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Croatian film

Studies and research: digital film

A Million Dollar Graffiti: Notes from the Digital Domain

Rapid development of digital imaging technology means that, social taboos apart, there are no longer many practical reasons why anything at all should not be represented on screen.

Computer-generated imagery covers the whole material range, from the huge, numinous, unarguably solid presence of dinosaurs in Jurassic Park to the miniature, seemingly banal and, above all, weightless — like the feather that floats over the opening credits of Forrest Gump. It is not simply used for effects that would otherwise be too expensive or too arduous to achieve — the traditional role of special-effects technology — it specialises in feats that are impossible, unnatural. Moreover, such images are more real than real and represent a sudden and drastic change both in the kind of illusion that films offer to us and the very way we perceive them.

Concerned with the ontology of the digital image and the implications of the rapid development of digital technology, the author traces three stages of digital encroachment into the cinematic image of the world — the first one being represented by the introduction of discrete digital entities into a recognisable real world, through the technique of compositing (in Jurassic Park); the second one represented by the digital rewriting of the visible world (embodied in Forrest Gump); and the third one represented by the Toy Story in which a digitally generated, three-dimensional world entirely supplants photographic reality. These stages are conceptual rather than strictly historical, since the types of imaging they represent overlap in different films, however, taken together they provide a schema of the way in which the digital domain seems to be slowly becoming more like a digital dominion.

Jonathan Romney

What is Digital Film?

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