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Re: <nettime> Cinematic video
twsherma on Sun, 18 Jun 2006 09:33:53 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Cinematic video

On June 16, Alan Sondheim <sondheim {AT} panix.com> wrote:

I have absolutely no idea who you're talking about and I know a lot of
filmmakers, videomakers etc. form all over the country. I don't even
understand why you say the 'central digital art form is simulation' -
where is this coming from? And what is 'hyper-reality' about all of this?
Are you talking about studio photorealist work or small independents? As
it is this is problematc. for that matter, the aspect ratio hasn't been
'stretched' - it's changed with HDTV, but there has been analog letter-
boxing for years.

TS:  Hi Alan.  I've had several responses to this post from filmmakers and
they admit they call their work (in video) 'film.' I'm glad to hear you
know some filmmakers who call their work, in video, video.  I say the
central digital art form is simulation because for decades digital media
has been replicating all things previously analog in the interest of
reproductive fidelity and reliable conveyance.  Digital video doesn't do
anything different than analog video, except it copies better and gets
from point A to point B with less degradation.  The shift from 4:3 to 16:9
is not just about HDTV, it is the adoption of a cinematic frame (as you
point out, letter-boxing for the cinematic look was happening before
HDTV).  Simulations of both 'reality' and 'film' end in the complete fake:
the fusion of the copy and the original.

> Filmmakers, displaced and stunned by these developments, have latched
> onto video. Wanting video to be film they slow video's frame rate and
> insist upon progressive scan. Video's aspect ratio has been stretched
> from 4:3 to 16:9. Filmmakers try to slow down and overtake an electronic
> medium that runs at the speed of light. Major equipment manufacturers
> exploit this migration, for the time being... The central digital art
> form is simulation. The goal is the creation of a complete fake: the
> fusion of the copy and the original. As with 'reality television,' the
> digital 'film' demonstrates the difficulties of controlling
> hyper-reality.

Sondheim wrote:  There is NO explicit natu of video and certainly video
does not 'undermine' fictional narrative; just watch an evening of
television. As far as instant replay goes, that's also been in existence
for years with video assists.

TS:  I disagree.  Almost all fiction (and advertising) on television is
shot on film and distributed via the video signal of television.  It is no
surprise that 'reality TV' uses the video look established by the ENG
technology that pushed 16mm film off newscasts in the mid-1960s.  Yes, you
could argue that 'reality TV' is a form of fiction.  But it is formed
using cybernetic strategies. Video is used like an instrument to examine
'real' or ordinary people who are exposed and humiliated in video.  Video
is an explicit medium, offering less distortion of time and space than
film.  Of course some of the first reality shows, Candid Camera (1948) or
The American Family (1973) were shot on film, but audiences wouldn't
accept the film look as reality programming today.  Film as a descriptive
language simply doesn't have the 'live' look.  My point is it is
ill-advised to shoot fiction in video if you are working with the
conventions of traditional cinema:  the adaptation of script, actors and
staged drama to large or small screen.

> Filmmakers collectively attempt to transform the balanced, brutally
> explicit retinal-acoustic reality of video into an electronic, digital
> photo-optical simulation of 'film.' They try to blanket the video
> medium's essential cybernetic characteristics (behaviour shaped and
> governed by instant replay) with scripts and actors and the conventions
> of cinematic history. It has not yet dawned on filmmakers that the
> explicit nature of the video medium undermines the illusions of
> fictional narrative.

Sondheim:  Which filmmakers say this? People I know say that they work in
video? And for that matter filmmakers aren't 'confined' to anything -
there is still film and all sorts of admixtures.

TS:  Again, most filmmakers working in video today call what they do 'a
film by ...,' or 'a movie by ...' They are "confined" to video because as
film becomes increasingly prohibitive financially and technologically
arcane, even those absolutely dedicated to shooting, editing, and
projecting in film find it beyond their means, unless they work with
Super-8.  Sure there is still film and plenty of film/video hybrids.

> The semantic trail of this awkward takeover is amusing. Filmmakers now
> say they work in 'digital cinema.' 'Video cinema' or 'video film' are
> too straightforward and don't sound right (video sounds better as a noun
> than it does as a verb). Filmmakers, confined to computers and
> non-linear editing, are attracted to the term 'movies' (as in 'QuickTime
> movie files') -- but the idea of digital 'movies' is ultimately too
> small and fails to encompass the grand 20th century scale of cinematic
> history. The word cinema must remain in a description of filmmaking in
> video. The millennial practice of making 'films' in the medium of video
> is exactly what it is: cinematic video. It is filmmakers making cinema
> using the medium of video. It is cinematic video.

Sondheim:  This definition seems very unnecessary and confining; what
bothers me is the constant need to define and redefine whole fields of
practices ranging from analog film through video installation through
video art online through interactive work or Internet II work, etc. etc.
As far as the history of 'cinema' goes or 'cinema' itself? Which history?
Which cinema? I certainly don't seem my work in this tradition, if such it
is, at all - there are cinemas of the 20th century surely but I'd be hard
picked to define any of them. As far as 'cinema' goes, I think the word
itself carries too much baggage.

TS:  This may seem "unnecessary and confining," but calling video (shot,
edited, distributed/streamed and projected in video) 'film' is a sloppy
use of language.  Cinema is a big word, as it was the dominant art
practice of the 20th century.  Pick your cinema, Hollywood or
experimental--if you carry this practice over into the medium of video,
cinematic video may be a helpful, perhaps useful designation.



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