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Much ado about merging

1 Nov

Last June 4, a breaking news item by Philippine Star showbiz columnist Ricardo “Ricky” Lo got tongues wagging and cursors hovering in the local internet sphere. The article discussed the green-lighting of a “landmark” merger between media outlets TV5 and GMA7, to be formally launched November this year.

According to Lo, TV5 head Manny V. Pangilinan — popularly known by his moniker MVP – ”virtually confirmed” the merger at a June 2 presscon in San Francisco, where he was inking a separate deal with satellite broadcaster Dish Network in behalf of TV5.

Dish Network also provides satellite services for the streaming of GMA7 shows in the US.

After a few hours, TV5′s online news arm Interaksyon published an article disputing the Philippine Star scoop. Interaksyon cited exclusive correspondence with MVP, who explained how he was misquoted by Lo.

“You know, all I said was: Please support TV5 here in the States. And by the way, please support GMA7, too, since Dish carries GMA. That was all. No mention of merger, investment, combination.

“Certainly no mention of a November deadline or any deadline at all. Sure, some people speculated, and all I said was I can now say we are under discussion but nothing has been finalized at this time,” said MVP. The absence of finality in the merger talks was corroborated by TV5 chief executive Ray Espinosa.

In the following months, buzz of the alleged merger remained. ABS-CBN, the last player in the triumvirate of leading Filipino media networks, even released a PR article online detailing how chairman Eugenio Lopez III was “not threatened” by the proposed GMA7-TV5 deal.

Come October, both parties released statements confirming the fall-through of the controversial merger. MediaQuest Holdings Inc., a subsidiary of the MVP-helmed PLDT group, said that both networks were “unable to arrive at mutually acceptable terms despite the continual discussions and efforts exerted in good faith.”

For his own part, GMA7 CEO Atty. Felipe Gozon proffered: “The issues that the parties were not able to resolve had nothing to do with the price.”

Even if the deal has fizzled out for the time being, this is hardly a case of much ado about nothing. It has opened the minds of media executives, producers and audiences alike to the previously far-fetched possibility of a media merger and its underlying – albeit unrealized – repercussions.

The privatization of media is a double-edged sword. In their landmark text Elements of Journalism, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel explore this duality by dedicating a chapter to the characterizations of who journalists work for.

In the operations of any media corporation, two divisions find themselves both cooperating with and contradicting one another: the newsroom and the network’s corporate arm. As the competition stiffened among different corporations and different channels of media besides, news producers worldwide adapted to various extents a paradigm of the citizen as a customer.

Such a mindset ultimately leads to the corrosion of the integral values of justice, freedom and independence in reportage. Justice in news coverage engages three aspects: fairness, balance and objectivity.

Fairness entails airing both or every side involved in an issue. Balance demands that equal space and equal time be given to all parties. Objectivity, meanwhile, is the avoidance of words and phrases that imply judgment to avoid unduly influencing audiences.

One aspect of freedom in journalism concerns upholding the constitutionally-protected freedom of expression and of the press. This freedom is necessary for the press to adequately and competently perform its functions of citizen advocate and watchdog of power.

Freedom, however, is not only limited to the absence of stifling government control or intervention. Its second aspect entails journalistic autonomy: independence from pressures both internal and external to the newsroom that may impede judicious reportage and editorial judgment.

How do we see these journalistic values lived out or undermined in our most influential news networks? The Philippines alone provides a notable case study.

All three of the largest television networks are owned and operated by businessmen. Affluent families control the publication of the most widely-circulated newspapers and magazines. Such managerial hierarchies lend themselves to what Kovach and Rosensteil dubbed the “bureaucratic inertia” of corporate media ownership.

This presumes that the business, political and even personal interests of head honchos snowball into newsroom decisions to pursue, discontinue or modify certain stories. The danger lies in private interests holding a greater mandate over the public’s right to know.

There is much to be desired and to be enraged about when the priorities of a newsroom shift from producing stories that matter to producing stories that sell. Running a media organization as a business-minded individual or family already brings with it a plethora of conflicts of interest. To imagine the consequences of a merger between two of the largest news networks, both ran by businessmen to boot, would be to multiply the propensities of bureaucratic inertia twofold.

