It’s a Wrap: Why Hollywood Ditched the 35mm Film For Digital

“Simply put,” he said, “If you don’t make the decision to get on the digital train soon, you will be making the decision to get out of the business.” – John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners

35mm film.

For over 120 years, filmmakers and cinema-goers revelled in the wonder of movies shot on 34.98mm wide strips of photographic film. From the slapstick movies of the silent age, to the elaborate musicals of the age of sound, to the grandiose modern-day summer blockbuster…35mm has dominated as the means of delighting anyone interested in making or watching movies.

Until now.

Despite the protests of die-hard 35mm film advocates like Film Director Chris Nolan…the Film Industry has officially made the transition to digital and thrown off the expensive shackles that came from using film.

And just in time.

You see, at the same time that 35mm was delighting us for more than a century, it was also terrifying and frustrating us with a few of its notable physical qualities.

For starters, it was expensively cumbersome.

To physically print one copy of a movie on 35mm film and ship it to theatres in its heavy metal canister cost $1,500 to $2,500. And when you multiply that by the many thousands of cinema screens around the world and you can see how expensive and cumbersome it is to rely on 35mm film.

By contrast, it costs about $150 to copy a digital version of the movie onto an encrypted reusable hard drive and send it out to a movie theatre and potentially less via cloud services equipped for the job.

And another drawback to using 35mm film was that it is extremely dangerous. Up until the 1950s, 35mm film was made from cellulose nitrate, an extremely flammable substance. Cellulose nitrate decomposes and becomes unstable at temperatures as low as 38°C, produces highly toxic fumes, and is extremely difficult to extinguish…particularly since it doesn’t require oxygen in the air to keep burning.

As well as being safer to use, digital film lends itself beautifully to the complex workflow patterns involved in making a feature film.

Film production goes through stages such as:

  • Post Production
  • Dailies/Workprint/Telecine/Capture/Syncing Audio
  • Logging
  • Picture and Dialogue Editing
  • Automated Dialogue Replacement (ADR)
  • Ambience, Walla and Foley Sound Effects
  • Visual Effects
  • Titles and Credits
  • Film Scoring
  • Distribution

And each of these stages has multiple steps within it that are more easily facilitated by large file transfer of digital video files…rather than the to-and-fro of sending physical media to the relevant parties.

But it’s not just Hollywood that’s employing the large file transfer of digital video files.

In fact, many of our enterprise customers, are communicating and recording data in the form of video. These files are large in size, and so the ability to encrypt these digital video files, and send them quickly and securely is one they wouldn’t have had if they were stuck having to post or courier metal canisters of film back and forth.

So as illustrious a history as 35mm film has had for over a century…the future of video in Hollywood – and in business – has now gone digital.

Author: Maytechs products offer accelerated global data transfer without file size limits creating an ideal platform for the distribution and acquisition of video content. We offer an extensive video streaming service which is used by Hollywood studios, national broadcasters, post-production houses, advertising agencies, digital cinema and a range of other businesses to share huge video files with business partners worldwide. Why not see how we can help you

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