Death of Cinema?

Technology is a unifier. It consolidates information and data to make it more accessible and user-friendly. But at the same time, according to Anne Friedberg, it diminishes the differences between various media like tv and movies which have their own specificity and are meant to engage the viewer in different ways. With the dawn of computers the viewer becomes a user, not just a spectator or passive consumer. But Friedberg mentions that this change in the transmission of media has been going on long before the digital age. One of the examples she gives is the VCR, which quickly became a common household appliance after its introduction. It’s ability to record, playback and pause “demolished the aura of live television.” The dawn of video cassettes also introduced a rental market which changed the way people experienced films, increasing their control over what they watched and allowed them to interact with it. Friedberg also mentions cable television as freeing the viewer from the confines of the broadcasting networks’ schedule. The tv remote also changed the way the viewer interacted with the medium, allowing them to “edit at will.”

Philip Rosen talks about “a utopia of the digital” which is the ideal future of digital media that will allow for “practically infinite manipulability of digital images.” Digital processes will free the artist from all restrictions on their ability to express their imagination. Rosen makes a point to say that manipulation of images is not a new thing and has been going on since the beginning of cinema via various processes such as painting the film and using unconventional lenses. The difference is that digital media allow for an increase in manipulability and the rapidity with which it can be implemented. He also makes a point of differentiating the process of capturing images photographically, which is a real process of capturing light, and digitally. Computers have no intrinsic meaning, they must be programmed to do what we require of them.

I’m not an expert, but I’d be curious to know the extent to which photographic images are visually discernable from digital images. Rodowick briefly mentions the differences he sees between the two media in the Godard film he discusses and even the differences that occur when one is transferred to the other. But he’s a film scholar and cinema is made, not just for scholars, but for the masses and I’m fairly certain the masses wouldn’t really be able to tell the difference. Cinema is, after all, and from the very beginning, an illusion. If the image wasn’t real to begin with (studio sets, costumes, actors), is anything really lost when it becomes digital?

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