Digital cinematography is the latest revolution in the motion picture industry and, given its many advantages over the traditional use of film, it is here to stay.

Major studios and independent filmmakers alike are embracing the newest technology and anyone considering a career in film production needs to become familiar with digital techniques.

What is digital filmmaking?

Digital cinematography captures moving pictures digitally, rather than on film, just like the difference between a digital camera and your old film camera. The idea of digital cinematography was first introduced in the late 1980’s, by Sony and was marketed as “electronic cinematography”. This idea was not successful however, and it wasn’t until the late 1990’s that digital video cameras gained widespread use.

Industry acceptance

Today, digital cinematography is being embraced by the film industry. In 2009, Slumdog Millionaire became the first film shot in digital to win an Academy Award for Best Cinematography. Animated feature films have also widely adopted the new techniques to create stunning 3D effects. Digital cinematography certainly has come a long way since its inception in the 1980’s.

What are the benefits of digital filmmaking?

The most obvious advantage of digital cinematography over traditional film is the cost. For moving pictures shot with film, producers need to consider costs such as the film itself, processing the film, transferring the film to video and negative cutting. These expenses can run into the tens of thousands. Digital cinematography eliminates these costs.

Digital cinematography saves time as well as money. Because a director can watch the scene as it is being shot, rather than after it have been developed and processed, reshoots can be avoided. Digital technology also streamlines the transfer between filming and post-production, allowing visual effects to be added while filming in still in progress.

Digital filmmaking offers a number of technical advantages too. For instance, film cameras are large and heavy, imposing restrictions on where the can be mounted. Digital cameras come in a variety of sizes and can be quite compact, offering flexibility in regards to possible shots.

Computer animation

Animation used in films has also received a digital makeover. Most animation studios have moved away from the old stop motion technique, which is an extremely slow process, and towards computer-based graphics.

3D computer graphics have become especially popular for their realistic and engaging visuals. 3D computer animation is used both to enhance live action motion pictures, as in the special effects in Jurassic Park, as well as used to create entire films, such as Toy Story. In 2009, the popular film Avatar incorporated both digital animations and live acting to create the highest grossing film of all time. Clearly the possibilities of this technology are only beginning to be realised.

Switching to digital

Major studios aren’t the only ones moving to digital. Because of the low cost, the digital revolution is also a grassroots movement within the film industry, with independent producers taking advantage of the benefits of digital cinematography.

The biggest obstacle for most filmmakers wanting to make the switch is a lack of proper training. Because film was so widely used in the past, few individuals working in the film industry are familiar with the newest techniques.

Beginning a career in digital filmmaking

With such a promising future in front of it and so few who have mastered the techniques, it is wise for anyone looking to pursue a career in film production to learn about digital filmmaking. The best way to gain experience and knowledge of digital filmmaking is by enrolling in a digital media course through an accredited programme, such as a Diploma of Digital Filmmaking.

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