The Endless Transition…

While digital culture feels ubiqutous in the two fields that I spend most of my time, film & music/sound, the analogue technological world remains ever present. Accordingly it always interests me to hear people philosophise & reflect on the transition from working via purely analogue means to current methods. It isn’t exactly an analogue vs digital consideration as both mediums are still evolving; digital is obviously in constant development but in more subtle ways so is the analogue world, for example the release of new modular synth modules is overwhelming… But what interests me is the evolution of technique, and are some techniques lost along the way?
I remember attending a picture editing workshop at the Berlinale Talent Campus and an older editor who had cut many James Bond films amongst others made the interesting comment that using digital editing equipment had ‘reduced the thinking time’ and he went on to describe how, when you are cutting on 35mm film, making a cut is not easily undone & therefore the cut is thought about & discussed before it is made. It was still based on feel: playing footage in real time & stopping on a cut point, but the inference is that the decision to make a cut required focus & depth of thought. Nowadays he described editors making rough edits without too much forethought & then tweaking/nudging them until they seemed right. Now digital picture editing does not preclude the traditional approach used; reading of Walter Murch’s approach to the same issue is reassuring in that, if the editor is aware of the difference then they can maintain their preferred and/or traditional approach. But what intrigues me is that for people who have never cut on film, the old techniques were never learned & accordingly cannot be truly appreciated. Is this a loss or a gain? Inevitably, it is both.

A recent issue of Vague Terrain online magazine had a section focused on Digital Dub and its an interesting & thought-provoking read (& listen) but one comment by the curator of a selection of dub influenced media got me thinking about these transitional times:

Greg J. Smith: “… I know dub is important to you as a musician, why do you think the ‘production legacy’ of dub music is eternally relevant for technology based art?”

Neil Wiernik: “….I see it as one of the few analogue art forms that has made the transition to digital methodologies naturally, almost as if it was there all along.”

So what techniques that havent made the transition, do you most miss from the exclusively analogue era? The technique I keep thinking about is primarily that of mindset; of taking a photo or recording a performance when you know it can’t easily be edited (ie before Photoshop or Protools.) Similarly to the film editing example above, there is no reason why that mindset can’t be maintained… but because the option exists I doubt it rarely is…

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