Film and video
In previous editions of this book, this chapter was simply titled ‘Film’. The introduction of a second term—video—recognises the extraordinary technological shifts that are reshaping the cinema and which are more generally changing our access to and understanding of the audio-visual industries.
In this new era, a film's place—literally its definition—is described as being either high or low. This descriptor is not meant to name a film's capacity for cultural reference, as it once did for 1970s film theorists. Films are rarely debated for their status as high or low culture any more. Rather, a film's high definition (as in high-definition television) or low definition (as in low-band video) is a technical term that locates its position in a production and distribution lifespan.
The life of a typical film title will pass through a series of transactions: theatrical (in cinemas), television (free-to-air, pay and international), digital (web, narrowcast or niche-cast), video (hire and sell-through) and—much later—stock footage sales. Video release is an integral component of any film's profile and profitability. However what we call films are more and more likely to be either shot, edited or post-produced on video. New high definition video equipment has significantly narrowed the qualitative distinction between film and video. Aesthetically, digital video (DV) cameras are close to reproducing the look of film at a fraction of the cost. But video is also changing both the way in which we look at film and the way films look.
The film theorist Andre Bazin, writing some 50 years ago about his vision for a ‘total cinema’, believed that technological development in the film industry was moving steadily closer to verisimilitude (Bazin 1967, p 21). For Bazin, the idea of a ‘total cinema’ was driven by the desire for a complete form of realism—a sort of slavishness to exactitude where representation is concerned. Instead of producing verisimilitude, however, the type of filmmaking made possible by