In Days Gone By, I actually worked on the old fashion linear editing systems. Back then it was either the affordable VHS, or the pricier Beta Max for the news or communications industry. Beta Max, the antiquated video medium from the 70’s which lost out to the consumer in lieu of the cheaper VHS system.
What people didn’t realize at the time was Beta Max was to become the superior video format. Production houses of the day, news stations, etc. all went with Beta Max. The consumer got left with VHS. It was a cheaper, low quality electronic video tape system which sprung up in all of the video stores, i.e. Block Buster.
I also worked with 8 MM and 16 MM Film. Art enthusiasts and students ran around with their Grand Parents 8 MM Film cameras caught up in the excitement of the film industry. I was fortunate. I worked as a grunt in several production houses at the time doing grip work, lighting, and occasionally they let me touch the film. On the rare occasion they allowed me to edit shots made on the Aaton Super 16 MM. This camera produced extraordinary film, and could easily hold its weight with the movie industry 35 MM Panaflex. There was still one problem once the shooting was complete. How to edit efficiently? No production specialist in their right mind was going to spend days editing reel to reel like Roman Polanski of the 1950’s. Tape transfer was the solution. The production house I worked for was big time and had state of the art equipment, but they did not invest their money into tape transfer technology. Once a week, I made the run from Baltimore City to Washington, DC. I was the “transfer boy”. Siting in a facility for hours drinking cold coffee waiting for the film to be transferred digitally to Beta. I than drove back to the production house for easier editing. Their state of the art Avid editing system is still used today.
There were other opportunities as well. My major in college was computer animation and effects. Film and video was the medium in which these effects were articulated. The University I graduated from had a state of the art computer science facility for all of the IT Gurus who eventually lost their money in the dot com bust of the mid 90’s. The art department complained that the computer systems should be used for more disciplines besides tech geeks wanting to write millions of lines of code. After multiple appeals and rallies, the artist enrolled at the University (myself included) got access to the Cray Super Computers. The art building was run down, but the computer science building housed a state of the art system in air conditioned rooms requiring a retinal scan to enter. Eventually I began working with software programs such as “Wave Front” powered by the Silicon Graphics computer system-SGI. These high end programs were responsible for the liquid metal and malleable animation scenes in movies like the Terminator 2 etc. I had my hands in it all.
Production, post-production, lighting, effects, and then crash. Reality set in. I didn’t have the funds after college to pursue the career that I had worked so hard to achieve. There were some of the fortunate (trust fund babies) who stuck it out and gained employment for the military, (Martin Marietta at the time) working on 3D modeling systems to create state of the art airplanes and weaponry. Some actually got employed as flunkies at I.L.D. (Industrial Light Magic). Those friends went on to work on the (at the time) next generation of Stars Wars films which turned out to be awful from the original trilogy of the eighties. Over animated and too many special effects. I digress…
I moved on and worked for many years in different industries unrelated to film. I lost my creative touch altogether and was too busy trying to pay off bills and afford groceries.
I am producing again and have return to the calling. Things have changed. Equipment and software programs that were once thousands of dollars can be purchased on subscription based plans for a few hundred dollars a year. High definition recording cameras have significantly come down in price. People, students, children, anyone can produce a piece of electronic art or video. Movies and documentaries appearing on Netflix and Amazon seem mediocre. At best we can call it a good waste of 90 minutes on a Friday night with a DVR.
I believe there is a desire for better content. The true art has been lost, but reborn by a group of young actors and specialist in the film/video industry. A group who do it for the creativity and artistic appeal. Sunlight light passing through an old warehouse window caught from a unique angle, or the sound of dripping water from a pipe edited in a way for someone to say, “that is amazing”. That is the future of this technology.