While it is initially reassuring to know that irreconcilable factors not concerning money weighed in on the GMA7 decision, audiences and media practitioners alike ought to be vigilant for the likelihood of another think – and another deal – coming, especially when these could compromise the impartiality and integrity of local news operations.

Snow Patrol takes Manila by storm

10 Aug

Following three days of torrential monsoon rains, Snow Patrol rocked the riffs at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last August 9 for the Asian wave of their Fallen Empires tour.

Snow Patrol and part of the concert crowd.

With the absence of an opening act, the Irish band got the ball rolling with “Hands Open” from their 2006 album Eyes Open. This was followed by “Take Back the City”, an ode to the grit and grime and glister of the metropolis.

Gary Lightbody flaunted his playful side, jokingly (?) flirting with the Texan guest guitarist in the lead-in to “Crack the Shutters”.  The vocalist mouthed “Is this comfortable?” to the microphone while inching closer and closer to the stringman, much to the amusement of the audience.

The night’s setlist was a steady mix of old favorites and fresh offerings, spanning the last decade of Snow Patrol from Final Straw to Fallen Empire. Spectators rose to their feet and sang along full force to the familiar chords of “Run”, “Shut Your Eyes” and “Chasing Cars”.

While I was a wee bit disappointed that they didn’t play “Signal Fire” from the Spider-Man 3 OST, I remained a giddy, happy child over “Crack the Shutters” and “New York”.

But while many a Snow Patrol song reels of love, loss and everything else in between, the experimental rock visage they have adopted of late – as embodied in Fallen Empires – shines through.

After an electric performance of “Called Into the Dark”, stagehands ushered in numerous conga drums. “This is the part where we get crazy with the drums,” Gary said with a grin before launching into the opening riffs of “Fallen Empires”. I’ve heard it said that some performers are better heard live. After last night, I’m inclined to believe these Irish boys are among the best of such.

The concert was an aural and visual feast, with interactive lighting and a seven-pronged projection screen alternately featuring close-ups of the band and video supplements to their performances.

The stage and projector setup.

A roving camera nestled on a crane effectively limited the chance to get awesome photographs hovered near the stage, documenting the band and the crowd. The footage could apparently end up in the final cut of the Fallen Empires Tour DVD, slated for release in 2013.

Snow Patrol left the stage after “You’re All I Have”, only to return for an encore. “I’d like to offer this song with our deepest respect and deepest sympathies to your country as a healing gesture at this time – to those who have lost their homes and indeed, their lives,” said Gary.

“This song is about my family, and my home, and I can’t think what it would be like if it was taken from me. I’d like to offer this song to all, out of respect to your grace, and your humanity, and your kindness. Thank you all. Thank you all. I’ll never forget this,” he finished, as the strains of “Lifening” wafted over the coliseum.

Snow Patrol ended their Manila rendezvous with the livewire “Just Say Yes” – evoking the vibrancy of a rainbow after the squalor of rains, a welcome respite for a country weathered by storms, meteorological or otherwise.

*****

Snow Patrol Manila Setlist

  1. Hands Open (Eyes Open)
  2. Take Back the City (A Hundred Million Suns)
  3. Crack the Shutters (A Hundred Million Suns)
  4. This Isn’t Everything You Are (Fallen Empires)
  5. Run (Final Straw)
  6. In The End (Fallen Empires)
  7. New York (Fallen Empires)
  8. Set the Fire to the Third Bar (Eyes Open)
  9. Make This Go On Forever (Eyes Open)
  10. Shut Your Eyes (Eyes Open)
  11. Chasing Cars (Eyes Open)
  12. Chocolate (Final Straw)
  13. Called Out In The Dark (Fallen Empires)
  14. Fallen Empires (Fallen Empires)
  15. Open Your Eyes (Eyes Open)
  16. You’re All I Have (Eyes Open)
  17. Lifening (Fallen Empires)
  18. Just Say Yes  (Up to Now)

    Projector screen at the end of the concert.

*****

Thank you very much to PinoyExchange.com for the free tickets! 🙂

To Have, to Hold, to Record: The Aesthetics of Wedding Videography*

27 Mar

Weddings around the world are celebrated as milestones not only for the couple and their families, but also as veritable cultural, social and religious occasions that necessitate documentation. In the days before written communication came to be, people relied on word-of-mouth to hear accounts of such gatherings.

