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Digitally Speaking and Viewing…

The advancement in technology does not consequentially contribute in furthering creativity. Technology is only a tool in the hands of a creator who must be able it use its capabilities toexpress himself in the best possible manner. The onus of creativity ultimately lies with the creator and not the Technology used.

All of a sudden we find that the word “Digital” had encompassed all aspects of our life, from digital clocks to digital cooking. A Digital revolution had taken the world by storm and had taken our society from one small step to quantum leaps! Digital technologies had made much improvement in human conditions qualitatively as well as quantitatively. But somehow it hasn’t made many inroads in the field of creativity either. There was much creativity during the so called “Analogue” era than the present” Digital” period.

First of all we should know the difference between “Analogue” and “Digital”. Analogue signals are continuous whereas digital signals are discrete. Analogue signals are continuously varying where digital signals are based on Binary system which uses 0’s and 1’s (or as often said, on’s and off’s). As an analogy, consider a light switch that is either on or off (digital) and a dimmer switch (analogue) that allows you to vary the light in different degrees of brightness.

There are two chief distinctions between an analogue and a digital signal. The first is that the analogue signal is continuous in time, meaning that it varies smoothly over time no matter how short a time period you consider, whereas the digital signal, in contrast, is discrete in time, meaning it has distinct parts that follow one after another with definite, unambiguous division points (called signal transitions) between them. The second distinction is that analogue signals are continuous in amplitude, whereas digital signals are quantized. That analogue signals are continuous means that they have no artificially set limit on possible instantaneous levels—no signal processing is used to “round off” the number of signal levels. Through the use of higher sampling rates the gaps between two digital signals are being narrowed further and further to better audio quality. But the gap still exists, however narrow it may be!

That is the reason why some audio enthusiasts prefer the sound of vinyl records over that of a CD saying that “LP’s are decisively more musical. CDs drain the soul from music. The emotional involvement disappears” The new digital sounds are jarring to the ear and people still flock to hear god old melodies rather than modern day music.

The same thing is happening in the visual media too. Cell phones and Digital cameras click away billion of images every day. How many of them turnout to be great photographs? How many survive the test of time and seen again? It is estimated that more than 90% of the photographs taken are lost to posterity due to various reasons. Many are just erased after a few viewings; some stored in the computer are lost due to data loss or changes in formats etc. Whereas old black and photographs can be still viewed even after the passage of hundred years, digital pictures taken a few years back cannot be viewed for various reasons cited earlier. When guests visit homes the family album used to be the centre of attraction, and family histories and happier moments are re-lived while viewing such photographs. With film slowly moving out to make way for digital technology in the amateur photographic arena, a part of visual history is getting lost forever.

Film was the preferred medium for the following reasons. Its high resolution, archival durability and the ease with which it can be viewed without depending on technological advancement – all you need is a light and lens to project a film! Now though the film medium is used for origination, it is digitized, colour corrected and reconverted  via intermediate back to film in a more sanitized manner with every pixel in proper place and colours evenly matched.

All that magic is gone, as Digital Graphics took over the role of the Wizard. Any effect can be created through Computer Graphics that the man behind the camera just becomes a person who records images for future manipulation. ”Fix it at Post” has become the modern day mantra for today’s film makers who want to churn out the maximum output. They are not concerned about the quality, but the quantity.

I have seen still photographers incessantly clicking away thousands of photographs during the shoot and at the end of the day coming out with only a few stills worthy of any use at all. Because the cost factor of the film, processing etc is not involved, people just click on and on thinking that out of the many, may be one or two may turn out to be masterpieces! It reminds me of the theorem that a monkey tapping on the keys of a typewriter for a million years will eventually write the complete works of Shakespeare. An analogy in Malayalam says that it just like blind man throwing stones at the mango tree – occasionally a mango might fall, but it is a rarity!

It had robbed the photographer the sense of timing, to select the right moment to click and capture the image for posterity. Also the creative selection and use of filters to enhance the pictorial quality is now taken over by Photoshop software. Image manipulation is everywhere and it is difficult to find what is real and is created. It is “Better than the Original” that is Digital! But, at what cost? – the loss of Creativity.

6 Comments

  • In my opinion, this article consists of the thoughts of a person unable to keep himself in the same wave as the changing times.
    Firstly Digitalization of creativity enables everyone to express themselves instead of making it a profession of a few. as expected that churns out a lot of seemingly substandard work but definitely brings out works of great value as well.
    what’s wrong with using photo shop instead of filters? aren’t both of them tools of image manipulation?
    the ear is unable to properly comprehend the gaps in recording in the digital process. most would prefer the digital one to the vinyl ones. although as in everything there are some exception to every taste.
    you contradict yourself with your first and the last sentence of your article. advancement of technology does not necessarily mean improved creativity..i agree with you on that…however it definitely does not mean loss of it either .
    in my personal humble opinion, nostalgia and the good times of the past are your motivation for this article, every era has it’s pro’s and cons . art is made accessible to everyone in the digital age…that

  • Audience is so used to TV images it wants that in films as well. Fact is many films nowadays look like television productions anyways. Video is faster and cheaper and seems like people don’t care about the mediocre quality of the image. An inferior medium seems to have won the battle. So farewell to the long-shot. Now its all about close-ups and talking heads.

  • Exceptions to the rules will be there. But let’s be honest. Today, for instance, with DV cams and the like being available, the sad truth is that anyone who can point the camera seems to think he’s a cinemamtographer/ filmmaker without knowing A, B, C of the medium. Ok technology is today accessible to all but it still needs a filmmaker’s mind to make it a ‘film.’ And yes, sometimes this accessibility brings out a latent talent but it is very, very rare. Ideally, if a creative person is able to move along with technology and utilize it properly, then the amalgamation is perfect.

  • To Srikanth,

    I am a person who thinks and act along with the changing times, and not lamenting over the glorious past!
    I use digital Intermediate and computer graphics extensively in my films. Right now I am at Chennai Prasad EFX doing the DI of my latest film using the extraordinary tools available for image manipulation. I am not against technology, but I have my own doubts about how it is being utilized in a creative medium like Cinema. In this age of internet , knowledge and technology is accessible to every one. Even cellphone films are being made and micro film festivals are being organized. Certainly new methods of film making and new genre of films are evolving. But ultimately it is the creativity of the person that counts and not the technology used.

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