Bring back the projectionist?


An article in today’s Telegraph makes a plea for cinemas to start showing film again, rather than the digital version they are solely equipped to show now.

To me, it seems just the same as the digital/analogue argument that rages in hi-fi. We have the same ‘sighted’ comparisons that of course confirm the simple folk-association of digital = soulless and artificial, resulting in the implication that true auteurs must always insist on the pain and expense of film because it is ‘real’, organic etc.

I don’t buy it. I think that, as in analogue audio, people are superstitious about the medium that produced great art in the past, wanting to believe there are spirits trapped within it that will help them to do the same thing today. As with vinyl, film technology is amenable to being crafted by “artisans”, old-school technicians and operatives in brown coats, and is simple enough for ordinary people to understand. They remember it from their pasts. This qualifies it to be ‘The People’s Technology’ and it is easy to see how a ‘movement’ could be started to push for the revival of analogue film.

All good fun, except that from then on, the superior digital option becomes second class in people’s minds: the experience of seeing the film in digital form is tarnished even though that is how most people will see it. A new premium price can be charged to see the film in ‘analogue’, and people who do this have their expectations confirmed, of course. The person with the huge OLED television who, really, could have had a pretty good cinema experience at home, has that pleasure taken away from him – just as the vinyl ‘movement’ has taken the pleasure of listening to audio perfection away from the only people who might care about it. In other words, by falling for these ‘revivals’, people sabotage their own experiences. Audiophiles could have enjoyed digital audio forever, but now most of them believe that it is a second class experience compared to vinyl. They either get on the rack of pain and expense – knowing that to even play a precious record damages it – or live with the regrets about what might have been. This is pure psychology.

And of course money is diverted from the further development of digital technology to be spent on this technological nostalgia trip.

I used to do my own photographic processing when I was young. There is nothing that would persuade me to do it again. I see no weakness in the digitally-derived prints that are produced these days. Scans of old slides and negatives seem to capture their essence perfectly well, and the modern high resolution cameras that we all have are superb. People forget how terrible most photographic efforts used to be, and how poor most cinemas were in terms of their projection.


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