Lazy Sunday

This past Sunday I did something that I haven’t had time for since I moved in in August. I sat down and watched DVD commentries and featurettes. Being a huge media junky, my DVD collection, even in its currently-abbreviated state, is significant. Generally I will have seen a film at least twice within a week of obtaining it, but then I tend to take a break. If they are short or limited, I will often also watch the special features during one of the viewings. However, and to my delight, many DVDs come with commentary audio tracks these days. Often more than one. Since my time is limited, I generally put off viewing these until a later date.

I tend to try to block out a day or weekend and watch a large number of films with commentary on at one time. It often turns out that the commentary is worth the price of the DVD all by itself. You learn so much about the film-making process generally, and the construction of the film viewed in particular, that the entire package becomes that much more enjoyable. Among the stack I worked my way through this weekend was the brilliantOnce UponA Time in Mexico. Rodriguez’s commentary hed some fascinating light on the process of filming this story, but what I found most fascinating was hearing an explanation of the impact of HD filming, something I m too young to really remember the transition to, on the film-making process.

Being the age I am, and having gotten interestedin film when I did, I never really had a strong understanding of the conservatism that physical film tended to impose. My mindset is that of someone used to informational abundance. I think in terms of storage so cheap it might as well be free. Computer hard drives are almost down to $0.10/GB as I write this, for instance.

While there are a number of places where I am fully aware of the implications of the shift from scarcity to abundance, I found it to be an extremely useful thing to be reminded that the fields that use information are more varied than I tend to realize. This got me thinking about just how many fields have been using information which I should try to get a better understanding of in order to fully appreciate the shift to virtually-free information storage. So I compiled this little non-exhaustive list.

  • Media distribution (music, telelvision, film) – in the face of virtually-free storage, especially as capacities continue rising, the artificial limits on offering size disappear. For years the amount of stuff a “movie” or a “CD” contained was capped at the size limit, and generally approached that limit. I suspect there are some interesting changes in the way this is approached as data storage becomes so large that virtually no one has the content to fill it.
  • Personal libraries – In a number of ways, personal libraries are a sort of two-level luxury. You must be able to afford the media that populates them, but you must also have access to available physical space to store them in. This second requirement is beginning to disappear (allowing, for instance, me to keep an extensive library in a 10′x10′ bedroom).
  • Versioning – The current trend is that you purchase the final version of anything. Storage capacities are growing large enough that it’s possible to purchase all versions of a thing. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone does anything with that.

Of course the problem with generating these sorts of lists is that it requires me to know enough about a thing to recognize some of the impact that virtually free storage will have. You’ll notice that my list is populated by media concerns, and that makes sense because I’m a huge media junkie. Media is always on my mind. It is for the very same reasons that the revelation about film never occurred to me. Further, without someone pointing it out, the film revelation never would have occurred to me. I didn’t start working with film until after things went digital. By the time I got involved, the tyranny of the cost of film had fallen by the wayside. Filming had become free in terms of supplies, assuming you had the capital and the manpower. So now I need to start poking around and see who I should meet and get to know. I’m sure there are tons of people out there who have extensive experience in fields which are and will be revolutionized. I just need to meet them.

A project, perhaps, for another day.

Thomas

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