Skyfall Joins The Growing List Of Features Shot Digitally

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

Remember a few weeks ago when we published a story about how Christopher Nolan was leading a charge for A List directors to continue shooting on 35mm film?  Well, at the speed of Moore’s Law, Mr. Nolan is becoming more and more like Don Quixote and his Impossible dream.  More and more big budget films, like 007’s Skyfall (click for trailer), are choosing digital cameras like the Arri Alexa to capture their footage, and for a brief shining moment it looked like 35mm film may have been relegated to an end use tool.  Now that isn’t even going to happen as the quality of 4K digital projection means movies are more affordable to distribute and still get the same high resolution image.


Arri Alexa M, Zeiss Master Prime Lenses
Arri Alexa Plus, Zeiss Master Prime Lenses
Arri Alexa Studio, Zeiss Master Prime Lenses
Red Epic

Cinematographic process

ARRIRAW (2.8K) (source format)
Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format)

– Technical specifications for Skyfall IMDB

That’s the listing of the digital media assets that were used to shoot the 23rd James Bond feature.  The film, which stars Daniel Craig, Dame Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, and Ralph Fiennes was directed by Sam Mendes and shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins, who also shot “In Time” on the Alexa as well.

” I am seriously beginning to doubt that I will shoot film again,” says Deakins. “I do feel (the Arri Alexa) produces the first digital images I have seen that are of a quality comparable to film with a greater dynamic range. The images the camera produces seem to fit with the ‘look’ I am after.” – source: The Black and Blue

And while Deakins shot with both the RED and the Alexa on Skyfall, he seems to prefer the Alexa because of it’s color depth.  “From the images I have seen I believe that the Alexa does indeed have better colour rendition and greater image detail in the highlights and shadows. On the other hand I wouldn’t say the image it produces appears any less sharp than that of the Red even though it does in theory deliver an image with less resolution.”

Several other summer blockbusters that have been leading the digital charge include The Avengers (Arri Alexa), Prometheus (Red Epic), The Amazing Spider-Man (Red Epic), Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Arri Alexa), Total Recall (Red Epic), The Hobbit (Red Epic in 3D) … and the list goes on and on.  Some have also gone DSLR.  The Avengers shot some scenes on the Canon 5D Mk. II, as did DEUS EX MACHINA.   And it only makes sense since studios like 20th Century Fox are preparing for a 100% digital distribution which some say could be as early as 2014.  Fox has already announced they will be dumping film releases in favor of digital download to a hard drive by 2013 for all feature films (they already do it for Singapore).

So, while it’s sad to see the end of film projection – and in reality, the extinction of the professional film projectionist – the move forward towards digital will make filmmaking both more efficient and cost effective.  And in an industry that’s constantly trying to squeeze every dime out of the bottom line, that’s really the meaning of the term “show BUSINESS.”

And on the screen, frankly, the audience doesn’t seem to know the difference.


About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.