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Streaming: Movies, Media, and Instant Access




Wheeler Winston Dixon presents his new book.

Film stocks are vanishing, but the image remains, albeit in a new, sleeker format. Today, viewers can instantly stream movies on demand on televisions, computers, and smartphones. Long gone are the days when films could only be seen in theaters: Videos are now accessible at the click of a virtual button, and there are no reels, tapes, or discs to store. Any product that is worth keeping may be collected in the virtual cloud and accessed at will through services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant.

The movies have changed, and we are changing with them. The ways we communicate, receive information, travel, and socialize have all been revolutionized. Streaming: Movies, Media, and Instant Access reveals the positive and negative consequences of the transition to digital formatting and distribution, exploring the ways in which digital cinema has altered contemporary filmmaking and our culture. Many industry professionals and audience members feel that the new format fundamentally alters the art while others laud the liberation of the moving image from the “imperfect” medium of film, asserting that it is both inevitable and desirable. I argue that the change is neither good nor bad; it’s simply a fact.

Hollywood has embraced digital production and distribution because it is easier, faster, and cheaper, but the displacement of older technology will not come without controversy. Streaming illuminates the challenges of preserving digital media and explores what stands to be lost, from the rich hues present in film stocks to the classic movies that are not profitable enough to offer as streaming video. It also investigates the financial challenges of the new distribution model, the incorporation of new content such as webisodes, and the issue of ownership in an age when companies have the power to pull purchased items from consumer devices at their own discretion.

Streaming deals with the 21st century shift to digital production and distribution, explaining how the new technology is affecting movies, music, books, and games, and how instant access is permanently changing the habits of viewers, and influencing our culture.

Wheeler Winston Dixon, James Ryan Endowed Professor of Film Studies and professor of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, is coeditor-in-chief of the Quarterly Review of Film and Video and the author of numerous books, including A History of Horror, Visions of the Apocalypse: Spectacles of Destruction in American Cinema, and Film Talk: Directors at Work.

4 Comments for “Streaming: Movies, Media, and Instant Access”

  1. It is ironic that just when film is improving and presentation technology has improved, digital technology is pushed through the door. Over the last few years film stocks have improved greatly, allowing filmmakers to use fewer and smaller lights with less power. On the 35mm presentation front we have DTS, red reader, Dolby digital stereo tracks and polyester film stock, which is so strong it could pull a machine over. Film was improving in leaps and bounds – now to be totally abandoned in the next few years by filmmakers and cinemas. There will, I am sure always be film but it will be used in a limited way, possibly archiving.

  2. It is unfortunate that as we move towards a more advanced society, older mediums become virtually extinct. While in digital processing it is somewhat possible to simulate the appearance of older film footage, it is not quite the same. Pretty quickly I call to mind an interview I read featuring Quentin Tarantino (the director of a few famous films like Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, and Reservoir Dogs) which discussed his disdain for the movement towards digital film making, and how he was taking a proactive role to keep physical film alive. In a lot of ways, I agree with him. Digital film is too sterile. And the deeper we go into the hole of advanced technology, the more sterilized everything seems. I like older films because of their flaws. Advancing CGI looks to cover up every problem. Digital film can be convenient (and it certainly is cheaper), but it is tough to enjoy when it is so over polished. But here I am starting some inane ramble. To pull this all together, I am seriously interested in this book “Streaming” and want to check it out soon. Can anyone tell me if it will be out in paperback or just a digital book file (the latter of which would be ironic!)?

  3. I’ve read some previous work by Wheeler Dixon and really enjoyed his tone of writing. He has the ability to be really informative while also being down to earth and not to “out there,” at least in any bad sort of way. I’ll definitely be adding “Streaming” to my collection. It sounds fantastic. A great topic for a modern age. It is amusing how streaming content has become so prominent and is now isolating and making extinct previous methods of film making, production, and distribution. Since the invention of the camera, these sorts of things have always evolved. I’m not sure I’m happy with the idea of not going to the cinema simply because things are available to stream. Maybe one day more theaters will open up and hold “movie nights” so we can still taste that social comradery that we sort of get these days and in the past. After all, what good is seeing a movie if we can’t share it more with our friends and strangers? It’s nice to watch a film, and even nicer to talk about them. We can certainly do this online, but it’s better in “real life.”

  4. Wheeler Winston Dixon

    Chris, in response to your comment, STREAMING: MOVIES, MEDIA AND INSTANT ACCESS is available in hardcover, paperback, and streaming!! You can get it at Amazon, or wherever fine books or streaming downloads are sold, so to speak!!

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