After a century and some change, traditional motion picture cameras are going off the market. While they will still be used to shoot your favorite movies and TV shows, eventually they will become as antiquated as phonographs.
This is just one of the many moves the film industry has made toward going digital. While many welcome this change, there are those (myself included) who feel this change is not entirely sound. With all the changes that have been made to film in just this last decade, you have to wonder if we are getting ahead of ourselves and leaving art behind.
One of the wonderful things about traditional cameras is at this point they are very cheap. This allows independent filmmakers to enter the business with little financial investment compared to what it will be like when they have to go digital.
A completely digital medium also makes it easier for corporations to control their property. No, I’m not talking about piracy, although that will be a concern for some. Rather, I’m talking about these digital cameras only recording in a proprietary format that can only be edited on proprietary software. Just think of what happens when you try to move songs from your iPod into any media player other than iTunes.
Perhaps the most painful part of this change is due to the almost religious nostalgia that film fans have toward anything related to the business. Whenever something changes the status quo there’s a huge backlash. It’s just like when color and high definition were introduced. The fan boys will cry foul for a while and then start to come around (the obvious exception being 3D technology).
The most important change this new digital frontier will cause is a change in the way we see movies. It’s a simple fact that movies shot on digital film look different than those shot on traditional 35mm film. Of course, in time, the men behind the camera will figure out how to make it look as good as traditional film and better. In the meantime though, we will have to put up with film’s awkward puberty.
Still, there is a silver lining to this dark cloud of change. Now that more and more media will be stored digitally, we won’t have to worry as much about losing media to time and accidents. While server crashes and acts of god can still destroy digital copies, it’s still a more secure than a highly combustible piece of celluloid that can’t be exposed to direct sunlight. Digital film can also make the industry more cost effective, but it will take time.
All in all, there’s nothing we can do to reverse this change, so we had better get used to it. It’s not like this is the end of cinema as we know it. Really it’s just the end of cinema as we knew it, and it will be missed.