Nowadays almost every movie is shot with digital cameras. I would like to know what was the first full-length feature film shot completely with digital technology instead of celluloid.

  • It may not have been the very first, but Session 9 (2001) was the first movie where I remember reviews making a point of saying (more or less) "It was shot on video, but don't let that scare you away, it actually looks pretty good!" May 14, 2013 at 17:47

6 Answers 6


Beginning in the late 1980s, Sony began marketing the concept of "electronic cinematography," utilizing its analog Sony HDVS professional video cameras. The effort met with very little success. In 1998, with the introduction of HDCAM recorders and 1920 × 1080 pixel digital professional video cameras based on CCD technology, the idea, now re-branded as "digital cinematography," began to gain traction in the market.

In 1994 Sony executives approached Party of Five (FOX) producer Ken Topolsky and director of photography Roy H. Wagner, ASC, in an effort to photograph side by side tests with Sony's prototype High Def camera and 35mm film. This resulted in one of the first network broadcast television series, FOX Pilot PASADENA (2001), directed by Diane Keaton, photographed by Wagner. The results were so successful, shown to directors and Industry decision makers at the Directors Guild of America and Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) meetings, that many were encouraged by the film like images.

Soon many series were considering HD originated image capture.

In May 2001 Once Upon a Time in Mexico became the first well known movie to be shot in 24 frame-per-second high-definition digital video, using a Sony HDW-F900 camera, following Robert Rodriguez's introduction to the camera at George Lucas's ranch whilst editing the sound for Spy Kids. In May 2002 Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones was released having also been shot using a Sony HDW-F900 camera. Two lesser-known movies, Vidocq (2001) and Russian Ark (2002), had also previously been shot with the same camera, the latter notably consisting of a single long take (no cuts).

I've read the Digital cinematography wiki page. You can read more about that. Hope that's what you were looking for.


Depending on how you define digital (I suppose the relevant part would be the bit that catches the light, an electronic sensor instead of chemical process), then Prospero's Books released in August 1991 may be a contender. See the tech ref on imdb.com. It's directed by Peter Greenaway, starring John Gielgud.

  • 1
    Welcome! It's best to include the main content of your link in your answer as it avoids the "your answer is in another castle" problem. In this case, please include the tech specs you are talking about more specifically.
    – Catija
    Feb 10, 2016 at 1:25
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    There are plenty of analogue electronic sensors around, e.g. Vidicon, and they existed long before digital, e.g. CCD, sensors. Are you sure Prospero's Books was on a digital, not analogue, sensor?
    – Chenmunka
    Feb 10, 2016 at 10:09
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    According to the same source (IMDB) in the film's trivia section, it was not shot digitally: "'Prospero's Books' specifically utilized an early analogue high-definition process called 'Hi-Vision' developed by the Japanese group NHK."
    – Drew
    Dec 24, 2016 at 0:04

Some of the answers on this page show some confusion about the difference between digital and hi-def formats. The question is asking about the first feature film shot with digital cameras, not high def. The correct answer, I believe, is the film Windhorse, shot in 1996 in Tibet and Nepal and premiered at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in 1998. The film was shot on two different cameras, both digital - a professional Sony DVW-700WS (then still a prototype) and a prosumer Sony DCR-VX1000. The film was edited digitally on an avid system and final post and color correction was done digitally at Roland House in northern Virginia.


Back in the day (1995) I worked at a Motion Picture Camera rental shop in Boston and it was commonly known that the under the radar Hollywood re-make "Sabrina" (1995) had been shot on early HD video but to this day I don't see any credit for that, so maybe that is the first film.

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    Do you have any proof that this is the case? Hearing a rumor is not the same thing as being able to point to a source that says X was the camera used for Sabrina.
    – Catija
    Aug 17, 2015 at 2:45

I know this is an old thread, but I just wanted to say Brad Anderson's Session 9 was shot using the Sony HDW-F900 camera mentioned by previous commenters. I know other commenters have noted films that predate Attack of the Clones but I thought this, too, was worth noting.


Rainbow was the first all digital film shot in 1995 in Montreal. Directed by Bob Hoskins, DOP Freddie Francis Written by Ashley Sidaway. Produced by Robert Sidaway and me for Winchester Pictures using Sony HiDef equipment.

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