Implications of Digital Transformation on Film Aesthetics


The 20th-century film visual convections are created and organized by the competitive collusion between the film industry and the new digital media. The multiple forms and application of digital media that is placed into perspective offer differentiation in terms of the production processes and practices that have contributed to the rise of the audience participatory experiences. The development and evolution of new digital media, audio-visual technologies as well as modern web-based platforms have revolutionized film in numerous ways in the modern century. The merging of electronic media and film has created the phenomenon of digital cinema, which is presented as a technological phenomenon where films originate from, are edited, and distributed through electronic media (Ganz and Khatib). Digital technology has therefore transformed the film into the creation and recording of sound and images with the focus being placed on how the two elements are manipulated with the final product being delivered to the audience in different ways.

The major element in this transformation lies in the changes presented in the form of the visual perceptions created through visual technologies that are embedded in film for the modern audience. On this front, the evolution of digital media has transformed the art of filmmaking in terms of its visual presentation conjoining the traditional methods with electronic media to create a new practice that offers a digital image with a refreshing aesthetic presentation. The defining characteristics of digital cinema in this instance entail the spatial relationship created in the space between what is in front of the camera and what lies behind it as defined by technology(Ganz and Khatib). The paper argues that the evolution of digital media and technologies has transformed the cinematic experience by creating a new aesthetic language in film practice.

Film Aesthetics

When it comes to film, aesthetics are a representation of the entire study of film as a medium of art considering that film is dominated by the ideas of realism. This is noted in the production methods, effects, and style that are applied engaging one with the questions of what efforts were placed in the creation of film and why. Aesthetics in this instance refers to the set of principles that are concerned with the nature of the film and the appreciation of its overall beauty.  This means the aural and visual features that are used in the creation of a non-narrative dimension are fundamental to the film’s look. Andre Bazin (2004) notes that in the creation of a film, directors create a dual trend where one faction place faith in the image they create while the other place their faith in reality. The transformation of digital technology on this end has enhanced the fundamental aesthetic elements of the film art system (Belton). This has in turn allowed these fundamental aesthetic elements to take on new appearances and forms that are present in the modern media. The implication of this transformation when it comes to film aesthetics has enriched artistic communication of film thereby creating a whole new genre such as that of science fiction in addition demand for more films revolve around such concepts. The image that is presented in the film comes from digital technologies that are meant to add to the object represented. This means the meaning lies not in the image but rather in the shadow of the image that is projected onto the consciousness of the audience. Thus, the implication of the digital transformations has brought on changes to how films are made in the modern day.

Walter Benjamin (1935) argues that the mechanical reproduction of art takes it away from its origin thereby limiting its unique existence and its authority over the audience. The use of digital technology in film pushes aside this idea of mechanical reproduction by focusing on how film can benefit from its relationship with digital technology as it continues to advance. The ever-evolving landscape of new media features the inauguration of new technology and with it comes progressive complexity to how the film is made, accessed, and perceived (Daly). The link between film aesthetics and digital technology can be seen in terms of production considering that cinema shifted from analog to digital. There is a constant mediation between the two elements in addition to other forms of infiltrating media which reveals the subtle differences in stylistic choices that may affect the meaning of the content in addition to the context in which it is created. The cinematic revolution owing to new technology used has created a new form of cinema that features technology that helps cut costs of manual labor in addition to other pre-production elements (Belton). In the creation of the film, only the camera operator can watch the image as it is being made, digital technology comes in to address this relationship thereby creating a rather new dynamic towards how the film is created and how it is rendered to ensure it is appropriate for the different viewing technologies that are out there. Electronic cinema in this instance presents a transformation of the organizational structure of film production allowing for pre-production, production, and post-production to happen at the same time.


The evolution of digital media, the new audiovisual technologies as well as the current web-based film platforms have altered the determination of artists in the creation of film thereby creating new genres in film making. Films are now made through the use of digital technologies thereby making an indelible contribution to the excessive power of film art (Chen). The manifestation of digital images lies in the visual effects that are incorporated in the film which were unattainable before the 20th century. The issue of the visual spectacle is presented as primary in the analysis of film aesthetics. For instance, numerous Hollywood films feature virtual scenes and digital effects hence creating a relationship between the spectacle and the narrative underlining the function of digital technology. This reflects the idea that the attraction of modern film lies in the aesthetics of the spectacle as modern cinema pushes away exhibitionism and focuses more on representationalism. For instance, the representational nature of film aided with digital technology can be seen in films such as The Matrix. In such films, the audience is exposed to changes in virtual space and time that are presented through aesthetic breakdowns. The result is a new form of the genre being created that creates a new world that is relative to reality but still allows the narrative to retain its entertainment value. The digital aesthetics in the film The Matrix are melted into the narrative of the film thereby allowing a play between the suggested reality and what the audience can identify as reality as well. This sets a bar for the creation of similar films that have to entail the use of digital elements to create an elaborate picture that follows a narrative.

