In the vanguard of a film revolution

16th March 2012 at 00:00

Something rather amazing has been happening in film-making over the past four years that has not yet received mainstream recognition. It is not the latest of the 3D revivals, but a technological development that was almost accidental.

For decades, home film-makers and low-budget directors had learned to live with disappointment: their Super 8 or 16mm films did not look nearly as impressive as the 35mm movies shot by professionals. The arrival of high- definition camcorders sounded promising, but the footage still ended up seeming flat and noisily pixelated compared to big-budget television dramas.

But then, in 2008, makers of high-end digital SLR cameras tacked on the ability to record video, almost as an afterthought. The early adopters were stunned to find they could film scenes that looked as good as many of those projected at their local cinema.

It was not the fact that the images were high-definition (you can record in HD on a phone these days), but that combining the DSLR cameras' powerful sensors with a decent lens meant they could record shots that had a quality and depth of field that was strikingly cinematic.

In 2010, the top prize at the Critics' Week, which runs parallel to the Cannes Film Festival, went to a documentary called Armadillo, which was praised for its cinematography, yet had been shot on a Canon DSLR. Similar cameras can now be bought on the high street for about pound;400.

Some schools are already starting to use them, then editing the footage with programs such as Final Cut Pro, which is also used by the Oscar- winning Coen brothers. For every school doing this, there are dozens more making use of cheaper flip cameras and phone cameras for learning and for recording work.

So teachers and pupils are in the vanguard of a global film-making revolution. Talented pupils have long produced dazzling artwork and writing. Now that the bar has been raised for low-budget video-making, we can look forward to seeing some truly stunning films from pupils and teachers in the years ahead.

Michael Shaw is editor of TESpro @mrmichaelshaw

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