Checking the gate.

Checking the gate.

Back in the days of celluloid (that’s film, for those of you not familiar), there were a lot of checks and procedures that every set would go through when making a movie. One of those traditions was a process called “checking the gate”. It was the last step in the process of filming a scene to make sure the camera was working correctly, before moving on to the next scene.

Checking the gate would involve the First Assistant Cameraman opening the front of the camera, removing the lens, and checking to make sure there was no dust, dirt or hair in the photogate of the film camera during the take. In other words, it was a final quality control process before declaring the take as good and moving on.

We don’t have to do things like that with digital cameras, because they don’t have mechanical engines inside like film cameras. They have sensors and circuit boards, and nothing really moves inside them any more. The new cameras are perfect in nearly every way

Except one thing.

They don’t make us stop and assess our scenes any more. We just assume it’s all good and move on.

Or we shoot 10 more takes without even stopping the camera, because digital storage is infinite, so why not just record the entire day?

But, the moments of the perfect takes have been lost. Now, we just replace it infinitely until we have enough.

Because digital perfection has made us sloppy.


Mark Archer is a Sundance and Cannes award-winning filmmaker, author and speaker. His newest film, “Inwood Drive”, is available on Amazon and at

Sundance Award-winning Producer/Director.

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