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ASE issue 40 - March 2000
- Matthew Tucker
Last month’s Pub Night
For an inaugural session I suppose the turnout wasn’t bad. About a dozen of our best members discovered, like me, that the Forrester’s Bar is quite a nice venue for a drink and a chat. One of the best things about meeting for a drink every now and then is the opportunity to finally put a face to a name.
“Er, Tom who? Wait – don’t tell me – Tom Cunard? Tom Viking? No wait - I’ll get it – just a minute – er, P&O? QE2? No &ldots; Tommy Titanic? No, that’s not it &ldots; Aaaah, now I remember &ldots; ! And how IS Nicole’s arm since that nasty accident? And the kids? And all those funny cigarettes in Stan’s movie &ldots; did you really inhale?”
Oh and yes, there was a fair bit of shop talk too, but that’s why we were there. And we had so much fun that we’re going to do it again every couple of months, and see if we can get a few more people to show up.
So unless everybody objects, the next pub night will be same place, same time, on the first Thursday in May. It’ll be in the next Newsletter - and those lucky campers with email will get a few more reminders, closer to the time!
An association is a community of people who share interests, ideas and ideals. Our editing community is held together by our shared love of the craft of editing. But we don’t get together in the school hall every month like a sports or fishing association does, and in this we’re a bit vulnerable. Unless we are aware of our colleagues’ activities we run the risk of not feeling as if we are in an association at all. This is, of course where the Newsletter comes in, the events we run, and the mail-outs that we send in-between times. But now there’s a new and exciting method of communication that nearly half our members already enjoy – email.
Those of you who already have an email address can skip this next bit, for I really want to use this opportunity to wax evangelical about email, to encourage un-connected members to take the next step.
I can, with the touch of a button, send an email message to 133 ASE members at virtually no cost. And recipients can, if they wish, reply to me at their leisure - often overnight. Email is ideal for two-way communication, I’ve had more member feedback in two months via email than I’ve had in five years on the ASE committee!!
Last month, members with email received several communications from me on ASE issues Those without email, didn’t. So, why don’t we send these reminders and suggestions out by post? Cost and effort. It’s a big job stuffing 250 envelopes. Minumum cost to ASE of $200, so we don’t do it lightly. And timing – last month we had only a couple of days’ notice of a Final Cut Pro demo and a Discreet Edit* demo, but using email I was able to notify 133 emailees within a few hours. This week, a job opportunity was circulating, and I was able to pass this information on to some of our members instantly. It just would not be possible to pass on this sort of information by post.
We will not, of course, neglect you if you don’t have email. You’ll still get the Newsletter, fliers and so on - important mail will always be sent on paper - but members with email are able to participate much more easily in our Association.
Email access usually comes with full Internet access too, so you can benefit from the ASE and other editing websites, and the squillions of other useful and useless websites as well. “You will also be able to participate in online help forums and email user groups for many of the editing systems that you use - an invaluable resource.”
You can get email on just about any computer.
You can get free email software for both Windows and MAC.
You can get email even if your crummy old computer can’t run a WWW “browser”
You can download and send email from home or work, on any phone line.
You can buy quite a fast modem for around $60 or a second-hand slower one (perfect for email!) for $20 or less.
You can get an email account for nothing (free!!) or for very low cost. (I pay $1 per hour – but it only takes me 3 minutes to download and send my email from home!)
You can even have your own email if you don’t have a computer at all – just use someone else’s, or nip into an Internet Café!
Here endeth the lesson. Please consider getting yourself connected as soon as you can. It’s not difficult, and not expensive &ldots; and I don’t think you will regret it. If you need help there are lots of friendly editors out there that would be glad to give you a hand.
Admin position filled
Welcome to Margaret Slarke, who has been selected to hold the position of ASE Administrator for the next 12 months. Many of you will already have had some contact with Margaret, as she took on the Admin job on a casual basis after Helen Martin left last year.
Margaret is your first point of contact for all matters relating to your membership, updating your contact details – and yes, your new email address! Assistants wanting to be included in the EditSearch directory listing should also contact Margaret at the ASE office to update their entry.
When is a member not a member?
ASE has only three categories of membership; Full, Associate and Student.
Editors and Assistant Editors who have professional screen credits, and who consider themselves employed or employable as such, should always take out FULL Membership. Sure, this costs a bit more than the other categories, but if you want to be part of ASE, you’ll have to find a way to pay your share.
