Dune: digital shot, transferred to film then digitized. But why?!


Dune hit the big screen just a few months ago and has been a huge box office hit, grossing over $ 380 million and up. However, something more difficult to fathom than its astronomical recipes (or that the remake of the hour was only part 1) is the fact that the whole movie was first shot digitally in the UK. Using Arri Alexa LF and an Alexa Mini LF Cinema Camera, then transferred to 35mm Motion Picture Film, then digitized again to digital. It seems like a pretty long process, but when you have a budget of $ 150 million I guess you have to spend all that money somehow, right?

So let’s see how the film was shot and why they transferred it to 35mm film and then need to re-digitize?

Filming started on Dune in March 2019 with an IMAX certified Arri Alexa LF and a prototype of the Alexa Mini LF, also IMAX certified. These two cinema cameras with large format (full frame) sensors had to be fitted with appropriate lenses, and the lenses selected by cinematographer Greig Fraser were Panavision’s Ultra Vista and H series lenses, a combination that most of the users could only dream of. about producing the best cinematic experience possible, but not Greig.

He felt that the digital image was “too sharp” while viewing the image in an IMAX theater, and while testing various film stocks – 65mm, IMAX 75mm and 35mm – Greig and director Denis Villeneuve felt these sounded too nostalgic for a Sci-Fi movie.

The solution they found was therefore to shoot digitally. But instead of opting for cost-effective methods of applying a softening diffusion filter like a pro-fog to reduce sharpness, it was decided that no digital emulation should be applied. The best thing to do was to transfer the digital footage to 35mm motion picture film and then re-digitize that 35mm film, giving the digital image smoother edges and a true film grain that is not digitally enhanced.

To learn more about the process, click on the video below:

Personally, I think it seems like a lot of work, time, and energy to make something look like something else. In other words, I can’t see us all photographing digitally and then converting to film and reproducing that image to create a certain look. It would be far better to shoot straight onto 35mm or 65mm motion picture film or, alternatively and more affordably, to shoot digitally and if you find your visuals “too crisp” just install the matte box. in front of the lens with a professional. haze filter or black pro haze to get the same look for a lot less.

I will note that in this particular situation, digital shooting would or could give better results when shooting in low light conditions and then perhaps benefit from transferring to motion picture film. However, I don’t see this process ever becoming a practical solution, rather a project that produced interesting results, not game-changing results.

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