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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon August 22, 2012
"Side by Side" examines the history of cinema, which has largely existed on film, and how the future of movies might change with the shift to digital cinematography. This is a documentary for anyone interested in filmmaking, cameras, or just people who love movies!

Almost everyone now embraces the digital methods of editing, postproduction, and color timing. It's only in the image capture that some filmmakers still prefer film. And with good reason - there are qualities to film that have yet to be replicated in digital. "Side by Side" looks at the pros and cons of going digital. For example, one obvious pro is that it is far less expensive for both the studios and independent filmmakers to shoot digitally because fewer resources are used and the day runs more efficiently (no need to change film magazines every 10 minutes). But one major concern is the storage of digital movies - there have been over 80 digital file formats over the past few decades, and most of them are already obsolete. By contrast, under the proper conditions a film print can be preserved for over one hundred years.

The documentary asks some of Hollywood's most respected and influential filmmakers to give their views on the film vs. digital debate. On one side, you have filmmakers like James Cameron ("Avatar") who are advocates of digital technology and want to continue to explore new tools that can be used to tell the story. On the other hand, there are filmmakers like Christopher Nolan ("The Dark Knight") who think that film is still the most reliable format and produces the highest quality image, and would like to see celluloid remain a viable option in the years to come.

Other notable individuals interviewed include: George Lucas, Danny Boyle, David Fincher, Wally Pfister, Walter Murch, Lars von Trier, and Steven Soderbergh.

Martin Scorsese ("Taxi Driver", "Hugo") says it best when he says it should be "up to the filmmaker" - he believes that both options should be available to directors and cinematographers (and as someone who has used both formats, his opinion is certainly valid). Unfortunately, it looks like everyone will be forced to go digital at some point. All the major camera companies have stopped development of film cameras, and are now in production on digital cameras. And movie theaters are converting to digital projection at a high rate.

In my opinion, the "digital revolution" is very exciting and the technology is improving, but it would be a shame to see film completely disappear. Film has been such an important part of American culture over the last 100 years, and we should not be so quick to toss it aside.
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VINE VOICEon August 24, 2012
It ultimately fails to deliver on the pretext of the "The Future of Digital Film" since it's really an analysis of the history and current state of film production. That aside, it's absolutely fascinating to hear from a dozen or so very big names about their thoughts on the subject of digital versus celluloid. I even thought Keanu Reeves was much better as an interviewer than I expected.

The digital notables are there - James Cameron, George Lucas and Robert Rodriguez - to promote the digital revolution but actually all of them make some extremely insightful comments. Whatever you think of George Lucas, you have to admit that the man has the finger on the technology pulse in movies and his opinions are almost prophetic in this regard. When pressed about the 'unreality' of digital processing, James Cameron gave an awesome response along of the lines of "How was anything in the movies ever real? The raining downtown midnight New York scene was shot in daytime Burbank with a rain machine and 30 people in the background". Rodriguez, whom I was lucky enough to meet at RISE Austin this year, sees digital as an enabling tool - and this is from a man that shot a feature film for $15K so if you enjoy movies, you must listen to the guy.

There's a good balance from film purists too, and I was surprised to see Chris Nolan in the celluloid camp. There are some valid criticisms of digital filming and processing but the documentary leans towards suggesting that the chemical method of the past is really coming to an end. Some of the newer professional movie cameras are shown and it's fascinating to hear the DPs talking about their pros and cons historically.

This is definitely a big hit for film fans who love the technical stuff though not so much for the rest (my wife fell asleep). Personally I'd love to see more industry topics covered in this format since almost everything that's a DVD extra is basically:

- Actors saying nice things about each other and the director
- Green screen magic without showing any post-production whatsoever
- Plugging the next installment or merchandise

After watching the whole thing, it's pretty clear that since sound and editing went digital years ago, the camera is going to follow the same path and you'll be telling your grand-kids about how actual film worked.
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on April 25, 2013
If you are a fan of Clayton Christensen's "The Innovator's Dilemma" and other books that were made even more famous with Steve Jobs endorsement for his use on Apple products, this film will show you the human side of a disruptional technology familiar to us all: digital video and how it has essentially dislocated all photochemical-based motion pictures.

My initial viewing of this film was via Amazon Prime streaming video, but the film continues to fascinate me each time to the point that I bought a Blu-Ray disk to enjoy not only the main film, but also some of the rather brief outtakes and deleted scenes, which, in themselves are of interest to folks like me that study technology cycles and their effects on organizational culture. This film is literally brimming with face-to-face interviews of film-industry directors, directors of photography (DPs, a.k.a. cinematographers), film and digital colorists, film vs. digital editors, new digital camera manufacturers (like Red) and their sales staff, and finally Keanu Reeves, who serves as the host interviewer.

