The Digital Revolution in the Short Film Industry
In the last two decades alone, we’ve seen some astonishing changes in the world. Back in the mid-1990s, we were welcoming electronic mail and the first ‘mobile’ phone devices were introduced as we saw in the new millennium. Even in the mid-2000s, we were still using the very first flip phones and MP3 players, CDs were still common, and we could get through the day without social media.
In just one decade, ten small years, technology has exploded. Now, we have devices that talk to us with Amazon’s Echo, devices that fit around our wrist and analyze our performance during exercise, and more apps than could ever be useful on the appropriate stores. In truth, this has helped in a number of industries (as well as life itself) and one of the biggest beneficiaries has been the short film industry.
For many years, short films were difficult to produce, they required highly-talented editors, they were expensive, and were relatively rare as a result. Of course, there were still numerous budding filmmakers looking to make a name for themselves and many did. However, the world has changed and today we’re going to explore the digital revolution in the short film industry.
Affordable Equipment – How could we start anywhere else? Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the cost of equipment would automatically price many filmmakers out of the industry. Typically, it would be a case of hiring specialized camera crews who would do all the recording with their own equipment. With most short films on a budget, this would be a limit in the number of takes for each scene and a lack of control over style and camera techniques. For many, this meant an end result with which they weren’t entirely happy.
Today, the market is abound with high-quality cameras all over the world. Regardless of budget, filmmakers can get their hands on equipment good enough to record a short film whether they buy it, borrow it from a store, borrow it from a friend, or use something they already own. Of course, the latter is leaning towards smartphones and other such devices. If we compare the camera on a new smartphone to the cameras we had even 20 years ago, there’s no comparison in terms of clarity and quality. Therefore, more filmmakers are using iPhones and other smartphones and even tablets to film with an affordable tripod.
Not only are cameras now more affordable, all the other required equipment shouldn’t cause any issues to obtain including sound equipment. Today, small clip-on microphones can be found for a small price just as easy as a classic boom microphone. Once again, they could even be borrowed from others who have the equipment (more on this later).
With more affordable and accessible high-quality equipment, short films are now easier to produce because the previous limitations have now disappeared. With an idea and some skill, anybody could get started in a matter of hours.
Editing Software – With even the greatest films throughout the history of cinema, they say the success should be given to the editor since they decide how the audience perceives the content. In fact, the same film edited by two different people can have a completely different story, it would evoke a different emotion in the viewer, and the actor, despite the clips being the same, could be seen in a different light.
Therefore, this led to professional services half a century ago. Even leading up to the 1990s, the only way a short film could be edited was with a professional service who had professional software with which to work. If the filmmaker couldn’t (or didn’t) portray exactly what they wanted in the final result, it would end up very different to the intended product. Normally, the filmmaker would have to sit with the editor to ensure everything was done as required.
These days, there are some superb professional editing software options available for an affordable price or for no cost at all. With the interface so easy to use, even absolute beginners could pick up a mouse and start editing a short film. What’s more, there are now several special effects that can be added as and when necessary to highlight certain scenes, add sound effects, and bring the short film to life.
Freelance Film Experts – Sticking with the same theme and the first two changes from the digital revolution, freelance workers are now easier to find and this is thanks to the internet and social media. With a simple search on Google right now, you could probably find a crew for your short film within just a few minutes.
Nowadays, freelance camera crew, editors, sound recorders, special effects specialists, and more will have their own websites and profile on Facebook. With this, you can see their portfolio and decide whether or not they’re right for your project. If you aren’t sure, send them a message and you can get talking about your idea and make sure you’re on the same wavelength and this allows for ultimate control over your film.
Collaboration – If you’re a budding filmmaker yourself, you aren’t alone and this is something people often forget. In years gone by, the only way to find people interested in filmmaking was to put a notice in the local noticeboard or perhaps attend classes and groups. With Facebook and various websites online, you can find filmmaking groups and forums where all filmmakers come together to talk about short films and arrange projects.
