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The Book “A History of Narrative Film”

The book, A history of narrative film, by David Cook offers a comprehensive and modern content that is analytical in nature because it highlights important issues related to film and the process of film making. The book is essential in cinematology because it analyses the old process of film making, modern movements and trends and gives a vivid description of the computer derived updates for imaging and filmography for the film directors.

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The book offers comprehensive and detailed account of the onset of computers in movie industries and their impact on how films are produced, distributed and consumed, thus making film industry one of the industries that have made a global impact due to advanced technology.

General overview and the review of the contents of the book

This book is possibly one of the today’s most used books in analyzing the historic survey of films and filmmaking. The previous editions by the author have a masterwork approach but the fourth edition strikes a balance between industrial historiography and masterwork approach. There are other important film and film making aspects that are highlighted in the book, and they include engagement in commercial films, Italian films of explorations, and female directors in Germany. This book, which has a clear and excellent balance in disciplinary knowledge, coverage and readability, does an apt job in bringing out detail of both traditional and modern film development processes.

Before delving into the main body, the book starts with two prologues. These is the new preface of the fourth edition as well as the original one. The book also focuses on the methodology notes, acknowledgements, dates and titles used. By categorizing these issues at the onset of the contents of the book instead of placing them at the end, the author makes this work easy to read and understand. The book has 21 major segments, with each having its own sub sections. According to Cook, the major issues discussed in the chapters include the origins of the film and filming in chapter 1, international expansion 1907-1913 viewed in chapter 2.

The next chapter examines D.W. Griffith and the development of narrative film. The fourth chapter tells us about 1991-1929 German cinema during the Weimar Period. The Soviet silent films and the Montage theory 1917-1931 are discussed then in chapter 5. Chapter 6 is dedicated to Hollywood in the twenties. The film techniques of 1926-1935, such as onset of color and sound, are studied in chapter 7. Chapter 9 in turn focuses on cinema development in Europe in the thirties, while Orson Welles and the contemporary sound film are the issues raised in chapter 13. Chapter 19 examines the French New Wave and its narrative context, and chapter 21 deals with the third world cinema, and Hollywood Enters the Digital Domain (2004).

Basing on the specified chapters, it is evident that film industry has been undergoing great revolution. Cook’s work covers the whole film and filmmaking history, and as it progresses chronologically in covering different developments, readers see that film industry has undergone tremendous change, and currently, it is in a digital era. Information and communication technologies have played a key role in the development of film industry, thus making it one of the most hi-tech industries in the globe. In addition, information and communication technologies have increased value in the contemporary entertainment industry and became one of the greatest contributory factors to globalization of film industry (Bishop, 2000).

Analysis of chapter 21: Hollywood Enters the Digital Domain

This chapter is essential in cinema studies because it exhibits a fascinating and thorough explanation of development and origin of imaging, which is generated by computers and the implication of computer based technology in the future film industries.

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Since the mid 20th century, film industry has been undergoing numerous digital technologies. Star Wars was the first film to utilize the special computer generated effects (Digital Technology & Its Impact on Filmmaking n.d.). Tron by a Disney’s Production was the first movie where high imagery resolution was applied. After seven years, Director Cameron incorporated computer generated images (CGI) in The Abyss, his live action movie. A decade later, George Lucas’ movie The Phantom menace involved Computer generated images in every scene (Cook, 2004).

Although movie critics state that technology has not been utilized well in ensuring quality image and sound, there is evidence that quality pictures have been produced and helped attract a large film audience. Digital Cameras are used in enhancing image resolution. In addition, it is easier to edit footage that has been filmed using digital camera (Digital Technology & Its Impact on Filmmaking n.d.).

Unlike analog movies, which were common in the last decade, footage shot using digital camera does not lose anything during the process of editing (Digital Technology & Its Impact on Filmmaking n.d.). The sound recorded digitally is of high quality compared to analog produced sound. Furthermore, there is no deterioration of sound quality, and the resolution of the footage is always higher. When the quality of sound and image is taken into account, there has been tremendous improvement in technology involved in the production of movies, which is a clear indication that there are high chances that future films will be of high quality as long as there is a continuous development of technologies involved in production of quality movies.

In the early days of film development, camera tricks were used in achieving special effects which were rather amateurish and humorous in nature than convincing (Digital Technology & Its Impact on Filmmaking n.d.). Digital technology has the ability of developing special effects that appear natural and realistic, and computers are used to incorporate them in movies. Although critics hold that the directors of movies exploit digital technology in such a manner that ignore weak plot, thus resulting in quality movies with weak themes, advances in special effects have assisted in developing the plot, thus making the movies better and more fascinating.

