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Quentin Tarantino Blasts Digital Projection at Cannes: ‘It’s the death of cinema.’

Quentin Tarantino Blasts Digital Projection at Cannes: 'It's the death of cinema.'

Quentin Tarantino is angry.

The filmmaker, in Cannes for the festival’s 20th anniversary screening of his 1994 Palme d’Or winner “Pulp Fiction” and to close the event tomorrow by presenting Sergio Leone’s 1964 spaghetti western “A Fistful of Dollars,” held a surprise conference today and used most of it to blast digital projection.

“Pulp Fiction” is the only film to be screened in 35mm at Cannes this year — all other films are screening digitally. Tarantino made it explicitly clear why that’s not a coincidence.

“As far as I’m concerned, digital projection is the death of cinema,” Tarantino said, visibly heated. “The fact that most films aren’t presented in 35mm means that the world is lost. Digital projection is just television in cinema.”

“I’m hopeful that we’re going through a woozy romantic period with the ease of digital,” he later added when asked how cinema can be “saved.” “I’m hoping that while this generation is quite hopeless, that the next one will demand the real thing. I’m very hopeful that future generations will be much smarter than this generation and realize what they lost.”

Tarantino wasn’t all doom and gloom however. Near the end of the conference he confessed to an advantage filmmakers today have thanks to digital technology: “A young person can make a film on a cell phone [for example], if they have the tenacity to do so. They can actually make a movie, and they can be legit. Back in my day, you at least needed 16mm to make something, and that was a Mount Everest most of us couldn’t climb.”

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I don’t think future generations will pine for film any more than we pined for silent film. We lost something then too, but we gained something different. And so it is with digital. Just as "The Artist" brought back silent film for the mainstream as a novelty, so it will be in the future with film. We simply can’t have a pervasive digital infrastructure and a pervasive film infrastructure, sadly. One will clearly win out, and the writing’s been on the wall just about since Pulp Fiction, ironically.


He is correct; It’s not light shooting through emulsion. That is what film theaters historically are. I don;t think he is rattling about what to shoot on. He is trying to defend what watching a movie was and is for most of us, To not change the movie theater into the dvd store, or iTunes, or Comcast. He is trying to solve all the problems of film distribution as well. Take movie theaters back to film, piracy will be cut in half, there will be a an actual film release, then to dvd, then to cable/online platform. The industry has sucked ever since the physical material has left the building. Now art has no value, anyone with a dslr is a filmmaker, all this clutter is because of digital period. I preferred when the hollywood gates were high, and you and to earn your way in. Having that single negative rotating to the cheap theaters afterwards, all that is getting burned down more and more with digital. The last time I was in a packed theater with adults was I can’t remember? All digital effects fluffy spectacle, thanks Mr. Lucas, you just had to have your cg made easier and the entire industry went down the whole with that demand. Kodak is as guilty for not finding a better way to maintain its beloved material forms. Shooting Digital is complex as hell, it’s way more than, "oh, at least you can see it." film is simple and magical. Shoot on whatever you want, but not projecting cinema in the theater on film has been a huge part of why the industry is a garbage dump joke now and getting worse everyday. dvd’s are dead, bleary is dead, movies are run by apple devices and streaming now. He just wants to keep something on this earth pure, plays are still on a stage, I understand the man, there are some things you don’t want to be tampored with.


I agree completely with Tarantino. While digital is a fantastic medium for up-an-coming artists to enter the filmmaking industry, real 35 mm film, etc should be used by all professional and established filmmakers. And Film Runner, some of us do still actually use real cameras for photography. The same can be said for music and the use of vinyl records vs. mp3. This is really about what is professional and what is amateur. A camera’s shot should not be reduced to a max number of pixels, just as music should not be reduced to a 320 kbps mp3.

Chris Johnston

Back before digital projection, it got to where I would only see movies on opening day, or not at all. See, I hate scratches & dust & bad splices when the film breaks, just like I can’t stand the hiss & pops on vinyl albums.
With digital, the image is perfectly scratch- & dust-free, and nobody’s sentence gets cut off in the middle.
It looks perfect both on opening day and a month later.


It's all over but the crying at this point. I understand the "mystique" of celluloid, and there are many film which I'd kill to see projected on film, but if it was once true that digital projection offered inferior quality to celluloid, I don't think it is anymore. Future generations? Don't hold your breath, Quentin. It's about money. The idealized answer is of course that the two simply coexist, but is that financially feasible? I simply don't think so, the cost of celluloid distribution is so much higher. I'm glad to see people like Spielberg, Anderson, Tarantino, Nolan, and other speaking about this issue and trying to keep it alive, but fighting for celluloid is a losing battle. But even if you're 100% in favor of digital, they're never going to make a DCP of BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA or STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR or THE BIG GUNDOWN or EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER. Digital is less expensive on the distribution end, yes, but the cost of creating DCPs for a movie which didn't use a DI is significant.

