The digital media revolution

As digital media becomes increasingly available to the average person, both in terms of price and ease of use, the way this is influencing the industry itself. Wired has certainly noticed, covering both aspects in recent stories from the Sundance Film Festival.

A popular piece in the Mac press was their story on Tarnation, the first feature film edited entirely on iMovie. This one proves that it’s not the tool you use, but what you do with it, since Jonathan Caouette’s film has received notice from John Cameron Mitchell and Gus Van Sant, who have both signed on as executive producers.

Today they make a case for the plummeting cost of animation effecting the documentary genre of filmmaking. Only ten years ago this would have been unheard of; too expensive and taboo—documentaries are supposed to show reality; animation is clearly something that originates in the mind of the artist—the only place for animation would have been in a documentary about Walt Disney. But we are seeing them pop up in an increasing number of documentaries, including In the Realms of the Unreal, about the outsider artist Henry Darger, which premiered at Sundance this week.

In fact digital media is effecting not only how the movies are created, but the ways in which they are distributed and discovered. Online film festivals are becoming increasingly popular as a way to nurture budding writers and directors. Whether its Kevin Spacey’s Trigger Street, or the Sundance Online Film Festival, the tools and the expertise are now in reach whether you live in Los Angeles or Topeka. All you need is a computer, some software (most computers come with at least some rudimentary editing software now), a (relatively cheap and getting cheaper all the time) MiniDV camera, and an internet connection.

The internet connection is for the nurturing. In addition to the online film festivals, there are a number of good communities popping up on the web where you can get your questions answered on everything from lighting and sound, to specific cameras issues and editing your short or feature. Some, like Kray Mitchell’s EmotionDV board focus on Apple’s DV Non Linear Editors (NLEs). Others, like Chris Hurd’s DVinfo, take a more platform agnostic approach. Both communities are friendly and growing, and also offer a ready audience to view your short or trailer and provide constructive criticism and helpful feedback. And DVinfo spawned a successful Global Web Collaboration, Lady X:

“‘Lady X’ is a cooperative indie film project that we hope will be a lot of fun and will allow participating filmmakers to show their talent. The general theme is a spy/underworld thriller consisting of episodes made independently by selected filmmakers around the globe. Each episode will be approximately 5 minutes long (maximum 7 minutes, minimum 3 minutes). There will be a few rules to follow to ensure continuity of the overall plot (mainly controlling the beginning and the ending)...otherwise, there’s lots of flexibility.”

Another way to get your DV shorts in front of a ready audience is Jason Zada’s WeeklyDV. Each week a new capsule is presented, and your challenge is to create a short (under 5 minute) DV film in less than 4 hours total. The results are posted each Thursday (along with the new capsule/challenge). Each week sees new participants and an amazing amount of creativity. It is fun to see how different people interpret the capsule assignments. But best of all, the barrier to entry is pretty low.


About this post

In which Mark discusses the online digital media revolution and provides interesting links and commentary to back up his assertions.

January 22, 2004 | digital video

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