Is the Film Industry Dumbing Down?…

This is the question I pose to you…

Looking at how technology and software is advancing currently (at quite an alarming rate) It’s made me think how much easier is it going to get? We have just seen the release of Final Cut Pro X, superseding the previous version (7) Reviews are mixed with a lot of professional film editors giving it the thumbs down, why? because it doesn’t include a lot of the professional features available in the last edition for example, limited export settings, no integration with previous Final Cut projects, no multi cam, no capture from tape or transfer to tape (with this being limited to DV and file import) the one problem that really effects me is no log and transfer for Sony XDcam EX footage. Positives include; Magnetic timeline (keeps audio and video in constant sync and stops overwriting of pre cut media), colour correction and colour matching has been made incredibly easy with no more three way colour corrector for those important tweaks. The majority of colour commands are built into one menu now allowing the user to “grade” the footage instantly with the click of a button.

Final Cut Pro X

Other new features include; keyword searching, content auto-analysis (where your media organises itself…like the terminator) High quality renders and support for 4k footage, as well as coming packaged with a massive sound clip library.

All looks amazing right? Well I took a step back and really thought about how film editing has developed over the years, back when I was playing with toy cars not cameras, editors would cut films and footage together by hand, by using reels and blades and tape, an incredible technique that took hours of precision and skill, if you wanted to change the colour…well most the time it was tough luck!..but you had to work with exposures of film or use filters, a cut could take minutes or hours, While it is amazing to edit like this it is a very destructive process no back button or undo.

As time developed we saw the age of digital editing, this is where we meet the likes of Apple’s Final Cut or iMovie, Windows Movie Maker (stop sniggering! seriously) Even Adobe’s Premiere Pro, You could capture your films (by tape, reel or digital) and turn it digital, this would allow you to cut, copy, paste, transform, and generally do whatever you wished with the footage, wanted that old Bad TV filter to make something like old and retro? there’s a filter for that! just apply it render it and your done! (looks nothing like the original effect but good enough for an amateur film) If you wanted the colour changed you could whip up your three colour wheels and tweak until your heart was content, make it feel warm or cold even make the background white for those corporate shoots.

At this stage most film makers agreed that it was becoming too easy, that anyone could pick up a cheap camera, download a copy of iMovie or a similar piece of amateur editing software, edit some basic transitions, cuts and effects, place some bed music, and distribute it out to YouTube or a similar user generated film site.

This still allowed the professional community to use the high end cameras and professional editing software that kept high film at the top of its game.

The game however is changing again, while technology itself is constantly adapting and moving forwards it has recently taken one huge leap. Our camera’s are now so dynamic they can record footage at a higher level to what our eye can see, it can go slower or faster then we can absorb it. Instead of shooting to tape or reel now we record to hard drive, or memory card. we don’t run out of tape, we can go back and delete rubbish clips. I admit that this has saved a lot of time and money.

What worries me is that film making as a skill is being made easier and easier, we no longer have to worry so much about lighting, framing, picture style and continuity. Where we used to have to think very carefully about where we were placing light, where it would fall, the shadow it would create, and importantly how much we needed for the camera to register it, now because a lot of us are shooting RAW, the camera can pick up such little light by using its sensors, we can get away with poorly lit scenes and “fix it in post”

Now this is an expression that really grinds my gears, I hear it clients all the time, I don’t blame them as its an expression that gets bounced around a lot, many people don’t really understand what it is or what it means. in the eyes of an amateur this term means “Ok so the lighting was a little off and there’s some shadow where it shouldn’t be, well you can do your magical thingy with that computer that you do and make it right..easy!” to a professional film maker that term comes out a little differently “Ok so there is a massive balls up with the footage, the scene hasn’t been set up properly initially, ideally I would like to reset the scene, relight the scene, change the positioning of the person, work with the camera and see how we can get around this problem all the while the producer is looking at you and turning paler by the minute, usually with a response of “We only have 10 minutes can we do it quickly” where your reply inevitably ends up being….”sure…I’ll spend hours playing with colour correction, brightness and contrast, gain settings and try and crop that nasty shadow out the corner” or “I’ll fix it in post”….

With the new software release of Final Cut Pro X we are going to see a huge leap forward in amateur film making, FCPs original price when released was around the £800 mark, with FCPX users can now purchase it from the Apple App Store for only £179.99

I do agree that it’s good to get people involved in film and start pushing where film is going, however, we are making it way too easy for self titled “professionals” to make “professional” films. I would like to see more people taking an interest in creating films, proper films, that pull in the skills and techniques learnt throughout film history. We should be focusing on the look, feel and emotion of a film, not trying to cram it out to hit an audience on time.

I remember learning at University about three point lighting, photo techniques, the rule of thirds, photo composition, shot types and sizes, etc, I have never really seen these applied in real life. In most instances I’m told to point and shoot, not to worry about the shot too much as it can be cropped down in post, throw as much light as possible and see if it sticks…whatever happened to to good old way of doing it right first time!

One last point I want to make is whatever happened to the real back to basics filming, I’ve seen so many films recently that use green screen, studios, CGI to get a look that can quite easily be created by using the right location. I remember the shoots where I went out with a group of mates with a camera, lights, some sound kit, a script etc, We would film all day getting the look just right, crawling through thistles and brambles, getting soaked by thunderstorms almost breaking limbs as you tumbled down a hill trying to save the camera during a running shot.

Now it seems most favour the studio, dry and warm, where you super impose your background on, your actors don’t want to sue you by the end of the shoot, everyone remains dry, there is plenty of good dry food, you add a rain filter after, or by using a controlled source, We shoot RAW so we can ramp up the lighting if its not right, and the audio is all created in a sound proof booth.

In my opinion it’s all about the experience and the memories you gain and friendships you make along the way. When the film is released you actually have something to be proud of! you were there, you lost the skin on your knees for that scene.


2 thoughts on “Is the Film Industry Dumbing Down?…

  1. Good blog Sir! The concept of ‘fixing it in post’, especially for stills photography, is sadly firmly ingrained in the minds of most of the general public.

    First there is the natural assumption that I spend hours editing and like it, and second is the assumption that editing can make up being inept with a camera. I’ve now taken to talking clients through my thought process as I do an engagement shoot, so they get an idea how I’m using light, why I’m posing them, and the way I’m thinking.

    As I left my last wedding to go home a man came up to me and, pointing out a cold sore on his mouth that I hadn’t noticed until that moment, asked if I could re-touch all the photos with him in to remove it. Earlier that day, as I had carried a chair out of the room to remove it from shot, one of the wedding party asked if I couldn’t just photoshop it out instead. No people, the answer is no…

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