Growing up, I remember watching television shows like Space 1999 and films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and thinking what a wonderful place the world would be at the turn of the millennium. I accepted that, being in my early thirties on the momentous event, I would be near-geriatric when the clock finally ticked over to the new age, but I hoped to retain enough of my faculties to fully appreciate anantiseptic, computer-controlled world, where all the walls were white and padded and for some reason people only wore one-piece jumpsuits.
Well, here we are: 2002. On the surface, not much has changed. (I don’t feel any closer to the Martian Chronicles, although I may have taken several steps toward a room with padded walls.) Technology has become the bedrock of the Western world. But, it happened so quickly, so subtly, that the basic way in which we approach daily life hasn’t changed. Almost none of my walls have banks of flashing lights and, sadly, very few appliances talk to me.
Technology has become ubiquitous, but it operates in the background – out of sight and out of mind – perhaps intentionally so, as a defense mechanism that allows us to adapt to fantastic and frequent advances without making us run screaming into the hills. We adapt to technological evolution by osmosis, giving it little consideration as it happens.
Without thinking about it, RealScreen begins 2002 with an issue in which technology – digital filmmaking technology – plays a role in almost every story.
From Albert Maysles’ pledge to never return to his 16mm in favor of his new digicam, to affordable digital projection systems for theaters, to an experiment to see if films can be made with reasonable budgets using only digital technology – it’s all about the adaptation to digital video from the world of celluloid. There are obvious reasons for the switch. Maysles provides over a dozen on our Odds & Sods page, but it comes down to the basic three: cost, convenience and quality. Digital broadcasters require massive amounts of product (sorry) that will never see a film canister. Producers shoot, review and retake ad nauseam and still don’t spend $100 on the medium. And if we haven’t reached the point yet, in less than a decade, companies will offer cameras that shoot digital that looks as good as 35mm.
Could it be that after more than a century, the curtain has finally and irrevocably come down on the age of film? As an amateur photographer who shuns digital cameras for my old, trustworthy Minoltas, I can understand the dogged reluctance to accept it. But, have we already reached the point where the technology has made the decision for us, and resistance has become futile?
Apparently, the revolution wasn’t televised. Or maybe we just missed it?