Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Back by Popular Demand

Well, not exactly. Someone named "Anonymous" wondered recently what happened to DocG, which made me feel guilty for neglecting this blog. Haven't had many readers here of late, but that's understandable, since I haven't posted anything since January.

I haven't been lazy, believe me. But much too busy. Preoccupied first with a book project, and more recently a film project, or more precisely, rejuvenating some of my old 16mm films via transfer to digital format, and then getting them onto a DVD. Sounds simple, but it's been sheer Hell. One problem after another, endless. Once I fixed one thing I'd notice some other thing and so on and so on, ad infinitum. I'd like to say I'm finally done, but can't say for sure, because this new technology which seems so magical (and is indeed VERY addictive) is replete with hidden pitfalls -- largely due to compatibility issues and also instant obsolescence.

A few months ago I was sure I'd finally put together the definitive DVD, with 8 of my best film efforts. All the tests run on my old Panasonic 25 inch TV (circa 1995!) looked fine. But when I watched it on my sister's brand new HDTV, I noticed something very disturbing: during portions of my film where the display went to black, it became unstable and began to flicker, back and forth from dark grey (my original background color) to total black. When I bought a new Samsung HDTV and blu-ray last month I noticed the same problem, so it wasn't due to a defect in my sister's equipment.

After a considerable amount of research and discussions with a Samsung guru, I finally figured it out. It's a "feature" called auto-dimming, and it seems limited only to HDMI connections (when played on my old DVD player using the old AV connectors there was no problem). When the HDMI system detects no visual input, the entire display is automatically turned off, turning the screen completely black. There's no way to defeat this "feature," which I suspect is there to mask some other problem they weren't able to fix. It's not just Samsung, apparently all HDTVs have it, and it's driving a lot of people crazy, judging from the many complaints I've been seeing on the 'net. Thanks to auto-dimming my life has been sheer Hell for weeks, as I've been working frantically to adjust and re-render all the films affected by it. The only fix is to lower the contrast levels for sequences containing runs of black, which in my films are not at all unusual. Once I'd fix one thing I'd notice the same problem in another place.

So that's one excuse, anyhow, for not posting here in so long. What does this have to do with economics, you ask? Well, for all the talk of modern technology improving "efficiency" I'd have to say that from my experience, the technology of DVD production has proven severely inefficient. There are too many different systems and too many different quirks and when one system becomes stable it is replaced by a new "improved" system that might or might not display your films in quite the same way. So not only does the equipment become obsolete but so does whatever creative work you've designed to be compatible with that equipment.

OK, my next post will be on-topic, I promise.

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