The Rapidity of Change

Yesterday’s ‘must have’ is today’s ‘must get rid of’

I just got a $500 bid for my Bang and Olufsen Beomaster 9000 stereo system with the 2 6-foot high Penta standing speakers.

I am delighted.

Only a few years ago, the Beomaster was ‘state of the art’. The speakers alone were about $5000, and the Beomaster probably another $5k. Today, $500 bucks plus shipping charges and I am delighted to see it go. How very fast technology now changes.

Gordon Moore predicted that processor speed would double every 18 months (with a halving of cost). So far, forty years later, he is still on course. And the impact of that seemingly irresistable law of physics is all around us.

Next, I am putting the Leica M7 on the eBay block.  Now that I have the digital M8, I never even use the film based M7. So I called Ken Hansen, great guy, who sells me all my Leica stuff. Did he want to buy back the Leica (which he sold to me about 4 years ago for about $6,000, if I remember correctly.  Ken sheepishly said the most he could offer was $1200 for the body.  That’s a big drop, with with the advent of the M8, the market for the M7, indeed for most film-based cameras, has all but evaporated.  I understand. I don’t want the M7 either.

All this brings me to my iPod.

I found it in a bag in my desk drawer. My first iPod.

I remember when I first got it.  It was state of the art.  And expensive.

I just bought the new mini nano. 8gigs. 5 hours of movies (movies!) on a single charge.

and tiny!

And… in 5 years I will look at it as yet another giant paperweight to be disposed of. (Maybe less than 5 years).

All of which brings us back to cameras, edits and the ‘revolution’.

It all gets smaller, faster, cheaper and better. And the changes come faster and faster. Video cameras and edits included.

The change is inevitable and irreversible.

(and if you are interested in the M7 (or the B&O (or the iPod, for some strange reason))), lemme know!


11 responses to “The Rapidity of Change

  1. All new technology ever introduced in this business has helped to improve the quality of the finished products, you Michael are the first in the history of television to use new technology to degrade the output of production.

  2. Dear Nino
    Interesting point.
    I would assume you are old enough to have made the transition from film to tape.
    Do you honestly think that the uMatic camera you were shooting on was an upgrade in image quality?
    If you were as concerned with not ‘degrading’ the ‘output’ you would only shoot on 35mm film.
    You would refuse to deal with anyone who did not want to buy the ‘superior’ product.
    But you don’t?
    And why.
    Because you like everyone else succumbs to the pressures of the real market.

  3. Michael, this is where you are wrong. Indeed I started with film and I’ve seen more changes that most likely no one outside my generation will ever see again .

    Let me explain to you the concept. Capturing images is a two parts process, the image and the recording.

    The recording instrument is nothing more that a dumb piece of hardware whose sole purpose is to capture/record what’s being created upfront, in few words garbage-in garbage-out.

    Every innovation ever created in this business has allowed the creator of images to shift some of his resources from the back (the camera), to the front (the image). Meaning that given the same amount of time, innovations have given us more time to dedicate in improving what’s up front, this is how we got better over the years. When you accumulate all the innovations and all the additional opportunities to improve the quality of the images, your skill grow. Let’s not kid ourselves, the direct result of better skills is better revenue.

    You on the other hand have been putting all your resourced into the technology, “the dumb and unintelligent recording instrument”. You are half way there.

  4. Dear Nino
    I don’t understand, so please explain this to me slowly.

    Are you saying video (particularly in the 1970s) was an improved image over film? or was it just cheaper and easier to use?

  5. You’re absolutely right about not understanding it, because that’s not what I said and your question about film has nothing to do with the subject in question. I repeatedly said “innovations” or something that we can use to improve our work. Television technology only in recent years has been able to imitate the quality of film and replace film but only on the lower end of film use, keep in mind that we are talking quality and not “work flow”. On the high end film is still king, however there are video equipment that are closing the gap and are becoming more and more employed in high end work. The BetaSR system with its 4.4.4 color scheme for example is the closest thing to film and its being widely used by high end producers, the camera BTW starts at about 150k. The new RED is also a more economical alternative, but we are getting out of the subject. I did not start using video until the early/mid 80, mainly because the quality was considerably inferior.

