This May, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones will be beamed into theaters across the world, and while this may be the most high profile digital release to date, it is most certainly not the first. Earlier this year, an independent film called Jackpot opened to little fanfare, but it did grab the attention of critics and pundits throughout the film industry do to the fact that it was shot in the experimental 24P format. The director, Michael Polish, was introduced to the new format and agreed to use his film as a test case. Skeptics who viewed the finished product were shocked at how great it looked. The film is now nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards.
More and more, films in 2001 were being shot on the 24P format. Studios also began to rapidly experiment with digital projection. In Santa Monica, Ocean's Eleven was being shown digitally... you may have not even realized it. A rep from Sundance tells us that only two or three years ago, the number of digital features on display could've been as few as four or five. This year, out of the two hundred or so films, at least a third were either shot on DV or were digitally projected.
So what does this mean for all of you film loaders, projectionists and processing people out there? Well. Basically, it means that it's time to learn a new trade. Like the advent of computers, the changeover will happen slowly, but here's the kicker... It's already been happening.... Now it's picking up speed.
Yes, sir. Digital is poised to make a dash to the front. Here's why:
1. 24P Cameras. The 24P camera is a highly sophisticated digital camera which shoot progressive scan (that's what the "P" is for). This is a way of capturing and encoding images that result in the highest resolution image available. Also, reloading a 24P camera is as simple as changing the tape, and the tapes last about an hour. A film camera on a full Mag offers about 10 mins. before a reload, which itself takes a few minutes.
2. Post Production time will be considerably less. Imagine editing, looping, color-timing and scoring all being done simultaneously...
3. Distribution could literally take place the day the picture is locked. Forget about having upwards of 7000 prints done (as was in the case of "Harry Potter"). Instead, the films would be encoded on a DVD-ROM or transmitted to the theater by satellite.
So far, five films in 2001 were shot in the digital format, and if you saw them, I bet you didn't even notice it wasn't shot on film. Joining the two mentioned earlier are Session 9 directed by Brad Anderson, and the THC comedy How High. Of course you have Monsters, Inc., and a few bits in Ali were shot on DV to add to the creative narrative of the film.
So basically, the only hold-up is cost. With companies like Technicolor, Boeing, Qualcomm and more investing in heavy research, it looks like TI's DLP (Digital Light Processing) won't be the only one you'll be watching for long.
From somewhere on the beach -