Side By Side
Studio: New Video/Tribeca Film
US BD Release Date: February 5, 2013
Original Release Year: 2012
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 99 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Surround)
Subtitles: English (SDH)
Movie: 4.5 out of 5
Twenty years ago, if someone wanted to make a movie using anything other than film, then they were not all that serious about their craft. It didn’t matter how good a storyteller you might be. Soap operas, sitcoms, and even the adult film industry had given anything shot on video a bad reputation. A quick look at some of the top box office hits from the last few years (The Avengers, Skyfall, The Hobbit, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Avatar), and one would quickly realize that digital movie making was here to stay.
In Chris Kenneally’s documentary, Side By Side, host/narrator Keanu Reeves first looks at the early days of cinema and how nothing dramatic has changed in over 100 years, until Bell Labs introduced the CCD solid state video imaging chip in 1969. Nearly fifteen years later, Sony would begin selling compact video cameras and camcorders to the consumer market, and young filmmakers around the world quickly used those cameras to tell their own stories, notably Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg of the Dogme 95 Collective in Denmark. Side By Side then looks at the advances made in digital cameras, filmmakers’ reactions to some of the early attempts (Sony F900, Panavision Genesis) , the eventual adoption of the RED system (developed by Oakley founder Jim Jannard) providing up to 5k resolution and the Arri Alexa (comparable to Super35 photography), and some thoughts on the use of DSLRs (such as the Canon 7D). Most interesting is some of the filmmakers’ decisions to shoot digital rather than film, especially Michael Mann’s for Collateral (as told by that film’s Director of Photography Dion Beebe) to help accent the late night skyline of Los Angeles by using the Thomson VIPER FilmStream camera.
The documentary is quite literally a who’s who of Hollywood and independent filmmakers, including interviews with George Lucas, James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez, Steven Soderbergh, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Michael Ballhaus, Dennis Muren, Danny Boyle, Michael Chapman, Anne V. Coates, Walter Murch, Vilmos Zsigmond, Richard Linklater, and a very rare appearance by the usually reclusive Lana and Andy Wachowski. While the film is somewhat biased towards digital filmmaking, director Chris Kenneally does provide ample time for film die-hards like Christopher Nolan and Wally Pfister to discuss why they prefer film over digital. It also recognizes the dangers of shooting and posting in the digital realm (the potential loss of data) and that, in the end, the only true backup system is film.
Side By Side is a fascinating look, not only at the evolution of digital cinema, but the workflow, advantages, and disadvantages of working in this constantly maturing medium.
Video: 4 out of 5
Shot on both the Canon 5D Mark II and Panasonic AG-HPX170, the 1080i transfer, using the AVC codec, is about as good as one would expect for a low-budget documentary. Colors are consistent, never saturated, with adequate blacks and detail. Film clips range in quality (the good news is that they are all presented in their originally intended aspect ratios), but that has more to do with where, when, and how the clips were sourced.
Audio: 4 out of 5
Two audio options are provided on the disc, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, both encoded at approximately the same bit rate of 1.5 Mbps. The 5.1 mix wins out, not because of a fantastic use of surrounds (they are more or less unused), but for a more grounded use of the center channel for the interviews, although there is some occasional left and right panning either when the camera moves or there is more than one subject speaking on-screen. Fidelity and dynamic range are quite good, but most documentaries are never really known as being good demo material.
Special Features: 3 out of 5
Two sets of outtakes are provided, both in 1080i.
Deleted Scenes Presented by American Express (2:36): Robert Rodriguez discusses using the Panavision Genesis on Grindhouse and Walter Murch explains the difference between watching a movie projected on film and projected digitally.
Additional Interviews with Filmmakers (13:57): More footage with Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh, Lana and Andy Wachowski, David Lynch, Robert Rodriguez, David Fincher, James Cameron, Greta Gerwig, George Lucas, Lena Dunham, and Lars Von Trier.
Overall: 4.5 out of 5
Side By Side is a must-see for anyone fascinated by the filmmaking process, and should definitely be part of any film school program. Highly recommended.
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