Wednesday, 4 January 2012

What Is Digital Technology In Media

To some people the so-called DV 
revolution spells the end of a certain 
kind of movie: the end of celluloid 
and all the associations that we have 
with it – projectors, rolls of film and
the romance of Hollywood. To others, 
though, it is more than a revolution or 
a change in the industry – it’s year zero.
To filmmakers who could only dream 
of committing their ideas to moving images,

the DV age is the start of a career, not just a change in one, as the affordability of cameras and editing equipment makes it possible to get involved.

DV is here to stay, is reaching far wider into the mainstream of filmmaking than people thought
possible and, in a few years, has affected every part of the video and film industries from 
Hollywood down to indie features, and finally – and most dramatically – the low-budget 
emerging filmmaker. In most revolutions of the technological sort (and maybe the political)
it is those at the top that seem to benefit most financially, but the DV revolution is one that 
bucks the trend; big money producers agree DV makes a difference to the costs of a film,
but to the filmmaker at the bottom it is the deciding factor in being able to make one at all. 
But before we run off with our winnings, it is worth looking more closely
at this gift horse and trying to understand why it works so well and how it 
offers us what it does.

Digital video

Digital is called digital because it records information by the use of numbers: ones and zeros, 
which correspond to ‘on’ or ‘off’ commands. It has no variables as does the wave of analog; 
a signal is either one or the other, black or white, yes or no. This means that when the tape 
signal degrades after copying or playing – which happens however hard you try to avoid it – it 
alters only the strength of the yes or no, the on or off, the one or zero. It still gets read as 
one or the other, regardless of the strength of the signal. This is why digital is a better 
method of storing and reproducing information. It is the reproduction of it that is crucial, 
since the ability to edit and distribute without loss of quality
is to remain true to a director’s original intentions.

Filmmakers used to rely on 16 mm film for their first forays into movies, and VHS 
tape never really caught on as an acceptable replacement. Filmmakers care about 
the way a picture looks and digital offers what many are looking for at the price they 
can afford, while VHS was neither quality nor did it have a specific ‘look’ as did 
16 mm film. Why was VHS analog so bad? If you take a picture and photocopy
it you produce a version of the original. But if you want to re-copy it you lose some
information and the resulting copy is less clear than the original. Repeat this
process several times and you end up with a muddy, unclear image. With digital, 
you are approaching the picture wholly differently: imagine breaking the tonal 
values and colours of that photo down into numerical values, in turn represented
by ones and zeros. You have then got a set of instructions for the make-up of 
that picture and can send these instructions anywhere. All that it requires is that 
the receiver has the same information as the sender in order to be able to 
reassemble the image from the numbers it is given. With the right decoding
knowledge it will reconstruct the image. Furthermore, because it exists in terms
of numbers, it can be manipulated more easily, so that a picture can be turned 
black and white by exchanging one set of numbers for another, while keeping 
the rest unchanged.

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