Re: Research question

From: Nicholas O'Brien (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Jan 21 2010 - 11:34:06 PST

I'd have to slightly contend w/ Roger on the "cheap" issue of video.
Although computers themselves are not necessarily cheap, lots of progress
has been made towards making free/open-source video editing software ( +

Contrasting super8 cameras/projectors to hi-end HD cameras isn't a fair
comparison . You can get a flip video camera (I think the closest equivalent
to a brownie), for around $50 on ebay or craigslist, and they have a
built-in simple editor/uploader to allow for sharing and easy distribution.
Also pointing to the pixel vision cameras (infamously used by Sadie Benning,
of course), can show how "cheap" video can be incredibly moving (even if
Sadie potentially could have afforded a "better" camera).

Maybe I'm just being nit-picky, but I would say video can be cheap, and that
choosing to go to video from film can have similar formal motivations
relevant to this thread.

On Thu, Jan 21, 2010 at 1:08 PM, Jonathan Walley <email suppressed>wrote:

> Roger,
> Thank you - your "2 cents" are adding up (just like the cost of film/video
> making!). I think this is a really important point, one that my students
> would be well to absorb, as well as those authors of ecstatic paens to the
> digital revolution (lots of academics, unfortunately, as well as journalists
> in the mainstream press). Again, even if it's not true, there is this
> perception that video is cheaper and, flowing from that, more accessible,
> democratic, populist, etc. [It amazes me how many people assume that every
> single person in America could join the digital revolution on the grounds
> that "all you need is a cheap video camera and a computer." As if everyone
> can afford even the most basic home-use hard and software. Whenever I hear
> that - and I do, from students and colleagues alike - I invite the person
> who says it to my neighborhood].
> My reference to economics was partly in response to the posts about James
> Benning that came up earlier, which indicated that Benning felt he could no
> longer continue as a filmmaker because of cost. As your post suggests, it
> probably depends a lot on the scale of production and what kind of work you
> want to do. It's true that filmmaking can be very cheap, but only if you
> want to make certain kinds of films - that is, only if you're willing to
> accept certain constraints above and beyond those "built into" your medium.
> Unfortunately, the overriding assumptions in our culture about what films
> "should" look like means that the people who embrace these constraints and
> say, like Sidney Peterson did, "resources limited, content almost
> unlimited," are in the minority.
> Of course, there are video makers out there working in equally cheap and
> subversive ways - again, my personal feelings about film "vs." video aside,
> none of this is necessarily meant to make a whipping boy out of video.
> Jonathan
> Asst. Professor of Cinema
> Denison University
> email suppressed
> On Jan 21, 2010, at 1:11 PM, Roger Beebe wrote:
> Jonathan,
>> This has been a really interesting thread to follow, and I've loved both
>> the anecdotes that have popped up in response as well as the more
>> theoretical musings on this topic. However, I do want to trouble (again)
>> one of your assertions below, about the economics of filmmaking. There
>> seems to be some idea that making video is "cheap," and I want to suggest
>> that that's a total illusion. For the price of even a consumer-level HD
>> video camera, I could make several years' worth of short 16mm films. With
>> video technology constantly evolving, you're forced to upgrade (camera,
>> editing software, computer) every few years, thus requiring expense after
>> expense; with film on the other hand, I'm still shooting on cameras that
>> were made 30, 40, or 50 years ago. Plus, since everyone's decided that film
>> is basically worthless, you can pick up 16mm, super 8, and regular 8mm gear
>> for a song. I've got a fleet of 16mm projectors that I've purchased for $5
>> or $10 each; I shot a film on a ca!
>> mera that I got for $4 at a flea market. Sure, once the film starts
>> running through the camera, you'll start spending real money, but with the
>> tremendous startup costs for making work in video (costs that recur
>> regularly), it'd take a lot of shooting before the price of 8mm or 16mm
>> filmmaking began to approach that or working on video. Of course, there are
>> ways to make your experimental celluloid works really expensive (like having
>> someone else conform your negative, for ex.), but one certainly can avoid
>> many of those costs.
>> 2 (more) cents,
>> Roger
>> On Jan 21, 2010, at 12:23 PM, Jonathan Walley wrote:
>> Hopefully I cleared this up in my last post - that I was looking for
>>> examples in which filmmakers emphasize the constraints of their medium in
>>> ways that could be either positive OR negative, but that in most cases the
>>> constraints or limitations are characterized by said filmmakers as essential
>>> for their art and thus valuable. The one major exception, so far, seems to
>>> be economics - the expense of working with film, as in the case of James
>>> Benning, is a difficulty that is harder to "embrace."
>> __________________________________________________________________
>> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

Nicholas O'Brien
For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.