Day 1, Stream 4
Creation, Collaboration and Consumption
Terry Flaxton: DIRECT, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK
Scott McQuire: School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne, Australia
Leon Gurevitch: School of Design, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
“The camera introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychoanlysis to unconscious impulses” (Walter Benjamin); what might new forms of capture and display reveal about our unconscious state?
Moore’s Law applied to image capture is as profound a change as the invention of slow-motion in Benjamin’s day. Increased capture quality and speed, handling and display of data, and the dissipation of bottlenecks in data flow, open new possibilities for how and why images are captured and displayed.
In the UK, work is being undertaken on the world’s first higher dynamic range, higher resolution, higher frame rate systems to examine the psychological immersive point at which human perception is ‘activated’. There is an underlying conviction in this research that something will be revealed about how these accelerations perturbate or excite the human perceptual system.
Traditional forms of exhibition are already accommodating these developments with 4k projector systems, delivery of higher resolution television via terrestrial digital and higher resolution narrowcasting via the internet. Business as usual; but what might this all mean for images outside commercial circuits?
Artists’ groups, the R&D departments of commerce, have already arisen to project in non-cinema situations where the idea of the screen is becoming antiquated; but on the test bench and in the research labs, greater innovations are queuing to be released.
New interfaces are already being designed to control high-resolution, high-frequency images, and new research is being undertaken to explore the relationship between humans and their works.
What does this mean for the electronic arts community?
First presentation: Scott McQuire Increases in Image resolution & Context Dependency
This presentation will consider the current shift towards higher bandwidth/higher resolution imagery in the context of a range of sites and applications, from telehealth to urban screens and large-scale media facades. Drawing partly on audience research undertaken in the context of a project linking large urban screens in Seoul and Melbourne in live interactive media events, I will argue that the relevance and perceived value of high resolution imagery for artists and audiences is heavily context dependent.
From this perspective, I will pose the following questions: Is higher resolution conducive to interaction and engagement? Does higher specification capture and display automatically mean scale and spectacle, or are there avenues for intimate relationships with high-resolution handheld image platforms? And how might high-resolution imagery change our relation to urban space? What are the implications of high resolution imaging when it shifts from being a tool for design to an integral and co-constitutive part of the urban fabric?
Second presentation: Terry Flaxton Ideology of Cognitive Neuroscience in relation to developing parameters of the moving image
Whilst at the Universities of Bristol and the West of England, in collaboration with BBC R&D, Terry Flaxton has been responsible for the first higher dynamic range, higher resolution and higher frame rate experiments to measure which combination best engages the audience. What is essentially happening here is the mapping of the capabilities of imagining equipment to the sensory levels of the eye/brain pathway.
At UoB, initial experiments were carried out to see what level of immersion 3D footage produced in relation to 2D. These tests showed that the particular kind of 3D used (binocular stereopsis) was only 7% more immersive than regular 2D. Worldwide the audience has expressed its dissatisfaction with this form, innately realising that it is a form of sensory trick.
We now have greater enhancements to our computational abilities that allow us to uplevel the parameters we are testing, and more importantly, this increase in itself speaks of what is to come. Our tests have revealed the creation of a sense of depth, without sensory tricks.
We have to ask, if currently a camera captures light but is also now being re-conceptualised as being capable of capturing spatial relationships and delivering meaningful data to produce models of environments – must that capacity then be tied to the existing Cartesian grids of bitmap displays, or can we look forward to truly navigable image-space? If so, what might this mean to the idea of ‘interface’ or ‘tool’ that controls our experience in this space? Might this also have to change so as to be unrecognisable as it moves further from hand and eye, touch or gesture, to become an extension of mind? This presentation will finally ask: might the design of that experience change the nature of aesthetics out of all recognition?
Third presentation: Leon Gurevitch Realism and the Future of the Moving Image
Ever increasing, spectatorially overwhelming rates of resolution have, since Russell Kirsch’s early experiments with digital image scanning in 1957, been associated with the exponential capacities of computer culture. But apocryphal (and likely exaggerated) accounts of pilgrims fainting at the sight of Giotto’s angels in Assisi suggest that the relationship between the realist image and the overwhelmed audience has a long and colourful history. In the twentieth century, cultural narratives surrounding ‘overwhelming’ experiences of highly realistic cinematic images performed the promotional role of attracting news media attention and free publicity for the emergent medium. By mid-century the advertising industry had recognised the relationship between richly detailed imaging and viewer attention, with the result that it drove production values in neighbouring film and television sectors. This presentation will not only ask to what extent historical precedents bear relevance to our understanding of the contemporary context; more importantly, it will ask what the future holds for high resolution imaging and discourses of realism. As movie and visual effects production companies enter a frame rate and resolution arms race, games companies assert that the longed for visual event horizon of photorealistic resolution in real-time games will soon be upon us. The question here is not “what will happen when games achieve the visual veracity of the cinematic image?” Rather, it is that “given the history of realism in imaging, will the point of optimal ‘realism’ ever be reached?” From such a perspective the resolution, colour gamut, contrast ratios of emergent screen technologies bear similarities to the Dutch development of oil and canvas technology in the 16th century. Unlike past iterations of this techno-cultural nexus, screen technologies now under development are in the process of passing the limits of human perception. When this happens, what becomes of the notion of realism?