Long Take Realism and Digital Cinema

Film has come a long way from being a physical entity to a digital object. With technological advancement the process of making films has shifted from mechanical to mathematical. This technical improvement has impacted film technique as well as film aesthetics.

Like Bazin, Rodowick believes that long take enhances reality but is more proficient in analog film than digital film. Rodowick refers to long take in digital context as ‘fake’ and asks “why is it difficult for the digital image to communicate duration?” (2007, p178). It could be discussed that ‘digital’ emphasizes on motion rather than duration. Cinema, after all, is referred to as ‘motion’ pictures. Italian Neorealism and French new wave primarily employed long takes through still camera which displayed realism in projecting real time. It could be argued that adoption of long takes during this period was because a) the movement of the camera was restricted due to size, and b) the post production process of editing was not highly sophisticated. But digital technology removed those restrictions. Contemporary films showcase long takes that project realism through both motion and duration. In the opening sequence of Breaking News (2004), which is a seven minute long take, the fluid camera movement conveys a sense of spatial and time as the action unfolds in real time of characters thereby creating an engagement of realism.

Rodowick’s response to change from analog to digital seems similar to the inhibition and skepticism expressed by post cinema theorists like Lev Manovich. Films have been an effective medium not only to show but to capture audiences’ imaginations and enhance the viewers’ cinematic experience which has been drastically transformed by digital technology. Is that not what the magic of storytelling all about?

Sagar Chhatwani


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

Mcorstiaans. (2008). Breaking news: opening tracking shot. YouTube. Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJlCYNt2z9k [Accessed 04 February 2017]


One thought on “Long Take Realism and Digital Cinema

  1. Nice discussion of Rodowick, but is his pessimism about the power of digital images for realism and to capture duration really fully shared by Manovich? You certainly gave a good example of long duration in digital film (or should we say cinema?)


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