature films worth of rushes) but as with the rebirth of polaroid, something very interesting will rise from the ashes… Film’s dead! Long live Film!

Films Not Dead!

One Response to Death of a Medium?

  1. Chris Todd says:

    The demise of the PRPP Film Lab was inevitable. The world keeps moving on. I did my training as a film editor and I loved the bins, trims, split-spools, synchronizers, Steenbecks, Kems, Moviolas, chinagraphs and splicers with all my heart. I think I still do. It was very sad to see those tools and techniques fade into obscurity so soon after I’d learned them. There was something about working with a single copy that made editing very exciting. If you changed it, there was no backup. There were no preset increments for trimming, you just jabbed at the gate with your chinagraph and made a mark when it felt right. Sad it was to watch a chaos of ill considered work enter the trade along with high quality video. Film was extremely expensive to shoot with and it made for a high level of discipline and consideration. The advent of non-linear digital edit systems made it way easier to work with material captured on video cameras. These developments took the brakes off and for a few years editors everywhere were grumbling about the volume of wild footage they now had to deal with – especially interviews which seemed to have moved from tight and focused to vague and waffly. The 90s was a decade of such transitions. The last sprocketed film I handled was Costa’s Saving Grace in 1997, but thereafter I took up the digital tools and very quickly I began to love them too, a lot, and I could see that as the cost of capturing and editing descended, it was enabling a greater amount of creativity. This digital democracy unleashed a hoard of contributors and the world is now awash with their efforts, from daft cat videos to massive scale trilogies at 48fps, and its even opened up channels for self-publication. The result is that we’ve moved from a world of a few stories shared by many to many stories shared by few. I wonder where its leading us. Our contemporary film making systems are fantastic but they demand that we grow with them. That’s an opportunity.

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