29 December 2006

Theater's Legacy

So theater has been with us since the ancient Greeks. It has endured and refined itself over time, constantly adapting and reinventing different aspects to new technologies.

Cinema (ancient Greek: movement) was initially presented in the theatric context with big movie palaces and grand openings. Today Hollywood has become so formulaic and predictable that big-budget movies are often not worth seeing. Yet theater has perservered. There are still interesting plays produced. Why? Because despite its scripts and rehearsals, theater is always live and therefore subject to subtle variation.

I would posit that this subtle variation is what has kept theater popular over hundreds of years. Audiences feel the thrill of the possibility of nuance. Its similar to the feeling of going to see live music insofar as many bands sound different on stage than on CD. Ironically today's pop music is often performed in such a way as to imitate the sound of the CD, removing musical nuance, or even worse, making musical nuance something to which audiences are trained to dislike.

For cinema to survive perhaps we need to make it more like theater. Perhaps each time you see a film it should be different. I think solid-state memory will go a long way towards this goal. No more moving parts means closer-to-instantaneous random access. Not like a DVD or harddisk that is spinning. Alternate takes, scenes, and entire montages might be swappable or transposable.

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