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The Traditionalist: Christopher Nolan Prefers Film, One Camera, No 3-D

The Traditionalist: Christopher Nolan Prefers Film, One Camera, No 3-D

Christopher Nolan is a traditionalist. The “Batman Begins,” “Inception” and “The Dark Knight” director has candidly stated his preference for shooting 35 mm film with one camera rather than digital with many. He also recoils from 3-D and unrealistic CGI.  In an interview with DGA Quarterly, Nolan catalogues these preferences, reveals the filmmaker who inspired the twirling hallway scene in “Inception,” and gives first-rate advice on when and how to rely on visual effects.

On maintaining film as the status quo:  

“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.”

Keep 3-D for video games:

“I find [3-D] stereoscopic imaging too small scale and intimate in its effect. 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.” … I feel that in the initial wave to embrace [3-D], that wasn’t considered in the slightest.”

The right way to use visual effects:

“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.”

The director who inspired the pivoting hallway in “Inception”:  

“I grew up as a huge fan of Kubrick’s “2001” and I was fascinated by the way in which he built that centrifugal set so that the astronauts could jog all around and upside down. I found his illusions completely convincing and mind-blowing… With Inception I had the opportunity and resources to do it within an action context.”

At the moment, Nolan is editing “The Dark Knight Rises.”  Read his entire interview at


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Buddy E

The end of film in image capture and projection in for-profit cinema is a foregone conclusion. The studios are at the end of a massive industrial supply, manufacturing and processing chain that is in a complete state of collapse. Both Kodak and Fuji are managing their film portfolios for shutdown. Hopefully some outfit like ORWO can make a go of it at residual demand levels for art and experimental use. But the future for AMPTP productions (and global TV & movies) is digital.


I agree 100% with Nolan. Film will always be the superior format to video. It'll be a very sad day if film goes for good which I pray it doesn't

Eric Hamilton

Nolan is one of my inspirations. I am hoping to be a film director for my entire life and I think 35mm is the way to go. It's just cheaper in the short term to do video. I think that 35mm is something to fight for but I am saddened that my favorite director (Fincher) shoots exclusively video now… I feel a format war is looming.

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