Chris Nolan Discusses 3D, Shooting on Film & More in DGA Interview

April 13, 2012

Christopher Nolan

"You're never going to learn something as profoundly as when it's purely out of curiosity." Sometimes we come across a fantastic interview that we just have to feature. This time it's with Christopher Nolan, one of my all-time favorite filmmakers in general, and while he doesn't speak much with online press, he did do an interview with the Directors Guild of America which has been posted on Nolan does talk briefly about The Dark Knight Rises, but also discusses his opinion on still shooting on film, plus 3D, why he loves shooting with IMAX, and so much more, which is what makes this such a worth-reading interview.

The article is titled "The Traditionalist" and was an interview conducted at his house while editing TDKR, covering a complete range of topics, presenting an intimate and fantastic look at what makes him who he is, what his passions/interests are. It's a fantastic read in a full, but one of my favorite quotes was about Blade Runner, and how important its atmosphere was to the world. "You really felt there were things going on outside of those rooms where you’ve seen the film take place. That’s something I’ve always tried to carry with me. Every film should have its own world, a logic and feel to it that expands beyond the exact image that the audience is seeing." But this was only a small bit of Nolan's brilliance on display in the DGA article.

First up, one topic that is continuously discussed in the industry, is the film to digital switch, which Nolan remains one of the strongest hold outs on. He makes his case on why he still continues to shoot with film:

"For the last 10 years, I've felt increasing pressure to stop shooting film and start shooting video, but I've never understood why. It's cheaper to work on film, it's far better looking, it’s the technology that's been known and understood for a hundred years, and it's extremely reliable. I think, truthfully, it boils down to the economic interest of manufacturers and [a production] industry that makes more money through change rather than through maintaining the status quo. We save a lot of money shooting on film and projecting film and not doing digital intermediates. In fact, I've never done a digital intermediate. Photochemically, you can time film with a good timer in three or four passes, which takes about 12 to 14 hours as opposed to seven or eight weeks in a DI suite. That’s the way everyone was doing it 10 years ago, and I've just carried on making films in the way that works best and waiting until there’s a good reason to change. But I haven't seen that reason yet."

That is the perfect answer to lead us into some of the other meaty parts of his interview, including his discussion on IMAX and why he likes that format. I absolutely love it, but he explains it better than anyone:

"We shot 5-perf 65 mm for a few scenes in Inception and I liked the results a lot, plus you can use sound with it. But IMAX has three times the negative area of that format. It’s such a leap up in terms of quality that if you’re working on a film that’s such a large-scale production you can embrace the more cumbersome technology, and allow for it and build it into your production process, then what you get in terms of quality when you’re shooting is pretty extraordinary. For The Dark Knight Rises we were on Wall Street with a thousand extras, and you can see everybody’s face in the frame. In some ways, I feel it takes me back almost to the silent film era, when they had those huge cameras. Trying to do things in more of a tableau fashion, it changes the way I direct a film, it changes the way I block the camera movement because of the size of the thing. The resulting image has so much power that you don’t need to cut in the same way, you can frame the shot slightly differently, you wind up with a slightly different feel."

One of the other topics that Nolan makes a poignant comment about is CGI, which he definitely uses in his films, but he explains how he uses it completely differently than all the other CGI spectacles we often see:

"The thing with computer-generated imagery is that it’s an incredibly powerful tool for making better visual effects. But I believe in an absolute difference between animation and photography. However sophisticated your computer-generated imagery is, if it’s been created from no physical elements and you haven’t shot anything, it’s going to feel like animation. There are usually two different goals in a visual effects movie. One is to fool the audience into seeing something seamless, and that’s how I try to use it. The other is to impress the audience with the amount of money spent on the spectacle of the visual effect, and that, I have no interest in. We try to enhance our stunt work and floor effects with extraordinary CGI tools like wire and rig removals. If you put a lot of time and effort into matching your original film elements, the kind of enhancements you can put into the frames can really trick the eye, offering results far beyond what was possible 20 years ago. The problem for me is if you don’t first shoot something with the camera on which to base the shot, the visual effect is going to stick out if the film you’re making has a realistic style or patina. I prefer films that feel more like real life, so any CGI has to be very carefully handled to fit into that."

