Film and TV

Digital Imaging is still a relatively new medium and has endured much criticism along the way, much more is still to come. But I feel it’s inevitable that it will become a dominant medium for artist in the future. Knowing what the future possibilities are means that you will be at the forefront of the new wave of ideas. Who would of believed the Internet would of grown the way it has today, reaching millions of people all around the world.

Each person having his or her own beliefs, inspirations, and uses for the Internet. The Internet has only come around because of technological developments that have meant that computers are much more affordable these days. In the following pages I will try to explain these changes and developments, everything is feeding off it surroundings so we can’t help but to be influenced by them.

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Many areas of culture are yet ready to accept digital imaging as either an art form or merely just to believe what it shows as being real. This was discussed in the book ‘the photographic image in digital culture’, it talks about how are preconceptions can cause people not to trust a digital image. Over the years painting was considered the best way of representing an object or person, but the images produced often relied on the artists interpretation of events or on the pier pressure for the image to have a certain look

. Then photography joined in to the argument, it was considered by most as a accurate way of recoding our surroundings and accurate in its way to record images, well this a false belief as photography can be altered as much any other image. It’s dependant of the views of the photographer in the way of ‘Do I photograph this or does my morals restrict me from doing such a thing’, a photographer can decide to only shoot photographs of the good times and not photograph the bad times. This would give a positive image to what they are photographing, but it may not show to true story. This is often relevant with war photography, where one side of the war will take different images compared to the other side.

Another way that photography can be altered is in the darkroom by altering the photographic image by using multiple exposures from different negatives, this method has been used for many years and one of the famous ones was a image altered during the cold war in Russia where Stalin’s photographs were altered to take away certain people that had defected from the organisation. Digital images scare a lot of people, as they are well aware of how easy it is to alter a image using new technology, in a recent image in the Evening Standard there was an out cry on one of the images they used from BBC television of people celebrating in the streets after the war in Iraq, a website by the name of ‘The Memory Hole'[1] pointed out many inconstancies of the image “The red circles show a man in a turban who appears three times.

The purple circles highlight an unknown object that appears four times (it’s smudged in its rightmost incarnation). The darker blue circles show two instances of an identical white object, disembodied arm, and partial male faces. The yellow ovals show a partial male face and another one or two objects that appear as a group thrice. Similarly, the orange ovals highlight some sort of conglomeration that was duplicated. The two lighter blue circles are around an indistinct blob that appears on top of itself, while the bright green circles show yet another man who appears twice in the scene.” The coloured circles are referring to the parts they highlighted showing the mistakes.

To understand digital imaging more we have to know its history, the first completely electronic computers were created during World War Two, the first being a computer called ‘Colossus’ which was built at Bletchley Park by the combined efforts of Alan Turing, Tommy Flowers, M.H.A. Newman. The computer was used to break down German secret codes, ‘Colossus’ was able to constantly work 24hours a day and was methodical in its procedures though the methods used for breaking secret codes. The machine needed constant repairs as it blew several vacuum tubes a day. After the war was over the developments in the electronic computer carried on. Computers were large and were very limited on uses for them, but over time they were improved, as our knowledge of science got better.

In the book “Photographic Possibilities”[2] the authors talk about a “Burst of creativity followed technical innovation” this pushed the computer forward over the years, gradually making them smaller and more powerful also more affordable. The first graphics programs were very limited and could only draw basic shapes, over the years more and more usability was built into them as computers became more widespread. Apple Macintosh are the leaders in the graphics design industry as they have large support for professional use but other computer systems are working their way in, some of the latest 3D imaging programs are based on Microsoft Windows systems as they often out perform Apple Macintosh computers on pure processing power which is essential for working out the many mathematical equations needed.

Digital images are rapidly being used more and more within the film industry, it has been used in films for 20 years with the occasional break in development but it is still moving forwards and breaking new ground with the majority of films released. Many film directors see it as a way to allow them to explore their own imaginations trying to push the creative used of the technology some on the other hand see it as a hindrance as some use the technology to do something that is yet very unrealistic on screen and is noticeable as a digital alteration, also people expect to see more for example in “Alien Resurrection”[3] we finally get to see the alien as a whole no longer just small snippets of the beast, this demystified the myth of the alien and it no longer remained as scary as it used to be this is a common theme and has been mentioned in a TV documentary.

A major advantage digital imaging has over its competitors is that once the images are in the digital world many alterations can be made without damaging the original physical negative, also it can be replicated with no loss of quality as compared to superimposing negative on negative techniques. This has generated a lot of interest with film makers as this allows them to make final adjustments back in the editing room rather than in the field, as normal some directors don’t like this as they believe that it allows for sloppy workmanship and a loss of the true art of film making. But everyone has their own opinions weather they embrace digital imaging or not it would not surprise me if both were to carry on for a lot longer as digital imaging has yet to reach its true potential.

The first film to use digital imaging was the film “Tron” (1982)[4] it was made by Disney and was released in 1982. The film used digital imaging techniques for only a few minutes whilst most of the rest of the film shot on dark backgrounds in studios, and the light effects were added using hand animation. Due to Disney’s large amount of skilled artist they were able to do these effects. The digital images were created using computers to draw vector based lines, these were then copied onto a large format negative each line was animated on a separate negative so each scene was made up of hundreds of layers, this technology was later to be introduced into computers so saving on the amount of physical negatives needed to produce a film.

The film was not a instant big hit and did not receive the respect it deserved being denied any nominations at the Oscars as many felt it was not a true film. This halted the development in the use of digital imaging, but the technology needed to get much better before anyone would try it again. Today the film has become a cult classic, as it was the first to spawn a new generation of film.

After Tron we did not see many digital effects as they were costly to make and also the quality of them was not at a standard that we required. But during the 80’s there was a surge is high action films such as Indiana Jones, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, and Terminator. These were often reported as having sketchy plots and poor scripts but the films gave the public what they wanted and that was action, action, and even more action. With the drive for ever more spectacular stunts and action sequences the film directors used stop motion animation and other techniques to make the films that much better than the one before, soon the directors were looking at digital imaging to help them, by the late 80’s scanning techniques were much better, computers had far more power and the output was of a much higher quality.

One of the leading teams in digital imaging near the end of the 80’s and the beginning of the 90’s was George Lucas’s ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) they produced a TV series called Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1991) [5] this is where they tested some new digital techniques such as superimposing landscapes into the background of scenes as most of the episodes were based in the early 21st Century and it was too costly to build large cityscapes of the places that they visited. Many of the scenes did look like they were digitally altered but at that time it was cutting edge technology, by testing these things out ILM was one of the most influential companies in bringing digital effects to the large screen.

With directors like Stephen Spielberg directing films that were worked on by ILM the digital age was about to start on its upward spiral. Some of the big budget films that used digital imaging were Terminator 2 (1991) [6] and the massively popular film Jurassic Park (1993) [7]. Both these films were ground breaking but more was to come. The techniques used in these films are considered rather crude compared to current production methods but it still remains that a director has to cut a thin line between using animatronics and CGI (computer generated imagery).


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