The Best Reason To See Interstellar: It's Part Of A Dying Breed Of Film

The Best Reason to See Interstellar: It's Part of a Dying Breed of Film

There's something exceptional about Interstellar that everyone should experience — it is a movie-making "alignment of stars" akin to the perfect storm in music that lead to Woodstock. It's a film so extravagant in nature, it was projected in 70mm, a format equal to the scale of its fantastic story, and shot on IMAX 65mm.

Shooting in 65mm IMAX and then transferring it over to a bigger 70mm print and projecting in the highest quality possible is something that almost no filmmaker gets to do in their career and something that every film-goer should see. The image quality is best in class providing rich colours, deep tones and lots of detail. And it's not going to be around much longer.

I don't like beating the drum, but film is dying. There's a handful of movies every year shot on film compared to the swath now shot on RED, Alexa, or Sony digital cameras. That handful becomes smaller each year, though it persists because of a few stalwart filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, Tarantino, J.J. Abrams and the infamous Spielberg.

Options abound

For those who don't think about picture capture methods when going to the theatre, here's a little background. Film is a creative option to use when executing your narrative. Most directors avoid it for a variety of reasons, the most common of which is flexibility. Using digital is significantly easier — you get endless takes and the ability to playback the exact footage you just shoot instantly.

The Best Reason to See Interstellar: It's Part of a Dying Breed of Film

In other words, you're not guessing what the footage will look because it needs to be sent out to a lab to get processed. It also costs significantly less to use a RED camera, the industry's go-to digital workhorse wielded by the likes of Peter Jackson and Steven Soderberg, than it does to get the IMAX camera, buy film, and pay for the processing.

The mass amount of digital cameras available compared to the handful of IMAX there are make renting costs minimal. Recording on digital goes to reusable hard drives as opposed to film where a roll of it can't be reused the next day. Taking all that into account, bumping the film size up to 65mm raises costs even more, while forcing the equipment to be bigger, more cumbersome, and difficult to use.

The odds are stacked against it and most directors opt for the more casual method of recording picture. This doesn't mean directors who shoot digital are necessarily lazy — there are several directors who choose to shoot digital because it actually lends to their filmmaking style. Steven Soderberg's well-made, inexpensive flicks are a demonstration for the next generation of filmmakers.

Glorious, glorious film

So why even use film over digital? Keanu Reeves (of all people) made a fantastic documentary called Side by Side that covers the bases pretty well. As far as the nitty gritty details go, film offers more image fidelity (or quality) by a huge margin.

Digital has made lots of headway in terms of dynamic range (the ability to capture a wide breadth of exposures) and overall high sensitivity to light. When comparing colour reproduction, 35mm out-shows its digital competitor easily. Colour registers on film more accurately with an even greater range in tones.

Film looks a lot better because its more capable of capturing light, plain and simple. Unfortunately, the costs and complications outrank the benefits for most filmmakers today.

Nolan's starry ode to 65mm

Before Interstellar, the most recent use of 65mm film in narrative was for a specific few VFX shots in Transformers, Hunger Games, and Star Trek: Into Darkness. With visual effects, IMAX is used to capture high-res footage to provide a backdrop for high-res computer-generated images. The VFX and footage were sent back at 5.6k, the highest possible resolution, for Interstellar. Then the original footage and VFX footage are put onto the 70mm print for release.

Before Interstellar and Transformers, the last narrative to use IMAX was Nolan's previous film, The Dark Knight Rises, where a large chunk of the story utilized the massive film medium — especially the famous prologue.

Whatever Nolan didn't shoot in 65mm he did in 35mm because of practicality and costs. IMAX cameras are too loud to record sound directly next to them so it limits when they're able to be used so scenes would cut to and from formats pretty obviously. But if anyone saw The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX and then also in Super 35mm, there is a distinct difference between the power Batman finally appearing on screen has when he fills the full 65mm frame.

The Best Reason to See Interstellar: It's Part of a Dying Breed of Film

Meanwhile, 70mm IMAX projection is nothing short of a spectacle. And that's exactly what Interstellar is. You could go to a 70mm, 35mm or digital projection theatre, but it's not recreating the format it was captured nearly as well — a 70mm picture is three times smaller than its IMAX counterpart.

The medium is as much a part of the film as the actors, directors, and the rest of the cast and crew. And because Chris Nolan uses IMAX footage to make the movie, if you don't see it in that format you're not really seeing the complete movie. For Interstellar, anything short of the 70mm projector is a compromise on the actual film.

The Best Reason to See Interstellar: It's Part of a Dying Breed of Film

A compromise to come

Even the Chief Quality Officer of IMAX, David Keighley, feels that this film is the pinnacle of his career in image quality and theatre experience for IMAX 65mm film. But he acknowledges that there needs to be a solution to making the same quality as 65mm film in a digital format.

