Filmmaking's ongoing digital revolution has changed, and so has (over the past 20 years) the entire landscape of filmmaking. Granted, CGI effects have been around for quite some time, but it's only been in the past decade or so that Hollywood has really started to embrace digital cinematography.
According to these stats, the first high-grossing digital films appeared in 2002, but it wasn't until 10 years later that it accounted for half of the top-grossing movies. In the below video, DPs including Guillermo Navarro (Jackie Brown, Pan's Labyrinth), Stuart Dryburgh (The Piano, The Painted Veil), and John Toll (The Thin Red Line, Cloud Atlas) provide their opinions on the current state of play (and future) of their craft.
Luckily, the future of the industry looks bright (for female cinematographers, too, although none are featured in the discussion.) The sunny prognostication is the result, says Dryburgh, of the "enormous demand for television and for filmed content...it seems to be almost insatiable," adding that cinematographers are "obviously influenced by technology...every day [it] gets more sophisticated." Dryburgh also mentions the possibilities and challenges inherent in virtual reality: "Somebody will finally figure out how to do use virtual reality in a narrative form, [though] I haven't seen it yet. The DP believes that the immersive qualities of the technology make it amazing for documentaries.
And Phedon Papamichael (Nebraska, Walk the Line) still has hopes for classical techniques: "People can shoot at very high quality...which is great," though he adds that when talking to other cinematographers, especially up-and-coming ones, he finds that they aren't using the technology purely for its efficiency—what he calls a "no more lights and handheld" approach—but rather as a way to look back at traditional techniques: "They want to compose shots, they want to lay track...I think the traditions will not disappear."
"We are true artists, we are storytellers, and we are an essential part of the film process."—Guillermo Navarro
Dan Lausten (The Shape of Water, Brotherhood of the Wolf) agrees: "I think everybody should be painting with light, do that more and [pay] less attention to how many 100Ks or 6Ks or whatever...of course, that's important, but I think it would be great if people are putting more attention into the lighting." Of course, as Claudio Mirando (Life of Pi, Oblivion) notes, each film is different, with different needs for the "task at hand" and "what is good for the movie?" His answer: "Hopefully it's storytelling and how well you serve that."
These professionals see the future of their profession as definitely in flux, but still bright, and they have faith in filmmakers' beliefs of the power of classical techniques merged with futuristic tech. Perhaps the last word should go to Navarro: "The cinematographer has to stay being a very important actor in the industry, and that's up to us."