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Framing Film (in Transition): an Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 February 2021

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Summary

Film is in a state of rapid change, a transition where analog (photochemical) film is being gradually replaced by digital film. Most think that digital projection will substitute traditional film projection already within a few years. This transition, evident across media in both the commercial and the cultural fields, profoundly affects not only the practice of filmmaking and distribution, but also the practice of film archiving, and the theoretical conceptualization of the medium.

Past instances of technological transitions within film have succeeded one another throughout the nineteenth and the twentieth century, from a variety of pre-cinema technologies and practices to a number of moving image technologies; early moving image technologies were sometimes accompanied by experimental sound systems, experiments that continued throughout the first part of the twentieth century until a standard was established in the early 1930s; and in the 1950s, the moving image was again transformed with the introduction of television, within a technological frenzy that involved both the newly born television medium and the film medium, for the first time put under pressure by competition. All these moments of transition have worked as a catalyst for a process that has never found rest: the continuous transformation of audiovisual media or, maybe even more aptly, as this work intends to demonstrate, their inherently transitional nature.

Grown inured to the profound changes film has undergone in the past, many argue that with the digital turn a transformation of a different kind is occurring, and that with the digital, along with a technological transition, also an ontological change is taking place. To address this line of thought it is necessary to consider and discuss the very nature of film.

The current technological transition from analog to digital cuts across all modern media from print to sound, from photography to video and film. Film, the central focus of this study, is witnessing a time of unprecedented change. Existing logics of production, distribution, and exhibition are challenged, and many different and competing standards are being introduced. The turmoil around this ongoing change has spread from the film industry to its audiences, from academia to cultural institutions.

Type
Chapter
Information
From Grain to Pixel
The Archival Life of Film in Transition, Third Revised Edition
, pp. 21 - 38
Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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