Pierre Samuel Rioux

I agree with Tarentino, for me it's not fun any more to go to the cinema it's became low quality image and TV look…in other term what they show us at cinema should be reserved for a 5 ft screen not more.In all the cinema period it's the first time we see a degradation of the image quality in cinema, yes the sound it's better.
I watch Indiana and Blade runner on my 5 ft screen and i wish to have the chance to watch them again on film in a theater.
Rent the film Happy Gilmore on a simple DVD it's better vs any B-ray film made recently !
The best film was made in the 80's, today it's look like a game your kid play.

Thomas Bradbury

The medium is fundamentally about storytelling. Perfect image and perfect sound with A-list actors telling a crap story is a crap movie. A great story easily overcomes technical shortcomings to become a great movie. I have a copy of a shaky cell phone video of a complete house rushing downriver during a downpour, washed off its foundation by a flood, with a shocked female voice heard crying "Oh my God!" It's only a few seconds long yet unbelievably moving though very grainy and somewhat out of focus. Top that, Mr. Perfection.

John Gilbert

Amen, amen, and amen! I agree. For the price of a used lawnmower, one can make a "movie." It takes little skill to use a cell phone. I work in a TV station and quality went out the window years because people don't care about quality. I just watched one of our commercials and saw it pixelate and shutter as a woman models a dress. This is crap I thought but average Joe doesn't care. These are the same people who give a standing ovation to a squeaky and out of tune high school band! I want to build a museum to film so our grandchildren can see what quality was like.


Many people now are not able to shoot on film, because they don't know how to do that.
And many are not able to shoot high quality in the camera. They are sitting weeks in the DI-color-
grading to change the complete images, because they didn't know how to reach this while shooting. Film has better blacks, a wide contrast range, subtractive (not additive) color reproduction, supports easily 4k to 6k (35mm), has chemical grain (3D-grain, like a sculpture, more plasticity) and a color-reproduction which looks also very plastery. And don't forget the strobe-effect! Chemical film delivers a complete different film reception. The technical aspect supports the storry!!!


Just as a reminder, vinyl records went through this many years ago. Well Hello folks, the die hard vinyl people (myself) put up a good fight and WON. Vinyl is making a comeback, even to the point where new businesses have started. Sure I listen digital, but vinyl is the better to my ears. It has been proven that digital can not duplicate the vinyl sound.
But who cares, everyone to his own taste. But if you have never listen to the same song on both medians then you can not which is better for you. I am proud to say that I have converted many to the sound of vinyl.
I think film will be around a long long time and we need Mr "T" LOL to keep the flame alive. I can not afford it at this time, but soon, and I hope that we still have some old timers around to show me how to take best advantage of it.
Just for the record I started with an 8mm FILM camera when I was 13


People are confusing Aesthetics vs. Commerce here. QT was talking about the artistic quality of the projected image in a movie theater (and he does allow that digital is a nice tool for movie makers without means).
The big drawback of Digital right now is the PROJECTION issue. Digital cameras have come a long way, but digital projectors are way behind film in presenting true black and proper shadow detail.

Very simple to demonstrate as I have developed this easy test:

My Joe Stemme 'Black Test':

WARNING! Use of the Joe Stemme Black Test may ruin your enjoyment of movies in a theater for years to come. Once you see what you are missing, you may never be able to watch a digitally projected movie the same way again. You have been WARNED.

Very simple. Almost all movie theaters use a black border (cloth or paint) around their theater screens.
Watch ANY digitally shot and projected movie during a scene that is supposed to be predominatly "Black"
(i.e. Credits with white letters on black background, or the many scenes in GRAVITY with stars against the "blackness" of space). You will not find any all digital movie that can match the true Black of the black border within the movie. Ever.
A 35mm (or better yet) a 70mm film print that was shot ON Film can easily match Black for Black.And, a movie shot on film will still have more inky blacks even when it goes through a DI (Digital intermediate) and projected via Digital than a movie that goes entirely through the digital stream.
Shadow detail is another dead giveaway with digital projection. Shadows look milky and highly contrasted.


And just like that, Q transforms himself from cutting-edge '90's indie filmmaker to grumpy old-school grandpa. He will be missed as we inevitably move forward.