That goal is ambitious to say the least. Even the best digital cameras right now barely come close to Super 35mm, David's goal is to make a digital capture medium capable of convincing Christopher Nolan himself to potentially use digital. To get to that point, there's a lot of work ahead.

Get it before it's gone

Studios wont be able to foot the bill for narratives to use IMAX for much longer. Christopher Nolan is one of the only filmmakers around using the massive format for narrative story aside from VFX. Even IMAX is looking at ways to make the transition. But whether you're for or against keeping film alive, as someone who enjoys movies it's impossible to ignore the experience that Interstellar brings to the theatre. A story, larger than life, is brought to the screen in 70mm IMAX and was shot with the highest resolution motion images possible.

Films like this only come out every three years at best. It's safe to assume there are only a few films left to be made like this before they're gone forever and replaced with full digital. Make sure to see it before you never can.


Comments

    I'm sorry... and please don't get me wrong here, because I'm greatly anticipating seeing this movie, but using the highest quality film doesn't automatically make a good movie..! It may make a visually stunning movie, but it's not necessarily gonna be great..! From what I've seen of the reviews of this show, the SciFi fans really love it, but the critics, not so much..! Still can't wait to see it though..! :)

    Last edited 09/11/14 12:29 pm

      I saw the 3rd session at IMAX Sydney. My heart and mind were obliterated.
      The film will be superb to watch in HD when it's released on iTunes. But you MUST see it in IMAX. They optimised the sound to utilise IMAX speakers perfectly. The launch sequence made me feel like the cinema was taking off into space!

      Nolan focused a lot on the technical brilliance in this movie, and it really pays off in IMAX. I couldn't even think afterwards.

        Yeah... maybe let me know what ya thought of the story line though..? :)

        Last edited 09/11/14 5:27 pm

          I saw the film over the weekend. Its almost 3 hours but didn't feel long, so I guess it does have you engaged the whole time. Like any spacey / philosophy film there are a few major leaps of faith that you need to take with the narrative and a few major plot twists at the end are almost completely unexplained in terms of their logic in the story world. No access to an IMAX screening so just saw it in a regular cinema like most people will. Amazing visuals but not as thrilling or suspenseful as Gravity.

          TL:DR - Worth watching but not among the very best of the sci-fi genre because of some irksome plot logic.

            I concur with sparta. I didn't want my money back because some of the sequences were really good, but there were flat spots that should have ended on the cutting room floor and there were plot twists that made me go "seriously? All right, let' see where this goes next".

            I agree with Sparta also. It didn't feel like it was to long but some aspects of the story telling left me feeling very little for the characters or their situation. I saw it at the Imax Melbourne on opening day and would recommend this as the version to see. It will look stunning on Blu Ray but that won't help the story.

          Im the opposite of this guy, felt long the longest 3 hours since the last lord of the rings movie.

          It had large parts of kind of less interesting stuff going on, with a ton of mini plots leading into the next until the real fantasy one at the end. It was ok, I'm not sure If I liked it or hated it.

          Last edited 10/11/14 5:57 pm

          Well I thought it was good but not great. More from a personal opinion than anything technically wrong with it.

          I feel like if they made the whole movie sci-fi instead of trying to explain everything and make sure the audience knew it was real, it would have flowed better. The small annoying plot holes wouldn't exist if they weren't trying so hard to make it realistic.

          Minor spoilers
          For example: They needed a huge 3 stage rocket to leave earth (just like these days) but then they could zip around and leave a different planet which had heavier gravity and was close to a black hole with just a little lander shuttle.
          They had some super high tech robots but relatively simple spacecraft.
          And finally the whole premise of keeping the space program secret is just flat out surreal. Same with the whole "updated textbooks" part.

          Little things like that really ruined the overall experience for me. Knocked it down from great to good.

          It's still visually stunning, good acting, well paced comedy and drama sections, but overall I just didn't buy what they were selling (if you know what I mean).

            Heh..! Yeah, I'm the same with pretty much all SciFi films. You have to be able to suspend 'yer sense of disbelief, but then something like the rocket issue you mentioned, just jars you out of the movie..! :)

              They could have also cut it down to about 2 hours if they took out all the "let's explain everything in great detail" scenes.

                And all the unnecessary slow space scenes with the unnecessary and over-the-top music...

                Last edited 11/11/14 3:13 pm

              It jars you out of the movie. Seriously, there is so much in the actual story of any film that goes beyond explicit fact. It's not suspension of disbelief, it's specifically screen economy, where you seriously have to consider the focus of your film. Is it fact or story? To me, i'd rather try and work out what a film is trying to say rather than work out if something entirely irrelevant to the overall story like a minor plot device checks out in the real world. It just seems like a lot of extraneous effort for something that isn't integral, necessary or potentially even appropriate for the understanding of the actual story.

