The word video is Latin and means: I see. The English term Film (or coating) stems from the time of the cinema’s founding years, when film negatives consisting of nitrocellulose could first be coated with a light-sensitive photo emulsion. Before the start of the new millennium, it was common to call high-quality films Films and more simply produced films as videos. This difference originated in technology.
For the first time in the history of film, the invention of the video represented a technical alternative to recording moving images on negative material, which then had to be developed in a laboratory.
Videos suck. Films are cool.
Especially in commissioned film, video was quickly able to assert its position due to the lower costs in comparison to film production. Video film therefore rapidly became a synonym for commissioned films, while the image film was subject to the establishment of a division: commissioned films with a high quality standard continued to be called image films and were produced at the same level and with the same materials as feature and advertising films, while simpler works with a lower technical and contextual standard were called image videos.
Technical quality comes first …
The sentiment of whoever was able to afford it would produce with real film and not on lower quality video was applicable until the last year of the late 1990s. For decades, video cameras delivered a scope of contrast up to 40 (!) times more inferior than recordings produced on film – a difference in quality which was quickly recognised even by a lesser trained eye. Another reason why video producers were considered less valuable in the film industry’s pecking order than film producers. The value and perception of the terms changed with the transition from analogue video to digital video.
On the one hand, the physical film definitively disappeared from the production process. Even less than 10 years ago, it was common to produce films having to meet the highest standards on film (-> scope of contrast) and digitalise them after development for further processing.
For projection in cinemas (which still followed traditionally with the use of a film projector), the film was then “re-exposed”, in other words; transferred back onto physical film. On the other hand, ever more efficient chips in the video cameras together with new players in the camera hardware segment (RED, for example) also forced established camera manufacturers such as ARRI to completely switch over to the new technology. Films could now be digitally manufactured. From a technical point of view, films therefore also always turned into videos – the use of the terms Film and Video to differentiate between technical quality therefore became obsolete. Video and film were suddenly the same.
… followed by content.
An interesting aspect, however, is that the terms Film and Video nowadays have again started to drift further apart since 2014.
This time, no longer driven by technical quality but rather by contextual quality (or more simply: the content). Film and video are charged with new value, both with clients and on the market of moving picture producers: videos are filmed by video journalists while films are consciously directed. Video productions are manufactured by small crews with in-depth work division, while films are produced by highly specialised teams. The realisers of videos are moving picture artisans (and frequently camera people and producers in dual roles), while film producers are talents who make a film unique and distinct.
Mass media have yielded to media masses. The consumer is almost flooded by videos on Smartphones, Tablets, on POS and on the Internet. Not surprisingly so, because – according to a study conducted in Switzerland in 2015 – the viewer’s average attention span is only 8 seconds. (After all, that’s 3 seconds more than for video pre-rolls on YouTube, but also 2 seconds less than a goldfish’s power of recall …) If the video is unable to generate the viewer’s attention and motivation to continue watching the video during these 8 seconds, the viewer is gone. We should be headed for exciting times when we watch how individual publishing houses want to survive in the fierce struggle for attention with videos and moving picture without ultimately having to copy the extremely cost-intense editorial and production-related processes of TV stations. Especially when their implementation may secure the quality of effect to a certain degree, while preventing the flexibility required to keep pace with the rapid developments in online-video communication.
The technical homogenisation of film and video represents a huge opportunity. But only if we remember what the moving picture is supposed to achieve in marketing and communication: To create effect. Irrespective of what you want to call the spade: videos and films are both able to achieve just that. But only if they are not abused as chewing gum for the eyes .
In this regard, the commissioned film has a lot to learn from the feature film. Feature films have always been driven by content. Wherever technology is or was a decisive factor in the feature film (digital effects, etc.), it has always served the greater whole: to transport the story and to increase the effect.
Wherever things change rapidly, the vital question is not only what changes how but also, what remains behind. While the ever decreasing attention span of the moving picture consumer on the Internet threatens to lead the advertising industry into a self-afflicted vicious circle of ignorance, missing innovation and a lack of leadership, representatives on the American market are already on their countermove to victory with cinemagraphs.