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April 1991


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82 Malcolm Dean 213-5-5676 <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 11 Apr 91 12:03:00 PDT
text/plain (39 lines)
>      An interesting letter from Patrick Watson, Chairman Designate of the
> Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) in the March '91 issue of "TV Technology."
> He attributes the difference between television and film's "look" not
> so much to resolution but to 1) grain and 2) "swarm"--"the constantly
> swimming and not consciously-perceived movement of grain."
> He also adds a cultural note--"the reason why audiences believe his-
> torical or fictional films better when they are film and not video is that the
> have been trained by the cinema to a kind of look that is associated with tha
> kind of production and have been trained by television to associate the video
> look with materials that are ephemeral--here today, gone tomorrow--not of
> enormous consequence but of enormously vivid presence."
I doubt Watson has been quoted accurately here. What is the
difference between "grain" and "resolution?" Grain is the
RESULT of resolution. They are clearly related. "Swarm" is
probably a reference to the way TV forms images on the screen -
by scanning and by interlaced frames. I think research on the
subliminal effect of these tracings on brain activity is long
overdue. Watson's final point, proposes that media do not have
inherent physiological effects, or that audiences can be trained
to react to media in one way or another. This ignores that fact
that media are perceived by a mind through the vehicle or filter
of the senses. Any biologist would tell you that various species
perceive physical reality in vastly different ways, so the way
humans perceive media MUST flavor their perceptions.
Watson's statement is interesting, but like so many in this area,
there appears to be little research to confirm or deny it. I made
two statements on this list earlier, to wit: a change to LCD
technology and wide-screen format would fundamentally change the
nature of TV, its programming and editing techniques, simply by
altering both "grain" and "swarm"; and I attacked the fantasies
of the semioticists and film theorists who have, in my opinion,
their collective heads in the clouds, and no social, statistical
or physiological research to back up their media theories.
I think that in our analysis of these phenomena, our science is
about at the level of mesmerism.