A friend just commented that the Simpsons is worth watching even with the sound turned off. Yup, I said, that's called cinematography.
Done properly, film conveys most of its meaning by sight. Sound is a compliment. Now that I've made that stupendously obvious remark, let me run somewhere with it.
Film came of age with pieces like Jorge Ivers' Rain. [I'm not spelling his name right am I?] Ivers was an early Dutch filmmaker. Film at that time had been about setting a camera up on a tripod to record vaudeville and parades. Rain, instead, is a beautiful piece made mostly from close-up shots. It starts with a couple of tiny raindrops on the ground, builds gradually into torrents in the gutters, and then falls to the breaking sunshine and the drying puddles. Ivers filmed several days of rain in Amsterdam and then spliced this work together, displaying a new 'hyperedited' method that could only work with film.
When television started it was essentially pictures strung over a radio broadcast. The news just showed you an anchorman reading, and the other programs used narration over top of footage. With the sixties TV began to move towards the seamlessness of movies. Then in the eighties we got something Neil Postman had predicted but no one had taken seriously: simply exotic images accompanied by rock music, no other content at all.
So how about the Web? Lance Arthur rightly points out that we're still thinking in print terms, and he had the guts to to stand up in A List Apart and shout, 'Hang browser compatibility --get out there and experiment!'
What I'm wondering is what would be the equivalent of Rain? of music videos? --What would be uniquely Web?
I'm still thinking it has to be something more than hypertext, community, and many-to-many. I keep thinking about Rain. It was so different, and it showed so well not just a new technique, but a new technique that could only exist within that new medium, and in particular a technique that seemed to show what the new medium was really for.
What would this be for the Web?
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© 2000 Owen Briggs
last modified on 13 April 2000