Cinema is essentially an industry
di Vittorio Dublino
After some time, an artistic intuition was added to the technical side, giving birth to the so-called Seventh Art.
Its dual nature kept going peacefully for some time, although technological innovation wasn't always welcome by its artists and authors. However it is the actual innovation of technology that is a fundamental aspect for the evolution of cinema, sometimes even helping it to reborn after its worst periods of crisis.
Cinema is the only art that constantly changes, because it contains within itself all the other arts (music, painting, writing, etc.), supported by the always growing technology following new scientific discoveries.
Considered by historians as the greatest technical and aesthetic improvements interesting the seventh art, the advent of sound and colour was initially a shock for film workers used to black and white and no sound. However, after a while these new inventions were essential to model what we presently know as the industry of dreams.
The same phenomenon is happening at the present time with digital.
On one hand it is changing the way of shooting, threatening the long life of film stock. On the other hand it supports the film shooting and the artist's creativity by innovating the post-production process up to the point that the two separate phases of production and post-production will be joined together in the near future.
But the future is already the present!
Although post-production is considered as a single process of the whole production, in constant change since the beginning of the digital era, in Italy (and in other culturally outdated countries with no consideration for the digital means) post-production is merely considered as an accessory to complete the work.
Thanks to computer graphics, Cinema began to gain the possibility of going beyond reality, gaining the ability to create “things” that it would normally be possible to achieve with the aid of extremely expensive conventional means, often limiting the authors' creativity.
With the release of James Cameron's “Avatar”, 2010 is the year of the definitive revolution. Digital is officially integrated into Cinema.
Techniques, technology, means and processes involved in production have definitely changed. With the introduction of virtual cameras and simul-cam technology for the application of augmented reality , we barely understand the boundaries between production and post-production.
Starting from this point, cinema can gain brand new creative life, bringing into the industry new themes such as the binomial: science fiction and philosophy, as well as impossible and unlikely film characters.
This coincides with the need for a technique for ideas and contents, not the other way round.
But this is only a primordial phase. The concept of post-production, therefore the concept of Cinema, is already moving on.
Almost seventy years ago, René Barjavel, in his essay “Cinéma Total” (1944), theorised about “cinema as a mean capable of introducing us to fully realistic characters entering our homes. A cinema that will not replace traditional arts but instead will use them as communication in which images are transported by waves: this will happen in a world where millions of spectators can enjoy a show of sounds, colours and scents.”
Some statements by Barjavel on Total Cinema, seem to prophesy the path where cinema is heading with the advent of digital: “…it will be completed when it will be able to bring us three-dimensional, coloured and maybe even scented characters; when these characters will step out from the screen and from darkness and will start walking in our own homes and public places.”
This is not about a cinema based on flat realism tending to “represent to perfection a father's moustache”, but it is a sum of all the arts joined together. It is a cinema made of colours and sounds, but not based on dialogues. Words are not the only sounds in Barjavel's point of view. Dialogues destroy the sounds. It is a three-dimensional cinema, even if Barjavel cannot figure out what technology is capable of such skills. He theorises about solid images made of “waves”. He thinks of replacing the screen with a “waves' screen”, and by saying so he is not far from the theory of holographic cinema.
James Cameron will in fact be known as the first screenwriter and director of digital thought! His first creation is totally thought and realised digitally, confirming Barjavel's prophecy.
Barjavel was blamed for emphasising technology's role instead of the work of the author. Instead he criticises those who step back horrific because of “mental laziness” in front of new technological inventions such as colour and three-dimensions. It is not a mere enhancement of technology itself, because the French writer notices the great power that cinema would gain from it.
Power would be the first quality: total cinema, powerful as a “ten ton tractor”, can demolish “the physical world of bodies and things and enter it with its double fantasy”. Total cinema plays with reality. It will make use “of these misleading materialistic appearances in order to carry the spectator into the world of illusion, of absurd, of marvellous”.
