Digital Fluidity - Beyond Remediation in Theory and Practice
Date: 16 August 2013
University of Exeter
PhD in Film
"What is cinema? The emergent digital era poses this question in a new and interesting way because for the first time in the history of film theory the photographic processes is challenged as the basis of cinematic representation. If the discipline of cinema studies is anchored to a specific material object a real conundrum emerges ...
"What is cinema? The emergent digital era poses this question in a new and interesting way because for the first time in the history of film theory the photographic processes is challenged as the basis of cinematic representation. If the discipline of cinema studies is anchored to a specific material object a real conundrum emerges with the arrival of digital technologies as a dominant aesthetic and social force" (D.N. Rodowick 2007: 9). Over the past twenty-five years or more there has been a paradigm shift occurring in the manner in which moving images are conceived, acquired, produced, disseminated and consumed. This transformation of the modus operandi of production can be attributed to the overwhelming expansion and rapid advance of digital technologies. Through both critical reflection and creative practice this thesis will explore the extent to which there might be a discontinuity between analogue and digital cinematography; whether cinema itself and the basis of photographic representation have been changed, as Rodowick infers. It will draw on debates of realism, the index, and of the medium in relation to the seminal theories of new media. The thesis will introduce the term Digital Fluidity. This is the central concept that has emerged out of my research that describes how technologies utilised in production and post-production function together to enable a fluid process or mode of filmmaking, based on a logic of hybridity and technological convergence. Digital Fluidity engages with two key arguments in new media theory, namely that of ‘re-mediation’ (Bolter and Grusin, 2000), and the ‘computerisation of culture’ (Manovich, 2001). The thesis comprises of a 30 000 word dissertation and a portfolio of practical work of three films. Firstly there are two documentary shorts Grasp the Words Which Sing (2010), and Picnic Pilgrimage (2012), which deal with themes such as the perception of art in the case of the former and the mobility of both the camera and the subject in the latter. In the documentary productions the reflective focus is concentrated on the digital camera as capture device, re-appropriation of technology, and continuity with analogue production techniques. The films are produced on a modified DSLR camera with 35mm lenses and demonstrate a progression in visual style from a static camera in the case of the first film to a necessarily more mobile camera in the second and third. A longer dramatic production Not For Human Consumption (2013) is a tragic love story that explores the emotive social issue of legal high substance misuse. This film uses improvisation and experimental camera systems as well as some conventions that hold their lineage in the silent era, such as the long take and frontal framing. Here the theoretical analysis explores the integration of analogue and digital techniques and equipment by looking at the processes involved and relating these practices with the concept of Digital Fluidity. The improvised narrative was created as the film was in production – a choice that was facilitated largely by the decision to shoot digitally. The three films, although very different, are related by the connection between the processes of filmmaking undergone in each case and the thesis’ core definition of Digital Fluidity. The central research question poised within this thesis will therefore be: ‘Do digital technologies offer the filmmaker enhanced opportunity for creating new cinematic language and a more fluid mode of production than previous forms?’
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