The Technologies, Aesthetics, Philosophy and Politics of High Definition Video

By Flaxton, Terry | Millennium Film Journal, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

The Technologies, Aesthetics, Philosophy and Politics of High Definition Video


Flaxton, Terry, Millennium Film Journal


In April 2007 at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, High Definition changed forever. Whereas previous HD cameras had cost half a million dollars, Jim Jannard, a sunglasses manufacturer from Canada, managed to develop a new camera, called the 'Red One,' retailing at $17,500. This development signaled a change in the production of High Definition that was announced through its initial naming. The titling - 'High Definition' - was meant to align the new technology with film, giving it more of a sense of quest than analog video, more of a sense of flight, a sense of the arcane, the hidden, thus producing something to aspire to and engendering a sense of being elite, in turn, evoking some of film's prior sense of mystery.

Proposition:

I am going to explore the rapidly changing face of HD and its impact, in terms of technical, aesthetic and societal perspectives.

A HIGH DEFINITION IMAGE TO RECALL

I want to introduce an image that may be useful when thinking of HD: as the light falls at dusk and you are driving along, you might notice that the tail lights of the car in front of you seem much brighter than in daylight, and the traffic lights seem too bright and too colorful. The simple explanation for this phenomenon is that your brain is switching between two technologies in your eyes: the rods (inherited from our distant ancestors), which were evolved for the insect eye to detect movement, are numerous at around 120 million. Through them you see mainly in black and white. The second technology is much more sensitive to color: these are the cones, which are far less numerous at around 7 million.

Color is a phenomenon of mind and eye: what we now perceive as color - is shape and form rendered as experience. Visible light is electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths between 400 and 700 nanometers. It is remarkable that so many distinct causes of color should apply to a small band of electromagnetic radiation to which the eye is sensitive, a band less than one 'octave' wide in an electromagnetic spectrum of more than 80 octaves.

Human trichromatic color vision is a recent evolutionary novelty that first evolved in the common ancestor of the Old World primates Placental mammals lost both the short and mid wavelength cones. Human red-green color blindness occurs because, despite our evolution, the two copies of the red and green opsin genes remain in close proximity on the X chromosome. We have a weak link in our chain with regards to color. We are not 4 cone tetrochromats; we have three and in some cases only two - in extremely rare cases we have one!

So, there are two technologies - rods and cones - between which there is a physiological yet aesthetic borderland. Keeping this idea in mind, if we apply the potential misreadings of eye and mind not to color, but to our ability to recognize different resolutions, then a similar potential sensorial confusion is possible in HD. In my own experiments with capture and display, it is becoming apparent that a viewer experiences a sensation similar to the illusion that there is more color at dusk when a certain level of resolution is reached. At that borderline between the lower resolution and the higher resolution, a fluttering occurs between the effects of both. I have found that at the lower level there is less engagement, as measured by the duration the audience is willing to linger with an image, and at the higher resolution there is more engagement. This is evidence of a switching between two states in the suspension of our disbelief - with high definition eliciting more visual fascination. What is really interesting to me, as an artist, is the boundary between the two states.

THE FIGURES

After the invention of television, it took many years to be able to record the analog video image. This was finally accomplished through creating a scanned rasta of lines and inscribing what information was present in each line. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Technologies, Aesthetics, Philosophy and Politics of High Definition Video
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.