Our constitution does not allow Full Members to take out Associate or Student Membership as a cheap option, unless you cease on a permanent basis to work as an editor or assistant, or you enrol in a recognised course of instruction.
If you have fallen on hard times please contact the ASE office to discuss ways in which you may continue your Full Membership.
“What’s in it for me?”
Well, that could depend on what you do for ASE! By agreement with Palace Cinemas we now have several double cinema passes each month to distribute as a small “thank-you” to members who show particular commitment either by their involvement in organising ASE events, as an ASE trainer - or perhaps by being part of a Newsletter-folding session!“
Matthew Tucker, ASE President
JOINT ASSG / ASE SOUND INTERFACE SEMINAR
by BILYANA SIBINOVSKI
(The theme of February’s seminar, held at the AFTRS Theatre in North Ryde, was communication. Here was a great morning and a great opportunity to hear from sound practitioners about post-production pathways and the realities of delivery methods. This was a first for a co-operation between the two editing guilds and it was a day that left me hoping that more inter-guild events will be on the cards. Bilyana Sibinovski’s comprehensive report of the event follows. - Paul Healy )
“On a day which was set for the beach, it was surprising to find a group of people in a small dark room again!"
Something reminds me of Rumpelstilskin, the German folktale, when it comes to sound editors. You know we, either the editor or assistant editor, deliver the sound crew an EDL or OMF files - indecipherable bits of information, and they in small dark rooms, all of a sudden turn mounds of information into gold. Strange things happen when we give them our files, I’ve often wondered whether they have a little goblin in their rooms helping them create their magic. Part of this Seminar was to reveal the secrets behind the audio post path and to make sense of all the different options available to Editors on any given production.
The success of the seminar lay in the way all the speakers presented the information to the audience. It was simple, concise and easy to understand. Their ease and sense of humour came from, and only made more obvious, their impressive work experience.
So the answer to the riddle?
Julius Chan got things going by looking at the various ways of getting audio to the sound editors. He was highly animated, very enthusiastic to share what he knew, and was clearly very committed to his craft. He went from the simple to the complex.
Firstly, he asked us to be more aware of our edit room set-up. To check correct monitoring levels, to check whether the speakers up to scratch.
So check your equipment.
He ran through all the different computer platforms that sound editors work on, ProTools, AudioVision and Sonic Solutions, Fairlight, Soundscape and the list goes on.
Which seemed an answer in itself to the problem why so many assistants or editors get confused about delivering coherent EDL’s or OMF’s to the sound department.
Julius emphasised that a good audio post path is one where the production is planned from the outset, where there is some structure before any thing has been shot, where the sound supervisors, sound recordists, the picture editors, and assistants editors are all talking
< (Stephen R. Smith)
The first thing to settle was the sample rate of the recordings, either 48kHz or 44.1 kHz. On feature films 48kHz is the preferred rate, a lot people he said may opt for 44.l kHz based on the argument that it takes up less drive space, but since storage is so cheap these days that argument doesn’t hold up any more. So 48kHz is definitely the favoured rate due to its fidelity. Simon Leadley, working on Moulon Rouge, has opted for a sample rate of 44.1kHz due to the fact that the film is a musical. The music world runs at the CD format rate of 44.1kHz. It is much easier for the whole sound dept to run at the “musical” rate.
The first step to a problem free delivery is if the audio is synced up on the machine that it will be cut on ie: straight into the Avid or Lightworks. Generally there is no problem if this is the case, but if the audio is synced offline there can be problems where the EDL can lose its traceback.
Julius spoke of a recent film he worked on – interesting because it was cut on film – quite rare these days. The mag transfers were all 3 track, audio on 1, and the timecode from the location on track 3. Each Dat had a unique user bit number, which identified the reel. After lock-off, the cutting copy was sent to The Joinery in Melbourne, where the timecode on track 3 was played through a reader in real time and the resulting log was converted into an EDL. Julius cut the dialogue on a ProTools system, and recorded the cutting copy guide track in to check sync. Now rather than laboriously mod matching every clip, Julius used a programme from Synchro Arts called Titan, which analyses the audio in the guide track and slips all the clips back in Sync – the result was highly accurate.