    One of the considerations that producers (today) working for any entities that use videos are faced with is format, output quality vs. cost. These decisions are usually dictated by allocated budgets. Do we use a HD or a SD format, or even a smaller DV format. These are the variables and whatever the decision is it will have no bearing whatsoever on what we, as photographers, do with the image in front of the camera. There are adjustments to be made in order to accommodate the behavior of different formats, but that’s part of our skills. Better quality formats however allows us to expand on our creativity because we know that better format can do so much more to the image.

  6. So, just so I am really really clear on this:
    You wrote: “you Michael are the first in the history of television to use new technology to degrade the output of production.”

    While I like being first in history to do anything, You later wrote: “I did not start using video until the early/mid 80, mainly because the quality was considerably inferior.”

    So, what you are saying is that in the early/mid 80s, you felt that the ‘quality’ of video (I think it was Beta then, if I am not mistaken, was superior to film – because we all know I am the first person to use new technologies to degrade the quality.

    Hence, your own personal move from film to the new technology of Beta actually IMPROVED the quality of the image in the early 80s. Is that what you are saying… cause that’s what you just said.

  7. Michael, for god sake can you read? how many way do I have to spell it out.

    I just said above that video only now is arriving to the quality of film.

    I also said that it’s a decision of cost vs. quality, this means the output quality and not the creative quality of the image, can you understand the difference?

    Formats have been an issue since the very beginning. In photography the cost dictated if we were using 8×10, 4×5 or medium formats films.

    In motion picture and film work it was from 16, 35, or all the way to 70mm.

    In video it’s the same thing only today there are more formats and more decision.

    Producers must make a decision of what’s more important based on budgets. But whatever the decision is it might affect the technical quality because of the chosen format but it will not in any way affect the work that we do in creating that image. What do you think that would happen, we leave 50% of our brains back home because of a lesser format?

    You are stuck on equipment, get unstuck, we are not selling gears, we are selling images.

    The only factor in our work performance is the TIME allowed for the creative process, the more time the better. It also comes a point that many of us refuse the job if the allowed time is not sufficient for any quality work. Our reputation is considerably more important than one single job.

  8. So, what you are saying is that when you made the shift from film to video you knowingly sacrificed the quality of the image to save time and money. Well, you may rationalize all you want, but as you were the first to sacrifice the quality of the image, that would make you, not me, the first person (I guess) in history to use new technology to degrade the output (your words not mine) of production.

    Live by your own words, I am afraid.

    Your decision to move to video from film (and I am sure it was a painful one for you) is no different from what I am doing. There are always trade offs when new technologies come along and we all look at them and make our choices. You made yours in the 80s, not for quality of image, but because it was what the market realities mandated. Same story now.


    The client make the decision knowingly and based on costs. He sacrifices the technical quality of the format output. The photographer’s work did not change, it actually becomes more challenging because we have to work with less and we have to learn to compensate for shortcoming of each format, the cheaper the format the more the shortcomings and the more the work we have to do to compensate.

    What I’m saying was that YOU have been using the new technology to tell people that they don’t need to know anything because the automation of the camera will do it for them. That’s false, all the camera does is give you an average exposure, average focus and average white balance. That’s 3 things that the camera does out of thousand needed in order to get quality images. And even those 3 things are correct only 50% of the times. Those automation deficiencies can be seen in everyone of those VJ video, your cheerleaders included.

  10. Well Nino,
    I think we are saying the same thing here.
    It is the market that dictates the level of quality.
    My guys are not going to compete with you and you are not going to compete with them, It is a sliding scale, from Steven Spielberg to Youtube. You just pick where you wanna be on that scale and make your deal. Nothing new here really. Just like anything else from cars to sailboats to restaurants.

  11. NO AGAIN and AGAIN

    Let me try again.

    The market has affected the technical output of the signal, I’m not saying image anymore because I think that’s where you are getting confused. That’s what I said before as the FRONT, the camera. That dumb piece of hardware.

    It did not affect the back or second part of this conversation. The person behind the camera, the photographer.

    The advancements of cameras innovations has allowed to transfer some our our time from behind the camera to the front of the camera, that’s where the image is created. At the same time as video camera are getting more perfected in their image qualities and closing the gap with film, we can do more on the image side.

    We NEVER got lazy by thinking that the camera can do it for us so we don’t need to know as much like you’ve been teaching, because it isn’t true. When the technology gets a little easier we explore ways to take advantage of any innovations in order to make a better image.

    This is the way it always was and is for most of the creative industry. Nobody ever said in this business that fundamental elements and techniques necessary to create quality images image are unnecessary like you have.

    The absence of these elements stand out like missing teeth.

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