Let me jump in and say this is a class debate (not an aestetic one, beware). I grew up in the slums of Colombia and I would have never had the opportunity to make films if it wasn't for cheap digital technologies being available to me. I have gone to film festivals with documentaries and I am getting ready to shoot my first narrative feature… All thanks to a used Canon 7D. I think Tarantino is such an innovative writer, I am surprised he is such a snub. Cinema is not about WHAT we use to shoot, it's about the stories we tell. He can stick his 35mm film and Panavision Cameras somewhre where the sun don't shine.

David Forbes

A tired debate! Film vs Video. We all love film, but video has come a long way in a short time. Accept it and move on. Points taken about perception, analogue etc, but cost is the thing. Remember that the medium of acquisition is a TOOL. Not the end. Tarantino is raging at the "dying of the light", but he doesn't realise that you cannot kill light, you cannot kill shadow, and that new images will continue to be made no matter what. That is what cinematography is about, not about 16mm, 35mm or 4K. I've seen 35mm so badly exposed that it looked like shocking video footage, and I've seen U-Matic Hi Band exposed so beautifully that it looks like film. It's all in the eye, not the tool. Tarantino is WRONG!


Quentin is so right! Bad colors, flat pictures and no stroboscop-effekt for the eye. Digital projection is additive-light-mixing ans analog projection is subtractive, a complete different way
and a complete different film-reception!!! Analog reaches also much more higher levels in detail
and contrast.


Such an old dead argument. Film is great and always will be but digital is now at the point where is holds pretty much the same beautiful structure as film.

I shoot a digital Leica and a Blackmagic and both these cameras produce amazing, organic results plus they are both so much more versatile.


99% of you clowns seem to miss the point that he's talking specifically about PROJECTION rather than capturing the images. And until digital PROJECTION can mimic the 24 fps flicker of a filmstrip, it will indeed be a different, lesser experience. There have been studies done about this, our body and mind's reaction to this; projecting a celluloid film is almost literally a form of hypnotism; digital projection is not, in fact arguments can be made that it is unhealthy for the mind and body.

Sebastian Roxeno

FILM IS NOT DEAD ! … and medium should be adapted to the content. It´s good to have both – film and digital and to have producers working that medium they really prefer to their projects.

To use digital only to make the own work easier kills the art – because art ist beautyful and always makes al lot of work.

Leo Enticknap

Maybe his next movie will include a scene in which the inventor of the DLP chip is escorted down a ladder to the rectifier room below a projection booth, and introduced to a leather-clad slave who ties him up with polyester film stock…


uh-hu. Distribute your next pic on nitrate…. Or better yet, release your next big movie via nickelodeon to truly show your commitment to archaic distribution mediums.

Richard Halpern

Meh. Disagree. Digital cinema, especially 4K project/cameras, is solid. So, what Quentin is saying is he is ok with crappy scratched prints? With dust and splice points? Where you can quickly back a movie up if there is a tech problem (vs film, where if the film fails, it takes close to 20-30 minutes to spool the movie back into the project)? Faulty bulbs on crappy projectors that create bad images no matter how brilliantly the DP lit the film? Heavy massive prints that cost Thousands of dollars EACH to print and to ship to theater? Take HOURS to prepare the print? Vs a hard drive that ships fedex for $25 and pop right into a project? With a digital movie that can be edited to the last minute on Thursday, uploaded to server for Friday screening (making movies as fresh and newsworthy as possible)? With a digital movie that is less expensive to produce Visual effects, sound design? Where on the set filmmakers can use digital storage where you can roll 60 minute takes if you like, without yelling cut, where actors are still in the moment, where production shoots at a faster rate, saving productions big on budgets? Where you can CLEARLY see on digital what you are shooting LIVE on an HD monitor? Where smaller digital cameras are more lightweight, can move into cracks and crevices swiftly and efficiently, where you can shoot with 3 smaller cameras at LESS a cost of film cameras and get more coverage needed? Where lighting digitally is much easier, as, you can light neutrally then enhance greatly in post production where you do not lose time on costly shooting days for long lighting sessions needed for film? Where you can conceal a small digital camera and shoot a scene at GRAND CENTRAL STATION and shoot a scene with thousands of extras in the background for next to nothing?
I have much more to add if you like.

Sorry, Quentin. Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, and the majority of well known directors who smartly moved over to digital disagree.

It had a good run. though Film is dead. And I am very happy to be at the funeral.