Julius had usually experienced less vexation working on film projects, which had come from an Avid, probably because of the inherent compatibility between Avid’s and ProTools. The picture editors usually provided the dialogue editors with OMFI files, which can be used immediately. If there are 2 tracks to the scene ie: boom and radio mic, the OMFI files generally contains both tracks, so the dialogue editors can spend valuable time working out which track is best to use.
Temp. tracks can be a problem when exporting OMFI files or music which has come off a CD as they have no timecode reference, so once it gets OMFI’ed the links can be lost. The best solution, and Julius strongly advises this to any production, is to transfer the music to a Dat source with timecode, and then digitise the music or temp. track off that source.
Julius summed up his presentation by urging picture and sound post to communicate, before and during the picture cut, as it is vital to a smooth post path.
Second to take the stand was Simon Leadley, he works for Trackdown, which specialises in music for film and television as the head engineer, he is also the technical director of Yoram Gross EM TV.
He spoke mainly about OMF 1 and 2 and ProTools, which is the most widely used Digital workstation.
He told us an interesting anecdote, which like Julius gave emphasis to having a sound friendly editing environment. The incident was on a documentary he worked on, which was delivered on tape, not as an OMFI, but directly from the video workstation. It was badly distorted as a result of being overloaded while recording into the workstation. The editor didn’t notice the distortion and said that it didn’t sound like that in the edit room, however it was badly distorted on the tape. Simon offered to go to the edit room to source the problem. It turned out the tweeters in both speakers were blown and had been for some time – the reason why the editor did not hear the distortion. So the only way to fix the problem was to go back and post-conform the whole show!
So check your equipment.
Simon continued to talk about the new OMFI 2 files. The OMF2 files have extended features and the implementation is more solid than the previous OMF 1 files. OMFI 2 files have the best success with the Digitranslator â„¢
The Digitranslator â„¢ caused a lot of interest and talk.
It is a fully supported Digidesign Product with professional support and it is designed to work with OMFI 2 Files. It will read and convert to ProTools 4. x and 5. x format, an OMF file with embedded or separate media in SD 2; AIFC and .WAV format.
It can be loaded onto any modern Mac, also onto Mac based Avid Hardware so that the conversions to ProTools can be done at the cutting rooms.
It has a simple interface based on a single window and creates detailed reports regarding missing media, name truncation, and other problems that may occur - it helps in sourcing the problem if one does occur.
The most interesting thing it can do is it can convert sample rates. This means if a project is loaded in one sample rate and later it is discovered that the post house needs it in another sample rate then the EDL is kept as is, and the media is converted automatically.
Like Julius, Simon emphasised the need for an unambiguous audio post path, to check early in the edit phase rather than at the last minute, or a couple of days before lock-off. He advised to try not to change your software half way through a picture cut.
To know the destination platform, whether it’s a Mac Operating System, or Windows, or a Fairlight, so that the hard drive formats can be assigned. For example when determining the destination app for ProTools it is best to use SD 2 as the media files.
And if you’re not sure, ask!
Third to speak was Wayne Pashley - once again an uncomplicated and clear presentation made him easy to understand. Wayne spoke of his experiences with OMF file exchange within the Fairlight MFX-plus systems mainly because his background is with Fairlights.
He referred to the use of OMFI’s for feature films, and it was nice to know that most assistant editors are a bit anxious when it comes to knocking on the sound crew’s door and exchanging media files.
Sure, sure the word OMFI popped up more than a million times during this seminar which might have been a bit tiresome to some listeners, but it was understandable considering it is the most common way of delivering audio to the sound crew. But, more importantly OMFI’s are most of the time not done properly so a lot of attention was paid to the ways in which an OMFI export can go smoothly.
So, before you go to a counsellor with a severe case of OMFIphobia, Wayne made it all seem simple and was very reasonable, saying that we should not expect perfection - that in the last five features he’s worked on, only one has been totally successful!
But all the others have been very close.
He couldn’t give the precise technical reasons for the failed portions of the transfer but all in all 90% have been successful.
He was very rational in his approach, making us appreciate that the computers have to work quite hard to pick up all the edits and sound waveforms then re-read them into a different language from the host computer.
So be patient, be patient, be patient, don’t panic.
He said that the Avid Media Composer/Macintosh to a Fairlight operating platform, results in the file conversion not being unique to each other, where as Lightworks to Fairlight are much more compatible. So, any OMFI files he has received from a Lightworks usually has a higher success rate due to Fairlight’s implicit IBM operating system.
