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My Facebook pal, his enlightenedness, Matt Zoller Seitz at Salon.com, is today's messenger of misfortune. The big three motion picture camera manufacturers — Aaton, ARRI, and Panavision — have all halted production on traditional 35mm cameras.

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It's been a tough year for film stock. The last roll of Kodachrome was developed on December 30, 2010. Now celluloid has gone the way of the of the Dictograph.

The potential for synchronized-sound, color, widescreen, and 3-D was on display, albeit in primitive form, as far back as the Paris Exposition of 1900. Motion picture camera and projection technology (where a claw mechanism pulls the sprocketed film past a lamp at a speed of 18-24 frames per second) had remained unchanged for over 100 years. Cameras no longer need be housed in enormous soundproof boxes; they have become so lightweight and easily transportable that, according to our current apathetic mode of hand-held storytelling, one no longer need bother with a tripod.

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Frank Tashlin stands before the mighty VistaVision camera on the set of Artists and Models (1955).

As it was with three-strip Technicolor (Flowers and Trees) and stereophonic sound (Fantasia), "The House the Mouse Built" led the charge into the digital revolution. In 1999, Walt Disney Pictures released Bicentennial Man using DLP prototype projectors. It's a fact that Toy Story 2 was the first animated film to be released in IMAX, but to the best of my knowledge, it was also the first mainstream release to be digitally projected to a paying public.

So why do away with 35mm? Ease and expense. There is less effort expended by popping a hard drive into a slot than there is mounting, plattering, and threading a reel-to-reel print. No more lines, cue marks, and splices to remind one they are watching a movie, either — like TV, only bigger.

The cost of trucking bulky film canisters is astronomical. The average six-reel print previously arrived on-site in two hefty metal cans, with a combined average weight of 65 lbs. Transit fees for round-trip cartage amount to approximately $200 per title. For a major release, it would cost a studio close to $600,000 just to deliver one feature to 3000 screens.

I've witnessed digital projection that had me fooled, but exhibitors must keep pace with the times. Booth operators need to be brought up to speed and schooled in the art of digital projection. Theoretically, the chances of a Sony 4K projector losing focus should be no greater than your monitor at home. In terms of practical usage, we know better.

It's still going to take some getting used to. Compared to the soft, embossed hues film allows us to dream in, digital projection is cold, the colors bright and brittle, with pixelated skin tones that tend to register on the pink and squishy side.

I am not going to be like the naysayers who, in 1928 bellowed, "Sound will never replace silents — talking pictures are a fad!" Technology marches on. Hell, Marty shot Hugo digitally. The history of cinema is now, and it is hopefully leading us onward to a well-focused future.

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Comments

SurfPuppy619 Oct. 14, 2011 @ 5:10 p.m.

"Toy Story" was the first 100% digital, full length, animated film, and I believe "Star Wars Epsiode I The Phantom Menance" was the first live action 100% full length, digital film

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tomjohnston Oct. 14, 2011 @ 6:15 p.m.

Actually, Episode II-Attack of the Clones was the first major motion picture to be shot completely in digital. Episode I was the first film to make extensive use CG for backgrounds, environmental effects, vehicles, crowds. etcd.,and I think Jar Jar Binks was the first completely cgi major character, but the film wasn't shot in digital. And I think the first film to be shot entirely in digital was a film called The Russian Ark.

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Scott Marks Oct. 14, 2011 @ 8:40 p.m.

I'm pretty sure that "Russian Ark" was shot with a special camera to accommodate enough film to shoot the entire feature in one unbroken take.

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tomjohnston Oct. 14, 2011 @ 9:59 p.m.

Actually, you're incorrect; it wasn't shot on film. A production sony hd cam that recorded onto hard disk and recorded uncompressed HD images was used with special Steadicam system that Tilman Buttner built himself, and it recorded to a special 1tb hard drive that was developed for the project. You are correct though, in that it was 1 90 minute shot done in one take with no cuts, although I have read that it took 3 tries due to tech difficulties on the first 2. All of that plus over 2000 extras. A pretty amazing feat.

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Scott Marks Oct. 15, 2011 @ 4 p.m.

I did some research and stand corrected, TJ. One question remains: Why go through the trouble of building a camera to shoot it on video? Couldn't you simply patch it into a VHS machine and record in the SLP mode? Seriously, wouldn't the point of Jerry-rigging a camera be to add a giant magazine in order to accommodate enough film to do it in one take?

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tomjohnston Oct. 15, 2011 @ 6:18 p.m.

"Why go through the trouble of building a camera to shoot it on video" Are you still refering to "Russian Ark"??? As I said, it WAS NOT shot on film. It was shot using a Sony HDW-F900 and recorded directly onto a hard disk uncompressed. Tilman Buttner was the cinematographer and he had an assitant following him with the hard drive. No camera, no giant magazine. But, I'm sure you know that already, don't you?

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Scott Marks Oct. 16, 2011 @ 8:28 a.m.

This is becoming a comedy of miscommunication. I was merely wondering why he needed to build a special camera simply to record video, but I kept reading and found my answer. I got it! Thanks, TJ.

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Ken Harrison Oct. 15, 2011 @ 5:18 a.m.

Thanks for a great story! This is why every person under 40 should go to the La Paloma theater in Encinitas to see/feel a real movie projection theater.

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Scott Marks Oct. 15, 2011 @ 1 p.m.

If they're showing film, I need to know about it. Send me a list of what's playing and I'll gladly give it a plug!

And if I heard correctly, isn't the La Paloma showing "Rocky Horror" on DVD? Not that I'll ever subject myself to it again, but it's still a movie.

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SurfPuppy619 Oct. 15, 2011 @ 10:17 p.m.

Rocky Horror Picture SHow is one heck of a picture.....seeing Susan's assets in her prime is worth the price of admission alone........

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Scott Marks Oct. 16, 2011 @ 8:29 a.m.

That's kid stuff. Check out "Atlantic City!"

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Colonna Oct. 16, 2011 @ 9:48 p.m.

I was I was a Susan Sarandon lemon, That is what I truly want to be...

As soon as these cameras hit eBay, I'm buying one and planting it in my rec room.

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tomjohnston Oct. 17, 2011 @ 1:41 a.m.

Ah, the best 2 minutes lemons have ever known.

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Ken Harrison Oct. 26, 2011 @ 6:06 a.m.

Yes, La Paloma in Enicnitas still shows film. Allen Largent the owenr still goes up to throw the projector to the next reel.

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