Digital technology removes barriers for Indie film makers


New technologies appear every day, but there are a handful of technologies—or more accurately, meta-technologies—that are changing the world. Cloud computing is one of them. More of a business model than a single technology, cloud computing has already changed both how, and where we work, and is already taking the steam out of Silicon Valley and shifting it to the heartland. Now, digital photography is taking the steam out of Hollywood.

Yes, a lot of great things do seem to start in California. But they don't end there.

Indie cinema is just one of a handful of major democratizing trends that we're seeing as a result of new technology. Besides cloud computing giving little guys a shot at small business, the Internet has made it so virtually anybody can be a publisher, and crowdfunding lets more people raise capital. It's all very Warhol-esque. New technology lets everybody get their 15 minutes of fame. But still, it's what you do with that 15 minutes that will make the difference between something spectacular, and being just another wanna-be. The question then becomes, can you really do something spectacular with a minimal budget and a digital camera? Yes, and there are already many examples, with productions like "The Blair Witch Project" and "Paranormal Activity", both produced with inexpensive digital equipment and "back pocket" budgets.

Mark Armstrong, CEO of independent movie company Wolf Moon Films, notes that "when it comes to the technology, a lot of the movie theaters are saying they are going to digital." From a practical standpoint, it's a lot easier. "You don't have to worry about bringing in reels that weigh about 150 pounds, and putting them on a giant projector. It's where things are headed, and it's going to make it a lot easier." According to the MPAA, digital cinema is up 115% with 6,455 screens, 4,632 of them in the United States—and all of the top 20 film festivals have digital projectors. Costs are decreasing, and quality is increasing all around. Armstrong notes that many blockbuster productions have been filmed recently with the RED digital camera, including "Angels and Demons" with Tom Hanks, and "Wanted" starring Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman. "With the RED camera, you can make movies look like you shot them on film." Besides the obvious cost advantage—which is critical for indie producers—the RED camera and other digital tools are just easier to move, which makes set-up faster. And, unlike film, it allows a director to see and edit footage on the spot if needed instead of waiting for the editing room.

It's all due to advances in digital technology, which makes it much easier to create movies with less money, and to retain control over their distribution. The indie cinema market isn't just about cheap cameras though, it's also about distribution.

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