Avid OMF’s have had a 90% strike rate.
Some of the more common problems experienced are:
- out of sync audio
- text information on a clip
- no audio
- start times for a session does not match the sequence time.
A common problem with ProTools users too.
The newer problems turning up are the result of the sound tools available in Audio Suite such as:
- EQ settings
- Level settings
- Group information
- Pitch Changing
- Time Compression and expansion
The OMFI cannot handle these capabilities. Time compression and expansion, pitch changing is another obstacle for the OMFI. Once again Wayne gave a very neat explanation to the problem.
When the Media or Film Composer performs an export, it exports a number of audio segments, but each audio segment may have a potentially large number of objects attached to it. In order for the Fairlight or ProTools to read this sort of information it uses an enormous amount of RAM. The structure of the OMFI export is very complex, in order to have a swift opening file exchange the Fairlight needs the audio and edit information simplified as much as a possible, as any playing around with the audio will directly impact on the speed and feasibility of opening.
The Solution? Consolidation.
Consolidating the project to export should improve the case.
Wayne’s Guidelines are:
- Avid software 6.53 and 7.0
- Fairlight software 14.2.24 or higher
- Set the AVID to OMF or AIFF before digitising your media.
- Remove all audio effects but if they essential to the cut Render them or bounce them to another track prior to exporting.
- 15 minutes is the official limit length from Fairlight, of exported sequences. (But Wayne has received spools 20 mins long without too many problems.)
- Consolidate the sequence to a media drive connected to the system and export the files as OMF 1.0 Composition and Audio to the first partition of the drive.
- 11 characters are the maximum and it must contain an .OMF file extension.
This Macintosh drive is then attached to an MFX and fingers crossed.
Wayne wrapped up his part by letting us know that our grief isn’t over yet. OMF technology has a use by date.
A lot of money is being invested into the development of direct file exchange since (as we can see) the need for each operating platform to talk to each other is impending.
The final speaker was Christian Bass, the dialogue Editor on Farscape, who was very absorbing because he introduced and scared us with the demands of high turnaround television. Much praise was given to the picture assistants on the show particularly Alan Green and to Alex Wong and Ella Fairgairn, the sound post assistants who supplied him with all his information on OMF file transfers.
He had lots of images captured off an Avid screen, and several sessions off his ProTools workstation, which let us know exactly what he was talking about.
The main thing Christian gave weight to, was time - and how it is valuable in his working environment. So like the rest of the panel, he added that planning and structuring was of vital importance. His advice to having a trouble free OMFI transfer was to have a logical track standard well in advance of syncing the rushes and that everyone on board is aware of this designation. Furthermore it is crucial to maintain the designated tracks through out the edit, as it saves a lot of confusion and time – if the tracks have been changed let the dialogue editors know!
When exporting an OMF file Christian has these points for us to remember:
(NB: these are for TV, NOT for Features, consult your audio guru)
- the OMF Audio Drive must be formatted on an Avid system.
- the drive must be completely wiped the partition must be clean.
- leave 75 frame handles (125 minimum for features)
- sequences must consolidate to files no larger than 1.5 Gig. If they are larger than 1.5 Gig they should be broken into sub-sequences.
Leave out all panning, dissolves, EQ
Group Clips are O.K for ProTools but not for Fairlight.
Christian’s advice was to check things if you’re not sure, and even if you’ve done it hundreds of times before, check again, as it’s easy to miss things.
He went on to present some samples of his work. Images (captured off the ProTools screen) displayed step-by step, what a dialogue editor’s session looked like. He started with showing the dialogue break down into separate components, for the dialogue editor to work with, to how the effects tracks are made into a reference session for the effects editors to refer to should they need the original effects in there own tracks. Lastly we saw what a typical dialogue session looks like before it goes to the pre-mix and then to final mix.
Christian, like Simon, Julius, and Wayne pointed out how important communication between all departments is, especially with the demands of cutting high turnaround television, where there is no room for the extra pressure of mistakes - which can be avoided. So guys, a simple phone call to the sound department is less taxing than a grouchy phone call from sound the sound department.
After two breaks ’question and answer’ time followed where Jason Ballantine joined the panel to provide his expert helpful hints on all the Avid based questions which kept cropping up.
