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Last Updated: Friday, 20 May, 2005, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Movie-makers go digital
Tayfun King
By Tayfun King
BBC Click Online reporter

As the price of the digital video camera has fallen, there has been an explosion in the number of low cost digital films made by home-enthusiast and professional directors. Tayfun King reports on how the technology is changing the industry.

Digital video camera
Using digital video compared to film can keep production costs low
Digital video cameras are not new. We have been using them on Click Online for years now and, just like all technology, they just keep improving.

The picture quality is so much better now that not only can amateurs do more with them, but they are also gathering more interest from professional film makers.

It has also changed what we mean by film.

No longer is a film something that is only shot on film, but something that can be shot on digital video as well.

Now anyone can make a blockbuster and they can get them shown.

Lower cost

Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival gives even amateur film makers the opportunity to showcase their films alongside those made by, or starring, big Hollywood names.

Now, providing you can get the people to appear in it, anyone can make a video film.

And with the cost of digital video equipment being at an all-time low when compared to its film counterpart, there is growing competition at the cheaper end of the market.

Director Paul Cotter shot "Estes Avenue" in a day with a couple of friends and a borrowed camera. He also got it accepted into Sundance.

Paul Cotte says: "Digital cameras make it really cheap. The thing about Mini-DV is that you can shoot it and it goes straight to your computer, and everyone has a computer now.

"You take out so much expense. I shot this film for $122. If I shot it on film it would have cost me a minimum of $1,100."


Actor and director Steve Buscemi
We were able to just leave the cameras running, you don't have to cut so often because it's relatively cheap tape
Actor and director Steve Buscemi
Actor Steve Buscemi was also at Sundance, showing "Lonesome Jim", a film he directed starring Liv Tyler.

It was one of the first times he had shot with a digital video camera.

Steve Buscemi says: "As it turned out I really loved shooting with those small cameras 'cause we were able to get it in a lot of tight places.

"I was even able to pick up the camera myself and shoot because I felt comfortable with it, they really are home cameras.

"And we were able to just leave the cameras running, you don't have to cut so often because it's relatively cheap tape.

"In that way it was nice for me and the actors to just keep it rolling and have a sort of more informal atmosphere on set."

But its that very informality that can put some directors off.

Director Ben Gregor says: "Digital video is great. It's made the film making process so much more accessible. You can make a movie for less that renting one. But having shot on both, film is still king for me."

Award-winning director Ben Gregor has just finished making a spoof "Blakes 7" short film, and thinks that the hard work that goes into film is better for the finished product.

Ben Gregor says: "It's more effort to shoot with because of the amount of lights and crew and everything involved.

"And that adds pressure to the shoot, which is good. I think you want some pressure on the shoot because the actors will raise their game.

"You as the director think more clearly. You won't have endless amounts of takes that you don't want to use. And the look of film, where video is now, it's still a lot better."

Next generation

High-definition camera
High-definition cameras produce superior image quality
Perhaps the one area where the digital look is catching up with film is the high-end, high-definition cameras which were used to shoot Alan Cumming's latest film "Reefer Madness".

Alan Cumming says: "You find out a little bit that digital video is faster. You work slightly faster and there's not so much lighting necessary. But actually it's not that big a difference really. What you do doesn't change."

What is changing is the next generation of digital cameras.

We are now seeing the cut-down version of the grown-up high-definition video cameras appear in camcorder form.

Working with the same tapes as previous cameras, and utilising sophisticated compression systems, it produces fantastic images.

Director of "CSI:Crime Scene Investigation", Jody Eldred, says: "I took this camera out and shot very difficult, challenging shots. Very oblique lighting. Shooting into the sunsets at night time. I've never used a camera that performs like this does."

We do not all need a high-definition camera, but we all would be grateful for better image quality, and the new generation of video camcorders are providing just that.

Whether it is a feature film or a home movie, the picture will be great. All we have to do now is concentrate on the content.

Click Online is broadcast on BBC News 24: Saturday at 2030, Sunday at 0430 and 1630, and on Monday at 0030. A short version is also shown on BBC Two: Saturday at 0645 and BBC One: Sunday at 0730 . Also BBC World.

Digital video frees film-makers
22 Feb 04 |  Technology

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