              People seem to have this stance that filmmakers are trying to convince the audience that things are real but i'm not sure how this expectation for complete factual accuracy at the cost of story actually came from? Things don't need to be real, they just need to be relatable. I mean is 12 Monkeys less relatable because i can't believe that Bruce Willis can travel back in time? Nope, focus of the film was his character, his place in the future and what happens to him when he hear "Blueberry Hill". I didn't think Interstellar was the best film ever but i am a little disappointed at how reactionary people are because it seems everyone cared about things the film never even tried to sell you on. Nolan doesn't make movies about ideas, he has characters and points of view at the centre of these ideas and the idea is just a structure, it seems like people don't care about the people and would rather focus on telling him how to work his structure.

                Keep in mind I haven't seen it yet..! I think you'll find that different people react differently to the things that catch their attention..! I'm a SciFi tragic, so I'll watch pretty much anything that lives in that genre, I can suspend my sense of disbelief with the best of them, but a non sequitur, or an illogical plot device will annoy the shit out of me... Horses for courses dude..! :)

                It's about perception. Obviously everyone reacts to movies differently, and everyone want's something different from a movie.

                Personally I think a movie has done well when all it's features come together and when things complement each other properly. There shouldn't be silly, ambiguous or confusing things (for this kind of movie at least). Ideas can be abstract and complex without being confusing or silly.
                That's the real art to story telling.

                You either provide just enough information to let the audience interpret it as they like or fill in the blanks themselves OR you provide the perfect amount of information to explain everything and remove any conjecture. Create talking/thinking points where you want them and focusing on the issues you want to discuss.
                Anything other than this is a failure of the story teller. There shouldn't be questions like "why did they do that stupid thing" or "why don't they just do this..."

                That's why Interstellar falls short. It tries to make you believe this is real but there's too many holes in it and the last act is very much sci-fi. If they set out to just be sci-fi it would allow the audience to focus on the real issues in the film and not the stupid things that don't make sense.
                It's always easier to see what's wrong rather than what's right.

                As for the characters thing.... it's the same issue. The characters need to be believable for the audience to empathize and understand them. It's what made Gravity so terrible because the characters were complete garbage. Interstellar did it better but it fell short of all the important issues, battles and difficulties, instead focusing on the the characters reaction to the issue instead of the issue itself. Also the ending really ruined any sort of depth that those characters may have had. It was such a jarring change of pace like they really had no idea how to end the movie.

                I said it in my spolier post above.... the film touches a lot on humans destroying the earth and human nature and love etc but it's only ever referred to in passing and always takes a back seat. When it is discussed it's ruined by mis-timed comedy, inappropriate and loud music, or one of those aforementioned unrealistic situations.

                example: When the first astronaut dies to that big wave. That whole scene was so haphazard that I didn't know what to take away from it. It wasn't a sacrifice, it wasn't logical, it wasn't deep or meaningful. It was just plain silly. It really shows when characters don't behave as you would expect them to.
                The guy had no hope of reaching Brand. They should have sent the robot after her earlier. The guy just stood there outside the shuttle waiting for the robot to go get her for no reason at all. I get that she wanted to find the wreckage (but even that was silly since they already knew it was destroyed and they knew how much time they were wasting).
                It's situations like that which make the movie unrelatable.

                Last edited 11/11/14 5:41 pm

        Saw it last night at Event Cinema's Bondi Junction on a non-vmax screen. Great movie and yes there are some logic flaws esp with time, but several of the close scenes (35mm) were noticeably grainy, and to be honest it detracted away from the story. Also not sure whether it was due to the screen or projection, but the initial scenes on the porch of the house were often out of focus.

        In summary I think directors holding onto film as a superior format compare with those who like background noise on their LP's. Yes dynamic range and colour saturation is superior, but fidelity? I don't think so. Artefacts and analogue noise make digital superior IMO.

      It purely is an amazing film, saw it yesterday.
      Really need to sit right at the back of the theatre so you can take it all in. I kinda loled a bit when I saw that the entire front row was full - why would you?

      the sounds and visuals are really something

      Caution, some cinemas seem to be having problems with the audio in this movie for some reason, excessively loud music that can make the dialogue very hard to hear in some scenes (my cinema was so loud it physically hurt my ears, and everyone I was with said the same). Might be a good idea to ask people who have seen it at your local cinema if there were any audio issues, my local emailed me back to say that they were expecting a reprint of the film to be distributed soonish with corrected audio.

        Yeah, the audio sucked at times in Woden Xtreme Screen in Canberra last week. It was at times almost painfully loud, and drowned out some dialogue.

        I had the same problem. Several times the music was so loud you couldn't here the important dialogue. It usually happened at pivotal/important moments.
        Pretty big screw up. I hadn't considered that it was the cinema's fault though.