So presto, the magic words spinning out from the sound department are “Communication” and “Testing.”
Communication, so all people involved in the production have a clear idea of where they’re going.
Testing, because it saves a lot of money and hassles further down the track.
It was, by all reports, a very successful seminar. On a day which was set for the beach, it was surprising to find a group of people in a small dark room again.
Special thanks go to Roger Grant, Philippa Rowlands, and Peter Bradstock for helping out on the admin side. But mostly to Julius, Simon, Wayne, Christian, Stephen, and Jason for giving their time to make sense of the ’distance’ between picture and sound post .
Globalization Part 2
THIS IS THE SECOND PART OF A THREE PART SERIES GENEROUSLY SUPPLIED BY KIRSTEN GARRETT AND THE ABC’S BACKGROUND BRIEFING.
"one of the most powerful, powerful tools we have in our line as film makers, and the most overwhelming tool we have, is the edit."
We live in a multicultural, global world in which there is no last word, there is no final point of view, there are just simply a series of emerging and complex voices. Therefore one of the most powerful, powerful tools we have in our line as film makers, and the most overwhelming tool we have, is the edit. What it philosophically means that you can put this piece of reality next to that piece of reality. The definition of an image by the great sculptor Giacometti. What is an image? An image is the juxtaposition of two realities, more or less distant, to form a single reality. The more powerful the image, the more distant the realities that are being brought together. That’s what makes an image, and when you look at a great photograph or great film, the power of the image is from the daring of the distance of the realities that are converging.
An edit when we’re actually connecting two completely different experiences and inviting them to enter into dialogue and proximity, but the inter-relatedness, the web of inter-relatedness of the world is actually being deepened in that one cut. Can we understand our editing process as having that kind of power, and responsibility? How do we look and what are we looking at? This question of the sacred has entirely to do with framing, the way you frame something is how you choose to regard it and whether it is sacred or denigrated. In Hindu tradition, the act of looking is the act of love. The contrast is the evil eye, the act of looking is the act of cursing.
Are we aware of how we are looking, or to put it another way for network programming, is one second long enough to look at anything? Why would you look at anything for one second. Well it has to do with what the act of looking is about. On behalf of surfers everywhere, I would like to express how offensive the term ’channel surfing’ is. In surfing you actually are supposed to become one with the wave. It is about identification, it is about the closest possible identification, and like any sacred tradition anywhere it’s about eliminating the barrier, and it’s about the most profound level of the interior identification. You are becoming one with the wave. What that means that you take that wave into your body and that there is no separation and for this moment, you and the wave are moving together. Well it’s something that doesn’t just happen, it needs to be cultivated; you need to train for a long time, which is why it’s called ’culture’. It’s not just anybody with a video camera wandering around, it’s how are you looking, what are you looking at and do you understand the act of looking as active. You are changing the world by looking, by seeing, or if I could use another word, having a vision.
And the capacity is not just to see what’s there, which is supposedly what photography does, but to see what is not there yet. To use your camera to see the invisible. At what point does the invisible come on to the screen.
One of the first things we can do to encourage the invisible onto the screen is to be honest and open in our documenting of our struggle, the struggle to create the image, the struggle to maintain the image. Can we be honest about this struggle and not create the CNN image of, you know, we can walk in and just take an image of anything anywhere, and we have no responsibility to anyone who we’re shooting, and we can dispense with the image you know, seconds later. This question of disposable imagery. What point does that image go into your heart, become part of your own identity. Are you skating past or are you actually entering it and permitting it to enter you?
"...we’ve managed to make technological innovation the substitute for any kind of spiritual or moral energy."
One example of what I regard as the new cinema, the new visual language of globalisation, which is as soon as you look at image making capabilities across the world, you begin to realise that most of what has been produced, for example by Hollywood, is of a very high technical order but a very low order otherwise, and in human history would be regarded as actually a significant low point. But of course we’ve managed to make technological innovation the substitute for any kind of spiritual or moral energy. And it mirrors in a way our approach to ethics which is highly legalistic, and we’re happy to make the last word in precise legal points, while in fact morally missing the entire picture.
