VIDEO IS NOT FILM!
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.
Video is a strip of opaque tape, a laser disc, or a memory chip. It's
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",
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
magazine, Vol. 22, # 1, Spring 2005.
Video Not Film
by Tom Sherman
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.
Film Act - Opinions