Some of you may not know this but I love those epic films from the 1950’s. As a matter of fact, I love everything about the movie Ben Hur — its soundtrack, cinematography, script and the way the movie was shot back in the day. How can some of us not like the technology used in the film, as well? I most definitely do. Today, however, many movies fall under what I like to call the fantastical category where humans and cars fly, and computer generated creatures interact with the rest of us, humans. Has the film industry always been this way?
To help me answer these questions, I decided to contact Matt Fisher, Associate Professor of Digital Media Studies here at Lee. Matt is both a nice guy and quite a competent scriptwriter and movie director who I knew would have the answers to my elementary film questions. Let me start by saying this: I had no idea that movies, regardless of era, couldn’t have been done without technology. How interesting! Even the silent movies of the past were made using some form of technology, according to Matt. Some of the technologies of the past include film stock. Film technology of today can be as simple as a dolly that helps directors to create camera movement.
“Some things are gained… some things are lost with technology,” Matt shared this quote with me in my office when were were speaking about the movie “The Artist,” a silent multi Oscar winner movie in 2012, in regards to how technology is used in movies. How can I disagree with that statement! You know that my position on technology is of moderation. It is just not possible to defend the idea that technology is always good or always bad for that matter. Matt is right. When you gain things here, often we lose things there with technology, which I find to be a wise statement that transcends film studies and criticism.
I don’t know if you feel this way but to some degree, I like the old technologies (Panavision 70 Photography) we find in the film Lawrence of Arabia. It feels nostalgic! Do you feel that way? I must admit that I do. Cleveland seniors, do you still have goose bumps when you watch “Its A Wonderful Life,” from Pennsylvania born Jimmy Stewart? I bet that some of you feel something different when you watch this film during Christmas time. You gain a feeling of nostalgia even thought you may be losing on the dated technology. In the great scheme of things, does it really matter that “its a wonderful life is a black and white movie?” I don’t think so. How about you?
It is true that in the past, films directors spent more time on something we call pre-production in communication where communication professionals would spend longer periods of time thinking about how the scene would look like and due to the fact that redoing a particular scene would cost studios lots of money. Today, we have more technology that allows folks to “cut” film without having to literally cut the film which in itself is revolutionary! No wonder why we have had so many great independent movies released to the market in recent years. Modern digital editing suite technology has allowed the small guy to produce big productions on a budget. “What we lost in pre-production planning we gain in post-production capabilities,” said Matt Fisher. The overuse of technology in film also has complications, he adds. Sound complicates things, camera movement is a challenge.
There is not way out, people. Technology has positives and negatives no matter how much TechnoLovers may argue otherwise. It seems clear cut to me that in the film industry, technomoderation seems to be the ideal. Next time you go to a movie, take some time to think about how much technology was used in the production of the motion picture and in which ways humans participated in the production of such an endeavor. Did they used too much special effects? How was the dialogue? In the end, I bet that you will realize that the golden ideal lies somewhere in between a microchip and a man’s brain but hey… I am suspect.