I dream for a living.
       - Steven Spielberg

Digital Filmmaking:
A Ruined Generation

Unlike what the title suggests, let me say from the get-go that this article is not meant to be a bitter scolding of the new digital technology that's surging and gradually replacing film. That would be pointless because digital is the future, and there's nothing we can do about it.

Rather, the purpose of this article is to call attention to the regrettable impact digital has had on many youngsters, undermining their approach and technique towards filmmaking, which in turn is responsible for mediocre movies.

As you read on, reflect on your own mode of production and think of ways you can improve it. If you think I overlooked something, please be sure to share your feedback.

Cheap Medium, Cheap Product

Compared to shooting film, shooting video is incredibly cheap. Cell phones can shoot! When you think about it, the number of people with cameras must have quadrupled in a decade. Well-to-do children from affluent families walk around with digital cameras in their backpacks. Go figure.

Video clips from digital cameras and cell phones can be deleted with the push of a button, so the craft of capturing images is banalized, especially as it becomes commonplace to a larger segment of the population. Since deleting video is easy, people shooting it have no discipline. For them, it seems more convenient to delete and shoot again. Rehearsals and planning, which are paramount to decent filmmaking, become a secondary concern – a big mistake if you're trying to go pro.

Filmmaker's Insight:
The Industry Standard

In high-end film productions, digital doesn't reduce much of the costs. Think about it. Union technicians and craftsmen are getting paid by the hour – even if they are just sitting around telling anecdotes to one another. The producer, whose wallet is being violated by the minute, absolutely does not want to see you "figuring things out" on set during principal photography.

In this scenario, methodical pre-production and planning – using resources such as storyboard, floorplans, and shot lists – become essential to a smooth workflow. And as long as your intention is to venture into professional filmmaking, this is the kind of approach you want to hone as a student.

The Required Methodology

What I'm driving at can be summarized in one word: "discipline" – which can be defined as:

· Training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement.
· Controlled behavior resulting from disciplinary training; self-control.

A similar word, "methodology" is defined as:

· A body of practices, procedures, and rules used by those who work in a discipline or engage in an inquiry; a set of working methods.

Shooting film naturally induces these behaviors and self-control. Why? Because it's expensive and permanent. If you shoot film carelessly, then the crappy image you take is forever imprinted on the negative. If you want, you could burn the negative, but you cannot delete the image and re-use the negative.

The antonyms to the word "discipline" are:

· Chaos
· Confusion
· Disorder
· Disorganization
· Negligence

Are these the words you want associated to you and your projects?

Film Professor's Insight:
Shooting Film for Experience

Film is not out of the market yet. In fact, many schools still use it as a teaching tool. I myself recommend shooting film a few times just so you can get the picture. No pun intended.

Remember that in a film camera there's no LCD monitor to preview the image and review the take afterwards. It sounds frightening, but this is why it's valid experience. You and your cinematographer have to get out there with a light meter and make sure you have all the adequate settings for decent exposure.

You will quickly realize that it takes ten times longer for you to shout out "action" or press the record button. You will rehearse and rehearse and take care of the smallest details before rolling. This approach is the same used on the sets of feature films. Thus, as a student, you need to make sure you are proficient in this respect, so you can be ready for the next level.

And just so you know, shooting film can actually speed up the post-production phase because your editor will have less footage to go over. Digital made the process so "easy" that some directors choose to film rehearsals.

 

 

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