In Focus: One Filmmaker Who Knows How To Go Digital - InformationWeek

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5/13/2005
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In Focus: One Filmmaker Who Knows How To Go Digital

'Some think film looks better than high-definition digital when it's finished and projected on a screen, but it's not true,' independent moviemaker Coppola says.

Independent filmmaker Christopher Coppola, whose uncle is famed director Francis Ford Coppola, wants the world to see movies as he does: crisp, clean, and unadulterated. When Michael Cinoi, an Emmy Award-winning post-production supervisor at Christopher Coppola's Plaster City Productions, completes a motion picture in digital format, colors are vivid and accurate, the file is free of dust and scratches, and it's precisely in focus, no matter how many times it's viewed.

Christopher Coppola

Christopher Coppola
"Some think film looks better than high-definition digital when it's finished and projected on a screen, but it's not true," Coppola says. "You can actually get the same film texture in a digital file if you choose, and it will never look scratched or the color faded."

Coppola believes so fervently in digital cinema that he started Ears XXI Inc. studio three years ago to explore advanced digital moviemaking and production. He also founded Plaster City Productions in 1995, and since then he has advocated the use of digital media and fostered alternative distribution methods by partnering with Digi-Flicks International Inc., which has been distributing digital content on hard drives for years.

This July, with New Mexico's Digital Filmmaking Institute, Coppola is hosting the Duke City Shootout movie festival in Albuquerque, N.M., with an impressive list of judges that includes Hollywood legend Peter Fonda. Participants must digitally produce, shoot, edit, and premiere their films from "script to screen" in seven days.

Digital cinema is particularly interesting to independent filmmakers, who are discovering it costs less to produce movies on digital media than celluloid. "We had a filmmaker come through that didn't want to produce the movie in high-definition digital because they only had $30,000 to make the feature and didn't think they could afford it," Coppola says. But by producing the film digitally, the filmmaker was able to create the flick within budget. "If we produced the movie in film, it would have cost about $600,000," including film and lab work, Coppola estimates.

There are still roadblocks to a purebred digital Hollywood, but Coppola says change is inevitable. "It's happening now, but we will experience digital in a big way within two to five years."

Illustration by Alicia Buelow, photo of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader courtesy of 20th Century Fox

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