        Village Knox Vmax btw

        The problem is not the cinema, it's the audio mix. It is just terrible and that's something I've heard from everyone who has seen it, at three different cinemas. Even Margaret commented on it during The Movie Show last week so it is evidently widespread.

      There's only one thing a critic is good for ... using them as Zombie bait when the inevitable Zombie Apocalypse begins.

      It actually does in a lot of ways. It's probably why metacritic user scores have gradually decreased in the age of outrage, people don't care about everything films use to tell their story. They want things managable so they can say it sucked from halfway or count the plotholes. We should just have plothole counter on reviews now, maybe people would find some other way to feel like film experts.

    It all looks the same on a TV so who cares. Cinemas are going to die like drive inns and the only way they are slowing that death is by making sure that films don't get released until they are shown at the cinema. Even the studios want to shorten the time between releases of cinemas and DVD. In fact if it was released to cinemas and dvd's at the same time, most people would just watch the films at home. Bring it on cause I'm sick of having to wait till the cinemas have their run before I can get to see the movie. Just die cinemas just die.

      Not sure where you live but in Brisbane we have a place called the Yatala drive in. it's ALWAYS packed. I personally love a drive in.. you can talk in your car.. listen to the sound loudly or softly through radio.. and get some privacy.. :D

      I agree with you on cinema though

        I have to take my wife to this when I'm up that way. She'll hate it though because she's a stupid bitch.

          Look who married her!

    Yep, Great enlightning article. Nice one Nicholas.

    I would have loved to see this in IMAX. Of course the closest IMAX theatre is over 900km away...

      What's the problem?

        Actually I'd like to ask what your problem was..?
        You downvoted my comment to "Kevin" for no apparent reason..?
        Did you fully understand it in the first place..? It was a simple request, not a slur..!
        Same question goes to @valhalla..?

    maybe film is better or maybe it isn't.
    maybe this article would have been better if i'd read it on a fresh, crisp piece of 90gsm paper, eggshell with Romalian type, or maybe something called Silian Rail.

    I would love you to get more facts right, although it was a very good article (better than alot).
    Recently Transformers has been shot using IMAX Digital Camera, which provide an image resolution similar to a RED, and many other films have used IMAX film cameras recently such as Star Trek: Into Darkness.
    And most of the time, you wouldn't even be seeing Interstellar in IMAX large-format film if you went to an IMAX theatre. I saw it first session at the only IMAX screen in WA (only one in Australia with HFR and 3D IMAX as well..) and that was shown in IMAX Digital.

    "it is a movie-making “alignment of stars” akin to the perfect storm in music that lead to Woodstock"

    Yeah, nah, not so much. It was pretty good, but not that good.

    I saw Interstellar last Thursday and, like the four work colleagues who have also seen it, I was very disappointed. My boss flat-out hated it. A couple at my session actually left the cinema after a couple of hours and I really couldn't blame them because it goes on and on and on.

    It's not as bad as Gravity but a lot of the science is wonky, at best, and the decisions the characters make are stupid at times, as though they have not spent so much as a single minute thinking anything through, when it has taken them years to get where they are going. And nothing in it blew me away, visually, at all.

    Don't get me wrong, it's not terrible but neither is it in the same league as Nolan's other films. I'd say it's not worth paying cinema prices for and you can definitely wait for it come to DVD/Blu-Ray.

    Great job at trying to get anyone away from their judgemental attitudes and attempt to actually engage in a level of consideration that goes beyond explicitly what the characters say to the audience. And now look how much people care. Is there any point at all in attempting to communicate new information to the judgmental public?

    Wow, look at the average length of the comments on this article! People are passionate about Interstellar - like it or loathe it. Even Marg and Dave had very different opinions on it, and hey, since when did that ever happen? I went to see it this morning. Hobart doesn't have IMAX, in fact you'd be lucky to get a cinema here that doesn't have busted sub-woofers, dodgy (tiny) screens and twenty year old chewing gum impregnated seats - thank you Village I hope you're enjoying my hardly earned money! Nobody bothered to clean the projector lens (in cinema 1) so there was an annoying bit of dust on the same section of screen throughout the whole movie. Oh, and I didn't realise it, but I also went to a "mums'n'bubs" session, so the lights were left partly on and there was a strange but oddly soothing sounds of a baby being breast fed just behind me during part of the three hour epic. None of this detracted from the film in any shape or form for me it was as thought provoking and visually spectacular as I expected it to be. I loved the use of fades in the editing process - no one uses these any more! And I really liked the score - it's brave to go the classical route, when pretty much everything else is made to sound like "Hans Zimmers Erectile Dysfunction Orchestra." I think, some people may be compensating for the fact that they were a bit intimidated coz they were required to think a bit during the movie, hence the reeeeeeally looooooong winded comments. Oh, except for the guy who says his wife is a bitch... Still don't know where that came from?

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