Critics claim that when special effects became better, plots of movie worsened, but with the contemporary technology and attention attracted to film industry, advance in special effect has resulted in good movies that have a big impact on entertainment spheres (Culkin & Randle, 2003).

Digital technology has played an important part in making movies more accessible. Superb and quality digital camcorders are now available allowing editing programs to be easily accessed via personal computers (Digital Technology & Its Impact on Filmmaking n.d.). Advanced websites, such as YouTube, have offered worldwide exposure to different categories of films, thus movies that could not be easily accessed before the era of digital technology can be viewed by different people all over the world (Markman &Vega, 2001).

For a long, films had been only available in theatres, but with revolution in technology that enhanced use of information and communication, there was a rise in demand for compressed digital films, DVDS, and cable TV. Technology has altered the way people watch films as well as what they watch through different means, such as censorship. The impact of computer technology on developing films and advertisement and sales of movies is indeed palpable since due to access to Internet, buying or renting DVDs is not so widespread as it was before. There are high prospects that technology will enhance greater transformation of film industry in future (Lee, 2000).

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Focusing on the impact of technology and key methods of filmmaking, there are both positive and negative impacts on advances made in film industry, but the overall effect is that it has increased the global presence of film industry and the number of audience. Digital technologies and tools have altered the process of writing movie scripts since they utilize either digital or internet editing tools, or both.

Scriptwriters use the internet to forward their scripts to potential cast members and film directors but also allow peer review on online forums and websites. Since the last decade, there has been an extensive increase in use of digital video cameras for inexpensive movie shooting along with higher resolution video, which is programmed to meet or exceed the typical 35 mm film, both in flexibility and excellence.

The movie’s post production phase has been considered as an area that has been affected most by changes in technological trends. The onset of non-linear technology has made the use of hand edited films ineffective, inefficient, and time consuming, thus making it an unreliable option in the contemporary film industry. Non-linear technology, mostly created by Avid, involves combining together pieces of film in a virtual environment that allows both the editors and directors to view the result on the screen, thus making it possible to improve the quality, save time, and minimize cost (Cook, 2004).

The whole process of developing movies has been digitalized from projection to distribution to the end users. However, the lack of comprehensive commercial and standard agreements between movie exhibitors and distributors has been a major obstacle in conversion from analog to digital technologies. For instance, only 168 cinemas worldwide have changed the high end digital, thus focusing on the fact that movie industry still has a long way to go in utilizing technology maximally.

The sales turnover and profit margins of film studios have been on a downward trend outwitted by video game industry. Currently, delivery of feature films to cinemas has been achieved by the use of satellites making a big impact on the entertainment scene. It is believed that full implementation of satellite delivery of films can assist the film industry in saving approximately $700 million each year (Parkinson, 2003).

A major disadvantage of technological breakthroughs in the film industry is that it has made piracy easy and affordable, thus violating against the laws and rules of copyrighted contents of films. As such, piracy of copyrighted film’s content and music has resulted in lawsuits against individuals and website, especially those that promote peer- to- peer network. This is a major issue that film industries have to overcome when the public access affordable copying equipment and editing tools.

Although piracy is a major film industry challenge, it has never been easy for fraudsters to create original and high quality copies of the movies. In addition, movie industries tried to set steps of minimizing the risks of fraudsters copying the contents of the movies. This was achieved by use of Content Scrambling System (CSS). This encryption algorithm enables only authentic DVDs with decryption algorithm to play movies.

This technological advancement rearranges the video and audio in DVD in such a way that DVD with its decryption algorithm can play the movie correctly. However, this technology faced a setback when a Norwegian teenage boy conducted a reverse engineering of decryption algorithm by cracking CSS code and uploaded the software of the decryption to the world wide web, hence compromising the security of the products of the film industry (Salt, 2001).

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The post-theatre markets comprise of approximately three quarter of the profits generated by film industries. The largest of these are the rental stores for videos, which make about 50% of the proceeds in the industry. The DVDs made a deep impact on movie industry as they had the fastest growing electronic items purchased by consumers. DVDs raised the income of video studios tremendously, given the fact that they offered consumers good picture quality and incredible sound that did not deteriorate like the VHS cassettes that had been common few decades ago.

A quickly expanding and new distribution market is the movie-on-demand. Thus, consumer downloads movies through the internet other than purchasing the films in the local movie stores, thus the consumer costs are saved, they are not charged late fees as well as there are no inconveniences involved with delivering.

Rapid adjustments in the contemporary film industry have compelled professionals in visual and audio industry to acquire specialized and new skills that are relevant in current global environment governed by high level technological advancement. Obtaining new skills is a continuous process in film industry because there are constant upgrades of software and tools. In this case, continuous retraining of staff may be detrimental to financial prospects of the industry as it may be costly, but in the long run, the industry still gains because new technologies enhance quality, distribution, accessibility by consumer, thus enlarging the customer base of the products.

