Yesterday I was reading the summer 2007 issue of Your Wedding Day magazine and I came across a comment that truly shocked me. What’s worse, it was made by a fellow visual artist. Paul Korver is the founder of Fifty Foot Films. He is one of the most celebrated and perhaps the highest paid wedding cinematographer in the country. He shoots exclusively on super 8 and 16mm film, and has even begun offering weddings on 35mm. His work has been featured on television and he has a long list of celebrity clients. He recently started a subsidiary called Paper Tape Films that is designed to bring super 8 wedding cinematography to the masses.
In the YWD Spotlight article, Mr. Korver talks about all the subcontractors nationwide he’s hired to shoot for Paper Tape Films as being film school graduates. He comments:
“This is key because
shooting a film camera is far different than a video camera. It
requires knowledge of over 50 different film stocks, f-stops, film
speeds, shutter angles, gel filtration, and much, much more. You can’t
just push ‘play,’ point the camera, and get a good shot like you can
with video. There’s an entirely different skillset involved because
it’s a manual art form.”
I couldn’t believe I read what I just read. Here was a respected visual artist serving the wedding industry, a fellow filmmaker, basically saying that you don’t need any talent to shoot a video camera, but it takes a real artist to use a film camera. At least, that’s the implication I get. Yes, I agree shooting film is different than shooting video. But to suggest that all you have to do to get a good shot in video is push “play” (actually, it’s “record”, but I digress) is insulting to an industry of visual artists who work very hard at what they do to preserve the most precious memories in a couple’s life. There are an equal number of visual parameters a video shooter must master and monitor, many of which are the same as film (e.g. aperture, shutter speed, tape stock, 720p, 1080i, 60i, color space, etc.) And on top of all that, the video shooter also has to monitor audio!—UHF vs. VHF, true diversity wireless connectivity, audio channels, squelch levels, XLR, shielded vs. non-shielded cables, direct boxes, channel interference…you get the idea.
I wrote Mr. Korver personally to share with him how I felt and that I was going to write this article. I assured him that my blog article would not malign his name. He’s probably a nice guy and he’s obviously a smart business man. And I can appreciate a business setting themselves apart from the rest. But, to malign a whole industry the way he did, I feel is not only insulting and denigrating to those artists, but is a disservice to the industry and the brides in search for someone to capture those memories.
A Case of the Emperor’s New Clothes
Since the start of Fifty Foot Films in 2001, super 8mm wedding cinematography has skyrocketed in popularity. Heck, even my company, Cinematic Studios, offers super 8mm and 16mm film productions. I love the look of film and no one can deny, that when in the hands of an experienced artist, the results are incredible. And used sparingly throughout a well crafted wedding video, it adds a very nice, artistic touch. However, in my humble opinion, most of the wedding clips I’ve seen shot on super 8mm pale in comparison to the most artfully crafted weddings shot on video. In fact, many of them look like my grand daddy’s home movies shot on his super 8. Not all, but many of the clips I’ve seen are underexposed, shaky, out of focus, and if the same footage was shot with video, it would be hailed as garbage. Yet, somehow, because it’s on filmstock, it’s art.
I’ve read time and time again in articles and on blogs how wedding videos are long and boring. So, to make up for that, some companies are offering Super 8. Hello! It’s not the medium that makes a wedding video long and boring. It’s how it’s edited. You can have a long and boring and cheesy wedding movie shot in film just as much as one shot on video.
It’s sort of like the Hans Christian Anderson story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” The emperor was bamboozled into thinking he was wearing the most luxurious garments known to man. When in fact, the man was butt naked. Likewise, brides are being sold the line that true cinematography can only be done on real film. When, the truth is, the most “cinematic,” impressive, artistic, and creative wedding productions are all shot on video! Those of you out there who have done your homework know exactly what I’m talking about. But, many are given “Emperor’s Clothes” as a wedding movie and told it’s cinematic art. Again, lest I be accused of doing to film shooters what I’m accusing Paul of doing to video shooters, not ALL weddings shot on film are that bad (but a heck of a lot are. IMHO 🙂
It’s the Talent, not the Tools
Mr. Korver mentions on his website that video is the medium used by soap operas, and that film is used by the people who make “real” movies. I feel that is gross misinformation at best, a lie at worst. It’s another way to prolong the stereotype that video is “cheesy.” The truth is, more and more Hollywood movies are being shot on VIDEO. Granted, it’s HD video, but it’s still video. In fact, many of today’s most talented filmmakers are even shooting movies on standard definition video—yep, the same mini DV tapes you buy at Wal-Mart for $5.99 a pack. Even such respected filmmakers a Steven Soderbergh, Robert Rodriquez, and Spike Lee have all shot feature films on video (in some cases standard video).
My friends, what it comes down to is the talent, not the tools. What sets true artistry from “Uncle Charlie” garbage, is NOT the medium that is used, but the person handling the medium. I don’t care if you shoot on super 8, 16mm, standard definition, HD, or even 35mm, what makes a wedding movie truly “cinematic” is not the medium. It’s how it’s composed, lit, edited, etc. Put a super 8mm or 35mm film camera in the hands of an inexperienced person, you’re going to get a crappy wedding movie. However, give a really talented and experienced artist even the cheapest consumer camcorder, and you WILL see true cinema!
YOU Be the Judge
So, let’s let YOU be the judge. Film vs. Video? Who represents the truest version of “cinema?” (i.e. you feel like you’re watching a movie.) I’ve compiled a list of just seven videographers whose work has inspired or astounded me. They are some of the best video artists in wedding cinematography today. (I think we’re pretty good too, but for this list, I’m only mentioning my fellow colleagues). This is a very small list to be sure. There are many, many more that I just don’t have time nor space to mention. Some are multiple award-winners, some are less known. But all, you will see, are exceptional at their craft. I challenge you to view their work then compare it to the work of some super 8mm wedding cinematographers (the second list). For the record, I’m not making any judgments on the super 8mm cinematographers I list. Even though the medium is growing in popularity, there are still only a relatively small number of companies offering it exclusively, so there are only so many companies to name. I just listed the ones I already knew about or could find on Google. I have not seen all of their work, nor are these necessarily the ones I alluded to earlier in this article. I’m just listing them to make it easy for you to compare.
In this corner, the Video Shooters
- Angel de Armas
- blue core media
- Blue Skies Cinema
- Cinematic Bride
- The CVP Experience
- Iris Cinema
- Memory Tracks Films
In the other corner, the Super 8mm shooters
Whichever you like best, tell us why. Hopefully, if we’re lucky, we’re get a rebuttal to my post from Mr. Korver himself. Let’s see.
technorati tags: YWD_Magaszine,Fifty_Foot_Films, , Paper_Tape_Films, Cinematic_Studios, Super_8mm, 16mm, wedding_cinematography, wedding_videography, Angel_de_Armas, Cinematic_Bride, CVP_Experience, DVideography, blue_core_media, Iris_Cinema, Memory_Tracks_Films, CreelPhoto, Reel_Sixty, Super8_Girl, Stellar_Films