Keanu Reeves on the Drawbacks of Digital Film

By Deane Barker on March 21, 2012

Steven Spielberg & Martin Scorsese: the joy of celluloid: The Guardian asked several film people what they thought of the switch from celluloid (“real”) film to digital film meant.

Keanu Reeves responded with a couple really thoughtful observations about how the physical limitations of film affected how he acted in front of the camera.  By extension, some of this is lost by digital.

The biggest difference I have found when working photochemically versus digitally on motion pictures is the length of time the takes can last. Broadly, a 1,000ft roll of 35mm film lasts around nine-and-a-half minutes before running out, while a digital tape or recording card or hard drive can last from 40 minutes to over an hour and a half. This translates to a very different rhythm on the floor; the pressure to “cut” to save film is alleviated.

And the temporal nature of digital – the fact that it can be wiped out and reshot with nothing lost – changes the vibe he gets.

When the director says: “Action”, and the film is rolling, it feels like something is at stake. It feels important and intense. In a way, death is present in the rolling of that film – we live, right now – and the director says: “Cut”. And that moment in time is captured on film, really.



  1. Yes, something profound is lost in the switch from film to digital, or any sort of analog-to-digital transformation. Film is more “tangible” – I find that to be much more important than endless amounts of time to re-do your eyebrow twitches.

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