‘Star Wars Episode VII’ Will NOT Be Filmed Digitally

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Star Wars Hyperspace Star Wars Episode VII Will NOT Be Filmed Digitally

Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm – and the accompanying announcement of new Star Wars films – was met with mixed reactions from fans. After all, the prequel trilogy was heavily criticized by longtime fans of the franchise, and the six-film arc that focused on the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker seemingly concluded with Return of the Jedi.

However, the announcement that J.J. Abrams – a self-professed Star Wars fan in his own right – would direct Episode VII has somewhat dulled fan worry that this new trilogy would repeat the mistakes of Lucas’ prequels. Hopes that the upcoming films would look to the original trilogy for inspiration have since been supported by the return of the original stars and (of course) composer John Williams to the Star Wars universe in Episode VII. Now one more vital element of the film’s production will harken back to the original.

BobaFettFanClub.com reports that cinematographer Daniel Mindel will be shooting Episode VII for Abrams, and Mindel has revealed that the film will be produced on 35mm film instead of the digital process used on the previous film. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was the last entry in the franchise to use film stock.

revenge of the sith Star Wars Episode VII Will NOT Be Filmed Digitally

Mindel has worked with Abrams on Mission: Impossible III, Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, so his involvement with the director’s Star Wars project isn’t much of a revelation. Frankly, neither is the news that they’ll be shooting Episode VII on film stock – Abrams has yet to shoot a film digitally and has a history of emulating the style of old films (Super 8, anyone?).

This is not to say that Episode VII will be complete devoid of his signature lens flares. It does mean that the new Star Wars film will not be shot in 3D – though it will likely be post-converted – and is more likely to feature a balance between digital and practical effects. In short, this is simply the latest development in a series of gradual news items to suggest that Episode VII just might be headed in the right direction.

Are you encouraged by the news that Abrams will shoot Episode VII on film, or would you prefer he stick with the digital process that Lucas used on Episodes II and III? Let us know in the comments section below.


Star Wars Episode VII is currently rumored to hit theaters in December 2015.

Source: BobaFettFanClub.com

Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @crookedtable
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  1. I’m sorry but the film vs digital discussion is extremely tired, and most folks commenting here have never been on a modern set(for more then a visit) or seen a high level production where hundreds of thousands of dollars burn each day as crews attempt to execute ever more complex integrations of physical and virtual content at ever faster paces. The current pace of productions of even in modest scales is partly enabled by digital efficiencies. Being less efficient leaves less time for performance takes and can translate to compromise in the editing room. Fact.

    And if that were not enough, compromises to the end to end post polish are nearly guaranteed when shooting capacity in the form of light and capture is limited during big set pieces. There is a direct line between dollars spent repairing rushed shots and end quality.

    The extraordinary expense of beautifying films in an analogue pipeline WILL show up as dollars redirected away from content and toward arcane time and quality sucking, not to mentioned rebuilding already discarded, systems.

    And many who work at the pro levels of the industry(and Many who don’t) know that the quality threshold of film has been finally reached and en route to being passed.

    This gen’s digital can look precisely like film, and better. The argument against is sentimental, not technical.

    And if you also happen to think watching puppets and emotionless animatronics (rather then human driven performance capture pumped through astounding hybrid or digital characters) is more suitable for this current generation, then enjoy.

    If your argument is the old way is better because that is the way the first sw was made, then I would guess you’re age is showing and you are mistaking associating childhood feelings, nostalgia and wonderment with what is compelling today … this gen of kids with disconnect from the movie when they laugh at the lameness of nostalgic techniques that take them out of immersion of the moment.

    Baby Out With The Bath Water

    • I prefer digital to film, and don’t think much compromise has to be made to shoot digitally and that much can be gained. Side by Side is a good documentary to watch to see how far digital has come. However, I don’t think there will be much worry about pumping as much money as necessary into these films because they’re basically guaranteed cash cows. The time efficiency argument could still be made though.