Giovanni Arnolfini and His Bride (The Arnolfini Marriage) by Jan Van Eyck

As centuries wore on and human civilizations advanced, art styles like portraiture were employed to commemorate the union of two individuals. Such commissions, however, had a long production time, taking anywhere from three months to two years before completion (Weiss 1-2).

With the advent of photography, studio portraits became the rage for newlyweds. Advancements in technology, however, have made it possible to photograph couples not only in a studio, but right during the ceremony itself. Recent years have seen an upgrade of wedding coverage from on-site photography to on-site videography.

In the early days of wedding videography, the bride and groom were fortunate if either of them had a relative with a video camera or camcorder. The latter was then given the task of documenting the wedding, from the preparations to the ceremony proper and the reception. As might be expected from someone with little or no training in videography, however, the quality of such footage was erratic.

When events planning firms started offering videography into their wedding packages, the final outputs were mere footages of the whole event. There was little non-linear editing, and only sound effects and text labels broke the monotony. At this point in the history of the medium, wedding videos could only be obtained from the videographer days or weeks after the event.

The advent of modern wedding videography revolutionized events coverage the world over. Besides the standard whole-event footage, couples now have the option to avail of their own prenuptial (commonly referred to as “prenup”) and/or same-day edit video. Each video takes anywhere from five to ten minutes, as agreed upon by the videographer and his clients.

Hong Kong, China --- Couple have wedding photos taken in Starbucks on Duddell Street, Central, Hong Kong. Image by © Catherine Karnow/Corbis.

The prenup video is shot weeks or months before the wedding, and may feature only the couple or members of their immediate family. Same-day edits, meanwhile, refer to audio-visual presentations of the wedding (including the preparations and the early part of the reception) which the videographer will edit on-the-spot and present before the reception draws to a close.

For Bill Gaff (Merfeld n.p.) of Human Story Films, recent revamps in the practice of wedding videography have the best of both worlds, with “the intimacy of documentary style plus the poetry of the cinematic style”.

Chris Watson of Watson Videography considers these developments “more revolution than evolution” (Merfeld n.p.), likening their effect on the classic documentary style of videography to the effect of photojournalism on “straight” photography.

Despite these new formats in videography, practitioners still swear by certain motifs to complete the wedding video. Filipino videographer Jason Magbanua shared in an interview: “The conventions I really watch out for would be the priceless, unrepeatable moments – the groom’s reaction as the bride approaches, enters the church and approaches the aisle. Of course, the entrance of the bride herself, the reaction of the parents, of the people around her – these are the unrepeatable things that I want to be caught on film.”

WEDDING VIDEOGRAPHY AS ART

For the first level of analysis, let us explore the concepts, constructs and components that abound in the perceptions and practices of wedding videography to determine whether or not it may be construed as art. To do this, we will first review – and subsequently juxtapose wedding videography with – three broad definitions or facets of art as summated by Barry Hartley Slater (n.p.): art as representation, expression and form.

 

Representation

This view of art, promoted by Plato and adapted onto the late 18th century, emphasized the mimetic relationship between art and nature. This connoted that artistic outputs – be it poetry, song, movement, or visual art – were “artificial” and contrived, worthy to be deemed aesthetic only if they draw attention away from their contrivedness by effectively mimicking what exists “naturally” in nature.

Wedding videos, be they prenuptial or ceremony coverage, are at most only five to ten minutes long. To extend the total running time of the output would be to go against the premise of modern wedding videography, which is to zero in on minute details to show and not tell the bigger picture of the ceremony.

Close up of elegant high heeled shoes. Image by © Kyle Monk/Blend Images/Corbis.

Thus, the videos rely heavily on figurative shots. These include the couple sharing a laugh while holding hands, close-ups of the wedding rings, the groom’s shoes and intricate features of the bride’s gown, tightly edited montages of guests, situationers of the church and the reception venue.

By focusing only on fragments of the pre-wedding and actual wedding footage for the final cut, videographers showcase important elements of the couple’s relationship and marriage rites through deliberate visual synecdoche.

