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[filmscanners] Re: film and scanning vs digital photography

On Jul 4, 2007, at 4:37 PM, Arthur Entlich wrote:

> At some point, the digital image components will be beyond any
> human's ability to perceive as discrete components, (other than
> with massive enlargement) and then the issue will be moot, and for
> some it is so close to that now, that is already is moot,
> considering the many other features digital images and music supply.

Well, we went through this same kind of technology arc in audio a
decade or so ago. CDs may have come along in '84, but I was still
using 2" tape up into the 90's. Manufacturers kept coming to trade
shows and telling us that with their pre-emphasis model and
proprietary compression an 8-bit audio file at 27.5 KHz was
indistinguishable from its source and then you'd listen to the demo
and run screaming from the building. Then the 12-bit 31 KHz stuff
came along and that was definitely, without any wiggle-room an
absolute replacement for analog recording equipment. And after the
demo we'd once again run screaming from the building and have
nightmares for months. This went on through 16-bit 44.1 KHz recorders
that were allegedly indistinguishable from the source and then 16-bit
48 KHz and finally at 24-bit 96 KHz decks the advantages of working
with tape pretty much evaporated, IMO. Either my ears finally got too
old and worn to hear the subtleties anymore or the technology finally

We're kind of going through the same thing with digital imaging, IMO.
Right now there are a lot of things that digital does wonderfully and
a lot of things it doesn't. A few years ago I went to an Andreas
Gursky exhibition where he had massive prints on display of images
made with scanning backs and the amount of detail in some of his
landscapes was truly stunning. In his interiors, though, there was an
image at a soccer game where one of the players appeared twice in the
photo, having apparently run ahead of the scanning head after his
first capture to make a second appearance on the field. The lack of a
de-Bayering process seemed to be worth the inconvenience and slow
capture speed of the systems he was using, but it seemed more viable
to me for landscapes than for shots involving moving subjects.
Eventually we'll undoubtedly see systems that have more compelling
output without the disadvantages. And of course, as with digital
audio, we're kind of waiting on the computer hardware to catch up
with the art. I have a very fast four-core 3 GHz Mac Pro with a lot
of memory and a couple of terabytes of drive space and a 250 meg
image still grinds my machine to a near halt.

> It is not that digital is without a footprint, but in the "big
> picture" it is likely much smaller, and studies to date seem to
> suggest that.

I really feel like this is a case of human negligence more than an
unavoidable reality of chemical capture, though. I just finished a
film project about a nuclear waste facility in the American midwest
that contaminated the local environment in what you would think would
be a criminally irresponsible manner, but the owners of the site
broke no laws. Even when they found themselves with 6 million gallons
of radioactive water and decided to get rid of it by evaporating it
as steam and sending it out of a smokestack they were completely
within their legal rights and the CDC backed them up on it in
interviews I did last spring. The thing is, there were responsible
ways of dealing with that waste and I show a facility in New Mexico
where the same type of waste is encapsulated in salt half a mile
underground. I could stand on the surface with a geiger counter and
read lower background radiation than I get in my bedroom. By the same
token, we *can* safely dispose of photo chemistry. We just don't
bother most of the time.

Robert Jackson
Santa Rosa, CA

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