Episode 28: Video is just another form of literacy

In this episode of The Terence and Philip Show, the discussion revolves around the question of whether or not “video production” is ‘just another form of literacy’. Some will make their living based on their literary abilities; others use it very peripherally to how they earn a living.

10 thoughts on “Episode 28: Video is just another form of literacy

  1. I agree that visual literacy is on the rise. We teach a summer high-school program here, and they are much more media savvy than our grad students.

    However one very good reason for this, that wasn’t mentioned on the show was the accessibility of equipment. Kids coming up in school today have always had cheap access to equipment and computer editing. Back when I was learning to edit, you needed to apprentice yourself to a TV station before you could even so much as see an edit deck. And to afford one yourself was unthinkable.

    It’s a different scenario to written literacy, where everyone can both read AND write with a minimal investment in pens and paper. TV and Film viewers for a long time could “read” the visual language of film, but “writing” it in any meaningful way was out of the reach of most (Imagine if pens cost $10,000 and paper was $1,000 a sheet).

    Now that the cost of entry for making decent video is so low, the visual literacy of content creators should rise exponentially. Now not necessarily all of the videos will be good or even watchable, but the basic grammar of film language will be there.

  2. Very interesting show! But I am not sure I can fully share your enthusiasm for FCP X as the tool to allow the masses the express themselves better visually.

    While I am very excited about Apple’s upcoming new NLE, I don’t think it’ll have that huge an influence on general video literacy. Even though FCP X will make editing a whole lot easier and more intuitive (and Apple will sell a lot of copies), in the end you’re still dealing with a task that most people neither have the patience nor the talent for. Take photography, for example. Almost everybody has access to amazing digital still cameras these days. Does that automatically mean that people can take better pictures? No. They don’t have to worry too much about the technical aspects of photography any more, but they still need to have an eye for composition. They still have to decide when to press down that shutter. No tool in the world is going to do that for them. The same goes for Final Cut Pro X and the creative side of editing.

    But I am all for simplifying the tools and making those tools available to as many people as possible.

    My daughter goes to a middle school where each student has a MacBook. They are allowed to turn in movies instead of written papers whenever it makes sense. Every student there has the latest version of iMovie, but only few of them actually use it and most of all – use it well.

    And I guess the same will go for Final Cut Pro X.

    1. Well, I’d have to say that anything that gets people used to automation, and wanting more, can’t be all bad. At least from where I stand. 🙂

  3. Interesting points you bring up. I have been doing this long enough to see the curve from the point where a professional filmmaker had to know what he wanted before he hit the set, and carefully followed procedures to ensure he would have that in post, to the current universe where folks shoot tons of footage and try to craft it into a story in post.

    In this new universe, the concept seems to be keep the shutter open and something will show up in post to make a story from.

  4. An interesting and thought provoking show as usual… Everyone forgets about poor ol Premiere! I’m using Premiere Pro to cut my newest feature right now… besides the broken OMF and AAF export its pretty smooth ^_^

  5. What’s Premiere? 😉

    Just kidding. I have been asked many time over the years why Premiere Pro doesn’t take off in our industry. It always come back to issues.

    First is that the old Premiere sucked. Instead of renaming Premiere something else after the complete rewrite, they chose Premiere Pro and folks have a hard time forgetting the old version.

    Second is that Premiere has a hard time with long or complex sequences. I have been told, but haven’t checked out myself, that this issue is becoming a thing of the past. Can’t vouch for that either way.

    The real problem is that you have two entrenched systems, Media Composer and Final Cut Pro that pretty much dominate the pro market at this point. Since it looks like (ducking the arrows) FCP is veering towards the consumer world (under the tutelage of the guy who designed Premiere Pro) I contend that Premiere Pro stand to gain the most from any exodus away from the new FCPX.

  6. Alexander Astruc’s 1948 essay Camera-Stylo seems relevant here, along with Bjørn Sørenssen’s 2008 article on it’s modern applications.

    Sol Worth’s “Through Navajo Eyes” also comes to mind with your observations on the skateboarding intern.

    Great show, as usual!

  7. Hiya Guys,

    So, somehow, you guys kept attacking and then skirting around the issue of media literacy (or, in today’s world, should I say “mutli-media literacy.”

    At the risk of sounding too academic…

    The idea of multi-media literacy has been around for years now. At USC, we’ve got an entire division which is devoted to nothing but this — it’s called the Institute for Multimedia Literacy, and has done things like work with Social Studies and English teachers to more effectively introduce web and media teaching into their curriculums in ways that the teachers find can help their students understand all levels of concepts.

    Our dean, Elizabeth Daley, back in 2003, wrote an article which has become one of the touchstones in thinking about it. You can find it here.

    The bottom line is that our children have grown up surrounded by different forms of media — it’s no longer just the printed word, but film, television, games, graphic novels, web interactivity, combinations of the above, etc. etc. They absorb all of this in ways that we used to absorb the spoken and written word.

    It would be a shock if they didn’t come to us at USC with more innate knowledge of multiple forms of media. But, much as most of us needed to study written language (remember parsing sentences?) in order to really know how to use it and be aware of how it used us, media literacy is the study how to effectively use all forms of media, rather than being used by it. It helps to know how a commercial or a news item manipulates us to feel a certain way.

    This knowledge might come innately, but what I see is that many students are aware of the forms, but not necessarily knowledgeable about how to bring them into their control.

    What is the grammar of the shot, of the edit, of music and sound? All of these things can be learned. Most of us (and our children) don’t really know this. And, if you ask me, a good editor is aware of the impact of cutting from a wide shot to a closeup on both a gut level and an intellectual one.

    At EditFest in NYC last week, documentary editor Larry Silk showed an amazing scene from the 1938 documentary THE RIVER, in which a small rainstorm becomes the raging Mississippi River. The audience’s mouths dropped at the amazing use of emotional build in the editing. That is a combination of gut instinct and conscious decision making.

    And that, in a nutshell, is one of the reasons why I like teaching.


  8. Norman,

    Good points. I think the we are talking about the same ideas. My hope is that when people become multi media literate, they appreciate what a skilled editor, colorist, mixer, etc. actually brings to the table.

    On the other hand, come hack are going to get moved out of the business…

  9. I have some saws and a bunch of nice wood chisels in my basement. They didn’t cost much. The cost of entry to furniture making has never been lower. Yet somehow I have yet to produce my first Chippendale reproduction.

    At the end of the day talent and skill still count for a lot.

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