What an elegant way of saying big CGI movies like Transformers suck. In terms of another movie trend that he thinks "sucks", Nolan states his thoughts on 3D, answering a question about WB wanting TDKR in 3D:

"Warner Bros. would have been very happy, but I said to the guys there that I wanted it to be stylistically consistent with the first two films and we were really going to push the IMAX thing to create a very high-quality image. I find stereoscopic imaging too small scale and intimate in its effect. 3-D is a misnomer. Films are 3-D. The whole point of photography is that it’s three-dimensional. The thing with stereoscopic imaging is it gives each audience member an individual perspective. It’s well suited to video games and other immersive technologies, but if you're looking for an audience experience, stereoscopic is hard to embrace. I prefer the big canvas, looking up at an enormous screen and at an image that feels larger than life. When you treat that stereoscopically, and we've tried a lot of tests, you shrink the size so the image becomes a much smaller window in front of you. So the effect of it, and the relationship of the image to the audience, has to be very carefully considered. And I feel that in the initial wave to embrace it, that wasn’t considered in the slightest."

The full interview is filled with endlessly amusing, inspiring, informational, brilliant quotes from Nolan, so I highly suggest visiting to read the full thing. I honestly love hearing Nolan speak, he's a genius filmmaker for a reason, and just hearing what he has to say about any topics is interesting. I'm sure we'll be hearing plenty more from Mr. Nolan in the coming months leading up to The Dark Knight Rises release on July 20th. Another one of my favorite quotes, Nolan's last comment on why he really uses IMAX: "As a filmmaker who’s been given sizable budgets with which to work, I feel a responsibility to the audience to be shooting with the absolute highest quality technology that I can and make the film in a way that I want."

Find more posts: Hype, Interview, Movie News, TDKR



 How does Nolan's throbbing dick feel in your mouth?

Jacob on Apr 13, 2012


I wana see a film by Chris Nolan and James Cameron.

Brian on Apr 13, 2012


 an Odd Couple reboot?

Dan Hibiki on Apr 13, 2012


you clearly haven't understood any of the above.

Saenker on Apr 13, 2012



ƦxhMr Leçherý Ðǿŋ on Jul 2, 2012



gguy on Apr 13, 2012


I would love for Nolan to direct the adaptation of Stacy Schiffs book Cleopatra. It`s a wonderful book and could be an amazing film.

Loser on Apr 13, 2012


Well if thats he preference then so be it. Everyone has different opinions. Ridley Scott, whos by far on another level then Nolan, loves now 3D. If done proper. While i prefer 2d movies myself, Im VERY curious to see if Scott can pull it off with Prometheus. Scott isn't a 'gadget' movie maker ala Resident Evil 3D crap. So I can see Nolan's points and that 7-min IMAX prologue sure looked amazing but let's not give him 'god' status before having a serious director like Scott using 3D.  

Buzzfunk on Apr 13, 2012


I'm no Nolan fanboy, in fact I love Alien more then any other films made by either of them, but in terms of consistency, give me Nolan over Scott any day. 

Al on Apr 13, 2012


Meaning? Are we going to wipe our asses with opinions? 😉 Memento and The Prestige are my fav Nolan movies. Im no Dk fan, I know that im in the minority, but even with the few less then stellar movies Scott made, i take a new movie by the director of Alien and BR any day over Nolan's 'consistency'. 

Buzzfunk on Apr 13, 2012


I've been consistently undrwhelmed by every one of Scott's movies that I've seen. Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Blade Runner, Alien...all good, none great, in my opinion. His style just doesn't click with me. Nolan has yet to make a bad film though.

