The 80's and Digitial Cinematography

08/09 - 2014

The 80’s were a period of technological innovations in many fields, with the creation of the machines like the Comodore 64, Macintosh 128k, the Walkman and the rise of VHS. In the motion picture industry the 80’s were marked by the adoption of “high concept” films and thus the rise of blockbuster movies, with the highest US grossing film being ET. The raise and importance of cinematography pushed its boundaries, fueled also by advancements in technologies, the stage was set for the pioneers of digital cinematography.

In the late 1980s Sony began marketing the concept of "electronic cinematography”, utilizing its analog Sony HDVS Professional Video Cameras. The effort met with very little success. However, this led to one of the earliest digitally shot feature movies the Italian made Giulia e Guilia, which was produced in 1987 by Peter Del Monte. It wasn’t until 1998 with the introduction of HDCAM, that “electronic” was replaced with “digital” to what we know today as digital cinematography, and started gaining momentum in the market.

In May 1999 George Lucas challenged the supremacy of the movie-making medium of film for the first time by including footage filmed with high-definition digital cameras in Star War Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the digital footage blended seamlessly with the footage shot on film and he announced later that year he would film its sequels entirely on a digital medium. Digital Projectors were also installed during that year in four theaters for the showing of The Phantom Menace. In May 2001 Once Upon a time in Mexico became the first well-known movie to be shot in 24 frame-per-second high-definition digital format, partially developed by George Lucas using a Sony HDW-F900 camera. In May 2002 Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones was released having also been shot using a Sony camera, the ball had started to roll.

In 2009, Slumdog Millionaire became the first movie shot mainly in digital to be awarded the Academy Award for Best Cinematography and the highest grossing movie in the history of cinema, Avatar, not only was shot on digital cameras as well, but also made the main revenues at the box office no longer by film, but digital projection.

Today, digital cinematography, have surpassed traditional video in resolution, dynamic range, format and has established new ways of movie making. With the leaps that have been accomplished in the field within the last 8 years, and with the mainstreaming and seamless integration of visual effects, movie going has never been more exciting.