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Digital Filmmaking: Can it finally take over the film medium?

Gone were the days when films were edited using a Moviola or a Steenbeck where the actual film prints were manually cut and spliced to create every edited scene in a movie. Now, even those using film stocks to shoot a motion picture project scans the processed negatives to create digital copies that can be more conveniently edited using the computer. The special effects work of today has become something accessible even by those making non-professional projects. Indeed, the digital technology has revolutionized the film-making process.

The technical process of using the film format for motion picture projects applies the same concept when taking photos using 35mm negatives, which are then developed, then the positive image gets printed on a photo paper. The technical process of using digital format for motion picture projects applies the same concept when taking photos using digital still cameras where the images are stored as digital files that can be readily transferred to the computer.

The development of digital technology is as fast as the new releases of laptops and mobile phones. Every season, there are regular releases of 3D and HD cameras, editing and special effects software, and digital movie players and projectors. Nowadays, depending on the scope of a particular project, a storyteller can already explore much of the depths of his/her imagination and express himself/herself in any way possible.

While the power of digital technology becomes an ultimate tool for filmmakers to take advantage of, on the other side of the spectrum, this power can sometimes enslave the storyteller. The technology can endanger the storytelling aspect of a movie, often times upstaging the very essence of the story. While the benefits of digital technology make a filmmaker’s imagination easier to capture and present, misusing digital tools can possibly alter the actual vision of the filmmaker and make the film out of the human touch that makes watching a movie a magical and touching experience.

Is digital filmmaking taking over film some time in the future? While there is that possibility, it would take a much more powerful technology to completely make film an obsolete medium. It is also highly possible not to completely eradicate film in the world of cinematic storytelling because film-making does not merely require one specific format that can fit every single film project.

It is always beneficial for filmmakers to have more options of tools to use to complement their stories and visions. For instance, while 3D animation is the current hype, especially in Hollywood where films like “Avatar” and “How to Train Your Dragon” has recently become the new industry standards, others know that their projects work better in the 2D realm. In the world of animation, there are still those who use 2D Flash animation like “Waltz with Bashir,” stop-motion animation like the “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” and even traditional animation showcasing hand-drawn pieces as how Disney movies from decades ago were made like with “The Princess and the Frog.” Even the process called rotoscoping used for older animated classics like “Betty Boop” and “Popeye the Sailor” are still applied in certain projects that already involve digital processing within their production pipelines.

Every single film project envisioned by a filmmaker has varying needs thematically, creatively, and technically. Even two very similar stories can be interpreted differently by two filmmakers. In fact, even a single script shot by two separate production teams would never look exactly like each other.

There are film buffs who still love watching silent movies. There are times that some filmmakers still produce silent movies that have all the elements of the old classics. There are occasions that filmmakers still prefer using black and white film for their motion picture projects. There are stories that work better in animated form than in live action. At the same time, there are projects that seem to work best by combining various styles and formats. The process of creating a film is very technical, yet it is filled with much subjective insights and decisions.

Ultimately, the use of digital or film format for a motion picture project is a matter of need and preference both in the creative and logistic sides of the production.

Those who grew up with film tend to appreciate the medium the most as they can readily see the technical benefits of shooting on film, then apply its prime quality within the digital workflow to make the best visuals for their movies. Interestingly, those who became masters of their crafts using older film machines can never be underestimated amidst the power of digital machines that make the process much more efficient for the new generation of film professionals. For instance, Michael Kahn won the Academy Award for Film Editing with “Schindler’s List”, a film he edited using the old school film editing machine Moviola.

More often than not, the one thing that may possibly involve digital filmmaking in most of film projects of today and the future is the use of computers and other digital processes somewhere in their film-making workflows.

The tools constantly change, but the overall concept of cinematic storytelling always remains the same.

Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne is a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. From mainstream essentials to independent flair, she knows the drill in making entertaining and well-meaning productions. She can lead a pack passionate about extreme action and technological edge; she can breathe an endearing and sentimental style for a team with a sweet disposition.

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