• Image as Collective: A History of Optical Effects in Hollywood's Studio System

    Birk Weiberg (see profile)
    Film Studies
    Motion pictures, History, Motion pictures--Production and direction, Actor-network theory, Technology, Motion picture studios, California--Los Angeles--Hollywood
    Item Type:
    University of Zurich
    optical effects, special effects, Film history, Film production, History of technology, Studio-era Hollywood
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    This dissertation provides a historical account of a until now neglected field of moving image production. It identifies and focuses on optical effects as a practice of montage within moving images as opposed to the montage of like images in time. Drawing on a wide range of new archival material, my dissertation presents previously unknown reasons for the developments of different techniques of image compositing such as traveling mattes, color-based processes, rear projection, and optical printing. This field has currently gained relevance as a forerunner to contemporary digital effects and image processing, a fact that in part also explains the marginal presence optical effects in earlier scholarship. My work collects original publications by participants and critically relates them to each other and akin areas of film production. As a result I will show that there were no single privileged sources of agency but rather chains of translation that involve humans as much as non-humans. I will draw on Actor-Network-Theory as a methodological framework as it provides an approach that tries to avoid presumptions that inform the analytical descriptions. Therefore, I will deploy individual case studies, in which I explore the specific functions of such different entities as groups of studio employees, the studios themselves, entrepreneurs and manufacturers, professional associations and organizations, devices and sets, patents and other publications, and finally images. The image as the result of these production practices (rather than as an aesthetic phenomenon alone) here is regarded as representation and aim of its production practices that at the same time it tries to conceal. It thus assembles its own collective which I will understand not as a model but as a hypothesis that guides my historical descriptions.
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    Online publication    
    Last Updated:
    4 years ago
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