Video



DIGITAL MEDIA

Since the 1990s video has become increasingly enmeshed with computer technologies, with a variety of repercussions on film practices. So-called digital cinema effectively combines techniques of film and video, further blurring their differences. Films can be shot on film or video and transferred to different formats for editing and distribution. Digital editing is now the dominant mode of film editing. Editing programs available for home computers have once again democratized the means of media production. Because digital information can be combined and manipulated seamlessly, digitization of music, sound effects, artwork, photography, and computer-generated special effects enables a convergence of media, and thus has become an important part of the postproduction stage of filmmaking.

The media theorist Lev Manovich has suggested that film is moving closer to animation with digital technologies and away from its photographic origins. Because digital images can be manipulated on the level of representation, through software available on home computers, the film image is no longer always indexical: what we see onscreen did not necessarily exist "in reality" in front of the camera but may have been manufactured. Thanks to digital media, the "visible evidence" of film and photography can no longer be taken for granted.

On the other hand, the enhanced image and sound quality of digital technology can also be exploited for a greater sense of realism. Feature films that have been shot entirely on digital video include Lars von Trier's (b. 1956) Dancer in the Dark (2000), Wenders's Buena Vista Social Club (1999), and Alan Cumming's The Anniversary Party (2001). Von Trier, in particular, exploits lightweight digital camera equipment, which is easily hand-held, for the intimacy it makes possible with his actors. In the low-tech aesthetic of Kevin Smith's Dogma (1999), digital video offers an inexpensive means of shooting with a smaller crew and less ancillary equipment. Blown up to 35mm film, the image is as sharp as an original film image, and offers a cheap alternative for independent filmmakers who have traditionally used 16mm film.

One of the key advantages of digital cinema is the length of shots that are made possible, an especially useful technique for films involving improvisational acting and for documentary filmmaking. One of the more experimental uses of digital technology is Mike Figgis's (b. 1948) Timecode (2000), which shows four simultaneous long takes on a screen divided into four quadrants, each corresponding to a different camera that follows the actors as they improvise around a script set in a film

Björk (left) and Catherine Deneuve in Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier, 2000), which was shot entirely on digital video.
production studio in Los Angeles. By contrast, Aleksandr Sokurov's (b. 1951) Russkiy kovcheg ( Russian Ark , 2002) uses a single long camera movement for the entire film, creating a fluid movement through an architectural space that appears to be a literal movement through history. The ninety-minute-long Steadicam shot was stored on a hard disk system and was accomplished in a single take following months of rehearsals with 867 actors in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

Films produced entirely on digital equipment are often transferred to film for theatrical release. On the other hand, the video market has become such an important aspect of the film industry that many films are released "straight-to-video." This has created something of a two-tiered system within the film industry, in which only the most expensive productions and most promising titles get released as "films."



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