With some of the greatest films in history coming from directing duos and superb partnerships, filmmakers can find like-minded people and those who have similar aims with a similar style. Suddenly, ideas are bouncing around and the quality of short film industry improves over time. In the past, we’ve heard of several people who found partners to collaborate with on the internet and it allows them to enjoy making short films that little bit more which then ensures their stay within the industry for much longer.
Earlier, we touched upon borrowing equipment and this has been allowed to happen with the internet and continual technological advancements too. Suddenly, filmmakers can post online that they need certain equipment in a certain location. Whenever somebody nearby spots the post and can help, they meet up and collaborate. Therefore, there are several options for collaboration these days and it’s all thanks to the digital revolution.
Unlimited Takes – To come back to another point we discussed a little earlier, short film makers were restricted many moons ago for two reasons. Firstly, they might have hired cameramen and women as well as the equipment. The longer they had the equipment, the costlier the project would become. Secondly, the recording equipment itself was limited in terms of time.
With the equipment we have today, videos that aren’t required can be deleted on the spot and actors/actresses, and the whole crew, have unlimited takes to get a scene right. Rather than worrying about time and money, the devices can record hours and hours of footage. With the improved editing software as discussed earlier, filmmakers can then edit the parts that aren’t useful within seconds rather than scrolling through hours of film.
3D Printing – Although this might not be available for all budgets just yet, 3D printing is very quickly taking the film industry by storm. Currently, the largest studios and production companies are using 3D printers to create set pieces. To use examples, we believe the night-vision goggles in Zero Dark Thirty were produced with a 3D printer as well as a full-scale tank exterior used in Fast & Furious 6. Considering most artists work with computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-generated imagery (CGI) anyway, this lends itself to 3D printing.
With the technology still so new, there are some issues that exist and the cost is one of the biggest for directors of short films. However, didn’t we once say the same for recording equipment, cameras, smartphones, and every other piece of technology that came out? As it becomes more popular, billions of dollars gets invested and more companies take an interest. Over time, the devices become more accessible which makes them more affordable. With 3D printers surely about to enter this lifecycle, it won’t be long before all filmmakers have access to 3D tools to help build sets and specific scenes and this is fantastic news.
Virtual Reality (VR) – With gaming, VR has already made a huge impact and we believe it’ll soon jump across to the movie industry too. In the future, producers of short films will save time during the pre-production phase. Rather than having an image in the mind and not being able to communicate it to somebody else on the team, it can be built on easy-to-use software so everybody can view it using VR. Instantly, adjustments can be made to optimize the idea and everybody is on the same page moving forward.
At the other end of the journey, VR can improve the viewing experience before the film is even shown. For example, a character backstory can be shown through the device or perhaps a behind-the-scenes tour. For those with a larger budget, filmmakers could even allow their viewers to walk through the film environment and see what the characters saw in the film. Ultimately, the extent to which this enters the short film industry will depend on its advancement and affordability in the coming years but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that this will soon play a huge role.
Improved Opportunities – Finally, there are now more opportunities for short films to get exposure these days and this is exciting for everybody involved in the industry. If we look back a couple of decades, short films would be entered into festivals and the like but there was little else to do for the makers. Contrast to today, we have YouTube as well as numerous short film websites that allow anybody to upload a short film and receive exposure, ratings, and feedback.
Although these websites do have thousands of videos, the high-quality films really do shine through because the audience is full of short film fans. After being uploaded, it can be promoted on social media as well as making a version available on the filmmaker’s website. With the right marketing strategy, the short film can shine as it deserves.
With the sheer amount of technology entering the market each year, this is great news for all short film makers and it’s only going to improve over time. Thanks to the digital revolution in the short film industry, more budding filmmakers are having an opportunity to make a name for themselves while keeping the end product a superb quality for all viewers!