Can You Film Something When No Film is Involved?


I recently saw a newspaper column that caught my eye because it tackled a pet peeve of mine about the phrase ‘film something.’

The Daily Herald’s “Grammar Moses” ran a column a few months back titled, “Can you really film something with your iPhone?”

As I was browsing through old posts, that headline caught my eye.

It’s the kind of thing I hear all the time…especially since I work in the news business.

Unless you’re doing a high-end national documentary, you’re not using film. Even in such a highfalutin documentary, you’re more likely using a modern video camera that has the option of a slower frame rate to create a simulated look of film rather than video; and more often than not, those cameras don’t even use videotape anymore: they now record on flash drives configured in an array to hold an amount of footage comparable to an old videotape.

Film, for the most part, is long gone.

Writer Jim Baumann referred to a reader’s concern over the use of the word film when describing the recording process by a cellphone camera. Here’s a snippet of the reader’s response:

When I read or hear that someone has used their smartphone to film some alleged police mistreatment or an oncoming tornado I find myself wondering just what motion picture stock the phone uses. I imagine that 8 mm would be the only size that might fit.

That’s a fair point, but I also realize that some of us claim we’re going to “tape” something on our phone or we’re going to “tape” a show at home, even though the VCR has long-since been replaced by the all-digital hard drive.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s a minor pet peeve. But it’s also a legitimate inaccuracy and inaccuracies are things those of us who like to focus on grammar try to avoid in our communication.

So let’s do our best, from here on out, to refer to the action of capturing images of an event on a smartphone camera as recording rather than filming or taping.

We’ll certainly be more accurate, even though they’ll know what you meant if you forget.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.