Although the interviews are straightforward and are conducted in real-time, i.e., cut-and-break sequences are not used, I see something different that I missed each time that I've watched them: suppressed, seemingly rational-but-actually irrational reasoning, or otherwise obtuse rationale for opposing the introduction of high quality digital video. This includes perceived loss of control, loss of nostalgia, loss of film-unique special effects, self-archiving properties of film (actually, this is not a valid point), and other even more obtuse rationale, such as "I don't like digital -- because it makes it too easy". This from major film figures--including well known directors.

It also puts into perspective an industry that actually cares what their customers think about their products' technical quality--as opposed to, for instance, the music recording industry that obviously doesn't care, as evidenced by "loudness war" digital audio media. I can't begin to tell you of the many lessons learned and enjoyment at watching these interviews as the film unfolds by subject area and by time of technology insertion into the industry.

Highly recommended, including the short "extras" on the BD version.
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I'm crazy about the movies and could talk about different aspects of the film world for hours upon hours. So any serious contemplation about the art of filmmaking has an inherent interest for me. But beyond that, "Side by Side" assembles some of the biggest names imaginable to discuss the digital revolution currently underway. Producer and host Keanu Reeves interviews such luminaries as Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Steven Soderbergh, David Lynch, David Fincher, and James Cameron for this piece. And while these are some of the biggest names (those featured prominently on the DVD/Blu-ray cover), there are plenty of other familiar faces willing to weigh in as well. With lessons in film history and film technology, the documentary is also a stunning retrospective of movies that will have you yearning to revisit many of your favorites (often with a new eye). Seriously, you should get a film school credit for watching this presentation! This is no dry lecture, however, but more like a lively and informal debate.

Celluloid has been the exclusive medium for movies for over a hundred years. Recently, though, advances in digital technology have changed the game. "Side by Side" charts the evolution of the technology using lots of examples and film clips to highlight the historical stages of digital filmmaking. Once the province of low budget student films or experimental works, it now accounts for a large portion of the entertainment shown in modern movie theaters. Does this trend mean the end of film as we know it? This is the big question at the heart of "Side by Side." Some proclaim the texture of film can not be rivaled, others embrace the new possibilities of digital, and many fall into the middle of the debate. One thing seems fairly certain, though, there is no escaping this brave new world.

Chris Kenneally packs a lot of information into "Side by Side" and Reeves is a genial host (bonus points for charting the different stages of his facial hair throughout). What makes the movie so enjoyable is that those who contribute to the discussion obviously love what they are doing. It's almost infectious. Anyone who loves the movies should not miss this one! Rarely do you get a chance to sit down with so much talent and have them wax on about the history of film. And again, the presentation is so loaded with movie clips that my brain went into overdrive compiling a list of classics that I needed to watch again. In the end, "Side by Side" adequately addresses its central theme. But unexpectedly, it's about much broader topics as well and has a real universal appeal. Informative and entertaining, this is an essential piece about modern movie making! KGHarris, 2/13.
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on August 24, 2012
Side by Side does a terrific job of showing how advancements in almost any area of life are originally resisted, then eventually accepted. Change, even positive change is resisted almost out of nothing but habit. Where we are, even if it doesn't serve us as well, is preferred not because it's better but just because it's familiar.

It's great to see top directors getting behind the advancements in digital. It's also interesting to see who is holding back the movement. The best thing about this whole idea is that it's taken Hollywood's monolopy away on film making. It used to be that you needed millions of dollars, lots of expensive equipment and a massive crew to shoot a film that was cinema worthy. Not so anymore. Now...anyone can make a film of such quality. I think a lot of Hollywood movers and shakers that are resisting digital are feeling threatened and insecure by this democratization of film making. It's no longer the secret trade of a handful of people with the know-how and the cash. As the young female director put it, "I thought you had to be a dude who knew how to operate complicated machinery to make a movie."

Yes, it also means some bad films made by some guy in his backyard or college buddies messing around will flood the internet and maybe even get to the cinema...but bad films have always been around. I'm sure you've seen more than your fair share of terrible movies shot on celluloid that you paid good money to view in the theater. Digitally least you don't lose any money if you've watched them online.

Not mentioned in this film is the argument that digital often looks "too real". What does that mean? It makes no sense that someone would complain that ditigal is too crisp and clear when we shop for TVs that have super-high resolution and buy films on Blue Ray now, anyway.

