In The Color of Nitrate, the author explains some visual inventions in the silent film era and gives examples of such visual effects. Coloring usually played a role in scenes as some colors help clarify the narrative of a specific film. Different colors gave different meanings to support the plot of the film and these colors were drivers of scenes in an era where dialogue wasn’t established yet. These different approaches and technologies of coloring like hand coloring, tinting, and toning help us understand the aesthetics of color and its impact on silent films. This short article takes a good glance at how silent films were being used historically and what approaches were available for filmmakers to push their narratives through these early technological inventions. Yet, colors are still one of the primary film aesthetic when it comes to storytelling and narrative construction in today’s contemporary filmmaking.
Sound in Video Games traces the evolution of sound in Video Games by exploring what games developed sound and how they did so to create an impact on the players and to what extent sound changes the way we view and play Video Games. Just like films, music has become the soul of Video Games and a big part of how designers and players perceive and interact with a game. Music has not only become part of Video Games but also created a genre which can be called Game Music genre which players listen to even when they’re not playing the game the music is associated with. It is thus a visual effect that is part of the overall gaming experience.
I thought both articles were interesting as they discussed two different aesthetics and technological advances in two different media forms and mediums. Both research methods can help think of what I plan to do with my research and how to write it out but neither of the articles can necessarily relate to my topic or research interest. Tracking the development of a certain aesthetic or technology is a great methodology to adapt.
In Off the Record, Morton (2000) writes about the “culture of recording,” the reasons why certain technologies survive while some disappear and the role of recordings in American history (p.6,7). In part, his aim is to piece together the history of recording while simultaneously correcting the notion that recording only relates to music. Nonetheless, in the context of the US, the practice of recording developed because of the actions of people operating on different levels. For instance, people, were at once designers and also consumers whose buying choices determined whether or not a product remained in the market. It is also consumers who in many ways contributed to “reshaping” technology (p.6). He discusses the relationship among business, culture and the recording technology and uses different case studies to illustrate his points. In chapter one for instance, Morton (2000) shows that many studies conducted in different fields including in mass communication have gaps. In mass communication he notes that scholars have neglected to distinguish between the culture of recording and music as a culture. Among others, one technological instrument he focuses on is Edison’s phonographs and the later developments and imitations. Other historic sound recording technological devices discussed include the tape recorder.
Masters of Doom is a well narrated complex tale of game developers, games, fans, wealth accumulation and family bonds among others. Kushner (2003) weaves together many different story participants. Even for a person like me who is clueless about games I found myself reading every sentence although I did not fully grasp everything written. I especially related to the chapter The Doom Generation in which Kushner brings in media effects issues. Game playing, especially playing violent games has been the subject of scholars’ attention for a long time. While other scholars as the author illustrates infer direct effects in a negative way that suggests social ‘doom’ others praised the impact of the games on certain groups of people, patients especially.
The readings this week do not relate to my end of semester paper.
In the first reading of this week, David Morton tried to convince us, in his interesting journey through history of recording, that recording sound was not actually about the sound itself. It was about freezing time and capturing a real mirror of human lives (p.1, 2000). In fact, the first known person succeeded in recording sound was actually a printer, the French Edouard Leon Scott. He invented the phonautograph in 1857, which is the earliest known sound recording device. So, let us imagine a world without this magical ability of freezing time and capturing sound. They would be no music, phones and audial media. Every word we speak would be lost forever.
In the first chapter, Morton explores the American history of the relationship between the high fidelity (Hi-Fi) and the high culture. The high fidelity is the reproduction of sound with minimal distortion that characteristic of the recordings made after the late 1940s. Pursuing a Hi-Fi production have been mostly driven by the upper class’ demands of a higher quality (p. 13). Morton, however, tries to differentiate between music as a complicated multiclass art, the business of reproducing sound, and the culture of recording.
In the second reading, The Color of Nitrate: Some Factual Observations on Tinting and Toning Manuals for Silent Films, Paolo Cherchi Usai examines two common chemical methods of the applied color that were being used in early silent cinema, the tinting and toning methods. The tinting method uses silver and involves the immersion of film into a tint liquid, resulting in color applied on the film surface. While the toning replaces the silver, partially or totally, with a colored metal or metal salt then colored with a basic dye toning (p. 21, 1996). Usai argues that preserving the tinted and toned films is difficult, because the technical limitations in reproducing these films and that they lose their physical quality over the years. He suggests using mixed preserving approaches that could include an art restoration and collaboration between historians and scientists.
Finally, Kushner, in his interesting attempt to write the history of the video game, tells the story of the two Johns, John Carmack and John Romero, who in 1993 created ‘Doom,’ one of the most influential title in the video game industry that led to the popularity of the first-person shooter genre. This video game, according to the author, was the beginning of so many things that transformed pop culture. Although the game caught so much criticism for its violence and satanic imagery, it led to a mass popularization of video game art. The book is one of the first to chronicle video game industry.
I enjoyed this week’s readings that combined technological history and aesthetic development. I think we often forget that there is a clear link between technology and beauty in media history. “The Color of Nitrate” explores the developments in the silent film era to create visual effects. I was aware of coloring and tinting techniques done to nitrate film to give the film color, but I was unaware as to the extent of the process. We often think of silent films and silent black and white pictures, but they were never silent and often incorporated color tinting and toning to communicate with the audience. When viewing film it is easy to disassociate the role of the hand in the medium as the mechanical reproduction is so prominent. I am deeply interested in the hand-tinting practices of adding color to nitrate film and its ramifications for the human body and the medium.
Because my research normally focuses solely on the visual or physical body, I rarely think about sound. It just always seems to be present and not noticeable (a study of sound throughout art history would be interesting, like the relation of sound in 19th century museums to viewing experience). But sound was extremely innovative in the aesthetic experience of video games. Sound has become a dominant part of how players experience a video game and becomes an important aspect of creating an entire sensory experience. I enjoyed the article “Masters of Doom” and how it weaved together a complex history from a variety of sources. Although I agree that it was necessary for the critical study of the violence in video games, it was nice to see additional issues raised.
I think it would be interesting for my final paper to more fully consider the aesthetic developments within The Advocate magazine. Did layouts change to communicate a more commercialized flow/experience? What is the aesthetic of this magazine? Was it always so glossy and polished? Always more questions than answers.
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