Can we get over our obsession with technical accomplishment, and can we ask ourself a larger set of more difficult questions please. In most traditions, image making has a long series of processes that must be engaged here. For example, just to speak of Buddhist sculpture .The rule for sculptors in the first century, there was a list of 20 things you had to think of between each chisel stroke. Three prayers per chisel stroke, minimum. And when you look at that sculpture, it’s the result of more than technical achievement. I mean it’s technically astounding but there’s something else which endures and is speaking through the stone.
It was my privilege to know a great African film maker, David Achkar and he made a film which I’d just like to describe to you for a moment, which came out of his life history. I got to know him quite by accidents on the streets of New York. He walked up to me and said, ’Are you Peter Sellars? I’d like you to come and see my film.’ So I did, and after a while his film was overwhelming, and I got to be friends with him, and I spent about the next six or seven years with him quite often, and we ended up going to Africa together to scout for his second film. His first film was made for $US4,000 and basically David’s father was the first director of ’Les Ballets Africaine’ in the ’50s in Guinea. Now ’Les Ballets Africaine’ was the way in the ’50s and ’60s African intellectuals got a ticket out of Africa, to go to Paris, to go to New York, to go to London, you posed as a dancer, and you got a plane ticket. And it was an extraordinary group of individuals who were the company of ’Les Ballets Africane.’ David’s father then became - Guinea is one of the first independent countries in Africa - the first Ambassador of Guinea to the United Nations, and as such, it was an extraordinary time in the beginning of the ’60s when the first black faces appeared in a world body of law, and you saw black people actually discussing their own destiny, in public. David’s father became Chair of the Apartheid Committee in 1961 of the UN, and he and a group of diplomats went all over Europe and Asia and Africa holding hearings on racial relations.
David himself grew up in a combination of in Guinea and in the Upper East Side of New York as part of this, you know, marvellous you know in the early ’60s the world was going to be a better place and the UN was going to make it a better place. So this tremendous sense of optimism and hope. In 1967 David was 13 years old on a visit back to Guinea, he and his family were arrested at the airport and his father was taken to prison, and he never saw his father again after that day. Finally, the house, everything was confiscated and they lived for many years, and his mother still lives in Paris, where she went from being one of the most brilliant hostesses of the diplomatic circle in ’60s New York, to being for 17 years the woman who fixed the Xerox machines in the UNESCO office in Paris.
In 1989 finally, the family learned that David’s father had been shot in 1971. They didn’t know whether he was alive or not till all that time. And after a friend of the family brought some of David’s father’s manuscripts to David that were written in prison, David then began to make a film for $4,000. And when I mentioned the film as seen culturally differently from another point of view in the world, what can film do. I was trained for example in the Hitchcock tradition, that the camera is this Greek Fury, this avenging angel, this voice of conscience which pursues its subject forever, and is determined to get the truth out of Henry Fonda and the camera is this object that confronts and that is relentless, remorseless, and will confront you with every action of your life like this hounding voice of conscience of the Greek Furies. When I was talking to David about his second movie he explained he needed a budget for almost a million dollars. I said, ’Why David, you made your first movie for $4,000?’ He said, ’Well I need to have a crane.’ And I said, ’Well David, why do you need a crane?’ He said, ’Because the camera needs to hover over the characters to protect them.’ It’s a completely different image of what a camera is there for and can do, a benign deity.
David’s film, and I’m ending, Phillip, right now, David’s film was an act of recovery of his father. That is to say, in Africa art is ceremonial and is about the ability to speak to one’s ancestors. David hired an actor to play his father, scripted back from his father’s last writings, took a garage, made it into his father’s last prison cell, imagined the last day of his father’s life and then in voice over, had the conversation with his father that he was never able to have in this life. Film was used as native ceremony, as a ritual, as a recovery of the dead, and as a hope for the future.
Kirsten Garrett: That was Professor Peter Sellars, who will direct the Adelaide Festival in the year 2002. He was speaking at the Australian International Documentary Conference about a month ago.
Also at that conference was Dr Margaret Somerville. She’s an Australian, now living in Montreal in Canada where she is Professor of both Law and Medicine, and Director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law.
Margaret Somerville talks, and again this is only a highly edited version, about what happens when there is no longer any central moral authority in society and film makers must make ethical decisions; informed consent is often used, but what, she asks, constitutes informed consent in, for instance, cinema verite, or docusoaps. Margaret Somerville began with an anecdote about what happened when a documentary maker finished filming a stripper at work.