 Expression

Not all of Plato’s contemporaries, however, agreed with the representation theory of art. The Aristotelian viewpoint supposes a cathartic aspect to the production of art. With his imagination and tools at hand, the artisan is able to stretch his artistic wingspan as a means to self-expression and, to some extent, self-actualization.

In the case of wedding videography, however, it is not so much the videographer who undergoes catharsis, but his subjects – the couple who commissioned the coverage. For prenup wedding videos, the bride and the groom “perform” as lovers before the camera – looking lovingly into each other’s eyes, locking one another in a tight embrace, sharing a tender kiss, etc.

Bride & Groom. Image by © Fiona Conrad/Corbis.

Such performances may be either or a combination of the following: their natural gestures of affection towards one another, or the result of a conscious effort to mimic (here we see representation at work once more) what two people in love should  look like, as suggested or dictated by what they have seen from books, movies and daily interaction with other people.

It is perhaps the emotional fulfillment and anticipation of immersing themselves into the reel and real role of being each other’s lifetime partner that provide catharsis for the bride and groom.

The second aspect of wedding videography as an expressive art is the role of audience response. Magbanua, who has been in the events coverage business for twelve years, is a firm believer in the emotional pull of wedding videos.

He says, “A decade ago, [wedding videography] was all cheese – a throw-away kind of thing that people get just because everybody else got it. It’s different when you’re affected and when you’re part of it – as a friend, a family member, or, you know, the couple itself. And that’s kind of obvious.

“But when people who have nothing to do with the wedding, people who are complete strangers to the couple, people like students in college or high school, get moved by this – you’ve made something special. So I think that defines the thing that I do as art. I make no assumptions, but if art is something that has the capability to touch something inside of a person on a different level, I suppose that is what we’re doing.”

Form

Events coverage, particularly modern wedding videography, borrows many conventions and techniques from filmmaking; this is true not only for its documentary aspect but also for its more creative facets.

Magbanua stressed that besides the poignant footages of the subjects, excellent cinematography is key to a good wedding video.  But while anyone with a gadget capable of video recording can shoot footage of a wedding, not everyone can effectively videograph it.

In his memoir Notes from a Retired Wedding Videographer, CFA Weiss stresses the distinction between an amateur and a professional videographer. He characterized amateurs as non-artists “without the passion and eye for creation”, whose works are “often lame and impotent – thereby more so providing a video record of their own professional inadequacies or mistaken choice of spend-thrift wedding planners than a media-worthy video record of a special event” (3).

Bride and bridegroom smiling cheek to cheek. Image by © Aid/amanaimages/Corbis.

Weiss added that a professional does not just rely on his experience, equipment or knowledge of the craft. Rather, he challenges himself every time by adjusting to the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of each event coverage.

“The actual professional documentary style moves in sync with the happy couple throughout their day, capturing the little details as well as the big picture, and is unafraid of using a little artistic motion (not all shoulder shots) – for in the end, that’s what life is all about: motion,” he said.

 

 AESTHETIC VALUE

Having established wedding videography as art vis-à-vis the three broad definitions of representation, expression and form, let us now look into its aesthetic value for the second level of analysis.

When deciding whether or not to buy into the marketed necessity of wedding videography, soon-to-be-wed couples practice what Monroe Beardsley dubs the “point of view” terminology (121).

This selective association entails breaking free from external considerations (such as budget constraints versus the recommendations of the wedding planner) with the purpose of drawing attention to the set of considerations they wish to prioritize and underline (such as the importance of sticking to the budget versus the compulsion to document the wedding for posterity).

Beardsley (122) expounds thus: “I ask myself what I am doing in adopting a particular point of view, and acting toward an object in a way that is appropriate to that point of view; and, so far as I can see, it consists in searching out a corresponding value in the object, to discover whether any of it is present. Sometimes it is to go farther: to cash in on that value, to realize it, to avail myself of it.”

Portrait of newly wed couple holding balloons at wedding reception. Image by © Matthias Ritzmann/Corbis.

More than presenting additional financial concerns, deciding whether or not to commission a wedding video requires the couple to weigh in on the importance of the latter’s aesthetic and functional gratification.

