July 16, 2009
No, Faster! No, Slower!
One of the things I like about video on computers—vs. video on tapes and decks—is that the framerate is so much more flexible. 24fps? Sure. 60fps? Why not! 17fps? Let’s give it a try.
Now of course, on a computer, all of this is still gated by the lockstep refresh of the monitor. So there’s still a rigid rate being imposed at some point.
But that’s not so for film, and it was especially flexible in the old days, before things got standardized. Images were captured, and played back, at all sorts of crazy framerates—and people argued about it!
I like this bit, noted by Mike Migurski:
On the active role of the projectionist: A 1915 projectionist’s handbook declared — in emphatic capitals — ‘THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SET CAMERA SPEED!’ The correct speed of projection, it added, is the speed at which each individual scene was taken — ‘which may — and often does — vary wildly.’ And it declared: ‘One of the highest functions of projection is to watch the screen and regulate the speed of projection to synchronise with the speed of taking.’
Like a ship’s navigator keeping a hand on the wheel. Cool.
Here’s a thought experiment. Could we come up with some kind of gadget that “re-physicalizes” digital video so we could have this kind of fun again? Maybe it flashes images onto a re-writable strip of film. Maybe it’s an Arduino-powered kinetoscope with images rendered in E Ink!