Furthermore, the implications of this transformation of digital technology in film aesthetics have re-shaped the expectations and depictions of cinema. Tom Gunning (2004) notes that the interplay between technologies of modernity has greatly shaped style in cinema. For instance, the use of robots and AI in the film The Terminator by James Cameron influence the means of representation in addition to the nature of digital technology that is used in the creation of the different images when it comes to parallel editing. The idea of using robots in the film would not be possible without this common experience of the production of robots. This means if robots did not exist, then the film would have had to invent them. Thereby, the interaction with digital technologies and film has afforded a rather distinctive cinematic style when it comes to film aesthetics that involves numerous audiovisual immersion, windows for mise-en-scene in addition to text and information. Digital technologies have ensured that filmmaking and its distribution extends to become part of a computer system while the camera takes on the role of a tool that adds to the aesthetic experience (Gaut). The relationship between man and computers when it comes to filmmaking is one of control as digital technology collaborates in the creation of work (Chen). Modern films use digital technology to create an aesthetic image that expands from the traditional juxtaposition of the action to become a simultaneous window of action that allows a film to fulfill numerous roles. The transformation thereby presents the element of representationalism as it bared the capacity to reflect reality and create an artistic impact.

Film Adaptations

The advent and evolution of digital media and the new audiovisual technologies have encouraged the phenomenon of film adaptations. Video games tend to differ from other forms of media owing to their reliance on interactive input in addition to the foregrounding play. This allows them to make and remake stories that allow them to present a special case in which the historic regimes of representations are created through technology into something more dynamic (Flanagan). The evolution of digital media in the form of video games has provided a great deal of inspiration and ideas for the creation of movies that have become part and parcel of the current generation viewing themes. Games function under the logic of remediation which entails a tendency within the sphere of digital media to feature, reform, contain, and re-establish some of the historic forms of media for the creation of a new cultural movement. A good example of this can be seen in the 2018 film Ready Player One and the 2009 film Gamer. Both films present an aesthetic presence of a game-like world through the use of digital technology to create a game-like experience that has been conjured from the ether. This similar aesthetic can be seen in Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto with the premise of the game being built on the creation of a criminal empire where actions such as assassination and kidnappings are conducted. The idea of adaptation in this instance is to create a claim to realist discourse in creating an aesthetically convincing world based on a game and the ability to render the design and production decisions into a narrative that the audience who engage in games relate to.

David Bordwell (1985) notes that there are three possible approaches to a narrative which entail representation, structure, and narrative as a process. The position of adaptation as purposed by digital media underlines these elements considering how the film has managed to take up some of the game narratives, create stories behind them and push them to their audience. The evolution of digital media has allowed the film industry to borrow game-like elements in addition to their narratives in the creation of content that is in turn featured in the film. Narration is understood within this context as the act of arranging, selecting, and creating an order to story materials with the aim of creating a specific effect on the viewer.  The absorption of digital media in the creation of games encourages the demolition of the boundaries among film theories on what constitutes the creation of a film and where ideas can be drawn from. Murray Smith (1997) argues that a film’s cultural or ideological valence is conceived as a matter of the developed relations between the characters, audience, and the narrative. This in turn stresses the specificity of the aesthetic function of the film considering that technology allows it to draw its narrative from digital media such as video games. The implication of this is that the central importance of the film is directed to the social convection that defines what can be counted as a work of art hence while games preset a practical language that engages the gamers, through technology, the film takes on a poetic language that does a similar function as games within its genre and confines.