Film is going away and I, for one am excited about the possibilities. The future IS bright. It just depend on the lens your'e viewing it through.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon February 3, 2013
It takes a veteran movie star - with name recognition - to gather as many A-list movie directors for a project like this and in this case actor Keanu Reeves fills that role brilliantly. As you will see by the many previous reviews posted here (all based on the Amazon Instant Video streaming version) this is a "film" - and I use that word cautiously here - about the move to "digital" from celluloid. Like the move from vinyl (and before that shellac) records to CDs and digital downloads for music, there is a strong debate as to whether the benefit of cheaper- and less time consuming - processes are better. New digital cameras are MUCH lighter and more portable and the digital images can be modified. But there is a loss in some of the "reality" of the images. And, as for preservation, we are not sure how long the equipment - constantly changing - will survive. I won't get into that debate as this is not the place. And I won't repeat a lot of what others have provided as info in their reviews. I'll concentrate on the DVD home release.
Reeves acts not only as the Producer of this "film" but does nearly all the on screen interviews. His questions are always insightful since he is in the business and has worked with many of the Directors, Cinematographers (now called DPs - for Director of Photography), and Editors. And he doesn't take sides.
The front of the package lists SEVEN well known directors (Cameron, Fincher,Lucas,Lynch,Rodrigues.Scorsese, Soderberg - was Tarrantino busy?) You know all these names. But - couting the credits - there are 67 more interviewees (!) in this 99-minute documentary. These folks are ones you'd only know if you stayed for final credits after watching a movie. The "film" explains the changes in cameras beginning in the 1990s and concentrating on the 2004-2006 period when Sony and Panovision and Red changed the playing field, so to speak.
You will hear George Lucas defend digital while Scorsese is sticking to film - for its use as an archival medium.

Yes, it gets a bit too technical for the casual movie goer but not that technical. Again, it's Reeves' questions that keep the doc flowing.

The BluRay Disc looks great on even a standard non-HD TV. There are two bonus features: The first consists of four deleted scenes which total just 2 ½ minutes; the other contains and addition 12 interviews (total time of this is 13 minutes).

So I'd recommend this to anyone interest in the film industry, technology or film preservation.
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
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on December 10, 2012
Good in many ways, but it really is one sided concerning the digital cameras. One small example: at one point one of the cinematographers talks about film emulsion being fluid and never the same, while the digital sensor is a precise grid. The film makes it sound as if this were a virtue, but as anyone can tell you who has shot both film and digital video, that's really a limitation. Having a fixed rigid grid of sensor to capture every image with is the leading cause of moire in digital images. That never occurs in film images.

They need more A-list directors other than Christopher Nolan to tell why they prefer film over digital (most feature films as of 2012 are still shot on film, BTW; see [...]). That would provide an actual side-by-side neutral review of the current state of production.

But even, taking what I wrote above into account, the future is clear: the time of photochemical film is coming to an end. The digital is going to replace it. But it will probably take another 10 years for it to replace film in almost every area.
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I'm a fan of documentaries I try and watch one or two a month. And I heard about this on a website and I'm somebody who likes films (and digital filmmaking) and this movie was great. You get a really neat look at what goes into making movies and what went into making all the movies we grew up loving. I really think if your student of film this is a must watch movie but even people who just love movies will benefit from watching.

I think Keanu Reeves does a decent job as the narrator/interviewer throughout the film (charting the growth and recession of his facial hair was kind of distracting) but you can tell he loves the medium and this topic. And his guests also equally love their jobs and you can tell by their passion for the subject matter.

One thing I really enjoyed about this movie coming from somebody who just enjoys good movies, you will find a lot of movies you've never seen that are really awesome. Throughout the movie are introduced to examples of old cinema that is the pinnacle example of the art and style of the craft. And interestingly enough a lot of the movies shown as examples of the greatness of cinema I was not familiar with. So now I get to expand my movie knowledge and add to my catalog of movies that really transformed Hollywood.

Definitely a must-see for anybody who likes documentaries and anybody who likes the art of filmmaking.

Thanks for reading my crippled scribbles!
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on May 2, 2013
I had missed this film when it ran in the theaters and being an old film buff I was interested. I have found it to be utterly fascinating - technical, but I don't mind that.( I used to be in the film biz.) Hearing and seeing the various directors and cinematographers talk about the differences involved working with film as opposed to digital was new territory for me. I've watched it more than once and invited others to come, watch it and discuss it.
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on December 27, 2012
I thought this documentary would be a debate among the great filmmakers of our time on the merits of film vs. digital formats in feature filmmaking. I was hoping for a detailed and in depth analysis with strong arguments and insights on either side of the debate. And while the interviewed experts include many great filmmakers, and the pros and cons of each format are clearly laid out, this film is more of a survey than an in depth discussion. Perhaps I am just too familiar with this subject and my expectations were too high for new insights. I would recommend this to anyone who is unfamiliar with the history of film and the evolution of digital formats, as this serves as a terrific primer on the subject. But if you've been following this debate over the years, you probably won't find anything new here.
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