Monday, July 23, 2012

Technology Changes Us

A still of British Colonials playing cricket in Kuala Lumpur at the Selangor Club, 1952, from a Youtube Video.

Yesterday, I found what I've been looking for. A video of the 1953 March of Time about Malaya and the Communist Emergency that shows my grandmother, Dorothy Nixon, scoring a cricket game at the  Selangor Club.

The video has three shots of her and a voice over that says, "Mrs. Nixon, Club Scorer, is a fixture at the club."

I showed it to my husband the minute he got up yesterday. He said, "Nice" and went outside to drink his coffee in our garden.

Later, more awake, he came in and said,"That bit about your grandmother seems out of place in the video."

What do you mean? I asked.

It seems a non-sequitor, it comes out of nowhere, he replied. "Dorothy Nixon, the club scorer, is a fixture at the club."

I hadn't thought of that because as someone who has spent years researching my grandmother's life for my playLooking for Mrs. Peel I know all the background and then some.

But I looked at the bit again and agreed. My husband was right and why shouldn't he be: he is a news editor.

Yes, I said, It looks as if they had more to say about her, but left it out. Maybe "Dorothy Nixon, club scorer, is a fixture at the Club. She came to Malaya to marry a rubber planter, was interned during the war, and remained in Malaya. Her full time job is that of librarian at the Kuala Lumpur Book Club."

Dorothy keeping score. I know where I got my little wrists and hands.

Do you agree? Or is this all shot random? Maybe they shot her and the editor said, "People will wonder who that woman is, with all the men."

It's not shot random, replied my husband. It would have been  all story-boarded out. The camera man told exactly what to shoot. Film was expensive in those days.

My husband started working in TV when they were still using film. He was a telecine operator. He played the films in the machine, mostly for news.

When he became a new editor, they had switched to video tape.The experienced editors complained about how much footage camera men were now shooting compared to before.

Today it is digital. Indeed, my husband's company has switched systems. With the old system the cameramen shot the footage for one story on one file. If editing time was too short (and it usually was) my husband only had time to look through a portion of the footage. The new system has each shot on a separate file, like my Canon Camera. Now there's even more to do in less time.

Cameramen may deliver 20 minutes of footage for, say, a short 30 second piece. (Too much!) The average length of each shot is say 5 to 8 seconds. So figure it out, ten shots a minute, 200 shots to go through and pick, all for a short 30 second Voice Over piece.  And like with my Cannon camera, the files are not labeled, just numbered. They have to be opened, one by one. Then they can be labelled.

The lesson being, where camera men in the past had to be thoughtful and choosy when shooting for a piece (and it is likely the reporter told him just what to shoot) today, with cheap digital, they can shoot everything and hope they got the shots that are needed. Except the editor doesn't have the time to look at the shots.

Dorothy in 1947 or so. Also from a cricket picture. She is posing with the team.

Technology changes us. 24 hour news has changed the way we see the world (and I predicted it way back when it all got started, telling a relation of mine who worked for the new CNN that 24 hour news was going to change the world and she said, "OH, someone else told me that," It seems, the workers on the ground don't have time to think about such things, except on TV as with the characters in the preachy new TV program the NEWSROOM written by Alan Sorkin.(Really?) and technology changes the world too, in unpredictable ways.

Anyway, these March of Times' came out once a week, I think. (Must check.) Lots of time to edit them, I'm guessing, but then again the film had to be shipped to New York or wherever.  So a huge production.

This particular clip ends by saying the Selangor Club has opened up to other races, with the shot of my grandmother beside a Sikh in a turban. Oddly, I know that that section of the club was open only to men, but that my grandmother got special dispensation to sit there, as club scorer. Actually she was official scorer for Selangor State, so I read.

A clip off my TV of my grandmother using my Canon Camera :) The entire clip is here:

Mr. Sorkin appears to be yearning for the Good Ole Days of News when people had integrity and pride of profession. But what about these propaganda pieces, the March of Times?