photo courtesy : NostalgiaManila

AJ SOCORRO WRITES : In the olden days before the digital technology, only the rich and famous could watch movies outside the cinema. There was no video yet and motion picture for home use was made using the 8mm camera.

Recording an event with the 8mm camera was costly because the film’s negative needs to be processed in the laboratory and the processed product called positive requires a projector. Before the 1980s, it’s a fact that only the rich could record their activities.

The landscape of home movies drastically changed with the arrival of honest to goodness video cameras. First it was the Betamax then it was succeeded by the VHS (Video Home System), both using tape as medium.

Although still not affordable to the masses, the magnetic tape-driven cameras became a hit mainly because of the accompanying affordability of the Beta and VHS players. Hongkong was the origin of those cheap magnetic tape players.

Remember the rewinder? It’s a gadget to rewind the tape to its original position so as to conserve the tape player’s read head. For preventive maintenance, there was the tape cleaner which needs to be played in the player.

The cartridge – the VHS was larger than the Beta – originated from the audio cassette tapes. Inventors found out that the magnetic tape can also carry video tracks aside from the usual audio tracks.

Blank cartridges were not really cheap but they could be considered affordable. This paved the way for the popularity of the Beta and VHS cameras. Photo studios instantly converted their services to photo and video coverage.

Grand occasions, particularly weddings and debuts, wouldn’t be complete without the ubiquitous small video camera together with yellow klieg lights. And after a month, the celebrants could watch the event on their tv set, courtesy of the Beta or VHS player.

The photo album got a stiff competition from the tape players. But unlike the cell phone era, the marginalized sector still couldn’t afford the tape players so the majority of celebrations were still captured by still cameras.

Another plus factor for the popularity of the Beta and VHS players were the conversion of films into tape. One cartridge equals one movie that could be watched in the comfort of one’s home, that’s a sure winner.

The tape rental business was born. Owners of tape players were easily convinced to rent a tape of movies instead of watching the movie in the theaters. Admittedly, the tape rental was a direct competitor of the movie industry.

With the arrival of tape players having a write function, aside from the usual play or read function, copying of tapes became as easy as abc. As an added bonus, the tape player can record anything that’s played on the television (that is attached to the player).

In late 1980s, Filipinos in the US developed a fondness for PhilippineTV programs that were recorded by enterprising balikbayans. Such tapes were rented out for a minimal fee. It was an underground industry that thrived among Filipinos in America.

According to Surf Reyes, the need for television broadcast gave impetus to the development of the so-called broadcast quality. Surf, by the way, is the director of the Film Gym, the Film Academy’s educational arm.

The magnetic tape was the center of recording during the days of VCR – video cassette recorder, a handy recording machine with a broadcast quality output. Hence the term VTR was born, to mean Video Tape Recording.

The bulk of VCRs and video players (Beta and VHS) were made in Taiwan and readily available to the Philippines via Hongkong. The mass production gave way to lower prices including that of blank tape cartridges.

Just a technical note for the home videos, the frame of the Betamax is smaller than that of the VHS. The bigger the frame, the clearer the video. That’s one advantage of VHS over the Betamax, aside from the longer running time.

In the heydays of the video camcorders, the movies were not affected at all. The 35mm film was still the standard medium of the cinema projectors which runs the movie reels at 24 frames per second.

New cameras were still coming out. The sleek Arriflex D-21 was a thing to brag about. Later on it was the Arri Alexa and the Arriflex 235. These cameras can be considered hi-tech in the sense that they are very modern compared to their predecessors.

Amid the booming digital technology, the movie industry ignored the possibility of using video in movies. In terms of digital measurement, the 480 x 640 pixels of the video is so small compared to the 3072 x 4096 pixels of the film.

With the clearer resolution, the video’s broadcast quality had become the standard of television. The same goes for home videos which shifted to digital cameras using DV tapes (digital video format).

In the olden days, short film was rare due to the cost of production. But one guy was persistent with his hobby – Kidlat Tahimik a.k.a. Eric De Guia of Baguio City is considered the Father of Short Film.

