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April 30, 2012

Technology and Moving Pictures

For a medium that is barely over 100 years old, moving pictures are often bogged down by the technology that makes them possible in the first place.  Since the Lumiere brothers had their first private moving picture screening in 1895 until the recent NAB conference and CinemaCon events in Las Vegas, the concept of a bunch of pictures shown one right after the other mimicking motion and therefore life, has not changed, but how that simple concept has been experimented with and altered by technology is enormous.

Just during my fifteen years in the business, the technology I work with has gone through many variations and changes.  Some of which were good and are still around, some of which did not make the cut.  Coming from a camera background, I’ve needed and wanted to familiarize myself with most new cameras that come out.

BlackMagic Cinema Camera At NAB, Blackmagic, known as a software designer introduced their new “cinema” camera, which was a surprise to all.  It basically looks like a small hard drive that you stick a lens on the front of.  Supposedly, footage captured with this camera will have a dynamic range of thirteen stops.  That’s crazy!  That basically deletes the need for getting a good exposure when shooting.

On one hand, I think this is awesome, but on the other, it’s a gimmick that will cause people to buy this camera who have no business using it, because they think it’s going to make the storytelling process easier.

Now, I must also admit that I am NOT an early adopter.  I’m no Luddite either, but when reading about Peter Jackson showing a ten minute preview clip of his new Hobbit movie at CinemaCon that plays at 48 frames per second, instead of the standard 24, I question whether that’s worth it or a good idea.  Many theaters have just recently been making the switch to digital projection, which overall is a very good thing, but supposedly, to display 3D footage at 48fps is another new ball game and therefore needs new equipment to show it.  I love early adopters and trailblazers like Jackson because they really do advance technique and style, among other things, for the rest of us, but this seems like a strange decision by him and Warner Brothers who gave the green light to do this and one that might be considered a little egotistical.

The technology that allows more and more people to create motion pictures and therefore become storytellers is wonderful and will continue to change and evolve, but the story is what it’s all about.  Any professional will tell you that and I’ve lived my professional life by that as well.  It doesn’t matter what tools you use, if the story is good, everything else falls away and the viewer will pay attention.  The story comes first.

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