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Davis, California

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Technology in art

It goes without saying that the role of technology in everyday life is virtually ubiquitous for most students here at UC Davis. From the perpetually hooked-in smartphone user to the casual Facebooker, engagement with technological venues — the internet, phone, television, computer — is inescapable. It is, simply, the nature of contemporary college life.

So is art any different? In an age where we can check our e-mail in the bathroom on a device smaller than a child’s hand, have creative endeavors managed to stay detached? The fast and simple answer is no, they have not. That is, most have not.

Obviously, film and photography are art forms built on the foundation of technology. But with the advent and popularization of software like Adobe Photoshop, Final Cut, and Adobe After Effects, to list a few, those mediums are subject to substantial influence if not downright alteration.

The inevitable question, then, is: Does the introduction of software into art work toward the betterment of the creative result?

Kaila Joye, a senior art studio and English major, uses Photoshop, a comprehensive photo editing software, in her post-production photography. As she describes it, it is a convenient tool for enhancement, for achieving the generally unachievable and pushing the camera beyond its real-time limitations. To her, it is far from a crutch for laziness or a backup mechanic, as some view it.

“When it comes to using Photoshop, I try to only use it for techniques that I can’t actually accomplish while I am actually taking the picture,” Joye said. “But I think that one of the problems with having the kind of editing software we have is that people are less concerned with getting a technically great picture since they can just go in and fix all the things they messed up.”

Photoshop is essentially a household name. It gives users the tools that, until recently, were reserved for professionals and zealous amateurs. Something that once required the isolation of a dark room can now be done in Photoshop in minutes. Some view this as a degradation of the form.

“It makes art more accessible. Anyone can try and Photoshop a picture, but it doesn’t mean it’s original,” said Christina Deniz, a senior sociology and film studies double major with a minor in dramatic art. “It can either help a photo or not. Just like there are paintings that grasp your attention and some that don’t. There are pictures that can capture true emotion and interest and some that don’t.”

Other programs like Final Cut and Adobe Premiere, film editing software, are also changing the nature of the game for aspiring college filmmakers. Like photographers who have more control over their photos than ever in post-production, amateur filmmakers are able to work like the professionals.

Senior film studies major and Aggie TV tech editor Spencer Harris uses Final Cut for things like color correction, audio normalization and chroma keying (green screen). The mastery of such techniques, Harris said, while not terribly difficult, is essential in his efforts.

“Completing just about any project can be more of a challenge if you’re not particularly comfortable with whatever programs you’re working with,” Harris said. “I think mastering a program is invaluable. You can typically work quicker and more efficiently than you would otherwise.”

What artists may come to realize, for those who have not already, is that those who do not know the software may be left behind. Filmmakers, photographers, graphic designers, musicians and more all need to be well acquainted with the software that has weaved its way deeply into our lives. Like anything, there are degrees of mastery.

Not unlike the modern internet blog that has enabled amateur writers a venue for self-publication, more people than ever have access to advanced artistic tools of today. Professional editing software, even special effects, is now possible given the investment of time and resources.

In other words, more people than ever are delving into digital music production with music-producing software like FP player and Abelton Live. And more than ever, given the digitalization of photography and film and increasing access to High Definition (HD) and high-quality post-production, people are delving into visual arts.

But again, not unlike the modern internet blog, the increased accessibility to these forms likely means the increased output of mediocrity — amateurs producing amateur work. But it also means the discovery of more talent, and more great art. It’s a near statistical certainty.

JAMES O’HARA can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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