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24-Bit Dailies in a 16-Bit World

Film, TV, or New Media?

statueA colleague of mine has endeavored to create a current lexicon for film, television, and new media with the intent of redefining where one field of study leaves off and the next one begins. Although it may seem like just an academic exercise -- this really does become important when defining areas of employment, union representation, and divisions within a university academic structure. This is just my take on things, and is only an opinion -- not the gospel. Please, feel free to comment or to submit your own thoughts. We really do want to know what most people think.


Terms are based either on technology or format. Film, Television, New Media (aka MultiMedia).

Film: refers to narrative, NON-LINEAR, usually single camera approach to a fictional dramatic style of storytelling. Sub formats include: feature motion picture, episodic television, mini-series, made-for-TV feature, short feature, and similar made-for-cable.

Important to note that Hollywood unions consider these shorter length narrative films (such as episodic series) shot for release on TV and cable to fall under the same FILM CONTRACTS as feature film production, and NOT under television broadcasting, which are different locals and different contracts entirely.

Film production, though traditionally shot single camera, can sometimes include multiple camera angle coverage of a given scene. Due to the non-linear style of production — even when multiple cameras may be employed, the decisions regarding what footage to use from which cameras is made by the editor during post production on a take by take basis, and not “live switched” as in television.production

Television: LINEAR, multi-camera “coverage” of what is depicted as a live event or play. Sub-formats include: soap operas, variety shows, talkshows, gameshows, news, sportscasting, concerts/performances, staged plays/performances implied to be live in front of an audience.

The key difference between traditional film style production versus television style production is this factor of film’s non-linear, tightly controlled scene/take coverage compared to television’s linear “live approach” of directing multiple cameras DURING a linear event in order to “live switch” between camera angles (though sometimes this “live switch” actually takes place during post). The underlying concept of television is that cameras are not stopped, started, and meticulously re-staged on a shot by shot basis without consideration of an ongoing real-time event or performance as they would be during a film shoot!

Production also falls under the separators of Narrative Story Telling or Non-Fiction.

Narrative Story Telling pretty much falls under the guise of Film style production, whether it be a 30 second cinematic style non-linear commercial or a multi-part made for cable epic.

Non-Fiction includes: documentary, reality, magazine, ENG, EFP, instructional, corporate, infomercial. The shooting style varies, and may be a hybrid of either narrative film style or live camera style. What we often find are segments of live coverage assembled to each other in a non-linear approach.

For the most part, the Hollywood “film” unions either do not represent these independent strata; or when they are represented, these productions may fall under the domain of the broadcast unions that represent the individual broadcast stations and networks directly employing these crews.

Is this non-fiction side of the triangle film or television? It is pretty safe to say that it is not narrative filmmaking, but early documentarians did shoot with film cameras and often edited non-linearly. The fact of the matter is, at that time, there was little money to be made in the genres (except for the very rare breakout production) — so no one really worried about putting or assigning a label to it.

However, a large number of “network” non-fiction and “reality” shows are being shot by non-union labor and then “packaged or sold” to the major networks for broadcast or distribution.

Historically, this third corner of “non-fiction” production has been written off by both the Hollywood film production unions and the big broadcast networks as economically insignificant; and has been dominated by socially driven or freelance independents.

Most colleges and universities that offer programs in cinema or television agree on the primary notion of FILM as non-linear narrative storytelling. There is no differentiation on the basis of whether it is still shot on sprocketed film emulsion or video; nor whether it is projected in a theater in film or HD video; nor even if it is broadcast, streamed, downloaded, or individually packaged for direct rental/sale.

In the same vein, schools that promote themselves as offering a degree program in Television have no issues in defining linear, multi-camera video production as television: sitcoms, soaps, variety, game shows, talk shows, news, sportscasting, concerts/performances, infomercials. Instructional, Industrial, and Corporate are generally under Television.

Where the line gets thin is the “third corner”: the non-fiction category. We find traditional non-linear documentary being taught under either the Film or Television heading. Electronic Field Production usually falls under News (hence, Television), but sometimes under Documentary/Reality (which could be either Film or Television). Reality shows are more often Television, but sometimes are grouped with Documentary Filmmaking.

Although the academic community is passionately obsessed with trying to find the proper classification in which to pigeon hole every aspect of media production — the actual production industries themselves are more concerned with economics than labelling. About the only time that classification has become an issue has been during union negotiations over which local oversees jurisdiction.

So where does New Media or Multi-media fit into the scheme of things? That field of communication is split between the “bean counters” and the “geeks”, so they say.

The business model of the internet revolves around Marketing, SEO (search engine optimization), and statistical analytics (with the emphasis on the “anal” part of the word).

The geek side runs the gamut from web design & construction to content creation & development. Most of web content is traditional text and graphics; but the medium is unique in its ability for user interaction to determine ultimate pathways. Many websites incorporate audio and video clips along with traditional text/graphics.

The production of these audio clips is often taught in conjunction with Radio Broadcasting, which sometimes falls under the broader scope of Television, if the school does not offer a standalone Radio or Audio major. The production of video clips, as well, often falls under Television — unless the clips are nothing more than short format narrative storytelling (in which case they would be considered Films). In rare instances, the Multi-Media Departments at some universities are large enough to host their own audio and video production courses.

Falling under the heading of Multi-Media or New Media is the rapidly expanding field of Computer Game production — which encompasses interactive programming, animation, along with audio+video production.

The Hollywood business model varies from studio to studio. Sometimes the games are produced by in-house animators, sound designers, editors, and mixers — and fall under that facility’s union bargaining agreements. Most of the time, though, this work is conducted by “independent” non-union companies or non-union subsidiaries of major studios.

Please add your comments or thoughts. This is just my contribution towards a large scale attempt by a fellow professor to create a lexicon for our industry, and he wants to hear from as many people as possible.


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