Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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Thoughts on’ interopability’ for Video and Sound

February 17th, 2006 by Seb Chan

Hi all. Here’s some thoughts I thought I’d share.

Lately I’ve been reviewing some new software for one of the magazines I write for. In particular looking at the new Adobe Production Suite – Premiere pro (video editing) , After Effects (animation & fx), Audition (multitrack recording), Encore (DVD authoring), Photoshop and Illustrator (graphics). Whilst there isn’t that much new about the applications themselves the fusion between them in this new bundle is spectacular as project files can be shifted between applications and directly reference media across applications.

All this got me thinking about the future of media production generally where the production process is not made of discreet units – perform, shoot, edit, render, compose, record, arrange, mix, master – but rather is one continuous fusion. Subsequently the roles of future artists will be far less confined to a specific mode or position or even creative form. People new to media production tend to take it for granted but believe me when I say the idea of mixing and arranging your music score at the same time as cutting your video, whilst having the DVD menu knocked up in the background and recording a voicer over all on the same system in the same room in a mostly simultaneous way is an absolutely foreign concept to those of us that learned under a traditional hierarchical and linear production model.

And following on from this, young people that grow up with this new thinking as the default mode will have a fundamentally different perspective on what ART is…? As educational theorist Marc Prensky saids the divide between digital natives and digital immigrants will only get wider… Is it not likely that 10 years from now, someone referring to making media art, of any flavour, will be heard to speak with a very thick and foreign accent if they talk in traditional linear, hierarchical and specialised terms…?

A large amount of this from a technical end is already starting to happen and it’s very exciting (for nerds like me anyway) but I find the prospect of how it will change how young people think about art and creativity itself, even more exciting.

From a technical end its just making the work process completely flexible so anything and everything can be edited and changed at any time and any stage of the process. We do away with these ideas of (as they say in film production ) Locking Picture, meaning ‘no more editing, we’re working on the sound mix now, no more changes’.

But that’s just the technical end, the shallow end of the pool… Binary Semantics. What’s more interesting is that to the digital native, the idea of ‘No more changes’ is just absurd, it doesn’t make sense, its completely at odds with their techno-cultural perception of the world.

To the digital native, EVERYTHING is ALWAYS changeable, It’s not what the technology ‘allows’ but rather what the technology IS – from the song order on an album (with an mp3 player there’s no such thing as a song order – there’s almost no such thing as an album), thru to “gee I love the snare drum sound on that Kylie Minogue track, I’m going to sample it and chop into this bass line I’ve cut out and pitch-shifted from Johnny Cash number” or “I’ve taken the ‘Duck and Cover’ paranoia commercial from the 50’s cause it I think it’s hilarious and I’ve intercut it with my own video of my brother playing under the table and put a sound track to it that uses my piano playing with a break beat and vocal samples of Bert the Turtle singing….”

AND THEN… I hand all this over to someone in Outer Mongolia and they re-cut it into something else again….

Our 20th century perception of creative art is as something that is fixed, finished and complete. But the 21st century perception of art (and subsequently the way young people will forever view art and creativity) is as something that is Never complete, something that can Always change and moreover something that they Themselves can proactively change.

And that’s the real reason I get excited by the simple idea of being able to throw project files around from application to application and having a more parallel, rather than linear, production process on the different elements, both aural and visual, in a project….. that simple technical evolution changes how we view and engage with art forever…

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