Moving pictures

“It’s more than magnificent – it’s mediocre”.   Samuel Goldwyn

Most of us have enough trouble with three dimensions. New DVD technology has been developed by researchers at the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne which lays data down in five dimensions and makes it possible to store more than 2,000 movies onto a single disc. This is about 10,000 times the standard DVD capacity and would even be enough to capture the entire series of Coronation Street since the beginning, plus all the adverts, with enough  storage space to spare for the Eastenders and all.

 My first experience with cinematography was as a small child in the late 1940s. We had somehow acquired a hand-cranked magic lantern and a tangle of short films.  For a penny a pop neighbourhod children could marvel at the celluloid wonders I projected in my bedroom onto the silver screen which doubled as one of my sheets. 

This thriving business came to a halt when I lent the projector to a student teacher at my school. His practice sojourn came to an end and he moved on with our movie projector.  When he next polished the lens,  I hope that a Sam Goldwyn-like genie materialised and brusquely brought home to him his cinematic sins.

Years later in the 1960s, when, despite this betrayal of trust, I myself had become a young high school teacher, I encountered the 16 mm film projector. This was a big step up from butcher’s paper and coloured pens, my first daring pedagogic departure from blackboard and chalk (apart from an occasional foray into static film strip projection).

 As well as  the dual instruction and solo training needed before you qualified for your 007 licence to operate the school’s single film projector, there were a daunting number of intermediary steps to be taken before a live screening to real pupils. You had to order the actual film months ahead from the National Film Library. You had to book the projector weeks ahead for your class. Then you had to get the projector to the right classroom with the right extension cords and thread the film the right way through a labyrinth of gates and sockets. Then you had to ensure that the sound system was indeed sound.

 When all was ready, you tested your class control by drawing the black curtains and turning the lights off.  (In co-educational classes you could well have been creating an unintended learning environment for hormonally challenged adolescents).

But when Adolf Hitler held the masses spellbound at Nuremberg or Russian troops emerged victorious from the snow at Stalingrad it was all worthwhile, broken film and hurried splices and all. History escaped from the stodgy embrace of the textbook and came to life.

 Now on Pathe or other online visual libraries you can preview and order film and video excerpts online for downloading and unlimited use inside a defined time period.

 In the meantime broadband limitations make it problematic to stream longer segments live. With the super new DVD, education resource providers will be able to pull together hours of film and video on one DVD and enable teachers, lecturers and students to bookmark and  go straight to the excerpt they want and play it on super economy sized plasma screens in high-definition, supposing  they are lucky enough to have such equipment.

 But , as Sam would have said, even on smaller screens this is more than magnificent!


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