Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Shooting in HD ruined Public Enemies

This is not a review but a complaint. I saw Public Enemies yesterday afternoon. Director Michael Mann chose to shoot the movie in HD and this was a catastrophic choice that distracted me, made me angry as I watched it and pretty much damaged the film beyond all repair.

Public Enemies at times, thanks to the HD, looked like watching a high priced TV show beamed up on the screen. If I wanted that kind of photography when I go to a theatre, I'd just skip paying and stay home and watch something on my TV. But even then it would probably look better than what Mann has done with his latest as I'm not sure he's even remotely aware how bad this looks. The HD in Public Enemies is too crisp, too plastic, too digital.

The film is set in the mid 1930s in the world of bank robbers, John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson, and the early days of the FBI but by choosing to go the route of HD he has chosen to strip some of the nostalgia of that era. That's fine. I've got no problem with trying to play with our preconceived notions of how history should "appear" but does it then have to look like absolute garbage? The film just looks awful. The interiors are dark and look like crap with over/under saturated pixels blinking away. The clinical, over crispness of the HD is distracting and just comes off as a gimmicky, attention grabbing gesture by Mann.

Public Enemies is the new poster child for digital v. film for me. Vern Snackwell mentioned to me how good Zodiac looked and that's true, when I saw Zodiac a couple of years ago I was surprised something filmed in HD could look so good--this is a major step back. While I wasn't completely enamored by the movie--shooting it in HD ruined it. Shooting this in film would have made it more inviting, more warm, more realistic and more pleasing to the eye. Nice job destroying your movie Michael Mann. Film wins again!


Brandon said...


Replicant said...


Vern Snackwell said...

badass post

Replicant said...

Another amen!

Rumblefish said...

I haven't seen the movie yet, but it bugged me even during the trailer.

Kent said...


the texture of HD just ruins the movie.

it's not always looking the most detailed, or most "realistic" that matters; movies, like photography, paintings... are an art form

and texture matters.

Anonymous said...

thank you for posting this, i was wondering if there was something wrong with me, because comparing hd and high def to a video filmed in the 80s like the robo cup, or the predator or planet of the apes, i feel that HD high def filming ruins the the whole watching experience, nowadays movies are fast in scenes no time to relax and gather information. HD has basically turned a good movie into a TV show.

its 2012, and new movies look like reality shows.

we need to return to the ways movies in the 50s,60s,70s,80s,90s

were created with good old fashioned hardware.

I'm just sick from HD