There is a school of thought in aesthetics that espouses functionalism as the root of aesthetic gratification. This variant is known as the “reduction thesis”, and was made popular in 1941 when Herbert Read posed this philosophical question: “We have produced a chair which is strong and comfortable, but is it a work of art?”

To this, he replied, yes – the chair’s perfect fulfillment of its function as something firm and easy to rest on made it art. “Fitness for function,” Read added, “is the modern definition of the eternal quality we call beauty, and this fitness for function is the inevitable result of an economy directed to use and not to profit (qtd. in Hansson).”

From a functionalist perspective, wedding videos appeal not only to the couple’s fancy, but also serves two particular purposes for two distinct audiences: to preserve the participants’ memories of the event and to acquaint those who were absent with what went on in the ceremony (Cubitt 5).

Couples too will someday be able to share their wedding videos with their children. Furthermore, it will help them remember loved ones who are no longer with them. Matt Pines of Life Video, an Ohio-based events coverage company, recalled the story of a bride whose grandmother passed on shortly after the ceremony.

According to Pines, she was initially hesitant to pay the price of the videography services. After her grandmother’s death, however, she told him “the quality has gone on and the price has been forgotten (“Lasting Memories” 169).”

In the case of wedding videography, we see aesthetic dualism at work as its artful form serves to complement its purpose of encapsulating memories. The function of documenting a milestone in the lives of a couple and the optimal use of film elements like mise-en-scene, editing and cinematography combine to make modern videography more engaging – and, to some extent, more effective in its function – than the simpler, chronologically linear videography style of yesteryears.

Sometime after the ceremony, most videographers upload their works in video sharing sites like Youtube or Vimeo. This online presence also serves different purposes for the different parties involved.

For the videographer, keeping an online repository of finished outputs is an effective marketing tool: it provides potential customers access to his body of work, and is an immediate and accessible feedback platform for what he does, what he has done, and what he still can do.

Wedding party. Image by © Matthias Ritzmann/Corbis.

For the wedded couple, web uploads make for easy sharing with loved ones and friends the world over, especially those who were not present during the actual ceremony.

For the broader online audience, the internet becomes a venue for them to view the intimate moments of strangers, share in their joy, or simply widen their appreciation for and perception of what wedding videography could be.

To conclude, modern wedding videography is both documentary and artistic. This newly invigorated branch of art is unique in that it zeroes in on both the universality and uniqueness of a particular couple’s wedding experience. This marriage of the personal and of the universal bridges instead of divides form and function, combining the best of both worlds to emerge on its own as a distinct and dynamic art form.

Works cited

 Beardsley, Monroe. “The Aesthetic Point of View.” Contextualizing Aesthetics: From Plato to Lyotard. Eds. Gene Blocker and Jennifer Jeffers. Canada: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1999.

Cubitt, Sean. “Videography: The Helical Scan.” Videography: Video Media as Art and Culture. Hong Kong: Macmillan, 1993. Print.

Hansson, Sven Ove. “Aesthetic Functionalism.” Contemporary Aesthetics 3: n. pag. 17 Oct. 2005. Ann Arbor: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library. Print.

“Lasting Memories.” Cincinatti Wedding. Winter 2003: 168-169. Print.

Magbanua, Jason. Personal interview. 23 Mar. 2012.

Merfeld, Elizabeth Avery. “Meet the New Doc.” EventDV: the authority for event videographers 21.1-12 (2008): n.p. Print.

Slater, Barry Hartley. “Aesthetics.” Internet Encylopedia of Philosophy (2003): n. pag. Web. 20 Mar. 2012.

Weiss, C.F.A. Notes of a Retired Wedding Videographer: From Proposal to Reception. Bloomington: Author House, 2006. Print.

###

Disclaimer: T’was submitted as a final requirement for Philosophy 181 (Aesthetics) under Prof. Perseville Mendoza.

Twitty

15 Jul

Because sometimes, one letter makes all the difference.

In other newsss, congratch Fighting Maroons! UPKERIGOFIGHT o/*

Tanaw na Kawalan: Isang sesyon sa Batasan sa mga mata ng isang Moro

25 Mar

Sa unang tingin sa Session Hall ng Batasang Pambansa, madali itong maihahalintulad sa isang arena. Ang bulwagan ay pabilog, malawak at may mataas na kisame.

Kinabubuuan ito ng apat na baitang. Ang unang palapag ay para sa mga kongresista at ang kanilang mga panauhin. Ang pangalawa naman ay para sa mga mamamahayag, at ang pangatlo at pang-apat ay para sa iba pang manonood.

Para kay Kim Matsura, isang seaman tubong Cotabato, makatuwiran lang na ipagpalagay na ang 286 na kongresistang naihalal sa arenang ito ay nakikilahok sa labanang intelektwal. Umasa siyang kahit papaano ay aktibo silang nakikipagtalastasan tungkol sa pampublikong patakaran.

Kaya naman ganoon na lamang ang gulat niya at ng kanyang mga kasamang aktibista mula sa iba’t-ibang pulo ng Mindanao sa una nilang pagtapak sa Session Hall noong ika-22 ng Marso.

Namataan nila ang ilang kongresista na palibut-libot sa bulwagan at nakikipag-usap sa telepono o sa iba nilang mga kasama.

Ang iba naman tulad nila Congresswoman Imelda Marcos ng Ilocos ay nanatili sa kanila-kanilang mga lamesa na pinalamutian ng maka-ilang talampakan ng hindi naasikasong papeles.

Halos kalahati lamang sa mga kongresista ang dumalo sa sesyon, at iilan sa kanila ay nahuli pa nang dating. Kapansin-pansin din ang mga designer handbag ng mga babaeng kongresista at ang mga nagmamahalang sasakyan sa garahe ng kongreso.

Tinitutulan nila Matsura ang pagpasa ng House Bill 4146, na naglayong ipagsabay ang eleksyon sa Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) sa pangkalahatang lokal na eleksyon sa Mayo ng 2013. Ang orihinal na petsa ng botohan sa ARMM ay sa ika-11 ng Agosto ngayong taon.

Dalawang oras na nagdaos ng rally ang kanilang grupo ng mga Bangsamoro sa bungad ng Batasan. Pumasok sila sa Session Hall bandang alas singko ng hapon upang obserbahan ang pagtalakay ng HB 4146 sa plenaryo.

Isa sa mga probisyon ng resolusyon na mariing tinututulan ng mga Bangsamoro ay ang pagtalaga ng mga “transitionary leaders” ni Pangulong Benigno Aguino III sakaling mapasa ito. Pansamantalang mamumuno ang mga ito sa lahat ng elektibong posisyon sa local na pamahalaan hanggang sa eleksyon sa Mayo 2013.

Miyembro ng Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) si Matsura. Aniya, sumapi siya sa naturang militanteng grupo nang matunghayan niya mismo ang pagkamatay ng kanyang mga magulang at iba pang sibilyan sa isang crossfire.

Ang presidente bilang diktador?

“Idolo namin ang kanyang ina na si dating pangulong Cory Aquino. Sana lang matularan niya ang halimbawa nito,” ani Matsura tungkol sa kasalukuyang presidente.

Ang HB 4146 ay tinalakay sa plenaryo ng sponsor nitong si Congressman Elpidio Barzaga ng Cavite. Uminit ang usapan nang binusisi ni Congressman Antonio Tinio ng ACT Teacher party-list ang naturang panukala.

Kinuwestiyon ni Tinio ang kapangyarihan ng presidente na magtalaga ng mga opisyal gayong dapat raw ang mamamayan ang naghahahalal sa kanila. Dinagdag pa niya na ang ganyang klase ng sapilitang pamamahala ay gawain ng isang diktador.

Taimtim na pinakinggan ni Matsura ang interpellation ng dalawang kongresista. Hindi daw siya gaanong matatas sa Ingles, ngunit nasusundan naman daw niya ang daloy ng kanilang debate.

Ayon kay Matsura, simple lang naman daw ang mithiin nilang mga Moro – ang maibalik ang kapayapaan at maiwasto ang namamayaning sistema ng palakasan at dahas sa pulitika.

Wala man silang armas pagpasok ng Session Hall, umaasa silang ang kanilang presensya ay sapat na paalala sa mga kongresista na handa silang ipaglaban at ipagtanggol sa anumang arena ang kanilang karapatan sa mapayapa at matiwasay na pamumuhay.