Nevertheless, the perception that HD dailies are
a cost-effective replacement for film is taking root. Beverly Wood,
vice president of Deluxe Laboratories, reports a steady erosion
of film dailies during the past three to five years. She says that
this trend has been driven mainly by cost-conscious producers who
claim savings as high as several hundred thousand dollars per film.
Many other cinematographers also have a different view of this
issue, however. While discussing his work on The Italian Job (AC June
'03), Wally Pfister, ASC asserted that "it was incredibly
important to see exactly how the film played on a movie screen.
That helps you push the envelope and explore the boundaries of
creating different looks. There are times when I would experiment
with lighting [some of the actors], especially Mark [Wahlberg]
and Charlize [Theron], a little differently. You can only see the
effects of those nuances on film. The producer, director, editor
and gaffer came to dailies. [Steadicam/camera operator] Scott Sakamoto
was there most of the time, along with my first AC, gaffer and
other operators. The focus pullers and camera operators came to
see how their work played on a big screen. Film dailies also kept
everyone excited about the project."
Stephen Burum, ASC, who recently wrapped Confessions of a Teenage
Drama Queen, adds, "As far as I am concerned, if you
are shooting a film that is going to be seen on a big screen
in theaters, you've got to have dailies projected on film rather
than a dumbed-down image in any video format. You are looking
for subtleties in contrast and focus, and it isn't just technical.
Maybe a character's lips are tremoring in an emotional scene
and you want to see how that plays. You just aren't going to
get sufficient resolution with digital dailies. I honestly don't
think you save any money by using video dailies. All it takes
[to lose any potential savings] is having to reshoot one scene
because you didn't notice a problem that could have been easily
fixed until you got to work prints."
John Schwartzman, ASC spoke about his experiences during the production
of Seabiscuit (AC Aug. '03), which recently won the
ASC Award for outstanding feature-film cinematography. He was
limited to HD dailies during the first two weeks of production. "There
was a major problem with consistency," he says, "and
we had no sense of where the lab standard was. If you're going
to do a digital intermediate, you need to know where your printer
lights are, and how the physical image looks related to that. Some
days they were great, but on other days, you'd wonder who turned
up the magenta, or why the grass looked a fluorescent shade of
green. I told [producers] Kathy Kennedy and Frank Marshall, 'This
is no way to judge our work. You can get beautiful images with
HD dailies, but it doesn't always represent what you have on the
film.'" Schwartzman began getting MOS film dailies during
the third week. He screened them at the lab each morning while
he was shooting in Los Angeles. When Seabiscuit was filming
on location, the cinematographer began each day with a phone call
to Technicolor's John Bickford, who gave him a verbal report. The
lab sent weekly "selects," which Schwartzman screened
at a local cinema.
Laszlo Kovacs, ASC had his first experience with digital dailies
in 2000 when he shot Return to Me, an MGM film with a $20
million budget, mainly at practical locations in Chicago (AC May
'00). The director was Bonnie Hunt, an actress taking her first
turn at the helm. During the first week to 10 days, the negative
was processed at Astro Labs in Chicago, which provided film dailies
by 7:30 the next morning. "That's when we established the
look," Kovacs says. "Afterwards, we shipped the negative
to Deluxe in Los Angeles, and a postproduction house then transferred
the film to hi-def video. I did everything by the book. We used
an 18-percent gray-scale card, correctly lit and exposed. We had
a video projector and a large screen. The first day of HD dailies
was horrendous; they looked washed-out and lacked textures. Even
the gray card looked a bit light. There were no colors and no blacks."
Kovacs told Hunt that he wasn't going to watch dailies anymore
because they were not representative of the filmmakers' work, and
they would give her the wrong idea. "I was also worried about
the continuity of scene-to-scene matching," he says. "I
set up a system with Deluxe where I selected the two most important
shots each day. They put them on a Hazeltine and told me what I
needed to know about printing lights."
When he shot Two Weeks Notice in New York with another
first-time director, Marc Lawrence, Kovacs appealed to producer
Sandra Bullock, who also starred in the film, and asked for film
dailies. She supported him, and he got film dailies. Kovacs explains
that he felt it was important for Lawrence to see nuances like
the backlight playing on Bullock's hair and the glint in her eyes.
These subtleties provided visual clues that the character and her
employer (played by Hugh Grant) were falling in love, long before
their feelings were revealed by dialogue or action on the screen.
During every day of production on Two Weeks Notice, a 40'
trailer containing a screening room traveled with the company,
making it convenient for the filmmakers to view dailies projected
on a big screen. Kovacs points out that in a comedy, physical timing
and the undercurrent of emotion can be a totally different type
of challenge. In many comedic scenes, audiences are expected to
read between the lines, since characters don't always mean exactly
what they say. Kovacs stresses that it was essential to see how
those shadings played when they were projected with film on a big
screen. "The cast and crew were also energized by the experience
of viewing film dailies together," he adds. "Sometimes
I'd see an electrician in the trailer, and he'd leave with a smile
on his face, more determined than ever to do his best."