Analog/Digital (2012-2015)

The Analog/Digital research project aimed to provide an in-depth and methodologically substantiated study of the effects of analog and digital recording processes on the reception of fiction films. In line with this objective, parallel versions of three short narrative films, each attributable to a specific genre, were shot using digital and analog camera. Subsequently, two experiments were conducted to compare the effects of the various films on test spectators.

The film industry has undergone a fundamental change. Analog technology, which had prevailed for over a century, has been replaced by digital processes. Using audience-based experiments, the Analog/Digital project is the first-ever empirical study of the effects of this seismic shift on audience experiences of cinema. Within a wider interdisciplinary project, ZHdK film students produced three short fiction films, which were shot simultaneously with a conventional and a digital camera. The two versions of each film differed only as regards the recording technique. During postproduction, a third version was produced, in which the digital film was aligned as closely as possible with the analog look. Subsequently, the effects of the different films were studied using 487 test spectators.

Research findings reveal that the transformation from analog to digital recording formats does not impair an audience’s emotional cinema experience. As soon as an audience becomes engaged emotionally with a story, no significant differences between the original analog and digital material can be made out. By contrast, the comparison of projection types revealed different results. In test screenings involving a smaller audience, mechanical 35mm projection resulted in significantly higher emotional involvement than digital projection.

The large number of test subjects and the realistic cinema tests make the project unique. Its great relevance is further demonstrated by the considerable interest from both the Swiss and the international film industry.
SNF Applicant und General Manager
Prof. Christian Iseli, Institute of the Perfoming Arts and Film, ZHdK

Head of the Project
Prof. Pierre Mennel, ZHdK Subject Area Film, Director of Photography

Technical Managers
Shooting Process: Andreas Birkle, Assistant at ZHdK Film Studies, Director of Photography;
Postproduction Process: Christian Iseli

ZHdK Film Students (MA und BA) 
Producer: Filippo Bonacci
Mentors: Christian Iseli, Pierre Mennel, Manuel Flurin Hendry, Peter Purtschert, Georg Bringolf

University of Berne, Institute of Psychology, Dr. David Weibel
University of Zurich, Institute of Cinema Studies, Prof. Dr. Barabara Flückiger, Dr. Simon Spiegel 

Industry Partners
ARRI Arnold & Richter Ciné Technik GmbH & Co, Munich
Cinegrell GmbH, Zürich
Kodak SA, Lausanne


Ilir Hasanaj | 2012 | Comedy | 9 min

A couple goes on a road trip in Spain and tries drugs.


Wendy Pillonel | 2012 | Science Fiction, Children | 5 min

Parachutes takes place in a future where the sea doesn’t exist anymore.