Movies : Behind the Lens

Will digital cinema affect the movie industry as digital cameras have revolutionalized the photo industry?

What's the Difference?

Digital cinema - picture from According to Nicholas Negroponte in his book "Being Digital," "bits are in, atoms are out."

Digital cinema uses bits and bytes to record, transmit and display video as opposed to chemicals on film.

The quality of digital video has greatly increased since it's advent, but experts disagree whether it is up to the quality standards of film.

Only 50 cinemas around the country and 30 more around the world are equipped with digital projectors so far.

Digital is definitely the future of cinema, but how long it will take to become the standard is anyone's guess.

"Luke, I am your father"

Epside II - picture from Leave it to George Lucas, director of the famous Star Wars films, to usher in new technology. Lucas has been on the cutting edge of cinema technology since he released the first Star Wars film in 1977, which relied heavily on special effects.

In May of 2002 Lucas released the first big budget live action movie shot entirely on digital video, "Star Wars: Episode II, the Attack of the Clones." It cost Lucas an extra $100 million to record Episode II on digital video. The master copy of the movie resides as a computer file several terabytes in size.

He has also shot his new film, "Star Wars: Episode III, Revenge of the Sith," entirely on digital video and hopes that it will be shown mainly on digital projectors.

The Implications

  • With all of the running time that film gets, it suffers a lot of wear and tear, especially when not handled properly. Say goodbye to scratched prints and dirt spots.
  • The Motion Picture Association of America estimates that converting to digital could save a studio up to $12 million in savings per year on U.S. releases.
  • Possibility of showing movies with different language tracks and ratings at the same theater.
  • Disadvantages:
  • Who foots the bill, the distributors or the theater chains? A single digital projector costs over $200,000, whereas a film projector costs around $30,000.
  • Companies, like Technicolor that process film and oversee the process of shipping copies of features, will take a big hit.
  • Easier to pirate a digital copy.

    Check out a teaser trailer for Star Wars: Episode III, Revenge of the Sith, from

    Find out more about Sony's HDCAM, the digital camcorder that George Lucas filmed Episode II with.

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