Kidlat would write, produce, direct and most of the times, star in his short films. His films would be exhibited in festivals abroad. Incidentally, Kidlat won the Fukuoka Prize for Arts and Culture “Ay Apo… May Shooting ng Bamboocam.”

At the turn of the millennium, the surging digital technology surprised the movie industry. Not only short films were resurrected. The user-friendly technology gave birth to the indie films.

HD, popularly known as High Definition video, changed the rules of the game in the filmmaking business. The HD camera’s frame size output of 1080 height x 1920 width of pixels is more than double the size of the broadcast quality video of television.

The HD resolution was not at par with the resolution of the 35mm film but it was enough for a competition. With a quality projector, the HD movie can be conveniently blown up into the big screen to be a bonafide movie.

As a defense mechanism for their ignorance of the digital format, some cinematographers shunned the digital movie. It was funny that their criticisms include pixelation, a term that cinematographers of the old school really didn’t understand.

Although the cost of the camera is in the vicinity of P300,000 but the underground market, with the second hand units, were bustling. Not only the rich but even the middle class could now afford to experiment with the new digital cameras.

With the reusable storage, cost of recording is practically very minimal. The director has the convenience of unlimited takes. By the way, the contents (footages) of the memory card should be uploaded to a computer before the memory card can be reused.

The HD camera of Panasonic

To complement the convenience of the HD, different editing softwares came forth. Although the desktop computers need add-ons, post production studios felt the ease of doing the post production especially with the titles.

Indie productions trail-blazed the use of digital cameras in the local movie industry. As the moviehouses allowed the use of digital projectors, digital movie producers had to rent projectors (at P30,000 per day) to screen their digital movies.

The term Kinescoping—the process of converting digital movies into film—was coined. The conversion was a requirement because the theaters were then not equipped with digital projectors. Later on, SM Cinemas installed one digital projector in selected malls.

As per the law of supply and demand plus the onslaught of advancing technology, HD cameras got cheaper and digital projectors got better and better. Softwares began to offer their own innovations.

Local movies, especially fantasy movies like Panday and Enteng Kabisote, availed of the CGI (Computer-generated Images) for their special effects. Versus the traditional production design, CGI is much cheaper.

Seeming not to be content, the digital technology came up with the IMAX theater, an invention of IMAX Corporation Canada. It uses the 70mm film size, that’s double of the standard movie screen. Shades of Cinerama with the widest screen theater.

Boasting of a big screen and, of course, a clearer resolution, IMAX is being patronized despite the costly ticket of P400 (as against the P175 to P200 of the standard cinema).

Another plus factor for the digital movie is the computerized animation. Although too complex for an amateur, animation softwares are not that too difficult to learn, especially if one knows video editing already.

But sad to say, several local animation movies did not earn. RPG Metanoia did not even reach 20 million in sales considering that it was a participant of the 2010 Metro Manila Film Festival.

But animation for effects is now gaining ground. In the recent Panday movie of Bong Revilla, most of the effects were computerized animation. Animation is one of the causes of delay of the movie’s post production.

3D has been with us a long time ago. It is shot in different angles and mixed in the editing. Composing a 3D movie is actually superimposing the same scene with a different angle. And with the use of 3D glasses, the viewer sees the effect.

The 3D camera gear which has 2 lenses

Some people don’t relish 3D movies because it makes them dizzy. There are scenes that look off-tangent and a viewer can develop headache due to eye strain. That flaw was caused by faulty measurement in the shooting of the scenes.

But a few years back, a 3D camera wended its way into the market. It is actually a rig (or casing) that attached 2 cameras in the desired angle to produce the 3D effect. With the fixed camera angle, the perspective is almost perfect.

But unlike the ordinary HD camera, the 3D camera rig costs in millions of pesos. For now, local use of the 3D camera is mainly for shooting commercial advertisements. In a year or two, it is predicted that the 3D camera will be affordable to the middle class.

What camera will they think of next?

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