Cinema might be over a century old. But it’s showing no sign of slowing down. Even a quick glance through its history tells its own filmic story of technology’s progress through the decades. From humble, silent monochrome beginnings, through to the lush, colourful expanse of CinemaScope, 3D and today’s jaw-dropping digital effects, film has both pushed and chronicled the latest in technology for audiences worldwide.
The silver screen’s sparkle is showing no sign of dimming just yet, and it’s technology that pushes the multi-billion dollar film industry to the next generation of movie-goers. So, how is film doing this, and what can audiences look forward to?
Into the third dimension…and beyond!
Stereoscopy has been adding literal layers to movies for decades. Its drop in interest of late however has signalled that audiences want something more. Step forward MIT, who are currently working towards glasses-free technology. Doing away with the extra cost and clunk of flimsy plastic specs, the company are fine-tuning their new automultiscopic technology ready for James Cameron’s much-anticipated Avatar 2, arriving 2020.
3D doesn’t just stop at the end product. Long before screenings are booked and popcorn prepped, filmmakers are turning to another type of 3D to get their product made: 3D printing. Making films is an expensive and time-consuming business. Constructing screen-ready props that convince and inspire takes patience and budget. Small wonder then that filmmakers are increasingly turning to 3D printing to carve out centrepieces for director’s visions. From blockbuster Marvel fare such as Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, to stunt-driven thrill spectacles like Fast & the Furious 6 (for which they printed an entire tank), prop makers have been using the printed tech to produce ultra-realistic models for the screen.
Where design is realised before it hits the printer is, of course, in 3D CAD software. Many filmmakers of some instantly recognisable classics have brought to cinematic life iconic creations, created using our very own SOLIDWORKS. The box office shattering might of films such as Transformers, Tron:Legacy, and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, were all brought to celluloid via the aid of our virtual testing design software. Using our program’s pin-sharp material recreation and stress-testing, movie art designer Joseph Hiuara was able to consult with the director and studio on the fly. This meant any last-minute changes could be made before production, with no time lost or expense spent. Joe used SOLIDWORKS Visualise to create photorealistic renderings of film props and characters, from the Batmobile to the hulking great Transformer robots.
Of course, the cinematic language of shots and composition has altered dramatically over the years. Take the humble mobile phone. Just fifteen years ago, we couldn’t take pictures on one. Today, entire movies are shot on them. Renowned filmmaker Steven Soderbergh recently released psychological thriller Unsane, filmed using only an iPhone. This demonstrates both the ease and speed of such technology, but also its greater accessible reach. Thanks to the digital age, anyone with a smartphone can edit their own film or movie, and even add in some visual effects for good measure too.
Lighter, more portable tech has also filtered through to more affordable filmmaking. Prohibitively expensive rigging and cranes to achieve stunning birds’ eye views were previously only the preserve of major Hollywood studios. These days, thanks to 4k GoPro cameras and lightweight drone technology, aspiring directors and visual storytellers are hampered only by their imagination, rather than the tools available to them.
It’s this democratisation of the medium, along with more high-end tech such as augmented reality and VR, that look set to shape the films of tomorrow. With the spread of affordable technology where the creative limits are near-endless, cinema’s next revolution is being driven by discovery’s evolution.
You may also be interested in: