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SFGate: Celluloid is so 20th century -- film schools are switching to cheaper high-def digital

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  • Cary
    Interesting article in today s Chronicle about Film Schools moving to digital... ... This article was sent to you by someone who found it on SFGate. The
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 17, 2007
      Interesting article in today's Chronicle about Film Schools moving to
      digital...
      ----------------------------------------------------------------------
      This article was sent to you by someone who found it on SFGate.
      The original article can be found on SFGate.com here:
      http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/02/17/DDGVGO5JBJ1.DTL
      ---------------------------------------------------------------------
      Saturday, February 17, 2007 (SF Chronicle)
      Celluloid is so 20th century -- film schools are switching to cheaper high-def digital
      Justin Berton, Chronicle Staff Writer


      Maria Bernal-Silva, a 28-year-old film school student, awoke at 6:30 a.m.
      on a recent Monday to hold a boom mike above two actors in Potrero Hill
      Park. It's hardly the glamour job on any set, but for Bernal-Silva, who is
      enrolled at the San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking, the
      opportunity to work on the feature "Around June" amounted to progress,
      compared with her last stint in a film school.
      "I became an expert in writing thesis papers and sitting in a classroom
      with 100 people," Bernal-Silva said of her time as a cinema major at San
      Francisco State University. "I became skilled at theory, but not in actual
      production." She eventually graduated after shooting a 10-minute short on
      a 16mm Bolex camera, even though she was unable to take a directing class
      in the overcrowded program.
      Bernal-Silva represents a growing number of aspiring directors who are
      choosing to attend digital film schools that offer little, if any,
      instruction on shooting celluloid, the material on which movies have been
      made for more than a century. Two digital film schools have opened in the
      Bay Area since 2005, and most universities with film departments are
      switching over to the digital technology that students desire for its
      affordability.
      Among other things, this means that the days of film students like Spike
      Lee and Robert Rodriguez maxing out credit cards to fund their celluloid
      senior projects may soon be ending. A high-definition camera can now
      capture an entire movie on an $18 tape. So students willing to pay tuition
      -- the San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking charges $22,000 for its
      one-year program -- won't go deeper in debt when it comes time to shoot
      their final project.
      Tom Edgar, co-author of "Film School Confidential: The Insider's Guide to
      Film Schools," said the number of private digital schools has increased
      noticeably in the past few years, and the shift toward high definition
      video at academic film schools is catching on.
      "The supply is popping up to meet the demand," Edgar said of the digital
      gear. "It's changed everything. Once you needed to pay $12,000 in tuition
      to use $100,000 in equipment. Now, with digital, you can spend $10,000 and
      own everything you need to shoot a film."
      Edgar said when he attended New York University 20 years ago, students
      enrolled mainly to get access to the expensive machinery. Nowadays, "the
      whole reason you go to film school has changed. You go to learn how to
      work with actors, how to write a compelling story, how to work with a
      crew. And to devote a year of your life to it and not have to deal with
      the realities of life."
      Melinda Levin, president of the University Film and Video Association, an
      academic organization of more than 100 film schools including NYU and the
      University of Southern California, said most accredited departments
      nationwide are switching over to high-definition cameras to keep up with
      the industry changes, and operate a "hybrid system" of film and digital.
      But for some future auteurs, Levin added, it may make more sense to shun
      the university route.
      "People are now doing it on their own outside the academic setting from
      preproduction to post," Levin said, noting the rise of YouTube and digital
      film festivals. "And in the end, are they losing out by not learning the
      broad history of cinema? For them, perhaps not. They just want to tell
      their story."
      The number of private digital film schools remains small. The first, the
      Digital Film Academy, was founded in New York City in 2000. The San
      Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking opened in 2005, and the Berkeley
      Digital Film Institute began taking students in September. Both eschew the
      usual film-history courses and head straight toward vocational training.
      The dig on digital film schools is that while students may learn how to
      maneuver a high-tech camera, they are less likely to master screenwriting
      skills that can be honed in the classroom.
      But Patrick Kriwanek, who opened the Berkeley Digital Film Institute, said
      his students tweak at the keyboard as much as with the lens. "The script
      is still god," Kriwanek said. "If they can't write it, we won't let them
      shoot it."
      Kriwanek served as dean of the Academy of Art University motion pictures
      and television department for six years before he opened his school, and
      said he tired of watching students be unable to finish their thesis films
      because of the cost. Kriwanek estimated that his students now pay 50 cents
      per minute to shoot on HD, compared with as much as $200 a minute for 35mm
      film. The savings on digital allows more stories to be told, he said.
      "It's a real boon to my students to shoot without caring about the costs,"
      he said. "It's made film school utterly democratic."
      Jeremiah Birnbaum, one of the founders of the San Francisco School of
      Digital Filmmaking, said that when he opened the school in 2005, it was an
      acknowledgment that high definition was eclipsing film in the new-media
      age.
      "The way people are going to be consuming media, be it phones, handheld
      computers, PlayStation portables, YouTube -- it all relies on HD,"
      Birnbaum said.
      Feature-length films like "Around June," shot on digital, are becoming
      more common in Hollywood. Last year, two major releases, "Superman" and
      "Miami Vice," were shot on high-definition cameras, and director Rodriguez
      announced that he has shot his last reel of celluloid, permanently
      converting to digital.
      Jim Goldner, a professor at the San Francisco State cinema school, who
      helped launch the department in 1963, agreed that digital is a cheaper
      alternative in the long run. But he noted that whereas the film cameras
      the department bought in the 1960s are still operational, the digital
      cameras the college invested in five years ago are already obsolete.
      "Shooting a film will eventually go away, we know that, but it's still the
      industry standard," said Ray Rea, a full-time lecturer at State who
      negotiated the department's first loan of a high-definition camera, which
      arrived on campus last week. Rea said that over the past few years the
      department has undergone a "quantum shift" in postproduction work, thanks
      to digital editing software like Final Cut Pro.
      The digital revolution has flooded film festivals with entries, Rea noted,
      and a short that first appeared on YouTube won an award at Sundance last
      month. The shifting landscape, Rea added, has placed an emphasis on
      storytelling quality.
      "We tell our students, 'Yours had better stand out for content,' " Rea
      said. "It's great that more people have access. A counterpoint is that
      just being able to do more is not always a good thing. We see a lot of
      self-indulgent work."
      Looking back, student Bernal-Silva said, the traditional film school
      experience had left her unsatisfied and unconvinced she'd find a job on
      today's film set. She's about to enter her short "The Maze," a story about
      two people trapped inside a video game, to the reality TV show "On the
      Lot," which follows Steven Spielberg as the director seeks new talent.
      "When I look on Craigslist and see the jobs listed, I say, 'Yeah, I can
      work on that camera.' When I think about the film I made on a Bolex 16mm,
      I think, 'What am I going to do with that now?' "

      E-mail Justin Berton at jberton@.... ----------------------------------------------------------------------
      Copyright 2007 SF Chronicle
    • Cary
      Interesting article in today s Chronicle about Film Schools moving to digital... ... This article was sent to you by someone who found it on SFGate. The
      Message 2 of 2 , Feb 17, 2007
        Interesting article in today's Chronicle about Film Schools moving to
        digital...
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------
        This article was sent to you by someone who found it on SFGate.
        The original article can be found on SFGate.com here:
        http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/02/17/DDGVGO5JBJ1.DTL
        ---------------------------------------------------------------------
        Saturday, February 17, 2007 (SF Chronicle)
        Celluloid is so 20th century -- film schools are switching to cheaper high-def digital
        Justin Berton, Chronicle Staff Writer


        Maria Bernal-Silva, a 28-year-old film school student, awoke at 6:30 a.m.
        on a recent Monday to hold a boom mike above two actors in Potrero Hill
        Park. It's hardly the glamour job on any set, but for Bernal-Silva, who is
        enrolled at the San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking, the
        opportunity to work on the feature "Around June" amounted to progress,
        compared with her last stint in a film school.
        "I became an expert in writing thesis papers and sitting in a classroom
        with 100 people," Bernal-Silva said of her time as a cinema major at San
        Francisco State University. "I became skilled at theory, but not in actual
        production." She eventually graduated after shooting a 10-minute short on
        a 16mm Bolex camera, even though she was unable to take a directing class
        in the overcrowded program.
        Bernal-Silva represents a growing number of aspiring directors who are
        choosing to attend digital film schools that offer little, if any,
        instruction on shooting celluloid, the material on which movies have been
        made for more than a century. Two digital film schools have opened in the
        Bay Area since 2005, and most universities with film departments are
        switching over to the digital technology that students desire for its
        affordability.
        Among other things, this means that the days of film students like Spike
        Lee and Robert Rodriguez maxing out credit cards to fund their celluloid
        senior projects may soon be ending. A high-definition camera can now
        capture an entire movie on an $18 tape. So students willing to pay tuition
        -- the San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking charges $22,000 for its
        one-year program -- won't go deeper in debt when it comes time to shoot
        their final project.
        Tom Edgar, co-author of "Film School Confidential: The Insider's Guide to
        Film Schools," said the number of private digital schools has increased
        noticeably in the past few years, and the shift toward high definition
        video at academic film schools is catching on.
        "The supply is popping up to meet the demand," Edgar said of the digital
        gear. "It's changed everything. Once you needed to pay $12,000 in tuition
        to use $100,000 in equipment. Now, with digital, you can spend $10,000 and
        own everything you need to shoot a film."
        Edgar said when he attended New York University 20 years ago, students
        enrolled mainly to get access to the expensive machinery. Nowadays, "the
        whole reason you go to film school has changed. You go to learn how to
        work with actors, how to write a compelling story, how to work with a
        crew. And to devote a year of your life to it and not have to deal with
        the realities of life."
        Melinda Levin, president of the University Film and Video Association, an
        academic organization of more than 100 film schools including NYU and the
        University of Southern California, said most accredited departments
        nationwide are switching over to high-definition cameras to keep up with
        the industry changes, and operate a "hybrid system" of film and digital.
        But for some future auteurs, Levin added, it may make more sense to shun
        the university route.
        "People are now doing it on their own outside the academic setting from
        preproduction to post," Levin said, noting the rise of YouTube and digital
