Every generation has seen new technologies emerge which promise to change cinema forever. From the introduction of sound, colour, and widescreen, cinema has been an ever-adapting artistic medium.
Over the last decade we have seen the introduction of two major technologies in film which have and will continue to change the way we see cinema: digital filmmaking and 3D. While there are greatly differing opinions on these two new technologies, one thing is for certain, they are here to stay.
Strangely, while these technologies emerged as major players at roughly the same time, they signal two entirely different paradigms in cinema. These two developments in filmmaking could not be more different in the changes they will make to the industry.
As the quality of home video is improving, many have been prophesying the end of the movie theatre. It is, however, with the massive popularity of 3D, that studios are seeing this new dimension to cinema as its saving grace. With DVD, Blu-ray and now HD streaming, going to the cinema was becoming redundant to many film goers, but with studios shooting or post-converting blockbuster films into 3D, going to the theatre is becoming more of a spectacle then it previously was. This new technology has not won over all audience members, yet with the incredible box-office intakes of films like Avatar and Up, this new trend will continue to grow.
While 3D may be putting new life into the movie theatre, digital filmmaking is allowing just about anyone to make a film. While early adopters of digital filmmaking, like David Lynch and Danny Boyle, continue to use the technology today, it is the non-professional market that will cause the major change.
Beginning with services like YouTube, consumers are now able to make short films cheaply and post them online for instant access to global audiences. As the price and ease-of-use of nearly professional grade digital cameras becomes more accessible, we see a growing movement of young filmmakers taking advantage of this new technology. And just as the technology improves, so does the ambition of these ultra low-budget films. No longer is YouTube the end goal for these filmmakers, but rather film-festivals and ultimately mass distribution.
These ambitions are not simply pipe-dreams, as several ultra low-budget films have recently reached mainstream audiences. A perfect example was last year’s surprise box-office hit Paranormal Activity. Produced on a $11,000 budget, the film not only received wide-distribution but ultimately made over $ 100 million.
As blockbusters become even more expensive to produce with the new 3D technology, low-budget filmmakers will be able to create professional-quality films on shoestring. While a few short years ago it seemed impossible that we would ever see a 3D blockbuster compete with a digital, low-budget film, the success of Paranormal Activity suggests that day may not be that far off.