Microwave Popcorn & The Future of Film
Motion Picture cameras were invented in 1890, give or take a year. Through a chemical celluloid process involving tedious mechanization and tireless personnel, film became the mainstay of modern pop culture, a rival to literature, fine arts, music, theater, and education. Some would call film the greatest art form of the 20th century, an art form nearly suffocated by corporate control of content and distribution. Along with independent investors and theatrical chains came the demise of the Hollywood studio system. Star directors, actors, producers, and writers formed their own production companies but studio controlled distribution remained the great wall between content and the audience.
Digital production and the laptop revolution have all but stifled the costly dependence on film stock. Digital looks amazing, sounds amazing, is amazing. There simply is no comparison or logical reason for celluloid production to continue. Having been trained to work with film stock during the last gasp of the celluloid age, I applaud film's inevitable demise. When the cogs of a film studio can fit on a hard drive, it's time to say goodbye. Perhaps it's a whimsical sense of nostalgia that causes a few name directors to shoot on 70mm stock, but its more a personal preference than a practicality. In a time of 1080p, 4K, 8K, and Ultra HD, there is no visible difference between stock and digital. Digital can easily reproduce the cinematic look, a comforting tie to celluloid viewing that a hundred years of filmmaking have conditioned the audience to see. However that "comfort" is proving to be a speed bump to the future of motion pictures.
The latest hipster fad for vinyl records, turntables, and analog receivers is a Luddite's delight, a cool rejection of modern technology for the romance of bygone tech. Why stop at a HiFi? Why not play a Victrola? The same question might be applied to the new fetish for 70mm prints. Like the well meaning vinyl record, movies on film scratch, crackle, skip, melt, and wither. Pay fifteen dollars for the latest celluloid epic and it shows signs of fatigue before you've even tasted your popcorn. Perhaps a jittery hair gets stuck in the gate or the splicing breaks apart. What was that line again? Did you hear it? "Luke, I am your "crackle."
Celluloid remains a nostalgic venue for theatrical exhibition responsible for the majority of cinematic history. However, the same might be said for the Nickelodeon. We relied on celluloid stock and vinyl recording in a pre-chip age because we simply had no other options. Silents inevitably gave way to talkies. Color soon dwarfed black and white. It was state of the art and we embraced it. It was better, richer, and there was no going back.