Super 8 Filmmaker John Porter, Toronto, Canada



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by John Porter 2005

Video is not film! Yet even people working in film and/or video don't distinguish between the two. This creates confusion. When we talk about "film", are we really talking about video?

There is growing discussion in the arts and business worlds today about the
different look, feel and response when shooting or showing film or video. (see "Staying in the picture", Murray Whyte, Toronto Star, April 12, '05). To facilitate this discussion we need to agree on what we mean by the words "film" and "video".

Film is a layer of images applied to a strip of clear acetate or polyester,
usually with sprocket holes and viewed by passing light through it. It's shadows.
Video is a strip of opaque tape, a laser disc, or a memory chip. It's electronics.
You can't put film into a video camera or player, and you can't put video into a film camera or projector.


If the word "film" commonly refers to both shadows and electronics, then we have no commonly-used word referring specifically to light passing through clear acetate. And there's no need to appropriate the word "film" for both shadows and electronics. We already commonly use "movie" and "cinema" for that.

I suggest that the medium-of-record is the medium in which the work is completed or exhibited. The shooting or originating medium is merely one of the raw materials along with effects, titles and sound which are usually combined in the completed or exhibited work. Often, program notes referring to a "film (shown on video)" really mean a
video (shot on film) because the video as shown, never existed or will exist on film.
The recent Star Wars movies were shot and produced on video, but shown on film, so they were in fact films (shot on video). Nobody referred to them as videos.

I think the reason people refer to their completed or exhibited video as "film", is for prestige or respect. The word "film" sounds better than the word "video", because
film has a longer, richer history, and a richer look. It's film-envy! But videomakers should use and be proud of video's own unique qualities. Vive la différence!


Below is an excerpt from
"Three Texts on Video" by Tom Sherman
Canadian Art magazine, Vol. 22, # 1, Spring 2005.

Video Not Film
by Tom Sherman 2005

It’s video, not film.

It pisses me off the way video is being called film, so carelessly. In a review of the recent premiere of a feature-length work of video art, a newspaper columnist repeatedly stated that the artist’s “film” was blah, blah, blah. The artist herself had used the f-word to launch her video feature into the entertainment section of the newspaper, and thus into the public’s eye. The columnist wasn’t sensitive enough to make the distinction between media. Why should we expect him to make the distinction? The artist herself had decided to promote her video as a film.

Film is the term for all moving pictures in the world of entertainment. The general public has been conditioned to want to see film. When the medium of video is used to “film” a movie, the director is not likely to admit he or she is working in video. Film has been the modus operandi for more than a hundred years. Film’s roots are so deep that any kid with a video camcorder will say she is “filming” when shooting video. Since the commercial success of The Blair Witch Project (1999), “film” collectives working exclusively in video literally outnumber garage bands.


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