August 22, 2000

Margarita's San Francisco Dream, 1998

Moving camera shots of moving subjects establish the limits of video-stream technology.

Not surprisingly, video-stream codec developers typically demonstrate their wares with talking head clips or variable frame-rate productions that amount to little more than stuttering slide shows. This kind of streaming may be of some use to CEO's, pitchmen, news anchors, and other purveyors of corporate propaganda, but it fails even to test the threshold of a genuine "revolution" in mass media.

Since the dawn of cinematography, it has been understood that a uniform frame-rate is fundamental to the illusion of the "moving picture." The absurdity of variable frame-rate video is evident the moment one takes the camera from the tripod and stops shooting talking heads. Once camera and subject are put in natural motion, the use of variable frame-rate simply destroys any illusion of a "window on the world" by introducing unreal effects of apparent camera and subject acceleration and deceleration, keyed not to anything meaningful in the scene but to the sudden, accidental complexity of a momentary image being crunched.

It's a sign of the times, of our current pandering to "fuehrer-ship" of all kinds, that such a thing as a variable frame-rate codec even exists. The only purpose served by variable frame rate codecs is to achieve more frequent synchronization between the lips of the star-icons we are meant to worship and the politico-cultural directives they utter for our consumption.

This 37k/sec WindowsMedia video stream was shot in 1998 by M. Baranova as part of an effort to test the acceptability of "video impressionism" as a potential populist medium--easy and inexpensive to produce and to distribute. Image "crispness" is deliberately sacrificed in favor of a "smooth" frame rate (5 fps for 56K modem reception). And image quality is further compromised for the "reality effect" of stereo sound.

We may not be "there" yet, but this is some distance along the road.

Posted by Raoul

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