digital conversion

ARRI pledges to support 35mm film for at least a decade more

Photo from ARRI newsletter.This past Monday, I wrote a piece entitled “Making Sense of the Digital Conversion“, which dealt with the ramifications of the widespread digitization of movie theaters. The other element of the digital conversion, of course, is taking place on the production side.

Doomsdayers seized the opportunity to lament “the death” of film production last year when popular manufacturer ARRI ceased production of 35mm cameras. This was no doubt a significant news story, especially considering that ARRI makes the industry’s preeminent digital alternative, the ALEXA, used on dozens of film and television projects in 2011, including Martin Scorsese’s Hugo and HBO’s Game of Thrones.

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Making Sense of the Digital Conversion

An image from the website for Pennsylvania's Ambler Theater, which needs to raise $100,000 per screen for digital projectors or risks shutting down. This article details why the ongoing digital conversion poses a threat to movie-going.Over the past decade, the movie theater industry has spent millions of dollars converting their traditional 35mm film projectors to digital projectors. Saturday, at the NAB’s Technology Summit on Cinema, it was announced that 50 percent of screens worldwide had made the switch to digital, 70 percent in the United States.

On film blogs, this conversion has largely been derided and smeared — “How can they get rid of 35mm? It’s the best way to watch a movie!” While I understand the sentiment behind this protest, it seems to me that the approach is rather narrow — Hollywood isn’t going to fix the “problem” just because a niche group of purists say it exists. There’s too much money to be saved by going 100 percent digital. What is necessary to actually create positive change is for the everyday moviegoer to join in the fight to keep 35mm alive. Which first requires them to understand what’s at stake.

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