Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The Future of Cinema

What does the future hold?  Look at the differences between the ways films were made just thirty years ago compared to how they are now.  People were probably saying cinema was in trouble back then as well, but the technological advances of recent years have helped cinema endure and will continue to do so further ahead than you can probably imagine.

Performance and story are still the key to success, of course, but the technological changes are enhancing the experience and giving moviegoers reason to part with their cash.  Furthermore, the quantity is set to improve within the foreseeable future.  For decades, movies have been filmed at twenty-four frames-per-second and then projected onto the big screen with a shutter system showing the same frame a couple of times, boosting the overall frame rate and reducing signs of flicker being visible to the audience.  When a 3D movie is filmed and put on display at twenty-four frames-per-second, strobing and judder can become more apparent.  Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy has been filmed at forty-eight frames-per-second as well as in 3D.  James Cameron has said that the next two sequels to his record-breaking smash, Avatar, will be shot at sixty frames-per-second.  It could be argued that Cameron embraces these advances more than any other filmmaker.  When he made Terminator, in 1984, they used stop-motion animation, miniature models and glass paintings for the special effects.  These days, all the effects are digital and he doesn’t shoot on celluloid anymore.  When explaining high frame rate movies, Cameron has said, “If watching a 3D movie is like looking through a window, then (with this) we’ve taken the glass out of the window and we’re staring at reality.”

Of course, this will mainly apply to the mega-budget mainstream offerings.  Hollywood is run by accountants and the target market has to be catered for.  But, the recent film festival at Cannes emphasises that the artistry in filmmaking is just as strong as ever.  The independent film system continues to provide a stream of talent and promises to go from strength to strength as the medium becomes more accessible.  Emerging talent is usually recognised and a fraction are sometimes lucky enough to become embraced by the studio system.  Christopher Nolan and Duncan Jones cut their teeth on the independent circuit before moving to the studio system.  More recently, following the success of his low-budget indie hit Monsters, Gareth Edwards has been given the task of helming the big-budget behemoth that is Godzilla.

Another avenue for independent filmmakers is the internet.  If you look hard enough, you’ll find impressive shorts that you would expect to have been made on a much larger budget than they actually have been.  Again, this stems from the technological advances in the tools available. 

As movies become more accessible, viewers crave more quality content as the selection becomes saturated.  Movies now have to stand out to succeed and strike while the iron is hot.  Iron Man 3 was available to pre-order on Blu-Ray and DVD before it was even released in the cinema.  These days, when something is released on DVD, it is simultaneously available via an On-Demand service as well, with the gap since it cinema release now averaging three months.  Taking this further, British filmmaker Ben Wheatley recently announced that his new film, A Field in England, will be simultaneously released in the cinema, on DVD, available On-Demand and screened on Film Four on the same day.  It’ll be interesting to see what happens.  Will people still pay to see it at the cinema or buy the DVD when they can watch it free on Film Four the same day? 

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