      Personally I would have liked to have seen them shoot this in 70mm IMAX, or better yet, the new digital IMAX so they could actually shoot the ENTIRE thing in IMAX rather than have to switch back and forth during dialogue shots because of the loud/cumbersome IMAX cameras.

      • I’m confused, The Digital IMAX camera is 4K. How does anyone consider 4K to be IMAX? 70mm film would be around 12-18K. Heck, 35mm is around 6K, so even shooting 4K you’re taking a tiny hit in image resolution.

    • Um… I’ve never been on a set, but as a consumer and a film user (both still and 16mm motion), I can say that movies shot on film LOOK BETTER. I’ve read the words of DPs that say film takes much less “beautification” than digital capture. What I’ve seen in movies and t.v. shows recently is a decline in quality due to (probably) laziness. The lighting is usually terrible, and the picture just looks less three-dimensional than film. I especially hate the new trend of washing out the color and making actors look like corpses.

      As for cost and efficiency, I guess it’s cheap to back up petabytes of data. I guess it’s convenient to have your camera constantly tethered to a computer and require a constant power source. Yes, it’s way harder to slap in a battery and shoot on film. If film sucks so much, then why are most of the best movies (and all the acadamy award winners) shot on film.

      Bottom line is it looks better, and it still has greater or equal dynamic range when compared to the best digital cameras; the range just falls more into the highlights than the shadows. Personally, I think a clipped highlight looks terrible, while lost shadows do not. Film also has better color.

      Anyway, I’m preaching. I’m just tired of people pushing for the death of film, when I can tell the difference, and I don’t visually enjoy digital capture as much as film captured movies. I don’t want to see film die, especially if it dies with the aid of misinformation. I don’t mean to start a comment war or anything, but I’d just like to put my point of view out there. Thanks.

      • All too true, Patrick.

      • I have a bit to say on this. I do indeed prefer film – I know it’s less reliable for capturing high-fidelity images, but I personally believe that the graininess and the general appearance of film is nice by comparison to digital.
        It’s like how I prefer vinyl to CD’s, because even though I know that a CD is actually better quality, there’s something fun in having a record, where you have to listen to the full album instead of skipping around or risk bouncing on it. High fidelity is not necessarily ‘authentic’.

        But on a different note, you’re quite wrong to say that new TV and movies are desaturated – in fact, older (especially 1980′s) film and especially TV shows were OVER-saturated. This was less prevalent in european countries, where broadcast engineers were better about following the rules of the color bars, but in America, the oversaturated look was considered ‘better’. I, for one, am GLAD that stuff is less saturated now.

        In the end, I don’t think I’ll be disappointing myself with the new Star Wars movies when they come out, but I did have a bit to say on that subject.

        • I’ll summarize my opinion with a quote from Simon Pegg on watching the original trilogy with his daughter:

          “When [Yoda] appears, I saw her sort of sit up. She looked at the screen and then she looked at me and then she looked back at the screen and she watched it for a bit. And then she said – ‘Daddy, he’s real!’ And I kind of like burst out crying. I was like – ‘You’re my child!’ And it’s because he’s there. He’s there interacting with Mark Hamill. Even if he was CG, we’d still know he wasn’t really there because he’s a sort of a little long-eared alien. But the fact that it was a puppet who’s existing in the same space as Mark Hamill, talking to him, it made her believe in him in a way that CG would never do.”

          CG artists are certainly artists, I admit. However, they like to insist that you can’t tell their work from reality. They put up two slides of film, one with a CG person and the other with an actual person, insisting that they’re the same. But, they’re not. There is some light CG work that fits into films well, but the fact is, no audience thinks that films like Avatar aren’t heavily CG. That doesn’t bother me, because it’s the aesthetic of the film. The problem I have is changing the past, inserting CGI into films that were made before it was invented, and heavily implementing it into sequels that are meant to aesthetically flow together.

      • Right! I see the difference too.
        SKYFALL was a disaster, cinematically speaking. They did not get it right (Turkey). So, Bond 24 is being recorded on film.
        Die Another Day was a CGI disaster. So, everyone is doing real stunts again. Of course, everything is finally digital (including stunts) but I hope it still takes a long time.

