When film first appeared on the scene in the late 1800s, it quickly grew in popularity and complexity as a story telling medium. Inventions and innovations were popping out left and right during this period and film was adopted as way to create a narrative story. By the early 1900s, viewing films became extremely popular. People worldwide were watching narrative films for as little as 5¢. They were called films because they were shot on film. Google defines film as “a thin flexible strip of plastic or other material coated with light-sensitive emulsion for exposure in a camera, used to produce photographs or motion pictures.” This material was used for decades in cinema cameras and still photography cameras. While the list of directors who prefer to still shoot on film shrinks every year, it includes names such as J.J. Abrams (Star Wars VII, Star Trek Into Darkness), Christopher Nolan (Inception, The Dark Knight), and Quentin Tarantino (Inglorious Basterds, Pulp Fiction). Also, film is the preferred method for archiving images to due its durability and timelessness when properly stored.
In 1951, videotape was introduced which initiated the decline of film as a recording medium. Most of you probably grew up with videotape. Videotape is not film. Videotape is a strip of plastic coated with magnetic particles. They are different. If you want the specifics on the differences then Google has a lot for you. Videotape comes in many different sizes and shapes but has two primary formats: analog and digital. Now I am speaking in terms that you have hopefully at least heard before. Analog, the first format, is a physical representation of video signals recorded by rearranging the magnetic particles on tape. Digital recording is the conversion of visual material to computer code, known as ones and zeros. Those ones and zeros are recorded on tape. To play back digital recordings, the ones and zeros are converted back to analog signals, which we can view on a screen. For more information on analog and digital please read our earlier post called Be the Smarty Pants. We are in the digital age right now. Digital is newer than analog and is generally seen as an improvement (except to the purists). The next step in video evolution from videotape is what you see today which we call file-based recording. Today you stick a memory card in your digital camera and it stores your pictures and videos in various formats depending on your equipment and settings.
So, back to the identity crisis. A clear sign of an inexperienced shooter is when they refer to shooting video as filming. The two are not the same thing. The term “filming” is only appropriate if you are actually using film. Otherwise, “shooting video” is correct. Now, for all those haters out there, you can substitute “shooting” for other words, but it is referred to as video not filming.
The only exception is when talking about the Film industry. As the industry got its start with film, movie production as a whole may still be called the Film industry and be considered correct.
To recap, the only time when it is correct to say “film” or “filming” is if you are talking about the actual use of film in a production or the Film Industry.
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