Film is dead. Long live television. That's the bleak assessment of dozens of articles on film-making in the last couple of years. The truth is, there's never been a more exciting time to be a filmmaker.
Technological innovations are levelling the playing field and placing powerful tools in the hands of even the most cash-strapped filmmakers. I experienced one of those rare 'just got to have it' moments when I first saw the MōVI M10 from Freefly. Ours arrived last month, and I've got to say it lives up to its billing. Putting the M10 through its paces with the team from one of my favourite production companies, Reels In Motion, we've all been amazed by the smooth, cinematic quality of the shots it achieves. Combine the MōVI M10 with some imagination and ingenuity, and shots that were once the preserve of big budget studio productions become achievable for films of any size. Buying an M10 isn't for everyone, but with low hire costs, even the smallest productions can afford to bring cinematic quality to mobile camera work.
Check out this great video, shot by Vincent Laforet for a sense of what the MōVI can do:
MōVI RED Epic Test
by Vincent Laforet
Camera technology continues to evolve. Between the Red Epic Dragon, Arri Alexa, Canon 1DC, and Blackmagic's camera range, filmmakers working at any budget are spoilt for choice when it comes to delivering beautiful high definition imagery. And for those on a budget, Samyang have brought out a range of cine lenses that puts decent image quality within the reach of almost any filmmaker.
The barriers to quality film-making are dropping. That includes the world of visual effects, which has become so accessible that we're now used to seeing quality visual effects on YouTube videos. Creative Cloud from Adobe, with its low cost monthly licence, has put powerful post production tools within reach of anyone. Pixar has slashed the costs of Renderman, making high quality animation truly accessible. Here's a fun example of VFX that can be achieved on a low budget.
Harry Potter vs Star Wars
Directed by Danny & Michael Philippou
Having experimented with the new Unreal Engine, I'm excited at the prospect of merging film and video game technology. With an extremely low cost monthly licence, and an easy to learn, user-friendly interface, Unreal and other games engines could become a valuable part of the filmmaker's arsenal. And when we're seeing game cinematics of this quality from Axis Animation, it's hard to argue with the potential of fusing the two fields.
Directed by Stuart Aitken
Digital distribution seems to finally be taking off. Earlier this year, Wild Bunch chose to release Abel Ferrara'sWelcome to New York direct to VOD in France and the film, which was priced at 7 Euros, hit over 100,000 downloads in eight days. Having released my first feature, Pulp, on X-Box Video, I know that the real challenge of digital distribution is marketing. Competing with a large on demand catalogue means making yourself heard above the noise, but most independent distributors relish that challenge over the far more binary prospect of competing for cinema screens.
All this is great news for anyone who laments the current studio fad for big budget, special effects driven movies with cookie cutter plots. As quality film-making and visual effects become truly democratic, what will differentiate the great films from the mediocre is story and performance. In a few years, VFX, animation, game engine and camera technology will put, for example, the closing sequence of The Avengers within reach of independent productions. In order to stand out and justify the price premium associated with seeing a film at a movie theater, the major studios will need to produce innovative scripts. Rather than seek to impress and overawe through spectacle, they'll need to achieve the more difficult challenge of giving audiences something they haven't seen before and evoke an emotional response through the story and power of performances.
All this innovation might just enable filmmakers to focus on the things that have always made the medium so strong.