    • Making a good case for shooting in digital is one thing; use of CGI is an entirely separate issue. The prequels’ reliance on green screen techniques as opposed to shooting on real, tangible sets gave the actors precious little to work with (in addition to the crippling script deficiencies), and their performances suffered as a result. James Cameron’s virtual camera system redresses the balance somewhat, but will never be an airtight solution to the problem of making a human performance interact with a special effect, or blending it into a 100% CGI background.

      This is a vital element resolved by, for example, the combination of animatronics, props, live sets and CGI Guillermo del Toro employs. Whatever the overall quality of his movies, visually he understands the relationship between placing actors in an environment they can use their skills within, and then providing them with something physical to react to.

      • I total agree.

        I love CGI when used right. The Star Wars prequels use too much, and no, I am not a person who hates VFX, I actually want to have a career in it. The Star Wars prequels used too much when they built absolutely almost none of the sets, and the parts of the set that were actually the shape of the set and could have easily have been painted and no VFX done on it, they painted green. A movie that I say used VFX about just the right amount and didn’t go over is The Avengers. The reason I say this is because, most of the time they only used VFX when they needed too, and when they used green screen you can’t tell(trust me, I try to on all movies)! Like if you’ve seen the movie and haven’t researched it, you probably don’t know that 80% of the time you see New York it’s a green screen. I didn’t know until after I saw the movie and I went back to the theaters to see if I could find a mistake, and surprisingly I couldn’t!
        So Star Wars prequels use too much, I personally feel The Avengers was just right, and I recently saw Men in Black 3 and those were just bad!

        • Wow. Avengers has some of the worst greenscreen in recent memory. You were fooled by the big battle and stuff at Stark tower?!? Good for you I guess.

    • I’m employed in Hollywood as a technician in the Digital Intermediate process, which is that by which a feature is converted from film to digital files and back to film again, with visual effects introduced in between. It is a long and cumbersome process where a production must wait days to find out if there was a problem with a shot, and in each stage there is a risk of introducing flaws and loss in quality, causing delays.
      However while we believe that digital acquisition will eventually surpass film in terms of visual quality and color reproduction, it is unanimously agreed that the cameras are not quite there yet. It is a powerful thing to have the ability to review a shot immediately after taking it, but at this time speed is the main advantage. The cost factor is subjective, since the best digital cameras, while extremely good, are so prohibitively expensive that many digital cinematographers are going back to film.
      I have my own bone to pick with film. The de facto standards for film production are 3- and 4-perf, where the images are stacked on top of eachother on the film strip. VistaVision is an alternate method where the images are side-by-side along the length, allowing the image to spread across more than twice as much area. The additional cost is relatively negligible compared to a recognizable actor’s salary or a wardrobe budget, and even the best digital cameras in the world cannot capture the same resolution at that rate. Additionally, IMAX film (70mm) is twice the size of standard 35mm, allowing for some truly stunning leaps in image quality that can still be made with film.
      I should also mention that my brother works for ARRI, so there is no conflict of interest here.

    • The trap in this discussion is the fallback binary view of THIS vs. THAT in some kind of battle royale that we must put our last ounce of spleen championing. I prefer to look at film vs. digital as a palette option. I’m an unapologetic idealist, I admit, but for good reason.

      Obviously, things aren’t going to go backwards for “romantic/nostalgic” reasons (thank you Mr. Spock) but I’ll just say that I can watch a silent movie, just to take an extreme case, and the spirit of the presentation, given the right context, is a beautiful thing. It’s not delegitimized, because it’s celluloid fluttering through a hand-cranked film gate. It’s a thing of magic and completely legit as a form of art on its own legs…. just like hand shadows and cave paintings work *with* the human imagination in a very fundamental way.

      Technical progress in the popular arts is a strange animal. We’re doing great things and much by way of emulation. Closing the gap between the viewer in a theatrical presentation and stark 3D perfection isn’t all its cracked up to be, other than for novelty-sake if there’s not a more powerful cathartic, emotional, and organic grounding premise driving the thing.

