Re: DVD Cometh
Mon, 15 Nov 1999 12:13:18 -0800 (PST)

As a video publisher of experimental films, I find DVD to have serious
drawbacks and shortcomings.

DVD technology relies heavily on compression. The different forms of
compression that exist were developed for commercial films, such as Hitchcock
films, films in which the consecutive frames have what Peter Kubelka calls
weak articulations between them. In this way, a background can be conserved
on the disk as if it were a slide, while only a character moving in the
foreground is updated. Like limited animation, this is an economical solution
at the cost of aesthetic quality. Few keyframes are needed. And though 30% of
the viewers can see the difference and complain about it, this is not a
significant factor in terms of the commercial market. People will just have
to lower their standards.

Experimental films in most cases cannot be compressed. Stan Brakhage's
hand-painting, Len Lye's scratching, Rose Lowder's frame-to-frame
interweaving of different shots, and hundreds of other practices simply
cannot be compressed. Every frame must be a key frame. And from what I
understand, a DVD can currently only hold approximately 4 minutes of
non-compressed video information, if indeed it is possible to encode
non-compressed video information at all. (Any knowledgeable techies out

The general move is to do away with video and VCRs - department stores will
clear shelf space away from tape to make room for disk, magazines will only
review new releases on disk... universities and institutions will replace
their tapes with disks... experimental film will once again fall through the

In 1961, Marcel Duchamp said "the artist of tomorrow will have to go
underground." This spurned the whole notion of underground art and
underground film. In the wake of the move towards DVD and streaming, the true
film artist whose work is dependent on its own format, like a site-specific
installation, will once again have to dig deeper down, will be even further

But then it is Gilles Deleuze who said that a work of art is not an act of
communication; a work of art can communicate nothing, yet as an act of
resistance, yes, every work of art is an act of resistance, and that in
itself speaks volumes.