Margaret Somerville: This woman had allowed him to go back with her to her home after her evening’s work, and while she was there relaxing in a bath, she completely opened up on camera, and he got riveting film footage. But the next morning, she phoned him to say that it would be very dangerous for her and some others, if that film was shown. What does he do with that? What’s the ethics of that? Particularly because there was no legal inhibition at all on using that. What are the ethics of documentaries with fake sequences? For instance, the fake sequences in Channel 4’s ’Chickens’, which was about male prostitutes, or the one on incest, ’Daddy’s Girl’, or there was one called ’The Connection’ on drug smuggling, where there were fake sequences. Are film makers sometimes in conflict of interest, and if so what’s the ethical relevance of that? For instance, how do reports or documentaries on the international Olympic movement measure up in that regard? Do hidden agendas of film makers matter ethically? Are there any obligations of disclosure either to subjects or indeed to the audience? Are film makers being manipulated, possibly without realising this, for example by public relations companies, or on the other side of the spectrum usually, are some grassroots groups really of the astro turf variety? What are film makers’ obligations to verify the integrity, authenticity, or credibility of the people they present to the public? In short, what does doing ethics require of documentary film makers?
And one of the things that you have to ask is, Why has there been what is literally an explosion of interest in ethics? And what I would suggest to you is that this is a major societal phenomenon of the end of the 20th century, and that it’s got multi factor causes. And among those causes are first of all Western societies are multicultural, pluralist, individualistic, postModern, secular democracies. They are all of those things. Australia is all of those, so is Canada, where I live. Now what does that mean? It means it’s very difficult to do two things: it’s extremely difficult to find consensus on values and it’s very difficult to form community. The word ’religion’ comes from re ligurae, ligurae to bind together, re ligurae to bind together again. And what we used to do because we were more or less isolated societies, and most of us had a dominant religion image society, and we used that as the binding force, and we can’t do that any more. Now Daniel Yankelovich is the leading surveyor of values trends in America, and what he’s found in his latest survey is that there was the strongest developing trend was a yearning to go beyond mundanity, consumerism and materialism of everyday life to find a spiritual dimension in their lives, and that the polls show that that yearning has grown much stronger and more intense over the last five years, and he expressed it as the yearning is to break out of the boundaries and limits of material possessions, career and money and find some form of transcendence. And the search for ethics is a very important part of that trend.
The next thing is that there’s no consensus on values, and there’s what’s called thick and thin theories of ethics. A thick theory of ethics tells you lots of things that you should and shouldn’t do and it’s got lots of theories; a thin theory of ethics says because we are so diverse in our societies, particularly if we ever get to be a global society, the only thing you can do is have good ethical process and hope that that comes up with ethically acceptable responses. And we’re also talking about thick and thin boundaries as well. Very interestingly in ethics, we think that thin boundaries are greater barriers than thick ones. When you have thick boundaries people unknowingly cross over into each other’s territory, and it’s in those shared areas that they actually can develop consensus. When you have thin, very clearly identified boundaries, people stay on their own side of them.
We also saw in the ’80s, particularly, from about ’75 up to about the late ’80s, the transfer I believe of the faith that we used to have in religion into science and technology, but particularly medical technology. It was no accident that it was called modern miracle medicine, that word ’miracle’ was very important. What happened though, that AIDS really shook that faith. We had young people who ought not to be dying; if you look at the Public Health literature of the late 1970s, there’s article after article that says the world will never experience another infectious pandemic, and less than two years later we’d identified HIV and AIDS. And recently that loss of faith in technology which sort of left a vacuum, has converted to what I would suggest to you a very strong fear. Those words ’frankenfoods’ for genetically engineered foods and ’frankenpigs’ which are the pigs that they’re putting human genes into to take out the organs from the pigs and put them into humans, which is called zenotransplantation which is currently a major, major fuss in Canada and in the UK actually. In fact the UK secretly exported their frankenpigs to Canada and we only found out because Channel 4 got an access to information order and found the Home Secretary’s signature, allowing these pigs to be exported, and I’ve been involved in this debate and this very nice British voice phoned up and said, ’Oh, Professor Somerville, it’s the BBC here. We wondered if we could talk to you’, and I said, ’Yes, what about?’ and he said, ’Well we want to talk to you about this little piggy went to Canada.’ So that’s when we found out.
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