The digital revolution will change the way we tell stories. So says famed Director Barry Levinson writing in the Los Angeles Times about his new film, The Bay, a reconstruction of events that took place in a small town in Maryland. It was made for a little over $2 million, using more than 20 digital platforms. He writes:
“The challenge of re-creating all those events that played out in the course of that one day required us to rethink previous visual techniques. You have to abandon classical cinematic form and composition. There's a fundamental difference between how someone handles a consumer product and how a professional would approach a subject.
“Larger cameras were on dollies or, more recently, Steadicam. But those who use consumer cameras simply hold them in their hand. Sometimes they might shoot from their waist or any way they choose. So, in a certain fashion, the language of film composition changes. Classical form is challenged.
“Ironically, when our cinematographer does some of the filming, he needs to duplicate the crudeness and the non-sophistication of a video that would go on YouTube. As to the picture quality, we decided after testing rather extensively that it would be best to use actual consumer products rather than working with high-end professional equipment that would be degraded later in post-production. No matter how much we beat up the video from the consumer cameras in Final Cut, it still looked too good.
“So, what will be the next steps in digital storytelling? It may be hard to imagine at the present time, but an analogy could be made to music. When the synthesizer first began, it tried to mimic the violin, the guitar, the trumpet. And then it evolved into a sound that we'd never heard before. Its own sound. The visual storytelling of tomorrow may be beyond our grasp at the present time.
“This digital revolution will change the way we tell stories. It will challenge the convention of today and it will redefine the distribution of film for tomorrow. There will be many who will lament what was, and there will be many more who never knew what was.
“Today, the screen can be big or small. We can watch a film on IMAX, we can watch on our iPhone. We can stop it. Restart it. Back it up. Freeze-frame it. And speed through the slow parts. The magic and sheer thrill of it all might be gone, but this is the world we live in. This is a digital age, and anyone with a camera, as cheap and raw as it may be, can tell a story.”
Academy Award laureate Levinson's credits include Rain Man, Bugsy, Wag the Dog and The Natural.