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July 1995, Week 3


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Meryem Ersoz <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 15 Jul 1995 08:55:00 -0700
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  On Tue, 11 Jul 1995, Mike Frank wrote:
> my only concern is whether it is a better representation of THE SAME THING,
> or whether the thing being represented, the signified itself, is somehow
> changed in some significant way by the translation to video
> that is the issue that i believe remains unresolved
> >
In answer to Mike's question, I would say that film and video are two
technologies which have the capacity to reproduce similar visual imagery
and iconography. They simply don't represent the same thing. The question
of which is a "better" represenation has everything to do with how the
technology is implemented. The first time I saw Citizen Kane, it was in
video on a friend's 13'' TV screen. It was not Citizen Kane. The images
were there; the iconography was there. But it simply meant differently.
Video could NOT reproduce the meaning of the film. At all. All the
appropriate "signs" of the semiotic system of Citizen Kane were present,
in theory. But in practice, the meaning-making function of Welles' deep
focus, his use of vast spaces, his shots of Kane from low angles---all of
these things were evacuated of their significance in the video transfer.
It wasn't until I saw this film projected that I could make sense of the
Kane character. He simply was not legible on a 13'' monitor.
By contrast, in the first year of our local queer film festival in
Eugene, the work of videomaker Sadie Benning were shown in a large
auditorium using video projection technology. Benning shoots her videos
using a pixelvision camera and relies on using many very tight close-ups
of parts of her body and shoots small objects, such as matchbox cars,
anatomy images from an encyclopedia, etc.Seeing these things projected on
a big screen rendered the effect of her camera work almost as illegible
as Gregg Toland's appears on a 13'' screen. By contrast, when I was able
to view Benning's work on a TV monitor, it's meaning making mechanisms
became much more legible.
All of this is by way of saying that film and video can represent the
same things but inevitably do it differently. I don't buy either the easy
plurality of claiming they are or do the same thing any more than I
invest in nostalgic claims which privilege  one technology over and above
another. There's simply no substitute for finding the right tool to do
the right job, a fact which makes acknowledging the distinctions between
film and video more imperative, not less.
Meryem Ersoz
University of Oregon
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