By John Brandon Print this article Print

The Hollywood behemoth makes the transition from conventional to digital moviemaking. But as CTO Art Hair explains, it’s no magic carpet ride.

Most directors are accustomed to film-based cameras, Hair says, and in the switch to digital cameras, issues quickly surface. For example, multiple file-based cameras produce multiple data streams. The data flows from the capture device at a phenomenal 2 gigabits per second onto multiple RAID drives to ensure data reliability, which is essential on movie sets—especially in situations in which scenes can’t be easily reproduced.

And this issue will become even more critical as a growing number of moviemakers switch to digital cameras. “The day will come when everyone will be asking for electronic cinematography, and our entire workflow has to accommodate the massive data rates coming out of digital cameras,” Hair says.

Another catch: At such high transfer rates, filmmakers can’t do checksums (redundancy checks) on data. To compensate, they move the data asynchronously from multiple cameras to multiple drives, which complicates matters.

Perhaps even more important, Hair says, creative teams tend to be siloed based on long-standing moviemaking roles. But digital workflows force these disparate teams to mesh, a critical but laborious process.

Since creativity takes priority over technology at Disney, the CTO adds, the studio is implementing the new workflow processes gradually. This will give the various teams time to adjust. The changes in filming are the biggest step in the transition to digital workflows. In fact, these changes have actually redefined what a computer is.

“The computer is no longer just a post-production device,” Hair says. “It is going to be infused in the entire moviemaking and distribution processes. It will literally be in the sound stage, in principal photography and on location. Computing power will be in a Blu-ray player, a set-top box and a cell phone.”

This article was originally published on 2008-06-26
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