Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cinema, Television, and New Media

Kiwitt, P. (2012). What is Cinema in a Digital Age? Divergent Definitions From a Production Perspective. Journal of Film and Video , 64 (4), 3-22.

The research question in this article is what does cinematic mean in an age where the cinematic is conflated with cinema-esque television and broadcasting on instant streaming online applications? How should we encourage students along the paths of film, television, and new media production if we do not understand the differences?

Image by miss mass
To understand the differences between film, television and new media, Kiwitt plans to take “a pragmatic approach, built on defining terms, to what can otherwise be a vexing questions the nature of cinema” (4). He does this by first looking at the way that other theorists have defined cinema, then breaks down the differences between form and medium.  Finally, he looks at the history of intertwined cinema and television and then puts that relationship into the context of the digital convergence media.

Kiwitt considers the definitions that cinema greats like Robert Gessner (5) and Lev Manovich (6) have defined cinema and finds those definitions to be wanting. They easily conflate cinema and television and sometimes conflate cinema and painting. He notes that, as academics, we have a tendency to think distinctively about exhibition, when some of the biggest differences between the mediums lie at the production level  (7).  Kiwitt then separates cinema and television into form and medium (9).  Cinema form is “a form of expression composed of edited live-action moving images, ideally emphasizing artistic form or content” (9) though its medium demands that it be shown to an audience in public (11). Television form is “a form of expression composed of switched live-action moving images as well as edited live-action moving images emphasizing communication (11) while its medium is that it is show “separately and simultaneously” (12).  After making these differentiations, he looks at the development of cinema and television and, while cinema came first, the two have utilized and influenced each other for much of history. He then discusses convergence and how it is not new to new media. Film and television have practiced convergence with different levels of success for since their inceptions (16). This continues into new media mediums of distribution. Kiwitt concludes that it will be even more difficult to advise students on the correct discipline to study with new media. Students who want to make films or cinematic television (shows like Lost) should study film; students that want to make other kinds of television should study television; students who want to code movies for the web or produce online content should study new media.  He argues that students who should be studying cinema or television might study new media instead, but that it will not give them what they need to develop good film or television (18) and maybe not even enough skills to provide great productions in new media (19).

To be honest, I thought that this article would have a lot more to do with animation, rhetoric and digital film production, based on the abstract. However, what I learned from it, and what will be useful is the reminder that all these forms work differently and that their mode of production changes the resources and resources change the way rhetorical strategies are used. For instance, television shows are most often shot on three walled sets, with multiple stationary cameras (think about the fact that you never see one wall of most homes in situation comedies). Digital animation has these same limitations based on the engine a production company uses/creates. Considering the limitations will help me in analyzing the visual rhetoric of Waltz with Bashir.

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