Chris_G on Apr 13, 2012


Nolan has to make a film of the magnitude of a ALIEN or BR. Doesn't matter if they didnt 'click' with you, they are considered cinematic milestones. Sorry. 

Buzzfunk on Apr 13, 2012


Has *yet* (was missing)

Buzzfunk on Apr 13, 2012


Scott > Nolan.

happy camper on Apr 13, 2012


it's revealing that Nolan states his favourite film is Blade Runner, for the coherent word it creates and for Ridley Scott's direction. Ridley's got 30 years on Nolan. but he and Scott *both* bring something different and excellent - how lucky are we?

son_et_lumiere on Apr 14, 2012


Nolan > Scott

Geoffrey Shauger on Apr 15, 2012


You think Scott is on another level?  Oh you mean below Nolan.  For every good movie Scott had made he's made 4 duds.  Nolan doesn't have a blemish on his record.  Scott is still riding high from movies he did 30 years ago.  He's like Lucas minus Jar Jar.

Geoffrey Shauger on Apr 15, 2012


"First up, one topic that is continuously discussed in the industry, is the digital to film switch..." Whoops! You mean film to digital!

Jennie on Apr 13, 2012


Not a big Nolan fan...but I like his comments.

Xerxexx on Apr 13, 2012


Agree. The dullest director but has good opinions here. I think he and Fincher should do a project together, "wait what Nolan, I thought were said we were gonne shoot on RED?"

Ryderup on Apr 14, 2012


James Cameron: "Well boys, calm down. Shoot it on film or Red.. as long as you make it 3D in the end"

Ryderup on Apr 14, 2012


HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!!  Oh're serious.  Thanks for the laugh though.

Geoffrey Shauger on Apr 15, 2012


also agreed, good interview. you can see why they titled it 'The Traditionalist'! i'll admit to being a Nolan fan. his comments make interesting reading - to not use 2nd units or non-action storyboarding is pretty unusual these days, especially in the Hollywood machine. Nolan says that ' all comes back to the question of defining what a director does. Each of us works in different ways.' i'm not very interested in rating directors against each other, but i am interested in what each brings to the table. Nolan certainly brings it for me.

son_et_lumiere on Apr 14, 2012


 I do enjoy his films. I watch The Prestige every 6 months. He's a solid director but my list of favorite directors changes all the time.

Xerxexx on Apr 15, 2012


I personally hope that Christopher Nolan decides to helm his brother's long gestating 'Interstellar' sci-fi film...because I doubt Spielberg will ever get around to actually making it.

Chris_G on Apr 13, 2012


I think big difference between Nolan and Scott is theme,all work of Nolan has main same theme memento,inception,insomnia, and even batman or prestige had focus on memory and time but ridley Scott has very very different schedule ! Alien . Gladiator . American gangster . Black howl dawn ... But also Nolan is very young and talented Another superior about Scott is helmet in action sequences! Action in Nolan works is excellent but I think in Scott is more spectacular! Another thing is editing in their works, in Nolan films every sequence have many cuts specially in action but picture in Scott movies have more penetration and power because has minor cuts But I love both directors both are legendary and necessary for this world!

Ehsan Davodi on Apr 14, 2012


"I have no interest in CGI as a spectacle" "Hear that guys? Nolan says Transformers sucks!"

OfficialJab on Apr 14, 2012


I think that Nolan is saying that CGI and 3D both have their respective parts in the industry.  I love Nolan's films, but tbh sometimes I like to watch something like Transformers for its fun and over the top action or expierence the depth of 3D.

Steven on Apr 14, 2012


As much as I like Nolan, he's a 4 out of 5 director. Great ideas and visuals, but (with a couple exceptions) his characters lack depth. Batman doesn't count because he didn't create those characters. Still, i'm interested to see what he does when TDKR is behind him.

Tony on Apr 16, 2012

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