When Paul Korver founded Cinelicious in 2008, he had only one thing in mind — to move the state of film post production forward.
Korver’s Cinelicious is a post production studio, with locations in Hollywood and Santa Monica, offering a full slate of film and digital services. The company believes in respecting the craft and tradition of celluloid film, while leveraging all the benefits of the digital present. Cinelicious has been involved with high-level, film-based projects for directors such as Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, J.J. Abrams, and Andrew Stanton, as well as studios including Paramount, Disney, Pixar, and Warner Bros.
Cinelicious “likes digital” but “loves film.” Why is film so important to you?
I have great childhood memories involving Super 8 cameras, but mainly I just like looking at it better. I believe that humans respond to celluloid when they see it in motion. It resonates with them emotionally. We say, ‘respect the past and embrace the future.’ It’s important to know where we come from, so we don’t get lost on the path to where we are going. We strive to stay rooted in how digital decisions derive from a photochemical process. No one has ever asked us to make film look more like digital. As a creative community, it’s important to have a choice of tools.
There’s an old adage that says: all post companies have the same equipment, only the talent and service differ. Is that still true?
Not at all. Many companies have sold off their film equipment, are letting it age, or never had it to begin with. We’ve made film technology a priority. When we wanted to be able to scan film at 4K, we chose to invest in the [DFT] SCANITY. It sees a full 3.5 film density of dynamic range, so it can scan the full dynamic range of KODAK VISION3 Film stocks and print film as well. I come from a love of Super 8, so we also wanted to see at least a 2K DI approach to scanning small format films. We just purchased LASERGRAPHICS’ ScanStation, the first optically pin registered, 2K Super 8, regular 8mm, and 9.5mm scanner, so we’ve upped our investment in small format as well.
The newest old adage is: it’s cheaper to shoot digital. Is that true in your opinion?
You need to look at the big picture with this question. Beyond acquisition, you have to consider the cost of digital archive, which is often left out of the budget conversation. Shooting 100 hours 2D with bonded data triplication, you can easily be over a half-petabyte of digital information on a 4K feature. If anyone has priced out a half-petabyte recently, it’s ridiculous to say that most of these 4K digital cameras would be a legitimate option for an indie film. True ‘digital archiving’ requires a disciplined and expensive commitment to proper storage, LTO tape migrations, and time-consuming data integrity checksums every five years. On the other hand, we’ve been working on a nitrate restoration of a Biograph film from 1909. From an archival perspective, this producer from 104 years ago has paid no money and now has a stunning 4K, 16-bit RGB film record. It looks amazing.
How does a producer put a value on how a project will be received?
The recent democratization of cinematography has its plusses, but we must not forget that we stand on the shoulders of 100 years of celluloid acquisition, tradition and discipline. Film festivals have become a sea of similar looking, mediocre digital content. Consequently, film stands out. Just look at the past two Sundance Festivals: movies shot on film have won 100 percent of the U.S. Jury Prizes in the dramatic and cinematography categories. Is it worth spending a little more on acquisition to shoot film for an independent project? I’d ask the producers of Beasts of the Southern Wild or Fruitvale Station, both of which were shot Super 16mm, sold for millions, and launched careers.
What trends are you seeing in post production?
I’m seeing an opportunity to push film forward. People think that all the R&D is being done with digital cameras, but exciting new things are happening with digital film technology too. A pure digital workflow from film is an exciting development to me and many of the DPs I work with. If you shoot with a pin registered camera, and you scan once on a pin registered, high dynamic range scanner at 4K resolution, you actually see all of the beautiful celluloid at its purest. When you take that straight out to high bit rate, 4K DCP, you get a new language of fi lm storytelling that hasn’t been explored before because technologically it wasn’t possible.
What’s your sense of the future of film?
People talk about needing to find a replacement for film, but why? It’s not a broken medium. It’s here, it’s viable, and it’s beautiful.