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Digital Cameras Don't Tell the Whole Story

July 16, 2002

"Filming Without the Film" (July 11), describing industry reaction to the emerging presence of digital and high-definition motion picture cameras, painted an unnecessarily apocalyptic portrait of life with this new technology. As a filmmaker who has worked in both mediums (film and digital video), I can tell you that regardless of what box is sitting on top of the tripod, a director must still arrive on set and figure out where to put that box, what to point it at, what lens to attach to it, how to light the scene and what to do with the actors. Fundamental storytelling techniques have nothing to do with the image-capture device being used.

What the article does not investigate is whether the traditional "shoot and pray" process doesn't actually require a more muscular, more nimble and more disciplined imagination. Could it be that the instant gratification proselytized for by digital and high-def evangelists actually results in less accomplished storytelling?

David Dodson

La Canada


The big issue your article does not address is the conversion of movie theaters to digital projection. The studios would love to save the millions of dollars spent on making and shipping thousands of bulky film prints at the last minute to theaters across the country. Making and shipping disks or sending a film via satellite transmission to the theaters would be much cheaper and faster. But who will pay for the theaters' digital conversion, which currently runs about $100,000 per screen? Probably not the theater chains, which are nearly bankrupt from the last decade's multiplex-building mania. Will the studios be willing to foot the bill?

The article also mentions that directors and camera operators are worried about making the transition from film to digital. What about the film editors, negative cutters, lab employees and other below-the-line workers who actually work with film? While no studio heads would dare to ask Oliver Stone or cinematographer Roger Deakins if they are qualified to work in digital cinema, they are already laying off post-production personnel whose experience is primarily in film.

J.W. Kompare

North Hollywood


The choice of acquisition formats for movies is not an either/or situation. Film, high-definition and digital video are all part of a palette of tools now available to filmmakers. They can be used individually or combined to create the images that best tell the story. One does not herald the death of another. Oil paints endured as new paint media were developed. Paintings continue to be created even though we have had photographs for quite a while now.

What happens to movies acquired on HD as we know it today with the emergence of tomorrow's digital technologies? Indeed, 35mm film continues to have resolution superior to any digital format. A film from 50 years ago can be restored and shown in all its beauty. I have yet to see similar results from productions shot on video 10 years ago.

Karen Edmundson Bean

Director of Photography

International Alliance of

Theatrical Stage Employees Local 600, Topanga

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