Friday, January 3, 2003

The HD Revolution

A significant revolution in cinema is now taking place. There is a new option on the filmmaker’s palate—high definition (HD). HD is as significant to storytellers today as the invention of oil-based paint was for painters. It doesn’t replace what has come before—rather, it presents exciting new opportunities. It not only presents filmmakers with new options for creating a quality product, but it has proven integral to the preservation and enhancement of the endangered, deteriorating records of our history.

George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode II: The Phantom Menace marked the first release of a mega-budget feature shot on HD. It was a benchmark breakthrough that proved HD had arrived. However, it is with smaller productions, many of which are currently making the rounds on the festival circuit, that the real excitement lies. The cost effectiveness of HD breaks down the monetary barriers that used to keep young, unknown directors and producers from seeing their ideas and creations make it to the big screen. HD is going to open doors to creative talent whose experimentation is going to challenge all of us to become better at what we do.

HD is cost-effective and artistically viable. Because it is less cumbersome and expensive than film, experimenters are more likely to take the kind of risks that can push the possibilities of the medium. At the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, for instance, HD-originated movies won a greater number of awards than features shot on film.

The insurance factor of HD post-production has proved particularly interesting, even for film-originated projects. Television programs such as HBO’s The Sopranos and Band of Brothers have utilized HD, resulting in a master that presents a distinct advantage in archiving, with no sacrifice of quality. Because an HD recording is digital, it is capable of being transferred to any future medium.

HD’s success and growth can be attributed to improved and expanding product offerings. Companies such as Sony, Panasonic, and Hitachi have extensive HD product lines. Such a variety of hardware will not only benefit filmmakers working on current projects, but will also help historians who use HD to restore and archive history. Companies such as Maxell are now producing high-quality HD media that achieve exceptional output levels and the low noise requirements of HD.

In the next year, the snowball effect will grow exponentially, and it’s exciting to think about what’s in store with the enhancement of a digital age that places new, innovative tools in the hands of individuals who are willing to push limits.

-- by Randall Paris Dark
for Digital Content Producer Magazine

No comments: