The most interesting experience I had during this year’s BSC Expo wasn’t discovering any new technology – it was hearing a small comment from DOP Stephan Pehrsson during one of the seminars. He proclaimed Roma was a much better experience at home with HDR and at 4K as opposed to seeing it on the big screen. This was unexpected to me as in my experience cinematographers have always been outspoken about the importance of going to the cinema and how there’s nothing quite like it. What Pehrsson said was perhaps the first time I had ever heard a cinematographer champion the home experience over going to the cinema.
Of course, it does help that Roma was created with HDR in mind and it also portrayed one of the most emotionally enchanting stories cinema has seen in years. It’s a film so strong it would have been watchable if it was shot on the webcam of a MacBook from 2004.
Last night it won best film, director and cinematography at the BAFTAs, (hopefully it will rightfully win the same awards at the Oscars!) this is a monumental achievement for a black and white foreign film in the Spanish language with no household names.
The home experience with Roma perhaps creates a more intimate experience; it’s almost like you’re secretly viewing a visual diary of a strangers’ most enduring memories. The HDR and detail in 4K makes the film seem more real as though you could smell the film and walk out of your living room onto a busy street of a 70’s Mexico City.
Another reason the home experience might be a better way of watching a film like Roma is that the home is a safe and familiar place. Nothing will seem distracting and there won’t be a random guy throttling popcorn into his face at 200mph four seats away. You feel comfortable and relaxed which may allow you to become more easily immersed in the story.
However, I thought Roma was just as strong in the film theatre but in different ways. You lose some of the independent intimacy of the home experience but you’re sharing the emotion with hundreds of people, all silently acknowledging the story and feeling the same emotions simultaneously – everyone is connected for a few hours.
I doubt you’ll have a better experience with something like Mission Impossible: Fallout on your phone during the daily bus commute compared to an IMAX experience. But it mustn’t go unsaid that not everyone can afford the ever-increasing cinema ticket price hikes – you shouldn’t have to sacrifice dinner for the latest IMAX experience!
I think there is no “best way” to view a film, every film is unique and it will therefore play out differently depending on your chosen medium, who you’re with and how you personally connect with the environment you watch it in.