Re: [Frameworks] Film and video

From: Fred Camper <>
Date: Sat, 27 Aug 2011 10:56:11 -0500

Anna had written that she was "leaving" our thread, and so I respected
that, leaving her with the last word even though there was much I
could have answered, until now, when she has decided to post a
statement about my "fantasy life":

"So if that's what you disagree with you are not disagreeing with me,
you are disagreeing with Fred's fantasy life in which I say much
stupider things than I actually say."

Earlier, Florian had written:
"Super 8 film, when scanned well, looks better on a big screen when
it's projected by a good digital projector than by a Super 8 projector
(because of the 250 watt/300 lumen limit for Super 8 projectors)."

I then argued that not everyone wants that kind of "better":

"I greatly prefer dim super-8 film projection for my super-8 film to
super-8 on bright video, because I wasn't trying get the bright look
of 16mm or 35mm, but to use super-8 for its own, small, fragile,
sketch-like qualities."

To which Anna replied:

"Anyone who has tried to project Super 8mm on a big screen will
usually feel that the results are disappointing. The colors wash out
and the images can really get very indistinct. One can always play the
devil's advocate and say 'well, the ugly is really beautiful,' or 'I
like blurry washed out images, and anyone who disagrees has not
considered all the options,' but I think just in terms of courtesy
people should be able to speak in plain language and be understood."

I might remark at this point that the ENTIRE ETHOS of avant-garde film
has been that there is no one correct way, no one "better," and that
in particular "better" is certainly not the "better" of sharper and
brighter images, and that the "courtesy" Anna mentions seems to me to
show no knowledge of this and no courtesy at all to my self-declared
preference. (Or, is she saying she is judging others' films by how
much they are like her own? Is "better" for her own work "better" for
every other film too?)

I recommend to all who don't already know it a careful reading of Stan
Brakhage's wonderful and practical guide to how to make films, "A
Moving Picture Giving and Taking Book," available in "Brakhage
Scrapbook," as one example.

Then, in the post in which she announced she was leaving the
discussion, she ended with:

"Anyone who has followed this discussion can plainly see that I have
only ever been serious and respectful in my posts, and that I have not
made blanket statements of the kind you keep insisting I am making.
I'm leaving the discussion now. "

So "anyone" can read the above and decide if replying to my own stated
preference for super-8 projection of my own work by suggesting I was
saying "the ugly is really beautiful" is "serious" and "respectful."

The problem from the outset has been, as I see it, is the unexplained
uses of the word "better." Anna says it was to "define" her
"subjective tastes," but she didn't explain anything about it, unless
I missed something. My original query did not envision responses such
as "I like film better because it looks better" or because "faces look
better," but something more specific.

Here are some invented examples of the kind of replies I was hoping
for, staying with Anna's interest in the human figure:

I prefer the human figure on film because the physicality of film
gives me a stronger sense of a physical human body than any of the
types of video I've seen, including HD, and my work depends on
starting with the illusion of the physical presences of my characters
in the screening room.


I prefer the flatness of projected HD for my work because bodies in it
preserve all the details I want -- my work depends on seeing every
blemish -- while not pretending that the bodies are physically
present; in my work, it's the idea of a body rather than the presence
that's important.


I prefer low definition video shown on the cathode ray tube because in
this format bodies are flickering, evanescent presences that are in no
way physical, but rather, ghosts in the phosphor, and all my figures
are meant to be ghosts, which is anyway true to what we know from
quantum mechanics about the impossible to pin down, immaterial nature
of all matter.

Statements such as these reason from the nature of media to one's preferences.

And just to be sure no one thinks I have a preference between these
three, which I do not, I'll mention love the video "films" of Michael
Mann, and among my ten favorite films are the celluloid,
character-based "Genroku Chushingura" (Mizoguchi), "El Dorado"
(Hawks), "Seven Women" (Ford), and "The Tarnished Angels" (Sirk).

Fred Camper

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Received on Sat Aug 27 2011 - 08:56:33 CDT