Evolution of Film: Tech Innovations

Updated: Jan 6

When one thinks of cinema, no one person’s mental image will mirror another’s. The film industry has been creating cinematic marvels for decades, and with movie magic, comes innovation.


A recent trend we as movie-goers have seen leveraged quite often by production companies are movie remakes and sequels. There are mixed feelings as to the reception of these trends, but among producers a common thread as to why they see fit to make them is because there are technological tools available today that afford them the opportunity to make an even cooler, more creative, immersible cinematic experience for audiences. Let's take a look at some of the most popular technological innovations that today’s filmmakers use to create their masterpieces.


  • CGI

CGI, or computer generated imagery, was first used in 1973 in the sci-fi film Westworld. Many films from the sci-fi and fantasy genres have used it to bring their abstract visions to life. Today, it’s difficult to think of a film that doesn’t utilize this incredible technology. Seen by many as the successor of stop-motion animation within the realm of live action films, CGI has been at the heart of the majority of industry remakes within recent years. CGI has not only helped in re-imaginative story-telling, but also in bringing to life highly creative and visually stunning original masterpieces as well. James Cameron used a special form of CGI known as motion-capture, or performance capture, in his hit film Avatar. This technology allowed the actors who were fitted in special suits to be captured on camera as their CGI characters in real time.


  • Drones

No longer do film crews need planes and helicopters to capture aerial shots. Drones are an efficient innovation used for capturing shots that are difficult, if not impossible, for a regular crew to get. The film industry now uses drones that have built-in knowledge and algorithms related to filmmaking techniques. Not only are drones able to go where regular cameras cannot, but they know how to maintain the framing of aerial shots with little input needed from the pilot. They are also GPS-enabled and can be operated through smartphones, an app, or even by a remote control system.


  • VR

VR, or virtual reality, cameras capture film in a 360-degree view. Companies like Google are working on professional-grade cameras, while others are developing cameras for consumers. While VR as a gaming tool has not shown as much success as industry leaders hoped, the film industry is hoping VR could prove a more useful tool for them as an upgrade from the 3D experience. Imagine a film-going journey in which the audience is completely immersed within the film, having a 360-degree view of the cinematic world. Some short films have adapted versions of this technology within theme park rides. Filmmakers are aware that not every viewer can tolerate a virtual reality environment for the length of the average feature film, so we may not see a VR feature too soon.


  • Smartphone Filming Equipment

The evolution of smartphone cameras has given the power of filmmaking to anyone with a phone. Directors no longer need heavy, expensive equipment to capture great films. From YouTubers to social media influencers to award-winning directors, creatives across every genre are discovering the technological tools at their fingertips. Advancements in film equipment for phones are already being cultivated as the use of smartphones in the film industry rises. Many short films and documentaries are now being made on smartphones. The critically-acclaimed Sundance film Tangerine, has become a pioneer in this regard, as it was shot completely using a smartphone.


Numerous technological innovations are at the root of many films we know and love today; Thomas Edison’s very first motion picture, talkies, green screens, stop-motion, 3D technology, animation, mixed-media films, advanced editing and algorithms, and camera stabilization. These, along with many other advancements, allowed filmmakers to bring their creations to life in ways that their theatrical predecessors could only dream of. Now, modern innovations are mainly geared toward accessibility of equipment for all filmmakers as well as how they can fully immerse audiences into their cinematic worlds. As an avid film-goer, I personally can’t wait to see how filmmakers continue to creatively integrate technological innovations to make films even better.


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