Let’s all get worked up into a tizzy over Monet’s paintbrushes, shall we?
According to RED, The Hobbit will be shot in 3D on a fleet of pre-production 5k EPIC cameras. In the words of Clark Gable: Frankly, Scarlet, I don’t give a damn. I am fed up with media outlets like Gizmodo fetishizing digital cinema cameras. We get it. It’s got a crapload of pixels. (Does the name Guillermo Navarro ring a bell? No? No matter, I’ll get back to that.) Here’s the thing: we don’t need that many fucking pixels. Pixels, in fact, are the lowest common denominator of the image quality equation. Far more important are the lenses—and the projector. See, DLP systems in American theaters are almost universally 2k, or just a hair over HDTV resolution. So where does all that delicious, totally-necessary extra resolution go when the footage gets projected?
Away. It goes away. Along with the wide-gamut, HDR-infused Redcode Raw colorspace goodness. Essentially, you wind up watching TV. So, in all honesty, it’s not really all that important. I’m ranting here, but this is my point: A camera, no matter how expensive it is, is only a tool. At this point in the development of the technology, the manufacturer of the camera has scarcely more to do with the final look of the film than what brand of lightbulbs the gaffer orders.
The thing that fascinates me about all this reporting, whether it be related to The Hobbit or any other movie, is that the breathless technology journalists invariably gloss over the topic of who will be using the super-duper-high-tech whirligigs. That guy, what’s his name—Guillermo Navarro—he’s the artist, in this scenario. He’s the cinematographer attached to The Hobbit. And yet, apparently… nobody has ever asked him what he thinks of the Epic, or Redcode, or digital 3D. I’m sure he was intimately involved in the decision to go with the Epic over the Alexa or a Sony Handycam or whatever, and I’m sure there are myriad reasons (my guess it they’re more about cost and logistics than picture quality), but let’s just take a deep breath. If your life depended on it, could you spot the difference between 2k Alexa footage and 5k EPIC footage? Because I couldn’t.