Digital filmmaking finds Omaha connection
by Heidi A. Schaefer
What is cooler? Old school vintage or new school vanguard?
When it comes to filmmaking the two are meeting and
competing in the digital age. Digital video, the new
kid on the motion picture block, is challenging film
reels to a showdown.
Two digital projects have premiered in Omaha this fall.
Movie watchers and moviemakers are trying to blend the
best of both with reverence and foresight, remembering
the magic of tangible classic celluloid while experimenting
with the ease of high-tech. News gatherers are discovering
territory that could not be reached without the more
Jim Fields, a University of Nebraska-Omaha English professor,
directed, edited and marketed a digital movie from his
small den. Plain Living premiered Oct. 13
at the Rose Blumpkin Performing Arts Center. Creighton
Fine Arts Professor, the Rev. Don Doll, S.J. released
his digital news documentary at the Skutt Student Center
Plain Living originated with a lot of motivation
and a vision that could only be made possible with the
invention of digital technology.
I always wanted to make a movie, so I started
studying all the new digital equipment and realized
that I could, Fields said.
Fields said he felt so enthusiastic about his project
that he took up two more teaching jobs to raise money
for the equipment while writing his screenplay.
The digital technology is only about two years old.
Five years ago I could not have made this project,
Dolls in-depth documentary Jesuit Journeys
that travels to India and Rome could not have been made
without digital video.
It would have never happened. Its just too
painful to use a 40- pound camera and spend $40,000
on it, Doll said.
Digital is a new process of recording live action that
is saved on a computer chip instead of visual imprints
on strips of film. The difference is staggering.
You can record for hours and immediately playback
a scene. With film you have to stop every 10 minutes
to reload and you cant see what you shot until
the next day in a theater, Fields said.
The appearance of digital film differs from the classic
look and could rival its dominance in Hollywood and
broadcast because of its many benefits. Fields and Doll
believe there will always be room for both.
Bigger movie projects will always be in film because
it has a very unique look that is essential to the movie.
But well be seeing more movies in digital. For
example, the new George Lucas movie was all done digitally,
Even though the updating is advantageous, for the news
world the change comes with apprehension.
Networks have so much money invested in current
equipment that digital wont completely over take
regular video, Doll said.
From the digital camera, images are transferred through
an Apple invention called FireWire into Macintosh computers
and pieced together using Final Cut Pro Software. The
innovation won Apple the 2001 Primetime Emmy Engineering
Award and provided Fields with an instant editing ability.
Fields believes the ease and access of digital filmmaking
will turn more movie ideas into completed films.
Well see more low budgets done this way,
but the good stuff will still come from strong core
skills in writing and acting, Fields said.
Doll said he was also concerned with the quality of
the product, but with digital, it is the stuff of the
I didnt want to make a home movie, but digital
is all broadcast quality, Doll said. News
studios dont want to send a cameraman, a reporter,
a producer and an editor on every assignment. They can
save a ton on costs just sending one person and a digital
Doll noted that mobility changed what stories were covered.
He knew a reporter who went to Rwanda to interview survivors
of the genocide. He was much more discreet, without
a large camera and crew.
The authorities would have immediately stopped
him. He would have never been able to film any of it,
Doll said. The possibilities are really exciting.
Doll is currently teaching video editing/photography
and promoting Jesuit Journeys.
Fields, a native Nebraskan, began his creative career
as a playwright and lyricist, writing a musical called
Little Red and the comedy/drama Scarlet
His next project is to edit 40 hours of digital footage
into Saving Indian Hills, a documentary
about a preservation group trying to protect the landmark
theater in Omaha that was eventually torn down for a
Methodist Hospital parking lot.