ARRI, Panavision, and Aaton Cease Production of Film Cameras; Will Focus Exclusively on Digital

     October 12, 2011

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Last night I saw the prequel to The Thing.  I’ll have my full review up on Friday morning, but one of the things that bothered me about the movie was that it was shot on digital.  I had watched John Carpenter’s 1982 original the night before and comparing the two makes a strong case for the necessity of film.  It can ground the image and dirty it up, but not in an artificial, “Well go back and add the scratches” way.  Sadly, Creative Cow reports [via @Criterion] that major camera manufacturers ARRI, Panavision, and Aaton have quietly ceased production of their film cameras and will focus solely on production of digital.

Hit the jump to find out why.

movie-film-camera-arri-01ARRI VP of Cameras, Bill Russell, tells Creative Cow:

“The demand for film cameras on a global basis has all but disappeared.  There are still some markets–not in the U.S.–where film cameras are still sold, but those numbers are far fewer than they used to be. If you talk to the people in camera rentals, the amount of film camera utilization in the overall schedule is probably between 30 to 40 percent.”

Aaton founder Jean-Pierre Beauviala explains:

“Almost nobody is buying new film cameras. Why buy a new one when there are so many used cameras around the world? We wouldn’t survive in the film industry if we were not designing a digital camera.”

Other causes noted for the demise of film cameras are the rise of 3D (another reason to despise the technology), the near-ubiquity of digital projectors, cinematographers enjoy having more tools at their disposal, and, according to New York City rental house AbelCine’s Director of Business Development/Strategic Relationships Moe Shore “an inexorable march of digital progress that may be driven more by cell phones and consumer cameras than the motion picture industry.”

Not all of these are bad and I don’t think digital is a problem in and of itself.  This isn’t a matter of the future destroying the past or fearing new technology.  Digital is a tool and it’s appropriate for some movies but not all movies.  If filmmakers no longer have the option to use film rather than digital, then the art form suffers.

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