As Film Goes Byte: The Change From Analog to Digital Film Perception

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Loertscher, Miriam Laura ; Weibel, David ; Spiegel, Simon ; Flueckiger, Barbara ; Mennel, Pierre ; Mast, Fred ; Iseli, Christian (2016)

The digital revolution changed film production in many ways. Until the end of the 20th century, most film professionals and critics preferred celluloid film. However, no previous empirical study compared complete narrative films recorded with analog and digital cinematography. Three short narrative films were produced with an analog and a digital camera attached to a 3D rig in order to control all optical parameters. In postproduction, a third version of a digital film was created to mimic the analog film aesthetics. In a cinema experiment with 356 participants, we tested whether the three film versions are perceived differently. The two capturing technologies produced similar emotional and immersive experiences during digital projection. The study revealed significant differences in the memory of visual details, with higher recall scores for the digitally captured versions. By contrast, preference ratings of very short scenes and the comparison of projection types revealed different results. The mechanical projection of celluloid film produced higher levels of emotional reactions. The results might be of interest to film professionals and audience in general. This study shows that the gap between analog and digital aesthetics has been closed with today’s advanced digital technology.
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