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April 1991


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 10 Apr 91 00:47:09 CDT
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A couple of more thoughts to add to the fray . . .
The resolution of 35MM film is a relatively recent development. "Today's 16mm
film," write Mathias and Patterson, "is as sharp as the 35mm film of 10 years
ago." (221). Most of today's developments in emulsion technology focus on
speed rather than resolution, but that could change. Meanwhile, the
resolutionof video continues to improve.
Video seems far more accessible than film. If you can't afford to pay for a
camcorder, you may have a public access facility in your community that allows
you to check out their equipment for free. In Austin, for example, they have
a number of 3/4" production packages consisting of a Sony 3 chip camera and a
VO field recorder.
Distribution is a major difference as well. Public access channels air local
programming to their subscribers, and satellite distribution like Deep Dish
Television beams shows to hundreds of public access and PBS stations across
the country.
I don't think this is a matter of video being inherently better than film, or
vice versa. I like the image quality of film, but video is quickly catching
up. I also like the notion of using video as an organizing tool, getting
people in the community involved and proficient in the
technology--demystifying it so that anyone can pick up a camera
and become a documentarist, dramatist, or polemicist (or all three, for that
This discussion of quality harks back to a passage from John Berger's _Ways of
Seeing_, a text I teach to my undergraduate production class. In the first
section of the book, Berger uses many of the ideas Walter Benjamin first
raised concerning the relationship between an original work of art and its
reproduction. I find the cultural investment in this relationship analogous
to some of the issues brought up concerning film and video. If we consider
film to be the original, and video to be the degraded reproduction, "it is at
this point that a process of mystification again enters. The meaning of the
original work no longer lies in what it uniquely says but in what it uniquely
is. How is its unique existence evaluated and defined in our present culture?
It is defined as an object whose value depends on its rarity. This value is
affirmed and gauged by the price it fetches on the market. But becuase it is
nevertheless 'a work of art'--and art ought to be greater than commerce--its
market price is said to be a reflection of its spiritual value . . . . Works
of artare discussed and presented as though they were holy relics: relics
which are first and foremost evidence of their own survival." (21)
Steve Carr
Dept. of Radio-TV-Film