Friday, 15 October 2010

The Storyteller's Flicker

I've heard alot of different views expressed on the difference between progressive and interlaced video and the effect it can have on your audience. Phrases like "the eyes see in interlaced but the mind sees in progressive" and "24 frames a second synchronises with the pulses of the brain" come to mind. None of these have ever really struck a chord with me but recently someone I was doing some training for, Christopher Mann of Mannmade Productions, came out with something that made much more sense to me. He referred to the phenomenon as "the storyteller's flicker". His reasoning was as follows; way back when we were cavemen we would spend the day outside hunting and foraging etc. At night we would go back to our cave's, light the fire and tell stories to one another. People would draw on the walls and string narratives together as an effective way of passing the time and passing on information to others. In the day time there would be a lot of light and our eyes would be pretty responsive. This is the equivalent of interlaced video now. But at night the flicker of the fire would be only light to see the images on the wall by as the stories unfolded. Chris suggested that progressive footage, and particularly film, flickers in a way that reminds us on some genetic level of the flickering fire. It reminds us that these are only stories and not to be confused with the reality outside. This is why is makes so much sense that whilst the news looks right in 50i, films look right in 24p. It also explains why it feels weird watching a film with daylight pouring through the window.

I hope we remember this idea as filmmaking technology moves forward. Yes, more frames may be technically superior at capturing motion. Yes digital projection may be more cost effective for distribution. Yes 3D produces a more immersive environment. But we should think very carefully about weather these things are good for the medium. People don't go to the cinema for realism. They go to sit in the dark and see a story flicker into life. The shorcomings of cinema in representing reality are what makes it an artform. For every detail you fail to capture a million more are formed in mind of the audience. What so many filmmakers do not realise is that it is not you, but your audience that create the definitive version of your film. You can guide them, but the final result is always out of your hands. Scary, but true.

No comments:

Post a Comment