'Amelie' Cinematographer Talks Film vs. Digital

Courtesy Everett Collection

Bruno Delbonnel also tells the Digital Biscuit forum in Dublin that he loved the set of the 'Harry Potter' film he worked on but found the script "awful."

On Friday, French cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (Amelie, Inside Llewyn Davis) told a film and technology forum in Dublin about the risks of the industry's transition to digital filmmaking and how he felt a Harry Potter movie he worked on had an "awful" script but a great set.

Discussing his work on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at Digital Biscuit, he said he found the script "not very interesting," even "awful." He added: "But I loved the set." It was "absolutely stunning." ‎

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Delbonnel said his only time shooting with a digital camera was on Tim Burton's Big Eyes so far, and that was driven by time constraints and the locations involved. The film shot in Vancouver, but with Canadian labs closed down, everything had to be shipped to L.A., which made digital a better option for the low-budget film, he said.

The cinematographer also said he would prefer to continue having a choice between using film and digital based on creative needs but that decisions by Kodak and others in the industry often mean that "basically, I think, we have no choice" nowadays. He said he prefers to create a mood through composition and lighting rather than via digital cameras and technology. "It's software. It's absolutely boring." 

He also told the Dublin crowd that "I have a lot of arguments with Kodak." He recounted how he was once told that he could shoot a film anywhere in the world. "I'm not interested in shooting anywhere," Delbonnel said. "I want to deliver a mood to the director."

Agreeing with other creatives on a film on a specific mood often requires discussions about other films, photography and paintings, he said. For example, on Half-Blood Prince, he said the team used musical references to outline the mood to shoot for.

"The danger of digital is you can be seduced by what you see," Delbonnel said in wrapping up the discussion on digital. ‎It also allows everyone to have an opinion, he explained, and it puts films at risk of losing consistency in their look and feel. "That's what's wrong with a lot of movies now," he said. "They are losing consistency."

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Asked about Amelie, Delbonnel said people sometimes ask him to re-create his work on that film. "I don't want to copy myself," he said. "I want to try something else.‎"

Joining Delbonnel onstage was digital colorist Peter Doyle (Lord of the Rings trilogy, Edge of Tomorrow), who collaborated with him on Inside Llewyn Davis.

Doyle called monitors used on sets a risk to the filmmaking process. "The monitors on set are really the death of cinema," he said. "They are TV monitors," not big screens. ‎

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai