Monday, 10 September 2007

Five K ?

If you've been working in the moving image field as long as I have you'll notice a cyclical phenomenon which comes in waves about every 5 years. Overtly it looks like a change in technology, covertly it's a change in employment functions, which these days means that older more experienced people become extra to requirements.

Previous image technologies needed experience to manipulate them through their successive processes to achieve quality control. Like film. I used to joke that a good DP was at heart a quality control clerk. Following this, the century old question "Is a good DP one that can light beautifully, one that can light fast, or one that can light cheaply ? has a combined answer, and the answer is: preferably all three - and not only that, they should also be socially advanced and not just an autistic genius.

The point within this is that experience comes with age. Digital technologies require an older mode of adaptation - in the stone age the young are middle-aged at 25. The old die at 35. And this digital age emulates the stone age in that it is better that the technologies we have are more acceptable, more understandable to the younger rather than older.

As a presidential adviser said to the IBM group of managers responsible for the largest loss in commercial history - the silver back gorilla used to head the group. He was good at spotting danger and getting the group away - maybe up in the trees for safety. But then the paradigm for safety changed, when a man came out into the clearing with a machine gun - there was no tree high enough to save the experienced gorilla and his clan. Yes - my metaphor is that the machine gun is digitality. Well they shoot pictures don't they ?

As it happens, it was my job on that shoot to teach the IBM managers to make a TV programme to argue their case for continued employment and those that made the worst TV programme would be fired at the end of the week ! That was pretty stone age in itself.

So - the digital paradigm - the Aquarian paradigm - is that everything is open and that the data flow is overt as opposed to covert. I use the zodiacal metaphor here as it seems apposite - Pisces was occult, arcane, closed, hierarchical, only on a need to know basis etc and of course Aquarius in these terms is the opposite (although Hair was a fun musical it was sort of off beam). I love the fact that as Pisces was numerolgically the number 12 (think about it) Aquarius is numerologically the number ten - base ten, One and naught, on and off - yep - it's digital..

And with openness of data-flow then there is of course no rocket science - or rather rocket science itself is easily achievable as a series of processes that one puts together and given the off-the-shelf nature of software which is ever improving, then the base results one can expect from a young persons familiarity with the digital norm is simple 'professionalism'. There's no experience there of course, but digital software seeks to neutralise that factor.

So with 4k cameras, off the shelf rocket science, and a simple description of front end 'capture' (as opposed to cinematography) and workflow (used to be editing, grading etc) then Jo Didely, wet behind the ears (but with a programme to deal with that wetness) can point and shoot and edit and produce.

You might think my description is derogatory. Actually, outside of the comic name, it's just a description of a state of affairs.

So how relevant is 4k as a technological advance ? It seems like a revolution but we can't actually see the images produced without flying half way around the world to find a projector that is 'said' to project it- (as opposed to actually doing so), Well. it's only as relevant as everything that follows this technological advance - 8k, 16k, 32k, 64k, 1 gigahertz - up to eye level definition resolutions.

What I mean here is, and to pick up what I said at the beginning of this - if you've been around image generation for a while you'll notice that there's a 5 year technological sweep that occurs that makes the knowledge of those who know a lot, and therefore are earning at higher levels, redundant. In come the kids and out go the oldies, except for the more tenacious 'respected person' who can carve out a space for themselves one way or another.