Gary Sales

Their DNA may be different— Film: Chemicals & atoms Digital: zeroes, ones & bits.
Regardless of which is used the purposes and needs will remain the same:
Entertain us or Inform us
Content is king, not the medium it's made with.
Shoot on my friends… shoot on!


I agree. I still watch films shot on film and projected on film. Good ole American Cinematique theaters!


With all due respect, 99.7% of all movie watchers not only couldn't tell the difference between film and digital, they don't care.
I get it. You get it, but it's a silly topic when the entire industry is going digital.
Just like the "re-discovery" of film for some photographers, there will always be film makers who choose to use film. It's just not likely to ever be the standard, again.


The thing that might confuse people about his comment is that the general population sees film as something outdated vs. digital being the new thing but that’s as far as their knowledge goes. The simplest way to put it is how people use their phones to shoot digital images and then use instagram to filter it to give it that film look. Same way with digital film, it’s heavily processed to make it look like film, if it wasn’t processed it would end up looking like your Aunt Mary’s wedding video.

Film looks beautiful and as digital tries to push 4k people fail to realize that it already exist in film, yes, I’m sure digital will eventually catch up to film in image quality but only in the most homogenized way, it’ll still have to go through post in an attempt to give it that film look.


THANK YOU QUENTIN! Sadly, not all people outside of the major cities will have theaters still showing films in 35mm, like Cinefamily here in LA, once digital conversion is complete. I am hopeful that future gens will go retro, like they did with vinyl records, and increase demand for 35mm prints to be shown. Still by far the best medium for true cinema. It is interesting to note that all important films are being backed up onto 35mm film anyway, even if created in digital, because it is a far more durable, lasting medium and is used for protecting the film If this is the case, we should still be using and showing film in 35mm. It's not nostalgia, it's simply superior.

brian fantana

yep, and we should still be painting with egg tempera (or better yet charcoal sticks)


35mm is the gold standard for how movies are supposed to look. As soon as digital cameras and projectors can match or exceed the quality of 35mm there will be no more need for film. And that day is very, very close. With the pace of digital innovation I'd say we are no more than three years away, even to the pickiest filmmakers. In addition to being a talented director Tarentino is also an insufferably arrogant blowhard. And oddly while his films do look good they are hardly masterpieces of cinematography.

ri stewart

As an editor and post shop – I am really concerned how we will deal with the constant upgrade in tech in the coming days. An old cinematic piece, shot on film – can be uprezed with each new higher rez tech advance. Try that with stuff shot in the 80's on standard def, or jeesh – even dealing with 720p footage today. When we compare an SD frame to a 4k frame, there's a lot of data missing. But I can transfer that film reel to 4k and it still looks good. How are we going to deal with this in the years to come?

G. Beckstead

Digital is indeed revolutionizing and changing the landscape of cinema. That cannot be denied and brings new perspectives into the conversation of the inherent representability of objective and subjective reality through the cinematic image (a discussion taken up explicitly and repeatedly by filmmakers such as Malick, Tarkovsky, Bresson, and Godard etc.). Tarantino has a point, in that there is something almost intangible in the pleasure of watching a film shot on film as opposed to digital. There is something special to be recognized in empirical and historical role of the motion picture camera, and one can't deny the miracle inherent in the old-fashioned "chemical" process of physical light particles burning an illusory image-representation of so-called "reality" onto celluloid. That said, a new age of cinematic representation is dawning in the advent of the digital paintbrush, evident in the fascinating rise of "pure" or unadulterated artifice in the face of the camera's tendency towards capturing or stealing real "time" from the void of experience (see Gravity, Godzilla, the Amazing Spiderman 2, Avatar etc.). Perhaps Michael Bay's latestwill have something to add to the present considerations of whether or not "cinema" has become extinct in the age of the digital revolution.

Concourse D

Genuine question:
Assuming the highest available quality for both, what do you guys think are the TANGIBLE differences between film projection and digital projection?


For at least the past 40 years people have been talking about the death of cinema and 40 years from now people will talk about that,and 40 years after that,and on and on,and cinema will continue,and on and on

sue s

I totally agree with him! Watching digital movies I just don't get the same feeling as when watching 35mm films; digital takes out any originality and makes even good movies feel blah. It's sad that more moviemakers won't, or can't, come out and say the same thing.

Lawrence Chadbourne

Right on, QT! The forced conversion to digital is historically one of the three worst decisions made by Hollywood's business community, the previous two having been the enforcement of the Production Code in 1934 (which dumbed down US movies for thirty plus years) and the implementation of the Blacklist during the Truman era (which hurt people's careers and stifled the overall quality of our movies in the 1950s.) In this case the decision affects most of the world and may unlike the other two cause permanent damage to the art of cinema.

