Re: the word is out: experimental film is available for use on dvd by educators

From: Mitsu Hadeishi (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Mar 02 2006 - 06:10:42 PST

I realize the charter of this list is "film not video" and thus there are a
lot of passionate voices in this debate. And there's no doubt that video
presentation tends to eliminate certain nuances which are not insignificant
aesthetically, particularly with a poor choice of equipment. However, I
regularly present experimental work using DVD players and a high quality,
high-resolution, high-contrast video projector, and the quality can be very
good indeed; it's quite surprising given the technical limitations of DVD
encoding how well it can come out. Obviously not to the level of a 35mm
print, but certainly enough to convey most of the nuances of, say, an 8mm
print, and with the right encoding and proper projector/screen setup, even a
16mm digital transfer can look quite excellent.

But setting aside the debate over whether video presentation is adequate or
not, I should note that to my mind, there is not a little bit of nerdy
technicality in this debate, similar to the sorts of arguments that
audiophiles get into about how superior an analog LP sounds compared to a CD.
One can make great art and present great art in any medium, from
low-resolution to high-resolution, low-fidelity to high-fidelity. Obviously
there is a difference between seeing a painting and seeing a print
reproduction of a painting --- but to become religiously devoted to a
specific medium or form simply because it has certain technical
characteristics strikes me as rather missing the point. Some work transfers
perfectly well to video when presented properly (and I think a lot of the
hostility to video projectors comes from seeing terrible examples of video
presentation --- most places do an awful job of choosing equipment and
setting up their presentation space) ... and many experimental films are
either shot on video or suffer very little from the transfer.

When HD projectors and equipment become more prevalent, I think the technical
distinction will fade to near insignificance; those who would promote, say,
the virtues of 8mm over HD I think would be just starting to sound a bit
absurd. My friend Miranda July just shot her entire feature film on HD and
it looked absolutely fantastic, whether projected digitally or in its film
transfer version. A great artist can do something interesting with nearly
any medium.


On Thursday 02 March 2006 07:45, Jonathan Walley wrote:
> A little voice in my head is telling me NOT to jump back into the "film
> vs. video" discussion, but I wanted to point out a couple things.
> David Sterritt is not "another hapless victim of the Cult of the
> Digital Future" with a "glazed look" and "robotic enthusiasm." He is a
> noted (and I believe deservingly so) film critic and educator who has
> demonstrated a long-standing commitment to alternative cinema. I've
> read his work and spoken with him on the subject of avant-garde film; I
> also heard him deliver an excellent, insightful essay on films by Snow,
> Sharits, Warhol, etc., which was incredibly attentive to details of
> form and style (and which I happen to know was written based on
> viewings of film prints - not video copies). You're welcome, obviously,
> to disagree with what he says in his essay, but this extremely negative
> characterization of him isn't warranted, given the real work he has
> done to educate people about experimental film. A commitment to film
> print preservation is one thing, and passion is great, but there's a
> tinge of self-righteousness in that email.
> There is nothing in the essay that sullies the good name of Canyon
> Cinema. Having rented prints from them many times, I can say that I've
> never had anything but the best experiences working with their
> dedicated staff. And very often the prints are in excellent condition.
> But in many cases they are in less-than-excellent condition, for
> reasons that - as Sterritt notes - are not the fault of Canyon, but the
> nature of film archiving and distribution. Sterritt is reporting on a
> condition that, like it or not, is a fact of life that professors,
> researchers, programmers, filmmakers, etc. etc. have to face.
> I admit to feeling some unease while reading the essay, more because of
> its context than its content (or the identity of its author). The
> Chronicle reaches a "general" audience (e.g. not just people who are
> schooled in and committed to avant-garde cinema), and given the
> popularity of "teaching film" within practically every humanities
> discipline, I could see an essay like this as giving license to those
> who don't know better/don't care to show these DVDs rather than
> pursuing good film prints. I think most of the people on this list who
> use video copies of films do so with good intentions and in a
> thoughtful manner: educating their viewers about differences between
> film and video, using video copies as educational supplements,
> explaining the issues that attend their decision to show video vs.
> film, etc. I'm not confident that this can be said of everyone else,
> though.
> Jonathan Walley
> Cinema Department
> Denison University
> Granville, Ohio
> email suppressed
> On Mar 2, 2006, at 12:36 AM, Timoleon Wilkins wrote:
> > It struck me that someone (not me) might want to write a
> >
> >> letter calling attention to the fact (often discussed on this list)
> >> that many of the films represented on the dvds they mention are
> >> available for rent as FILMS, etc...
> >>
> >> The article, "DVD Access to the Avant-Garde" is available online at
> >> this address:
> >>
> >>
> >> id=ZmjVrvnDHyw4ypkrJpp84z2zXqWcrfZh
> >
> > Yes this is quite an interesting article, written by another hapless
> > victim of the Cult of the Digital Future (the glazed look in their
> > eyes and robotic enthusiasm is getting tiresome). Yet, even as I do
> > see the benefit of DVD releases of rare films, I feel there's more to
> > the lack of enthusiasm for actual celluloid than just faded prints or
> > scratches (there seems to be a general rejection of BEAUTY throughout
> > the culture). And the article DOES make mention of ALL those
> > terribly unpleasant film prints, (reminds me of those 40 yr old
> > Kodachrome prints of Will Hindle's--they make my STOMACH TURN, how
> > bout you?)...all this quite dismissively near the name of Canyon
> > Cinema. I (seriously) resent the implication...having worked at
> > Canyon as a film inspector and as Board President I can say there is
> > no publicly circulating film collection handled more meticulously.
> > (Literally, every frame of every film is accounted for after every
> > rental.) Too much tragedy and trembling over celluloid is
> > life-negating; film exists to be seen, used, and even abused (with
> > utmost reverence), damn it anyway.
> > Timoleon
> >
> >
> > __________________________________________________________________
> > For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.