Film, Society, Tech

Square Eyes


Netflix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hi, it’s been a while, how you doing?  While I’ve been away from the blog (it’s been so long I see that WordPress have been in and redecorated the Editor screen) I’ve been watching a lot of tv.

Now I remember when Channel 4 started and Channel Five naturally, then when Freeview digital tv began I wondered whether there would be anything worth watching on. Before digital I used to watch more dramas and things I don’;t watch now because there’s more choice and I can find something more to my taste, the last drama series I think I watched was series two of Lost before Channel 4, er, lost it.

Now thanks to BBC2, BBC4, Dave and Quest I have plenty to watch, unfortunately.  Just in the last six weeks there has been something I’ve wanted to watch on every night from seven to nine and the interesting thing is that they were all episodes of the same programmes every night.

This seems to be pandering to people’s cries of “I want more and I want it now”.  Once, when we had five channels, a tv show was on once a week, except the news and weather of course, there was too much of it for one show and we’d forget whether it was going to rain on Thursday.  Soon though soaps started being shown a couple of times a week, then Channel Five brought in striped programming where the same type of show was on at the same time every day.  Now though channels will show a whole series in one go, often a brand new show, an episode a day, seemingly to avoid forfeiting the viewers’ easily distracted attention – oh, won’t somebody please think of the advertising revenue!

Then there’s the extras – first Big Brother gained a post-show pseudo-analytical, comedic Little Brother, as if an hour of housemates wasn’t enough, the X-factor now takes up two evenings as does Strictly Come Dancing in a show of further ratings rivalry.  A cynic might say that all this also cheaply fills up all those fifty channels of digital bandwidth but I couldn’t possibly comment.

Much of this is related to the modern concept of Binge Watching brought about by online and satellite tv Box Sets – which are now even available for brand-new shows so rather than watching a series over half a year (as in the old days of The West Wing or Frasier for example) you can sit for a whole weekend watching episode after episode only stopping for food and toilet breaks, though with some services you can transfer the show to your tablet and keep watching in the loo too – another argument against buying second-hand tablets.  There is even advice for how to wean yourself off the box sets (spoiler alert:  it’s about watching episodes from half-way through, so avoiding the cliffhanger).

The thing is that satiating peoples’ impatience takes away the appreciation and anticipation of something you have to wait for.  If you’re watching the next episode of a drama straight away you’re missing the excitement of finding out what happens next steadily building.  That was what cliffhangers in tv dramas were invented for so next time you’re watching a drama on Netflix remember that the end credits are there for a reason.

Got to go , the repeat of Salvage Hunters is on.

Business, Film, Tech

A Digital Future for Film

Canon EOS C300

Canon EOS C300 (Photo credit: kenjonbro)

When I was younger it seemed like an eternity between a film being on at the pictures and it being on telly.  Which was because it typically was an eternity.  By the time a video of it came out it was almost forgotten which was perhaps the idea, to be absolutely sure that every last drop of cinema cash had been wrung out of the celluloid and it was ready for people to relive in their own homes and pay for over again.

Today though the Amazon pre-orders for the blu-ray of a summer blockbuster are up before the first pair of 3D glasses are slipped on at the local multiplex.  Still though it would surely be madness to release a film in cinemas if it were, for example, shown on Film4 at the same time?

Maybe not.  A Field in England, a film by Ben Wheatley was released on 5th July across formats – on disc, on-demand, on TV and on the big screen.  The black-and-white film, shot on Red Epic and Canon C300 cameras tells the story of three deserters from the English Civil War who are forced to help an alchemist search for mushrooms in the aforementioned field – which is its sole location.

It is both the production and distribution that are important though.  The digital technology to film and distribute the movie are likely to reinvigorate the industry as lower-budget films become increasingly viable.  The widespread outlets enabled Wheatley to reach the greatest audience possible and he believes that it wouldn’t reduce the cinema audience for example – there will always be people who prefer to see a flick on the big screen and others who will always wait for the DVD or TV so why not give everybody what they want from the start.  The film received funding from the BFI which supports experimental release models and the distribution was in collaboration with Film4 and Picturehouse Entertainment.

So it seems that despite the fears of some in the entertainment business 21st century filming and distribution technology looks like creating a renaissance in film rather than signing its death warrant.