With the current technological advancement, freelance movie editing becomes a common option in acquiring services of discounted professionals, promoting quality and minimizing cost. This can be achieved by allowing editors from different countries to edit films, which they easily access through digitized media on a server, and do not necessarily require a permanent location (Cousins, 2006).

Satellite distribution and delivery of films have become a main distribution channel of the products of film industry. George Lucas, the director and author of Star War series, utilizes satellite channels displaying his episodes. This process, which involves displaying and distributing movies through data projector, is called E-Cinema. The main advantage of this process is flexible and discounted distribution of movies. However, the film industry has a difficult task of covering a lot of expenses when changing from film to digital projection. This technology is presumed to be the future course of the film industry as it is still in the development stage, and its effects on the industry are not clear at the moment (Cousins,2006).

According to the article, The New Face of Hollwood by Gregory Huang, there has been advancement in technology that has played a key role in developing computer animated graphics in the recent years. Good examples on how computer generated graphics have been on the rise are blockbuster movies like Beowulf and Spiderman 3. The movie industry has developed to such a level that every event or scene can be computer generated.

Several decades ago, the representation of human faces was not real when one analyzed them closely. It was easier to make non human beings like mammoth, elephants look real but with advanced technology, which involves lighting digital scenes, advances in human skin representation, and examining of human characters have enabled animation engineers to manage the movement and texture of every aspect of animal or human skin.

Huang (2004) states that the average cost involved in developing blockbuster movies is about 150 million dollars, with more than 50% of the funds being channeled to effects generated by computers. Scrutiny of the history of narrative film, all areas involved in film development and the sale of film industry products have been affected by technology, either positively or negatively. Through this advance, the film industry has become on the forefront in the entertainment industry.

A good example where technology was used in developing film industry is Netflix, which made a strong impact by its 86% rise in quarterly profits generated from streaming services. It is an online movies service where customers are charged a specified sum for the movie product that they click. According to Netflix CEO and financial officers, its DVD offer has been eradicating slowly, and an alternative service referred to as streaming service is being adopted slowly.

Users are allowed to access streaming services through subscription at a price of 8 dollars. As such, the company is currently discouraging its customers from adopting the rental option for the DVDs. The company encourages online viewing of film, thus opting out of the brick and mortar DVDs. From this case, it is clear that information technology has deep impact on film industries and is slowing rendering products that do not adopt high level technological advancement (King, 2002).

Basing on the analysis of the impact of technology in film industry, technology is important in editing, and script writing and promotes the use of internet in distributing movie scripts to directors, editors, and other relevant parties. In general terms, the cost of equipment has reduced drastically whereas the flexibility and quality of movies have increased tremendously. Development of non-linear technology has played a major part in making hand edited movies obsolete.

In addition, this technological development has made the editing process fast, thus saving time and cost involved in developing movies. Currently, satellite distribution to cinema is one of the most modern technological developments in film industry. The disadvantage of improved technology is that it makes it easier for consumers and fraudsters to copy the contents that are copyrighted, and this is a major challenge in the film industry.

Basing on chapter 21 of A history of narrative film by David Cook, development of DVDs became a major technological advancement for the post-theatre film makers, although other internet based purchasing option of films are emerging expanding at a fast rate. According to Cook’s book, the film industry has undergone significant advances made by computers, and the current industry is at a stage where every scene or event in the film is generated by the aid of computer animation. As such, technology is likely to enhance future developments in movie industry.


Bishop, R. et al. (2000). Innovation in the Australian Film Industry, In 5th Meeting of Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council, Canberra. Web.

Cook, D. (1990). A History of Narrative Film, 2nd edn. New York: W. W. Norton.

Cousins, M. (2006). The Story of Film: A Worldwide History, New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press.

Culkin, N. & Randle, K. (2003). Facing the Digital Future: The Implications of Digital Technology for the Film Industry. Hertfordshire: University of Hertfordshire.

Digital Technology & Its Impact on Filmmaking. (n.d.). Web.

Huang, G. (2002). The New Face of Hollywood. Boston: McGraw Hill Publishers.

King, G. (2002). New Hollywood Cinema: An Introduction. New York: Columbia University Press.

Lee, J. (2000). The Producer’s Business Handbook. London: Focal Press.

Markman, D. & Vega, M. (2001). Digital Future: Movie Industry Tries to Keep One Step Ahead of Hackers. New York: Oxford University Press.

Parkinson, D. (2003). History of Film. New York: Thames & Hudson.

Salt, B. (2001). Moving Into Pictures. New York: Starword.

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