Tech Vs Art – which wins?

Eventually I’m going to post some notes with my thoughts on how to best distill down the video recording and compression process. This post is a bit more general. I’ve been going back and forth about how much a person learning production actually needs to know about the nuts and bolts of video technology. Is it important that they understand what happens once the light hits the lens, or should they just understand that their video comes out the other end?

Along the same lines, I wonder if the types of people interested in the nitty-gritty are likely to be totally different from the types of people interested in production. If someone wants to be a freelance videographer, how much do they really need to know about their camera?

I like using the analogy (stolen from a friend) of teaching a painter to paint. You wouldn’t hand someone a paintbrush and just say “go, do!” without explaining some basics of paint mixing and technique. Similarly, I personally feel it’s important to understand how the light hitting the lens gets sampled, processed and laid down to tape. I think it helps yield better work.

If you agree that it’s important to understand the medium, then you need to figure out how far to go. You can choose to stay fairly abstract – sort of like “assume the horse is a point” in physics. Or you can go ridiculously in-depth, with something like Tektronix’ MTS4EA software suite. Is that just overkill?

As I mentioned at the top of this post, I will be adding some more thoughts about ways of distilling some of the information down. For now, I’d like to hear the opinions of others regarding this balance of teaching tech or teaching art.

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