By Maya Held
In the vast world of digital technology and media, where does television stand?
As someone with a background in film production (I actually SPLICED film!), broadcast engineering and production (before HD) and video production, it sometimes feels overwhelming to try and keep up in the ever-changing landscape of media production.
First, there was film, then broadcast television, then cable and fiber optics and video recording on VHS and Beta. Now, there is satellite and high definition, giving us television that looks more and more like film has traditionally. Panavision recently stopped production of film cameras, which, for purists like me who feel the richness of the picture film creates can never be matched by even the highest resolution high definition video image, brings sadness.
In terms of distribution, people watch television on mobile devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets, and the DVR has made the VCR obsolete. I hear a lot of discussion about multimedia and making video accessible for people to watch on any device. But I also hear people discuss how this new mobile push affects the content and more importantly, the aesthetics of the product.
While many projects I and my students create end up on client websites or on YouTube or Vimeo, for people like me, I will always choose a movie theater first, and my nice, big high definition television screen second. Watching a film or television show with my 13-inch laptop screen practically pressed to my forehead never seems appealing to me. Television (and film) is meant to be watched on a larger screen for the audience to appreciate aesthetic factors like shot composition, lighting, use of color and to fully appreciate a good performance by an actor. When I hear people say television is a dying medium, I strongly disagree.
Maybe this resistance to change is a generational issue, and I am simply becoming my parents. My father wouldn’t use his cell phone outside of his vehicle until he was forced by the nature of his job as an attorney. He types with two fingers and it takes him ten minutes to write an e-mail. His younger colleagues, of course, often write their own correspondence instead of dictating and passing off the work on legal secretaries, and are glued to their smartphones, updating Facebook statuses from the courthouse. Maybe with age we become less open to new things, and will only change when the “sink or swim” ultimatum rears its head. Or maybe I simply want things to look pretty and sound awesome. Either way, I learn new technology because I owe it to my students, and ultimately the quality of my creative work, and in the long run, tape-less technology trumps crinkled videotape and film splicing, even considering the occasional system crash that plagues our second floor editors.
However, when push comes to shove, give me a DVD to watch, not a YouTube link for a compressed, pixelated video. Quality does matter, and while the technological landscape is evolving for digital media, I will choose to watch shows on my TV, as it was intended to be seen by the director and the crew, every time.
Then again, I am not above pulling up Elmo videos on YouTube on my phone to entertain my toddler…
Maya Held is an instructor in the Broadcast and Electronic Communication department at Marquette University.