Mr. Blonde

I may be a huge fan of some of his films, but I could not disagree with him more about this subject. There is so much potential with Digital Cinema. I am not going to list the reasons because everyone here has already heard them.

On another note, I find it interesting that Quentin Tarantino is the biggest hater of Digital while Robert Rodriguez is one of the biggest supporters of Digital.

Glendalina Ziemba

If we are concerned about the state of Cinema, we can be discussing aspects of Cinema as an art form, such as: idea and concept creation and development; artistic intention, Cinema as a means for relaying information; new and old techniques; collaboration between visual artists; teaching and mentoring; a demand for multiple-format screening venues; the promotion of niche markets; work within the theatrical components (good writing, good acting, etc.); study and sharing of ideas with others working in the other realms of the visual arts (painters, sculptors, museums/galleries, etc.); and so on….

Complaining about the “output” method of a movie theater during a screening of a 20 year old film belongs as part of the on-going dialog within the motion picture Industry and the solving of those “difficult problems" is the responsibility of those who created it and who have benefited from it. The rest of us, mostly, could care less about the “problems” of those who have taken our Art and turned it into Industry. Some of us are even offended just by the thought of it.


The lower the bar for "technical" skill is, the better. It will allow artist to do what they do, create with out having to worry about the nit and grit of working with a physical media.

Its not just film, its every creative art, the easier the tools get, the more gets produced. It won't all be art, but you may just find the Next "Tarantino" That way.

Some kid how works at a movie theater, watching movies with wonder, thinking "Wow, I want to do that"

In this day an age, the bar for his dream is lower than its ever been in history, that kid, if he had the vision, now has the Digital tools to create.

After Effect and a Cell phone could produce the next great Director.

Those who like to view themselves as "great" Artist, like the Niche aspect of their art that keeps the laymen out. Its a knee jerk protection to something they love, which is understandable.


Digital sucks. Long live film.

Digital cinematographer

He has it backwards. The doom and gloom is that digital cameras can allow anyone to make a movie irregardless of talent. The glut of "filmmakers" flooding the market and working for free is ruining an industry.

Digital Projection means well made movies, whether they be photographed on film or digitally, can be viewed without the scratches, dust, bumps, and tears inherent in film projection. Sure there are concerns with color and brightness. But those same concerns existed with film projectors and film prints too.


"Looking amazing", to quote a comment below, is for spectacle, not cinema. This debate may not be much different from the eternal vinyl v. digital sound arguments, but there *is* a very real qualitative difference between analog formats and digital, difficult though it may be to define or identify.

That difference becomes obvious in festival settings, when you see one DCP feature after another and then, finally, one in 35mm turns up and is pleasurable and alive in a way digital never is.

Yeah, the kids don't care, but the kids are also content to watch movies on cell phones. And it's much more pleasant for the grownups to stay home and stream digital content than watch the same digital content in a theater. Digital may not actually be cheaper in the end, if it kills the audience.


He's not serious…he is more than happy to reap millions as his "films" are sold as digital bytes on pay tv channels, dvds, vod, etc…the only people who are serious about this issue are experimental filmmakers who only show their stuff from real projectors but there aren't many of them and they don't have large audiences…personally I don't care…enjoyed streaming 2001 Space Oddysey on my computer screen

Barbara Walters

Get your head out of your ass, Tarantino. Going digital won't kill you and film won't go completely extinct. At least with digital, you can at least see what you're filming. Have you even seen a movie with a 4K projecter? It looks amazing.


For what it's worth, cinemas project using a format/codec called DCP, which is essentially a series of high-res photos (one for each frame) that pass by the lens in a manner not that different from the photos that pass by in the conventional method… it's not at all like watching it on TV, which is a video stream. Tarantino is just insane when it comes to this subject.

Sam Jojos

Well he does turn it around in the end. But if I was to stay with the title and question asked, I disagree that digital projection is the death of cinema. Quite the opposite as it will give opportunity to more filmmakers to have their works screened. You know, like video store clerks trying to get their first film off the ground. The media has nothing to do with cinema. Black and white went to color, sound was added, cameras got smaller and could move. Cinema was invented and grew by technical savy people such as Edison and Eisenstein. It is born from technology (unlike literature, music, painting, scultping etc) and will continue to evolve and change as such.

Film Runner

The funny thing is, this is the exact sort of thing you used to get coming from the photography world about a decade and a half ago and they're all digital now.

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