Monday, May 25, 2009

The Future of Digital CInema?

The death of SD is imminent. So many people, including myself, are selling their souls to HD. What many people don't realize is just because you have an "HD camera" does not necessarily mean you have the quality of HD. You simply have the resolution sizes of 720x1260 or 1080x1920. Why else would there be $200 HD cameras and then $30,000 HD cameras?

HD is slowly becoming the new SD. I look at HD footage now and sometimes think to myself... "Is that all?" I know HD cameras are capable of recording gorgeous images, but bigger and better resolution sizes are on the horizon. Just look at the RED One camera which records an image 2x that of 1080p HD, and this is only the beginning. RED is supposedly engineering a sensor that is capable of recording an image that is 15,750 pixels by 28,000 pixels. WOW! To see an image that high quality with that amount of detail would probably make our heads explode. Not to mention we currently have no way of projecting an image that high quality, but still, RED is working on it.

Just look at this comparison chart

It just blows my mind to think that there is something bigger and better than HD out there, and it's not film. In fact, RED's camera "The EPIC", appropriately named, has an even higher resolution than IMAX 70mm film. This means that in a few years, indie filmmakers will be able to afford and produce a film shot at the resolution of IMAX on a camera no bigger than a standard Panasonic HVX or Sony EX1 camera rig.

Here's a look at the different sensor's used to record your image

The 2/3" sensor on top is what is common in most high end HD camcorders. Now look at RED's Epic sensor on the bottom. Just the sheer magnitude of it blows my mind! Imagine getting dust on that bad boy. A sure fire way to ruin your day! Anyways, this is what we're dealing with. Every frame shot on the Epic camera at a resolution of 15,750x28,000 will be the equivalent to a 261 megapixel image taken on a still camera. It's questionable to say how practical it would be shooting an image with such high a resolution, but simply to say we can is a feat in itself.

Also, with the emerging market for video DSLR's (Digital SLR cameras capable of recording video), getting a film like image is now becoming increasingly easier/affordable. The huge success of video dSLR's such as Canon's 5D MKII, Nikon's D90, and Panasonic's soon to be released GH1 prove that an affordable digital video camera with a built in 35mm adapter is in high demand.

Film will always have the nostalgic look and feel that so many of us film geeks love, but digital is getting very close. I would love to shoot on a real 35mm film camera, but financially it doesn't make sense when the digital alternative is a fraction of the cost. So for now I am forced to shoot all digital, but that's not looking like such a bad option anymore. Digital is slowly catching up to the look of film, both in quality and resolution. It's hard to predict what will happen in the next few years, but I am most certain there will be changes.

Take a look for yourself! If someone told me">this was shot on film, I would believe them.

Is film dead? Of course not. I'm sure big budget Hollywood productions will continue to shoot on 35mm film for many years to come, but then again many big time film directors, like Steven Soderbergh, are switching to an all digital workflow. I am curious to see in the coming years if other directors will follow suit and abandon film altogether.

So the question is, why would you spend the money to shoot on film stock when you can get an identical or better image from a digital video camera? Only time will tell.

The future is looking very bright for Indie filmmakers like myself. I can't wait to see what's in store!

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