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April 01


Spring 2020

Final Frame: From Old School to Real-Time

(Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

The above still shows Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur, director Frank Capra and cinematographer Joseph Walker on a crowded set during the filming of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington from 1939. Anyone from the early years of filmmaking walking onto the set of a superhero movie or other elaborate filmmaking set today, such as The Lion King or Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, might go into a state of shock at the dramatic changes. Instead of large and bulky mechanical cameras that need to be loaded frequently with nitrate film, no video village for feedback, large painted backdrops, small crews, hand-built film sets, giant hot lights, etc., they would enter a world of multiple, small lightweight, digital and virtual cameras; greenscreens; bluescreens; virtual sets; mechanical props; tracking markers; pyrotechnics; model and miniature work; actors in mocap suits; hundreds of onset specialists; customized iPad Pros; and newer real-time engine rendering technology. And post-production? That also would be mind-blowing for the time traveler from earlier days of filmmaking. Instead of painstakingly cutting film strips, they would experience small computers with enormous processing capacity, CGI, 3D animation techniques, and armies of visual artists and tools involved in the pre- and post-production process. Real-time production is set to even further alter the dynamics of filmmaking in the 2020s and beyond.

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