Realistic Images In Digital Age

With the help of technology, digital film eliminates the contradiction between the reality and imagination. Non-real things are no longer retained in the dream or transcendence. It is in the reality of the illusion that this resemblance is the highest realm of modern media, including digital cinema, to the pursuit of the real illusion (Baudrillard & Poster, 1988).


However, in documentary photography the process of digital imaging and computer imaging technology is a challenge to the concept of authenticity. Bazin believes that film is a real image of reality through the mechanical record of art; using film as a unique representation of things is the nature of film based on original documentary aesthetics (Bazin, 2004). Kracauer also said that while the shadow records and reveals the material reality, it has become a valuable film.(Kracauer, 1961). On the other hand, Arnheim believes that the relationship between image and reality is realistic replication (Arnheim, 1957).

In fact, the traditional means of shooting “real” film is also very limited. Film creators have been exploring how to break through the limitations of film photography, which has resulted in the invention of a variety of imaging techniques, such as midway stop shooting technology, image synthesis technology, and multiple exposure technology, to name a few. These explorations, like digital technology, challenge the “mechanical” reproduction of the film. Spielberg put actors (human) and dinosaurs (digital images) on a panoramic lens; this merging of technology and traditional optical image synthesis is not necessarily different in vision, but it is a digital “virtual”. This kind of digital image creates a new aesthetic realism. The image produced by the digital technology is taken away from the authenticity of the photographic record, but it can be combined with the image of the real shot, and the objects of different time and space can coexist in the computer screen. Prince put forward the idea that:

“A perceptually realistic image is one which structurally corresponds to the viewer’s audiovisual experience of three-dimensional space. Perceptually realistic images correspond to this experience because film-makers build them to do so. … As we will see, even unreal images can be perceptually realistic. Unreal images are those which are referentially fictional. … Perceptual realism, therefore, designates a relationship between the image or film and the spectator, and it can encompass both unreal images and those which are referentially realistic. Because of this, unreal images may be referentially fictional but perceptually realistic. ” (Prince, 1996:32)

When making use of virtual technology, the film creators try their best to make the images they create conform to an individual’s recognition of “they” or “them”, and even imitate the photographic image as much as possible. Therefore, digital technology has only led to a change in the method of film imaging; it has not changed the reality of the film image, but to some extent it has strengthened the viewer’s sense of reality. (Prince, 1996).

Written By Yilei Peng


Arnheim, R. (1957). Film as art. Univ of California Press.

Bazin, A. (2004). What is cinema? (Vol. 2). Univ of California Press.

Baudrillard, J., & Poster, M. (1988). Selected writings,145.

JURASSIC PARK 1-3 – Dinosaur / Animal Compilation, Available from [Accessed 19 March 2017].

Kracauer, S. (1961). Nature of film: the redemption of physical reality. D. Dobson.

Prince, S. (1996). True Lies: Perceptual Realism, Digital Images, and Film Theory, Film Quarterly49(3), 27-37.

Images [Accessed 19th March 2017]

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