Digital film: One more chance to blow it?
Forgive our cynicism. In fact, we are quite optimistic as we write this. We’re just not optimistic that the mighty Motion Picture Association of America will get it right with digital-film standards.
They’ll get a lot of it right. Picture and sound will be just fine and dandy, presumably. But we don’t trust unilingual American engineers – who, in fairness, do not constitute all those working on the project – to get the details right. Details like metadata, accessibility, and multilingualism.
For online distribution – seen by everyone as a sweet plum – this stuff’s gotta work for more people than just Americans with NT boxen and good eyes and ears.
[Beating of vegan dead-horse substitute] Previous coverage: Opening up accessibility; Metadata.
You’ve got to be able to sit there and watch the Spanish dubbed version of The Itchy & Scratchy Movie if you want to. Who’s minding that store, exactly?
Couple of issues:
- As mentioned in quite a trenchant profile of MPEG Group leader Leonardo Chiariglione in Brill’s Content (still not online), the forthcoming MPEG-21 standard is intended to cover everything – not just audio and video but indexing and metadata. (Working draft is online, but it’s a ZIP archive of a Word document!) Things are still vague at this point, but indexing and searching are explicitly discussed, and you can’t put that in place without paving the way for every other kind of access feature. Digital film without MPEG is inconceivable. That’s the good news.
- An article hypothesizes about coming up with some kind of international standard, similar to 35 film, an existing world standard. Sure, it’s a world standard – but not for online distribution, and not for mixed blind/sighted, deaf/hearing, or multiple-language audiences. (Even adding a digital soundtrack was a kluge. [History.])
Want to lay odds that people are gonna get all this right?
If the topic seems abstract, far-off, and irrelevant to you, maybe it truly is. Or maybe someday you’ll want to search for the scene in which Itchy juliennes Scratchy with the red, blood-stained axe and no other axe.
En tout cas, a WGBH source confirms that two of its operatives are at work on the D-Cinema committee. So maybe we shouldn’t despair.
Digital online film? It can be done. Kind of.
- A New York Times article lists concession after modification after retrenchment involved in placing a small-scale “human-rights” documentary, on the topic of a Brazilian woman, online. Not quite ready for prime time: Internet film doesn’t work. And there was no discussion of how impoverished, third-world Brazil, with its small, uppercrust Internet population, actually responded to the film. Could they even load the thing? Also, the project seems to fail as a bilingual site, let alone film.
- “What Do These Guys Know About The Internet?”: “These guys” are Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The latter has stunning technical chops, not to mention forearms and jawline, but the “projects” fêted in the article come off like every other bolted-on “multimedia” solution: TV show with hokey companion Web site. We’d prefer a fabulous Web site with a hokey companion TV show. Trying to shoehorn a Web site into a film or vice-versa makes as much sense as photocopying pages from a novel and using them as a screenplay.
Posted on 2000-10-28