Digital Cinema: Reinvention or Interruption?


The technological transition that shaped the moving-image landscape of 21st century is constantly referred to as post-cinematic or post cinema. How do we understand post-cinema and what does it entail for the conventional understanding of cinema as a ‘live action footage’? The term post cinema  underlines a shift from established cinematic technology to new media or digital media regime. The transformation from analogue to digital technology has been nothing less than a revolutionary transition in terms of materiality and experience. By opening up the possibility of wide-ranging manipulation of recorded footage, digital technology changed cinema’s relationship with the way images are shot, edited and presented.

The digital aesthetic allows retouching “digitized footage either as a whole or frame by frame, a film in a general sense becomes a series of paintings”(Manovich,2016,30). It is a major challenge to the indexical and ontological nature of cinematic images as they can be created on a computer screen and no longer need to be a ‘visible reality’. One can ask whether analogue versus digital is a mere technological conflict or a distinction between cinema as an art and cinema as technology. The relative affordability and mobility of digital technology is also said to have boosted the independent film cultures across globe.

Since 1979 when Lucas films Ltd. established a research division to develop digitized special effects, digital revolution that arrived in distinct phases from digital sound, digital production and projection has slowly changed the entire dynamics of film production, distribution and exhibition along with robust marketing strategies. While pertinent questions about whether the ‘digital experiences’ are far more superior than cinematic visuals still requires extensive ethnographic research, one can also look at various challenges unleashed by digital technology itself. Two such major concerns are digital film piracy and film preservation. There is no concrete technological safeguard against piracy and digitally preserved films need to be upgraded every five years to avoid obsolescence makes the life of a digital film far more difficult than it appears.

Swati Bakshi


Manovich, L. (2016).What is Digital Cinema. In: Denson,S. and Leyda, J. (eds.) Post Cinema: Theorizing 21st-Century Film. REFRAME books, 20-50. Available from [Accessed 03 February 2017].

Rodwick, D.N.(2007). The Virtual Life of Film. London: Harvard University Press.

C-ya, D. (2010). In the making of Avatar. [image]. Available from [Accessed 04 February 2017].



One thought on “Digital Cinema: Reinvention or Interruption?

  1. There are some really interesting points in this post, and especially the issues raised about piracy and preservation are key one to think through in relation to digital ‘post-cinemas’. Good use of images from the production of Avatar to dramatise what is new in digital modes of production or rather post production.



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