Digital cinematography

Digital cinematography is the process of capturing a picture using digital image sensors rather than through film stock . As digital technology has been developed in recent years, this practice has become dominant. Since the mid 2010s most of the movies are digitally distributed . [1] [2] [3]

Many vendors-have Brought products to market, Including traditional movie camera vendors like Arri and Panavision , as well as new vendors like RED , Blackmagic , Silicon Imaging , Vision Research and companies qui-have traditionally Focused on consumer and broadcast video equipment, like Sony , GoPro , and Panasonic .

As of 2017 , professional 4K digital film cameras are about equal to 35mm film in their resolution and dynamic range capacity. Some filmmakers still prefer to use analogous picture formats to achieve the desired results. [4]



Beginning in the late 1980s, Sony began marketing the concept of “electronic cinematography,” utilizing its analog Sony HDVS professional video cameras. The effort puts with very little success. However, Julia and Julia (1987). [5]

Rainbow (1996) was the world’s first film utilizing extensive digital post production techniques. [6] Shot entirely with Sony’s first Solid State Electronic Cinematography cameras and featuring over 35 minutes of digital image processing and visual effects, all post production, sound effects, editing and scoring were completed digitally. The Digital High Definition image was sent to 35mm negative via electron beam recorder for theatrical release.

The first digitally filmed and produced feature film was Windhorse , shot in Tibet and Nepal in 1996 on a prototype of the Sony DVW-700WS digital-beta and the prosumer Sony DCE-VX1000. The offline editing (avid) and the online post and color work (Roland House / da Vinci) were also all digital. The film, best featured at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in 1998.

In 1998, with the introduction of HDCAM recorders and 1920 × 1080 pixel digital professional video cameras based on CCD technology, the idea, now re-branded as “digital cinematography,” to gain traction in the market. citation needed ] Shot and released in 1998, The Last Broadcast is believed to be the first feature-length video shot and edited entirely on consumer-level digital equipment. [7]

In May 1999 George Lucas challenged the supremacy of the movie-making medium of movie filmed with high-definition digital cameras in Star Wars: 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 his sequels entirely on hi-def digital video. Also in 1999, digital projectors were installed in four theaters for the Phantom Menace . In June 2000, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones began with Sony HDW-F900 camera as Lucas had previously stated. The film was released in May 2002. In May 2001Once Upon a Time in Mexico was also shot in 24 frame-per-second high-definition digital video , partially developed by George Lucas using a Sony HDW-F900 camera, [8] following Robert Rodriguez’s introduction to the camera at Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch editing the sound for Spy Kids . Two lesser-known movies, Vidocq (2001) and Russian Ark (2002), had also been shot with the same camera, the latter being a single long take .

Today, cameras from companies like Sony , Panasonic , JVC and Canon offer a variety of choices for shooting high-definition video. At the high-end of the market, there has been an emergence of cameras specifically at the digital cinema market. These cameras from Sony , Vision Research , Arri , Silicon Imaging , Panavision , Grass Valley and Red offer resolution and dynamic range That Exceeds That of traditional video cameras, qui are designed for the limited needs of broadcast television .

In 2009, Slumdog Millionaire became the first movie shot mainly in digital to be awarded the Academy Award for Best Cinematography [9] and the highest-grossing movie in the history of cinema, Avatar , not only was shot on digital cameras as well, but also made in the box office no longer by movie, but digital projection .

In late 2013, Paramount became the first major studio to distribute movies to theaters in digital format eliminating 35mm film entirely. [10] Anchorman 2 was the last Paramount production to include a 35mm movie version, while The Wolf of Wall Street was the first major movie distributed entirely digitally. [10]


Digital cinematography captures motion pictures digitally in a process analogous to digital photography . While there is no clear technical distinction That Separates the image captured in digital cinematography from video , the term “digital cinematography” is usually applied only in cases Where digital acquisition is Substituted for movie acquisition, Such As When shooting a feature movie . The term is seldom applied when digital acquisition is substituted for video acquisition, as with live broadcast television programs.



