Wednesday, September 12, 2012

...and making video poems: notes

One hope, along with connecting the Barbecue verse part of the book to a still life series, is to also make some video poems using the verse text, low cost cameras, Linux and free open source video editing software.

(See: for large format photo still lifes  and verse novel idea.)

Picking up an indirect quote which describes digital as: deep ontological and phenomenological shifts that are transforming the future medium of cinema; we have a common enough claim, found in the mainstream media and connected with large film studios. This is not to be believed, of course.  Marketing hype.

Working with and beginning to edit digital video on a netbook (albeit multimedia Toshiba) Vertok comes easily to mind. The collage (or montage; after Eisenstein's film sense) potential is there. So are we to believe history is repeating itself and digital cinema has taken us back to early 20th century film poetics and aesthetics?

The traditional poetics and narrative structure of films like, The Matrix, situation - action - altered situation (narrative as image; Deleuze Cinema 1) may certainly appear this way with claims The Matrix is the paradigm of this new digital cinema.

The Matrix is just another old school Hollywood action film. Eisenstein's film sense may have invented this form, but Hollywood repetitions become boring. Digital effects have little to offer as technologies  which can transform a medium,  given these examples.

There have been historic changes to film aesthetics and poetics since Vertov, after World War 2, but any discussion of digital cinema seems reluctant to engage with this new cinema. It seems to get filed away as experimental, gay and queer. Not mainstream, no real consequence. Even Warhol's experimental films get ignored or put to the side. Too much to think about; or ask that there be critical thinking in film?

This reluctance seems further entrenched if one were to believe in the software design of digital editing applications and follow the example laid out by this design.  Using examples from open source and free software, this becomes obvious and often explicit. The innovation is the idea of open source free software and not the software itself.

Digital video, cheap cameras, phone cameras, provides an easily available technology that can work with a changing and potentially novel cinema poetics. But that is all. Digital technology can hardly be claimed as a complete transformation of a medium.

Practical editing is another matter. Because video editing on a netbook does not easily allow real time editing, the separation of the sound track and sound image from the visual image becomes almost mandatory. Recording the sound track and laying it down first becomes the easiest way out of this technical limit, when working with digital video on a low power computer.

This way of working also allows the sound track to be cut at any point, sounds removed or added and opens to a video production which is capable of producing novel poetics and aesthetics. But film has already invented this, not digital media. A poetics of digital cinema has yet to be invented (and is being invented.)

A failure to understand Warhol's poetics opens up a grave danger for the opening indirect quote. But the acutely critical aspects of Warhol are an embarrassment to such a quote which would feel better if it did not have to face any critical undertaking. (Any critical moves by repetition are ignored or sent to the side. Critical narrative can follow this move.)

It would be simpler if history were to end and marketing hype could claim for digital cinema a transformation as a repetition without any need to take on any new critical practices. The denial of critical undertakings, hoped for by the opening quote, are precisely those of an undertaker. It is a logic of suicide presented as the end of cinema. A dead future.

It is the logic of a narrative which foreshadows itself as death which is contained in the opening indirect quote. A traditional action film narrative. Big budget Hollywood. A list actors.

(It remains that critical approaches can invent a new digital cinema.)

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