In allowing for adaptation in film, the implications of the transformation of film on aesthetics are the changes in the principal systems of film. Filmic narration entails formal systems that act as their principles which are the technique of the narrative and the style. These principles are the frame that the audiences use to draw inferences while the conventions remain known to both the audience and the filmmaker (Flanagan). Owing to the development of digital technology, filmmakers are now able to go beyond the classical narration or even the art-cinema narration and present to the audience ideas that they have come across in other areas of digital technology such as games. Furthermore, with adaptation, the act of vision is taken on as a model through which the fictional narrative is framed in. Adaptations are primed on the premise of perspective which holds together the object, narrative, and viewer. The use of digital technology offers new thinking in the ways cinema provokes the human cognitive process. While cinematography remains to be a non-static process but it does contain a dynamic aesthetic expression (Knight). The digital process involved in the creation of film has been altered owing to digital media, but similarly, the ideas and narrative of the film have been altered as well. Focus is placed on the audience’s perception as well as the movie experience which thanks to technological transformation, has altered our sensitivity. Films are now created with the idea of adaptation and cinematographic aesthesis as the modern audience does have a different perception of the experience of the digital world. The modern aesthetics of film such as the game adaptations features the experience of the digital media thereby underlining the change presented in filmmaking.

Creation of Digital Cinema

The advent and evolution of digital media in addition to the new audiovisual technologies has affected the production of films in relation to film aesthetics. Digital technologies allow the presentation of multiple and yet fragmented points of view that give the audience privileged yet fractional access. This means the audience is situated everywhere but is also nowhere at the same time. Film aesthetics have been altered to an extent that the audience now has a different form of access to a film (Zhan and Lu). The audience does not watch the narrative directly but rather is present when it happens and gets a chance to overhear the action. The aesthetics of film now feature the destruction of the normal boundaries of a story to include the audience as a part of this narrative thereby creating a digital form of cinema. Consideration has to be made to the fact that cinema technology has changed over the years. Audiences are now presented with a chance to view their favorite films in the state of the art screening cinemas which means the production of films has to take into consideration the content they create (Sharma). The result sees the blurring of the boundaries between art and film owing to the various levels of illusion that are placed into the making of the drama. Fictional films for instance that are made use of specialized technologies simultaneously deconstruct and construct the performance of the characters thereby drawing the audience into the action. The audience in this instance does inhabit a similar dramatic space along with the same privileges as the characters owing to the technology used in the creation of each scene in the film.

Digital cinema has created a new relationship between the actor and the camera owing to the aesthetic perspective that modern technology presents. For instance, films are noted to present scenes where the characters appear to be presented from the perspective of a mobile phone camera recording. This makes the camera rather important in the creation of perspective as it fails to frame the action presented but rather gives the audience the idea that the action is being recorded within a given environment. Digital media has thereby changed the relationship between the action and the camera with there being a need for improvisation to suit the needs of the viewers (Sharma). The production of modern films in light of the development of digital media ensures that the lines of action are defined by ideas such as lighting that would enable the viewer to be completely engulfed in the performance of the characters. This means the zones of action are sensitive to the conditions in which the film will be presented. With technology, there is an increasing aesthetic expectation with the viewer as the technology that they would be used to watch the film has to be at par with the technology that is used in the creation of the film. Thus digital media allows for the elision of the boundaries between the spaces that lie in front and behind the camera, this in turn creates the immediacy of the image that creates the aesthetic that the audience is looking for (Ganz and Khatib). Technology comes in to transform the nature of film presented as the changes in quality are meant to match the changes in technology that is present at the moment.

The evolution of digital media has transformed film aesthetics with the development of film art having an injection of vitality. The idea is that the cinema industry has been restructured to feature a huge room owing to the integration of digital media as well as audiovisual technology in the film industry. This new form of technology can be noted in the form of 3D animations, downloading as well as displays of film that bring the audience enjoyment and new experiences. Furthermore, these changes have been noted in the production, distribution, and storage of films where the audience has a huge library online where they can access their preferred films if they have internet access. Digital technology in the present day has become a centerpiece of the film industry considering the combination of film production and computer technology. The implication of this transformation is that the entire expression of the film has changed featuring the creation of new genres that the audience can indulge in. This signifies the creation of new tastes and preferences which push film producers to come up with even more content. Digital technology flooding the film industry contributes to the creation of new energy to film development as it impels the appearance of new styles and types of film. Modern film types such as science fiction, cartoon as well as documentary have matured owing to new technologies allowing the imaginary world to be felt by the viewers. The tools of filmmaking that include the creation, editing, and distribution have been enriched as well as films have become more imaginative in the presentation of their content.