Posted by: Tony Brown | February 15, 2010

Technology in Film

Movies have helped us to escape the reality of or lives by getting consumed by the story and the life of the characters that the actors portray. Movies play to our emotions and imagination. When I feel depressed I look for a good comedy to lift me. When I want to understand things I will look for a drama that deals with life. When angry, I seek out an action adventure where the antagonist is conquered.
The movie industry has changed dramatically from its beginnings as a simple Zoetrope and Nickelodeon, to the high impact and visually stunning high definition digital film formats we see today. There has been opposition in the industry during each step of advancement. Studios felt that they should have control over what was produced and the actors where under contract with the studio to make a preset number of films regardless of success or failure of the movie. At the top were the five major studios, MGM, Paramount Pictures, RKO, Warner Bros., and Twentieth Century Fox. Beneath them were Universal Studios and Columbia Pictures. Now the film industry has several production companies that produce independent pictures thanks to such people as Charley Chaplin who was the key artist who along with D. W. Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford formed Untied Artist. This creation of the first independent film company opened the door to the movies we enjoy today.
Now with the technological advances it has made it affordable for anyone to pick up a camera and record a story and be a movie producer. There has been a lot of people in Hollywood that objected to using digital over film but the audiences have not. I talked with Vilmos Zsigmond a few years ago about the changes being made and he expressed that he liked working with film because of the range of shadows and highlights that the digital format could not achieve. Even so, we are now in the age of digital film and we continue to see more and more blockbuster films being produced in digital and digital 3D. 1997, Panavision and Sony announced their collaboration on the development of a 24P digital high definition camera suitable for use by filmmakers to create big screen motion picture image quality. Shortly afterward, George Lucas asked Sony and Panavision to accelerate the development of the 24P system in order for him to shoot Star Wars: Episode 2. We knew, from 45 years of experience, that a complete imaging system approach was the only way for traditional film crews to make a seamless transition into digital production. With this in mind, we made a number of modifications to the Sony HDW-F900 24P camera. http://www.panavision.com/product_detail.php?maincat=1&cat=290&id=100&node=c0,c136,c143maincat=1&cat=290&id=100&node=c0,c136,c143 For starters, the Panavised camera received a heavy duty front plate and lens mount, along with a prism block modified to work with our specially designed Primo Digitalâ„¢ lenses. The system now accommodates most of our standard film camera accessories as well as new accessories designed exclusively for digital cinematography.

As I mentioned, the production cost has dropped within the budget range of most independent “film” makers. Star Wars was produced for $10 million in 1977 and grossed $783,700,000, that was considered to be low budget at the time. Titanic in 1997 cost $200 million to produce which was a great risk, and grossed $1,834,779,000. http://history.sandiego.edu/gen/filmnotes/costs-movies.html

December 2009, James Cameron releases his high-definition movie “Avatar” in 3-D and hits a home run at the box office with a estimated production costs of $237 million and as of February 7th has grossed $629,344,204 in the USA alone. Avatar has received 9 nominations for the “Oscars”. Those who are interested in the technical aspects of film making can find out more by visiting the American Cinematographer magazines website at http://www.theasc.com/ where you can find and in depth article about making Avatar. I have been a subscriber to the magazine for 10 years and I have never missed out on any of the changes being made. If you are interested in film or television, feel free to subscribe to the ASC, you will never regret it.

Is Digital here to stay? You bet it is. For the majority of movie goers, they can’t tell that the movie wasn’t filmed but rather recorded. Audiences can see that the movies are clearer than ever before and that the cost of tickets has increased. I used to pay $9.50 to see and IMAX movie which is what I paid to see Avatar in 3-D in 35mm. You say that you want that experience at home, well you will have to shell out the big bucks which is hard to part with in this economy.

-AB-

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