      Another example, is you can say you have the most perfect microphone in the world. Great, that’s spectacular. But the warmth that comes from an old ribbon mic with a tube amp is a subtle once-removed from reality experience. -it’s imperfections, nonetheless translates to something that’s more *musical*. It’s hard to define, but the ear recognizes it. So seamless perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It can be a crutch, when creative ideas flag. And most films hedge, almost out of insecurity, into the realm of saturated sound, saturated color, saturated sensory bombardment. Not trusting shadows enough, not trusting the human imagination. It’s like paying 12 bucks to watch a feature length commercial for a franchise that wants to wring cash out of you at the inevitable theme park version, etc. It’s so palpable.

      Digital is fine. You can filter it down; you can add grain. But are films getting better? I think they are, more often, ephemeral, like a TV experience. but that’s another subject.

    • DaltWisney…shush.

  2. I think it is be a wise decision.
    Off topic but i love hearing peoples ideas for
    casting. Tahiri Veila played by girl from Hanna? Jaina solo by Ellan Page or Chloe Moretz.

  3. What’s Star Wars? Is Batman going to be in it? :P

  4. daltwisney, get over yourself pal.

    This is the BEST news I’ve heard all day after having to witness Ben Affleck get cast as Batman in a role that should have gone back to Bale and hear how Joss Whedon had the dim wit to bash the ending of ESB? What is the world coming to these days, seriously?

    At any rate, film ALWAYS looks better, more tangible and and more real to the human eye. I’m glad Abrams is at least smart enough to retain the vintage quality as much as possible. I sure hope this means that the lightsabers will be rotoscoped traditionally rather than the stupid, pointy digital overlays done in the prequels. They looked like freakin’ cartoons! The OT lightsabers actually looked like they had heat and were so real looking. Sure, they didn’t make the character’s face glow like they should have, but they totally looked better and no one will ever convince me otherwise. Digital looks like a sanitized, sterile hospital. It’s just to clean. Lucas’s finest films were balances of dirty, gritty and soft.

    The fact that film costs more is null and void. It IS the BETTER medium, PERIOD!

  5. I am happy with this news and the previous news that they aren’t going to use as much CGI as in the second trilogy.

  6. Film stock is a better medium overall, especially for a franchise that wishes to continue the look and feel of the original trilogy. That is not to say the film should look vintage or ancient. But a freshness with a calming similarity will be present I believe. And keep in mind that Abrams has never worked digitally before. And there is a visual difference as well. Film stock seems to offer a richer, deeper look than a digital medium (of course this is only my opinion). Look at Abrams’ Star Trek films for excellent examples of what he and ILM are so capable of while using film. And for a film that is concentrating more on character development than effects to tell the story, film really is the way to go. My hat’s off to the people that made the decision to use film in a society that believes new technology is the only way to go. It’t time to go back to the heart of what’s really important in film making. STORYTELLING. And film stock is a great medium for accomplishing this. (Again, only my opinion.)

  7. I love fantastic movies,
    thank that you shared this information

  8. Here it is. Plain and simple:

    Unlike most of you seem, I’m a fan of Star Wars. I’m 25, but grew up with both the prequels and the originals. Flatly put: the originals felt and still feel much more realistic because it was driven by real actors, real people, and sets made by hand. Not on the other side of a computer screen. Digital is nice because you can add in whatever you’d like. But just like old school rock and roll: analog feels and sounds much more real because there is no digitization going on. We have been hawking for a Star Wars film that actually made us feel like we were back on the sandy world of Tatooine, or down in the heated swamps of Dagobah. And the only way you get that is by filming on site in environments that resemble those fictional worlds. The argument is not digital or film at all. The argument is which way will make Star Wars feel and look more realistic, and “analog” always wins in that field. Yes, digital can mimic film. But why mimic film when you can just buy film and film a movie in film? As Spoc put it: “the lack of common sense is disturbing.” May the force be with you.