Professional cameras include the Sony CineAlta (F) Series, Blackmagic Cinema Camera , RED ONE, Arriflex D-20 , D-21 and Alexa , Genesis Panavisions, Silicon Imaging SI-2K, Thomson Viper, Phantom Vision Research , IMAX 3D camera based on two Vision Research Phantom cores, Weisscam HS-1 and HS-2, GS Vitec noX, and the Fusion Camera System. Independent filmmakers have also pressed low-cost consumer and prosumer cameras into service for digital filmmaking.


Digital cinematography cameras capture images using CMOS or CCD sensors, usually in one of two settings.

Single chip cameras designed specifically for the digital cinematography market often uses a single sensor (much like digital photo cameras ), with dimensions similar in size to a 16 or 35 mm film frame or even (as with the Vision 65) to 65 mm film frame . An image can be projected onto a single large sensor in the same way it can be projected onto a film frame, so cameras with this design can be made with PL , PV and similar mounts, in order to use the wide range of existing high- end cinematography lenses available. Their large sensors also make these cameras achieve the same shallow depth of field as 35 or 65 mm motion picture film cameras, which many cinematographers consider an essential visual tool. [11]

Video formats

Unlike other video formats , which are specified in terms of vertical resolution (for example, 1080p , which is 1920 × 1080 pixels), digital cinema formats are usually specified in terms of horizontal resolution. As a shorthand, these resolutions are often given in ” n K ” notation, where n is the multiplier of 1024 such that the horizontal resolution of a corresponding full-aperture , digitized film frame is exactly{\ displaystyle 1024n}pixels. Here the “K” has a customary corresponding to the binary prefix ” kibi ” (ki).

For instance, a 2K image is 2048 pixels wide, and a 4K image is 4096 pixels wide. Vertical resolutions vary with appearance ratios though; so 2K image with an HDTV (16: 9) aspect ratio is 2048 × 1152 pixels, while a 2K image with a SDTV gold Academy ratio (4: 3) is 2048 × 1536 pixels, and one with a Panavision ratio (2.39: 1) would be 2048 × 856 pixels, and so on. Due to the ” n K” notation not corresponding to specific horizontal resolutions per format a 2K image lacking, for example, the typical 35mm filmsoundtrack space, is only 1828 pixels wide, with rescaling accordingly. This is a plethora of motion-picture related video resolutions, which is quite confusing and often redundant with respect to nowadays few projection standards.

All formats are designed for digital cinematography are progressive scan , and are also used in the film. Some movies like this The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has a High Frame Rate of 48 fps, although in some theaters it was also released in a 24 fps version which many fans of traditional film prefer.

The standard DCI for cinema usually has 1.89: 1 aspect ratio, thus defining the maximum size for 4K as 4096 × 2160 pixels and for 2K as 2048 × 1080 pixels. When distributed in the form of a Digital Cinema Package (DCP), content is letterboxed gold pillarboxed have to fit Appropriate Within One of These container formats.

In the early years of digital cinematography, 2K was the most common format for digitally acquired major motion pictures however, 4K is becoming more prominent. The Arri Alexa captured at 2.8k image. During 2009 at least two major Hollywood movies, Knowing and District 9 , were shot in 4K on the RED ONE camera, followed by The Social Network in 2010. As of 2017 , 4k cameras are now commonplace, with most high-end movies being shot at 4k resolution.

Data storage

Broadly, two workflow paradigms are used for data acquisition and storage in digital cinematography.

Tape-based workflows

With video-tape- based workflow, video is recorded on tape on set. This video is then ingested into a computer running a non-linear editing software, using a deck. On ingestion, a digital video stream is being converted to computer files. These files can be edited directly or converted to an intermediate format for editing. Then video is output in its final format, possibly to a film recorder for theatrical exhibition, or back to video tape for broadcast use. Original video tapes are kept as an archival medium. The files generated by the non-linear editing application contain the information necessary to retrieve footage from the proper tapes, should the stored data on the computer is hard disk be lost. With increasing convenience of file-based workflows, the tape-based workflows have become marginal in recent years.

