Why are digital cameras dead in the water?

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Maybe you think you're shooting a film when you use your sophisticated digital camera -- I don't care even if it's the top of the line $100,000 camera; if it's digital, you've just thrown away all the money you put into that production in the garbage.

And it's not just your money, but the time and money that all your collaborators put into your movie. Notice, I call it a movie? Because it isn't a film anymore that you're making.

Now, you say that's ridiculous, some of the biggest filmmakers are shooting digital, and you name names. I've heard about it; I've read it in the papers.

Sure, if you're making a studio movie on digital, the studio will "protect" its investment by transferring the super-duper, special effects movie onto 35mm Eastman Kodak Intermediate stock. So now it's film! And, yes, it's finally not just a movie, but a film. This film will last and last and maybe someday even be a classic -- if it's any good.

What about all the 99% of the movies that aren't produced by major studios or picked up by a major studio? They'll end up as rubbish in a matter of months. One glitch in the movie and the whole thing is done for.

Of course, you can back up a digital movie, but the back-ups have to be periodically backed up. How many times and how many years is someone going to back up a digital movie? It will eventually be forgotten, right? Not so with a 35mm movie shot on film.

It doesn't matter even how successful a digital movie is -- as a movie -- it will end up as nothing right after it has played its original run, whether it's one week or one year. Eventually, it will be forgotten and fade away; even the technologies that could play such a digital movie will have become obsolete or have disappeared.

And what exactly is the technology of digital cameras? Are the images recorded on individual frames like a 35mm film? Not really; they may be called frames, but they're not frames. They're incomplete and fractured fields of magnetic tapes or hard drives that are packed with microscopic magnetic impulses recorded continuously that will have to be "read" by a "player" in order to generate images. There is in fact no such thing as images in the sense of transparencies or negatives.

And why were these horrendously difficult technologies invented? Why did images and movies have to be recorded on digital tape in the first place? Were they designed to be better than film?

Ignoring the fact that video "frames" were divided into 29.97 frames per second not to interfere with TV sound waves as broadcast by television, why did the movie industry decide to switch to digital cameras for originating entertainment?

Did they shoot better images? No, they did not. Everybody knows that. Are they catching up to the "look of film"? Almost, if you like the look of video imitating film.

Was it because digital production is cheaper? Well, it isn't; we know that now, right? Big studio movies shot on digital cost more now than 35mm productions (they're past the $100 million dollar mark) -- except for student filmmakers or inexperienced producers who want to get into movie making without taking a chance on shooting 35mm and then finding out that no distributor wants the movie.

So why is almost everybody going into digital production? Well, the digital manufacturers are making billions selling digital equipment. How many 35mm Arriflex cameras did the industry need? A thousand, ten thousand? Let's say one million cameras to satisfy worldwide production. You know how many digital cameras can be sold? Right, many millions, each year. And the improvements? Every camera is obsolete in six months or less. Film cameras have remained essentially the same for over a hundred years. Same film, same perforations -- very small improvements that can be added or easily picked up.

And why is the movie industry diving into digital production? Because it's in the interest of the major studios that all the digitally produced movies that don't get picked up should end up as nothing. Then only their movies end up on 35mm film and all the independents' movies end up fading away. After all, can the independents that make thousands of movies every year transfer all their movies to 35mm at $50,000 a pop? That's billions of dollars. Where will the independents come up with that kind of money if they don't get theatrical releases?

Digital movies are of benefit only to those who sell the equipment and service the technology, not the movie makers with dreams.

When you shoot film -- good, bad or indifferent -- you have something that will last. You'll be able to leave something behind -- a body of work, maybe even a legacy ... as one of the last of the filmmakers.

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