  9. I think that a switch back to Film on the new Star Wars is a good move.
    The Original films all used old Vistavision, Technicolor and Mitchell/Panavision R200 series cameras which all spawn from the 1950′s era of film making, this gave the original trilogy a raw-ness that was sadly missing from the prequels. I don’t think you can ever truly capture that feel again because it was very much down to the technology and processing of the time, but I think that shooting on film will bring back some of the original magic.

  10. Simple…Film IS the art form. Digital (And everything else) is just common television.
    Don’t give me that “Film-Latitiude” dibate, it dosen’t hold weight. Motion picture 24 fps imaging is lost in the digital relm. Keep 16mm/35mm & 65mm.

  11. Back off with those debates pals! It doesn’t matter if it’s filmed digitally or not. Sure thing that Star Wars fanatics will watch the movie and no longer care if it’s digital or not!http://goo.gl/17lyr2 see the sneak peek? Better watch the parodies… They’re much digital! LOL

  12. I agree with Erin. It doesn’t matter whether the movie will be shot digitally or not. And Abrams was in error. Lucas didn’t use CGI for everything.

  13. I’m sorry but I thought episode II and III looked worse than any film before it, although The Phantom Menace wasn’t much of an improvement. Things look digital, they look animated in all of the Star Wars prequels. They didn’t look so animated in the originals because they were shots taken of something that was physically moving not just something that has been made to look like its moving. They use techniques that were perfected about as far as they could be in 1940 with Disney’s Pinocchio. Well that is fine, in an animation, but in real life they should be making real life movements not basing their judgement on an animator’s best guess.

    I am very glad that they are planning to film a lot of the effects practically. And I hope this means the spaceships. The space battles (what few of them) in the prequel trilogy looked computer generated, looked animated, in short: looked awful.

  14. Definitely film! The Star Wars films that were shot in digital have dull looking color and lack the clarity and vibrant colors of film. And many people don’t realize that as digital advances … so do film stocks as they even get better and better.

  15. such a sad realization of a great franchise.

  16. I still remember the first time I saw Star Wars in the seventies on the big screen. I have not seen the last episodes. Both because of the digital image as the silly digital characters. The success of Avatar shows that there is a new generation of moviegoers. So it is not only the digital issue.

    I filmed in the 70s with Super 8. I compared screenshot of those old super 8 movies with screenshots of my professional videos (Digital Betacam). My god, the Super 8 screenshots are much prettier and more interesting!

    A new test case (in a few months) is the new series of the Thunderbirds, am very curious what they made of it.

  17. Never been on a film set mind you I can defiantly tell the difference between something originally made in film and originally digital. Recording in film then scanning in gives it an effect which cannot be replicated digitally. Film effect than is especially noticeable on animated cartoons and an ime. In fact I have been watching dragon ball z episodes remastered from film for 100 and they defiantly have that film look to them and it makes them look great to me.

    it’s like vacuum tubes and magnetic tape recordings having the sort of sound that also cannot be made digitally.

  18. Never been on a film set mind you I can defiantly tell the difference between something originally made in film and originally digital. Recording in film then scanning in gives it an effect which cannot be replicated digitally. Film effect than is especially noticeable on animated cartoons and an ime. In fact I have been watching dragon ball z episodes remastered from film for 100 and they defiantly have that film look to them and it makes them look great to me.

    it’s similar to vacuum tubes and magnetic tape recordings having the sort of sound that also cannot be made digitally.

  19. One correction needs to be made. Using film rather than digital does *not* preclude stero 3D filming. People have been doing true 3D with paired film cameras for more than a hundred years, including with 70 mm (i.e. the 3D IMAX nature films of the pre-digital era.)

    Unfortunately, Star Wars VII is going to be filmed in 2D and post-converted into ‘fake’ 3D. IME post-converted films look cartoonish and have annoying visual artifacts. So sad. A new Star Wars film in true 3D would have been spectacular. And yes, Abrams could have made it in true 3D with film, if he had been willing to do the extra work and the studio had been willing to front the much higher cost of stereo filming.