File-based workflows

Digital cinematography has mostly shifted toward “tapeless” or “file-based” workflows. This trend has accelerated with increased capacity and cost of non-linear storage solutions, such as hard disc drives, optical discs, and solid-state memory. With tapeless workflows digital video is recorded as digital files on random-access media like optical discs, hard disk drives or flash memory-based digital “magazines”. These files can be copied to Easily Reviews another storage device, to a wide Typically RAID (array of computer disks) connected to an editing system. Once again, they are ready to go to the storage media, they are erased and returned to the set for more shooting.

Such RAID arrays, both of “managed” (for example, SANs and NASs ) and “unmanaged” (for example, JBoDs on a single computer workstation), are necessary due to the required throughput for real-time (320 MB / s for 2K @ 24fps) or near-real-time playback in post-production , compared to throughput from a single, yet fast, hard disk drive. Such requirements are often termed as “on-line” storage. Post-production not requiring real-time playback performance (typically for lettering, subtitling, versioning and other similar visual effects).

Short-term archiving, “if ever”, where it is possible to achieve RAID arrays, where playback is not possible (unless via proxy images), but minimal editing and metadata harvesting still possible. Such intermediate requirements easily fall into the “mid-line” storage category.

Long-term archiving is Accomplished by backing up the digital files from the RAID, using standard practices and equipment for data backup from the IT industry, Often to data tapes (like LTOs ).

Chroma subsampling

Main article: Chroma subsampling

Most digital cinematography systems by subsampling color information. Because the human visual system is much more sensitive to luminance than to color, it can be used in many other ways. at full resolution. This scheme may cause pixelation or color bleeding under certain circumstances. High quality digital cinematography systems are capable of recording full resolution color data (4: 4: 4) or raw sensor data .

Intra- vs. Inter-frame compression

Most compression systems used for the acquisition of the digital cinematography world. This is called intra-frame compression. Inter framecompression systems can further compress data by examining and eliminating redundancy between frames. This leads to higher compression ratios, but displaying a single frame will usually require the playback system to decompress a number of frames from before & after it. In normal playback, this is not a problem, as each successive frame has been played, so the preceding frames have been decompressed. In editing, however, it is common to jump to different frames and to play backwards or different speeds. Because of the need to decompress extra frames in these situations, inter-frame compression can cause performance problems for editing systems. Inter-frame compression is also disadvantageous because of the loss of a single frame (say, The following is a brief description of this article. In the case of theHDV format, for instance, this movie is lost with 720p recording, or 15 with 1080i. [12] An inter-frame compressed video stream consists of groups of pictures (GOPs), each of which has only one full frame, and a handful of other frames referring to this frame. If the full frame, called I-frame , is lost due to transmission or media error, none of the P-frames or B-frames (the referenced images) can be displayed. In this case, the whole GOP is lost.

Digital distribution

Main article: Digital cinema

For theaters with digital projectors, digital movies can be digitally distributed, or shipped via the Internet or satellite networks. Digital Cinema Initiatives, LLC , has a joint venture of Disney, Fox, MGM, Paramount, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal and Warner Bros. Studios, has established standards for digital cinema projection. In July 2005, they released the first version of the Digital Cinema System Specification, [13] which encompasses 2K and 4K theatrical projection. They also offer compliance testing for exhibitors and equipment suppliers.

Theater owners initially balked at installing digital projection systems because of high cost and concern over increased technical complexity. However, new funding models, in which distributors pay a “digital print” fee to theater owners, have helped to alleviate these concerns. Digital projection also offers increased flexibility with respect to showing trailers and pre-show help attract consumers who can now access high-definition content at home. These factors have resulted in digital projection becoming an attractive prospect for theater owners, and the pace of adoption has been increasing.

