Digital Cinema Report celebrates its eleventh anniversary this month and, rather bizarrely I admit, the milestone made me think of one of the most famous (and surely most often misquoted) conversations in movie history. Even though it’s comedy I think the scene speaks rather eloquently about the ongoing and never-ending dynamic between the creative community and the engineers who supply them with technology that is always better than ever. The conversation takes place, of course, in the cult classic This is Spinal Tap between heavy metal rocker Nigel Tufnel (played by Christopher Guest) and documentary filmmaker Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner). They are speaking about the band’s unique amplifiers.
The Big Picture
Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity has created more buzz in the digital cinema production world than any motion picture in recent memory. The (quite literally) breathtaking twelve-minute single take opening shot that begins in outer space with a satellite repair mission gone wrong and ends with Sandra Bullock's astronaut cast terrifyingly into the void is just one of Gravity’s filmmaking achievements that has captured wide attention.
As the second decade of the digital cinema exhibition era progresses it’s a fitting time to consider the ten movies that played the most definitive role in moving the transition forward.
Kathy Staab bought the Jane Pickens Theatre in Newport, Rhode Island in 2004, initially simply as an investment while still active in her long and successful career in fashion and retail. Over the years she had held various merchandising executive positions at Brookstone (Gardeners Eden), Talbots, Jordan Marsh and Macy’s where she developed a clear sense of current trends and customer demands. When exactly the theatre became not simply an investment but her passion is unclear but today she’s using all the skills she learned in retail to revitalize and remake one of the oldest theatres in North America.
In the early days of digital cinema, advocates of the new technology said one of the best things about it was the ability it gave theatre owners to show all kinds of content, not just Hollywood movies. The studios scoffed at this and labeled anything they didn’t produce as, essentially, worthless garbage. One early term was ODS, which stood for Other Digital … well, you get it.
Great stories, in reality, aren’t the only ingredient needed to make a successful documentary. Filmmakers also need patience, perseverance, creativity, luck and, of course, funding. To say that co-directors Pamela Green and Jarik van Sluijs have a great story to tell is an understatement: largely unknown and unappreciated, Alice Guy-Blaché was, without question, one of the most important figures in motion picture history. Now, Green and van Sluijs are using digital cinema technology to gather, assemble and organize a wide range of information to get Guy-Blaché’s story ready for the big screen. And what a story it is.
Despite the fact that most of the digital cinema theatres around the world are projecting in 2K-resolution and that the vast majority of TV broadcasters in the world have not yet adopted even digital HD, a growing number of production professionals strongly advocate that all filmmakers shoot in 4K. One such advocate is Jeff Blauvelt, owner and founder of HD Cinema, a boutique rental house that also provides post-production services to a growing number of independent filmmakers from its two locations in Los Angeles and Westport, Connecticut. In Blauvelt’s mind, shooting 4K digital cinema just makes good creative and business sense.
In early 2010, Anna Foerster was one of the first cinematographers to shoot a feature film using a prototype Arri Alexa camera and Codex Recorders. That film, Anonymous, blended court intrigue, scandalous romance and the timeless lust for power, all set in the visually rich period of Shakespeare’s England. Foerster won the German Film Award for best cinematographer for her work on Anonymous. Now Foerster has reteamed with Roland Emmerich on White House Down, a contemporary action thriller about an attack on the U.S. president and the cop who defends him. Foerster and Emmerich chose to work with the Alexa and Codex once again. “It’s a fully developed, fantastic way of working,” says Foerster.
Welcome to Digital Cinema Report 2.0. Starting with this issue the completely redesigned magazine now delivers daily updates, videos, direct links to social media, and easier access to the thousands of articles in our archives. Our redesign coincides with a turning point in the motion picture business. The digital cinema era has reached a plateau and while many see this as the end of something it is in reality just the beginning of fulfilling the promise that all the new technology has to offer – the beginning of the New Cinema era. When we launched Digital Cinema Report more than a decade ago 35mm film still dominated the motion picture industry and the Internet was just emerging as a cultural force. That has all changed and the New Cinema takes advantage of all the digital tools now available to make films and programs that are a genuine part of the social fabric, sometimes even in the conception, funding and development stages. The result is a growing number of events, movies, and documentaries that have powerful, personal and cultural messages. Last year’s The Invisible War is a perfect example. Made for less than a million dollars and nominated for many major awards, including the Oscar, it is a very important film.
For more than four decades the Downtown Community Center in Lower Manhattan has been a vital resource for training and nurturing independent filmmakers in particular documentary filmmakers. For most of that time DCTV has called a landmarked 1896 firehouse home.