        film festivals. "And in the end, are they losing out by not learning the
        broad history of cinema? For them, perhaps not. They just want to tell
        their story."
        The number of private digital film schools remains small. The first, the
        Digital Film Academy, was founded in New York City in 2000. The San
        Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking opened in 2005, and the Berkeley
        Digital Film Institute began taking students in September. Both eschew the
        usual film-history courses and head straight toward vocational training.
        The dig on digital film schools is that while students may learn how to
        maneuver a high-tech camera, they are less likely to master screenwriting
        skills that can be honed in the classroom.
        But Patrick Kriwanek, who opened the Berkeley Digital Film Institute, said
        his students tweak at the keyboard as much as with the lens. "The script
        is still god," Kriwanek said. "If they can't write it, we won't let them
        shoot it."
        Kriwanek served as dean of the Academy of Art University motion pictures
        and television department for six years before he opened his school, and
        said he tired of watching students be unable to finish their thesis films
        because of the cost. Kriwanek estimated that his students now pay 50 cents
        per minute to shoot on HD, compared with as much as $200 a minute for 35mm
        film. The savings on digital allows more stories to be told, he said.
        "It's a real boon to my students to shoot without caring about the costs,"
        he said. "It's made film school utterly democratic."
        Jeremiah Birnbaum, one of the founders of the San Francisco School of
        Digital Filmmaking, said that when he opened the school in 2005, it was an
        acknowledgment that high definition was eclipsing film in the new-media
        age.
        "The way people are going to be consuming media, be it phones, handheld
        computers, PlayStation portables, YouTube -- it all relies on HD,"
        Birnbaum said.
        Feature-length films like "Around June," shot on digital, are becoming
        more common in Hollywood. Last year, two major releases, "Superman" and
        "Miami Vice," were shot on high-definition cameras, and director Rodriguez
        announced that he has shot his last reel of celluloid, permanently
        converting to digital.
        Jim Goldner, a professor at the San Francisco State cinema school, who
        helped launch the department in 1963, agreed that digital is a cheaper
        alternative in the long run. But he noted that whereas the film cameras
        the department bought in the 1960s are still operational, the digital
        cameras the college invested in five years ago are already obsolete.
        "Shooting a film will eventually go away, we know that, but it's still the
        industry standard," said Ray Rea, a full-time lecturer at State who
        negotiated the department's first loan of a high-definition camera, which
        arrived on campus last week. Rea said that over the past few years the
        department has undergone a "quantum shift" in postproduction work, thanks
        to digital editing software like Final Cut Pro.
        The digital revolution has flooded film festivals with entries, Rea noted,
        and a short that first appeared on YouTube won an award at Sundance last
        month. The shifting landscape, Rea added, has placed an emphasis on
        storytelling quality.
        "We tell our students, 'Yours had better stand out for content,' " Rea
        said. "It's great that more people have access. A counterpoint is that
        just being able to do more is not always a good thing. We see a lot of
        self-indulgent work."
        Looking back, student Bernal-Silva said, the traditional film school
        experience had left her unsatisfied and unconvinced she'd find a job on
        today's film set. She's about to enter her short "The Maze," a story about
        two people trapped inside a video game, to the reality TV show "On the
        Lot," which follows Steven Spielberg as the director seeks new talent.
        "When I look on Craigslist and see the jobs listed, I say, 'Yeah, I can
        work on that camera.' When I think about the film I made on a Bolex 16mm,
        I think, 'What am I going to do with that now?' "

        E-mail Justin Berton at jberton@.... ----------------------------------------------------------------------
        Copyright 2007 SF Chronicle
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