It is really worth quoting another paragraph of his essay: “Animals, men, objects, the entire world with all of its creatures, and all of its dreams, all of the wonderful or horrendous living beings that can be generated by the imagination of poets, will come to life in front of the spectator. They will swarm about next to him, around him, shining, making noises, vivacious, real and yet they disappear. Colour will materialise in vortex, in veils, in volumes, in explosions. All the blue from the sky will suddenly slip into the virgin's eye. From the heart of a rose, clouds of spring will rise. Sound will be real, words will explode, trumpets will open galleries made of brass, the nightingale's song will dance in multicoloured flames. Real volume will give to total cinema its last chances, which will go further that the craziest surrealist mind...”
We get the impression that criticisms of Barjavel's theory seem to be present in many people. But we're convinced that this is only due to the cultural gap created by new technologies.
Total cinema takes up again Wagner's concept of the “Gesamtkunstwerk”, which consists in the unification of single arts “in the monadic perfection of an independent language”.
Wagner states that “only revolution (…) can give us back that supreme work of art”, which from his point of view was taken from Greek Theatre, intended as a multimedia example, uniting singing, recital, movements and images. Greek Theatre, which can be defined as 'total', was also one of the first examples of research for interaction, ending in catharsis, in the collective effect of purification.
In cinema “the creation of the image is historically and technically accidental”. Total cinema aims for a complete recreation of sensitive experiences that the spectator has to feel while at the same time changing its role, implying a strong emotional movement: in other words, it is the effort of reaching “Interaction”.
The inevitable advent of digital in both cinema and television, from the first pioneering experiments with holography to the recent commercial achievements with films shot in stereoscopy with 3D cameras, but most of all the other future scientific achievements about to come into the audio-visual in general, are all aiming to the real third dimension, moving us closer to this final goal.
This is another essential aspect of the constant mutation of the technological means, viewed by many experts as: a shift from the two-dimensional recent commercial cinema to three-dimensional technology, could even bring our brain to a more realistic assimilation of images, consequentially amplifying emotions and self-identification.
Today's cinema seems to be at a turning point. Over the last few years cinema is going through a declaration of its own death, or at least of its unease, because of both an economic crisis (caused by the constant threat posed by television, home video and internet) and a lack of contents. This applies in particular to Italian cinema.
Because of this situation, some directors are today hoping in the use of digital technology.
They also wish that the application of digital will help the film industry grow, thanks to a progressive cooperation between cinema and new media. The tendency is leading to a conversion into digital of all phases of film production, also according to many of the production companies with which we are working at the moment.
All hopes and criticisms are related to the use of digital technology in the film shooting and post-production phases.
The boundaries of digital production give us two options: shooting almost in a traditional manner (new means suggest different ways of realising a film), using digital cameras instead of film cameras, or directly creating images on a computer without the need for re-acting real events, using virtual spaces and characters.
The history of the so-called “digital cinema”, a definition which is still hazy, is fairly recent and studies on the subject are currently just a few.
Today's definition of “digital cinema” generically involves all those films produced with digital means such as cameras or computers. Therefore the images that belong to it are virtual. The discussion on digital is therefore a complex theme which needs clarification and differentiation: it has to be kept safe from “misbelief” and stereotypes.
Nevertheless every study on digital is destined to quickly become obsolete.
Supporters and detractors of the new technology are today in favour or against technical, economical and aesthetic innovations brought by it. While those who are engaged in studying its characteristics and evolution are trying to predict, through a more profound analysis, what new scenarios lie ahead for “digital cinema”.
 Augmented Reality: definition of emerging applications able to enrich the public's physical space through the mix of virtual images and real footage. The visualised reality will then be “augmented”, through digitally created synthetic data added to real world images. These technologies are used in many other sectors of society such as the Health-care system (e.g. Telemedicine, surgery, radiological), archaeology, aeronautical industry and national defence [e.g. Military training through Virtually Simulated Enviroments (scenarios) played in real life places].