But before we discuss the numbers, let’s take a moment to consider the fundamental differences producing for either medium:
- Wait for it…
- There aren’t any.
- Shocking, I know.
Granted, there are significant differences in cost and ease of use when using the Canon 5D/7D, as compared to shooting on 35MM film. But the process of filmmaking is relatively the same.
Or at least it should be.
Let’s take a minute to go over the process and then we can get into the details of budgeting.
First, one issue that tends to crop up with the advancements of digital filmmaking is that the actual art of filmmaking is no longer a requirement.
This is not nor should this ever be the case.
Changing the format from film to digital does not mean that the same level of artistic control and thought no longer applies. In other words, just because cameras such as the 5D or 7D can handle low-light situations well does not mean that lighting is no longer important.
Now, back to budgeting.
So, where are the budgetary line-item changes when switching from 35mm film to digital? They’re exactly where you think: the cost of the film and processing, plus the reduced cost of equipment, plus the reduced cost of manpower.
For example, Kodak film costs in the neighborhood of $0.23 per foot. Now let’s say you are producing a film with a 25-day shooting schedule. At an average of 4k-5k feet shot per day, that $0.23 per foot adds up quickly. And that doesn’t even begin to deal with the cost of the film development (about $0.13 per foot) and transfer costs.
Canon 5D and Canon 7D
When shooting on the Canon 5D or 7D, however, the cost of the equipment is significantly reduced, the equipment is easier to use and you may be able to get the same shots with less specialty equipment.
For example, maybe you’ll be able to afford a great aerial shot on a remote control camera without the full cost of renting a helicopter, a pilot, fuel, an aerial coordinator and the nose-mount rig, etc …
The Bottom Line
And with less equipment, there are fewer people required to facilitate your shoot.
And with fewer people, there are fewer headaches.
So in the end, the cost differences are significant enough to consider moving away from film and into the digital realm.
As a long-time film snob, I surprise myself by saying that, but with the recent advances in digital technology, the time to switch is now.
Looking for mentorship in the film industry? Schedule a 1-on-1 meeting with Shane Hurlbut, ASC today! This is where you can get expert advice from an industry professional on your career or a particular project.
About Filmmakers Academy Cinematographer Mentor Shane Hurlbut, ASC
Director of photography Shane Hurlbut, ASC works at the forefront of cinema. He’s a storyteller, innovator, and discerning collaborator, who brings more than three decades of experience to his art. He is a member of the American Society of Cinematographers, the International Cinematographers Guild/Local 600, and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Hurlbut frequently joins forces with great directors: McG’s Netflix Rim of the World and The Babysitter, plus Warner Bros. We Are Marshall and Terminator: Salvation; Scott Waugh’s Need for Speed and Act of Valor; and Gabriele Muccino’s There Is No Place Like Home and Fathers and Daughters. His additional film credits include Semi-Pro; The Greatest Game Ever Played; Into the Blue; Mr 3000; Drumline; 11:14, which earned Hurlbut a DVDX nomination; and The Skulls. Notably, his television credits include the first season of AMC’s Into the Badlands.