Carrying forth the discussion on digital divide and globalization from the last post, let me share another interesting bit. This one is from a Bengali-speaking Dutch researcher who gave a fascinating talk at the just-concluded South Asia conference at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Dr. Lotte Hoek, a social anthropologist at the University of Edinburgh (and previously at the University of Amsterdam), spent many months in the darkrooms of the Film Development Corporation (FDC) in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The film industry is caught between 60s technology and traditional mores on the one hand, and the hyperactive output of satellite tv and cultural globalization on the other. This disruption is the context of Dr. Hoek’s work, and she documented a great example of bridging digital divides with localized ingenuity.
To bring the film industry up to date, the Bangladesh government has imported and installed digital editing hardware and software in the FDC editing labs. The installed machines are able to transfer frames from celluloid film into digital editing software. All filmmakers submit their rolls to the FDC, and state-employed technical editors then do their part.
So far so good. The problem is, the government did not install any machine to do the reverse transfer, from digital to film, after editing.
So what do the technicians do? They say, “dorkar nai” (we don’t need it). And undaunted, they finish their editing, then display the digitally edited parts on their screens, frame by frame, while someone shoots the display on regular film camera, frame by frame. This, of course, yields interesting colors and effects, and sometimes the portions can’t even be reconciled, since the fps (frames/second) rates are different for digital and celluloid media.
Nonetheless, films are produced, edited, and released to an enthusiastic audience. They simply call this “half-digital,” and life goes on.