Since some theaters nowadays do not have digital projection systems, even if a film is shot and post-produced digitally, it must be transferred to film if a large theatrical release is planned. Typically, a film recorder will be used to print digital image data to film, to create a 35 mm internally . After that the duplication process is identical to that of a traditional negative from a film camera.

Comparison with film cinematography

Main article: Digital versus film photography


Unlike a digital sensor, a film frame does not have a regular grid of discrete pixels.

Determining resolution in digital acquisition seems to be straightforward, but it is less complicated in the real world. This is PARTICULARLY true in the case of high-end digital cinematography cameras use a single wide That bayer pattern CMOS sensor. Rayer data at every point; instead, each pixel is biased towards red, green or blue, and a full color image is aided by this checkerboard of color by processing the image through a demosaicking algorithm. Generally with a bayer pattern sensor, actual resolution will fall somewhere between the “native” value and half this figure, with different demosaicingalgorithms producing different results. Additionally, most digital cameras (both bayer and three-chip designs) optical low-pass filters to avoid aliasing ; suboptimal antialiasing filtering.

Grain and noise

Film has a characteristic grain structure. Different film stocks have different grain.

Digitally acquired footage lacks this grain structure. It has electronic noise .

Digital intermediate workflow and archiving

The process of using digital intermediate workflow, Where movies are color graded digitally INSTEAD of via traditional photochemical finishing technology, Has Become common.

In order to utilize digital intermediate workflow with film, the camera must be scanned to a digital format. Some filmmakers have years of experience in their work with traditional photochemical workflow, and prefer that finishing / editing process.

Digitally shot movies can be printed, transferred or archived on film. Large scale digital productions are often archived on film, as it provides a medium for storage, benefiting insurance and storage costs. [14] As long as the negative does not completely degrade, it will always be possible to recover the images from it in the future, regardless of the fact that it is a simple photographic reproduction.

In contrast, even if digital data is stored, it will be necessary to reproduce it. Changes in technology can thus render the format unreadable or expensive to recover over time. For this reason, film studios distributing digitally-originated movies often make movie-based separation masters of them for archival purposes. [14]


Film proponents have argued that digital cameras lack the reliability of film, particularly when filming sequences at high velocity or in chaotic environments, due to digital cameras technical glitches . Cinematographer Wally Pfisternoted that for his shoot on the film Inception , “Out of six times that we shot on the digital format, we only had one useable piece and it did not end up in the movie. with the Photo-Sonics and 35mm running through it, every single shot was in the movie. ” [15] Michael Bay stated that when filming Transformers: Dark of the Moon , 35mm cameras had to be used when filming in slow motion and sequences where the digital cameras were subject tostrobing or electrical damage from dust. [16]

Criticism and concerns

Some film directors such as Christopher Nolan , [17] Paul Thomas Anderson [18] and Quentin Tarantino have criticized digital cinema, and advocated the use of film and film prints. Tarantino has suggested he can not do it because he will not be able to have his films screened in 35mm in most American cinemas. Tarantino considers digital cinema to be simply “television in public.” [19]Christopher Nolan has speculated that the film industry’s adoption of digital formats has been driven purely by economic factors as opposed to digital being a superior medium to film: “I think, truthfully, it boils down to the economic interests of manufacturers and [a production] industry that makes more money through change rather than maintaining the status quo. ” [17]

Another concern with digital image capture is how to archive all the digital material. Archiving digital material is turning out to be extremely costly, and it In a 2007 study, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences found that the cost of storing 4K digital masters is “enormously higher – 1100% higher – than the cost of storing film masters.” Furthermore, digital archiving faces challenges to the insufficient longevity of today’s digital storage: no current media, be it magnetic hard drives or digital tape, can reliably store a film for a hundred years, something that is stored and managed film can do. [20]Although it has been used in the United States by the United States, it has been published in Utah, published M-DISC , an optical storage solution, designed to last up to digital storage as a viable storage solution. [21] [22]

See also

  • Digital versus film photography
  • Filmizing
  • List of motion picture topics
  • Motion picture film scanner


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