Photo: Evolution of technology in Cinema/Twentieth Century Fox
A Look Back at Technology
In 1895, the Lumiére Brothers used their invention, the Cinématographe, to capture some of the first motion pictures. Auguste and Louis Lemière’s short films were the start of the commercial development of film and cinema. Georges Méliès, another pioneer in filmmaking, built on the Lumiére Brothers’ foundation with films like A Trip to the Moon and The Impossible Voyage. These early short films set the groundwork for the future of the movie industry. The Lumiére Brothers and Méliès are credited with some of the earliest innovations in film and are still revered by filmmakers today. Martin Scorsese’s Hugo was a five times Oscar winner that paid homage to these earlier innovators of film.
History of Technology in Cinema
Once the medium was created, it expanded and continued to evolve with the times. Color, animation, and sound were the next steps in the development of film. While color in film had been around since Méliès time, implemented with hand coloring frames, the two-colour and later three-colour systems of Technicolor propelled color in film. Films in the 1930s, like The Wizard of OZ, started to use the three-colour system to great effect. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the first animated feature film, was released by Walt Disney Studios in 1937. It was also released in color. And the film, The Jazz Singer, which came out in 1927, is credited with introducing sound to the movies. All three of these innovations in film carried the medium forward and paved the way for technology.
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Technology Advances – Film to Digital
A significant change in movies that still attracts debate today is the digital filmmaking process. Hollywood began to capture films digitally in the early 2000s, and by 2013 digital was more common than movies shot on film. Many directors spoke out against the shift from 35mm film to digital, but the shift is hard to stop. Paramount was the first studio to announce they would no longer release 35mm prints of films in the United States. There might be sentiment and reasons for holding on to the past, but new technological innovations will always challenge the medium of film.
Computer-generated imagery (CGI) and special effects (VFX), arguably the biggest technological innovations in cinema, have paved the way for the future of cinema. An Insider article discusses groundbreaking movies that brought special effects and CGI to new levels. Westworld, Tron, Toy Story, and The Matrix all had roles in establishing and improving new ways to use CGI. Westworld is credited with the first use of CGI in a film while Tron pushed the boundaries and extensively used CGI throughout the film. Toy Story was the first feature film made entirely with 3D animation. The Matrix used CGI and VFX to shoot iconic scenes that are ingrained in the pop culture of the late 90s.
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Rise of CGI & VFX
Director James Cameron, a founder of Digital Domain, is a pioneer in the development of CGI in film. His films continuously push the boundaries of what technology can do for movies. Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Titanic are markers in his filmography for the development of his use of CGI. Cameron’s Avatar was a milestone in cinema. Around 70% of the footage in the film was built from CGI.
While Avatar was groundbreaking, more and more films are using technology to create settings we’ve never seen before. An iD Tech article discusses the scene in Black Panther where a futuristic aircraft flies through the valleys of Wakanda. The location of these scenes do not exist. Solo: A Star Wars Story also contains scenes with locations and set pieces that do not exist. They are generated with virtual reality technology.
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Motion Capture Tech
Motion capture technology, used to create the onscreen character of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, is another technology that revolutionized film. Movies like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Avatar, and Avengers: Endgame all used motion-capture technology to animate digital models for characters in their films. It is rare to see a movie today that does not use some sort of CGI or VFX technology. Films have even been able to de-age actors with technology. The inventions of CGI and VFX opened the door to the future of film.
What to Expect in the Future of Film in Technology
The application of technology continues to advance and pave the way for new movie viewing experiences. Ready Player One depicts a world where you put on a pair of goggles and enter a whole new reality. Films have a history of predicting future technology. It would not be so far fetched to think that some version of a Ready Player One movie experience is in the cards. The gaming world has already progressed in this realm of virtual reality. Movies might be next.
Raindance discusses how digital technologies are reshaping the film industry. Autonomous Drone Cameras, 3D printing, 4k 3D cameras, algorithmic video editing, and cloud-based technologies can all be at the forefront in the evolution of film. These are the more tangible expectations for film. We already see the implementation of these technologies today, and it is reasonable to think that film will find a way to incorporate them. And as science fiction has predicted in the past, there might be technology used in the future of cinema that would seem outlandish today. We will have to wait and see.
By Drew Ross
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