Would You Look at That!

One advantage of living, well not exactly off the grid, but well out of the lava-flow of change usually associated with modern “civilized” parts of the country is that visiting said civilization is always replete with surprise. Things change, and years later, we discover what has already become mundane technology to city folk. I can think of two such visual surprises from our recent Mobile trip.

To wile away a few hours while Ann was touring her high school with fifty of her classmates, I found a reasonably close super-multi-megaplex moviehouse to see the newest James Bond movie, Casino Royale. I don’t guess I’ve seen three movies in a theater in the last ten years. (Finding Nemo: I took my mom, who sees even fewer than I do, and remember being automatically being given the SENIOR discount. Reality check!)

So, cinematography has come a long way since the days of reel to reel. This was probably the first totally digital movie I’ve ever seen. And to be honest, while I appreciated the “improvements” I sort of missed the tickticktick from the projection room, the bright shifting beam of light that danced overhead to the beat of the hero’s movements, the little lines-and-spots artifacts of wear and tear that appeared subliminally as the frames of celluloid zipped by. But that’s just my nostalgia talking. For purposes of visual clarity, the new technology to this country bumpkin seemed quite impressive. And the movie was pretty good, too.

The other visual memory was the outdoor “billboards” and other signs that were either direct projection or some pretty sophisticated LCD technology, replacing paper, tubes and translucent backlit panels. Said billboards may rotate through a half dozen different “scenes” as the gawking backwoods boy stood slackjawwed and amazed. Even in full sunlight, the colors were saturated, text clearly visible, irresistably pulling the consumer’s eye to motion, color and sharp edges. However, the prospect of having every sign in a shopping-mall-sea of them become its own movie screen (it’s just a matter of time) makes me happy to live on Goose Creek, where our only full-motion billboard is the sky. Clouds now showing, sunset at 6.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I’m not much of a movie goer either, but we sure have plenty of those projection billboards around KC. Time to get to the woods.

  2. Phred:

    If you want to see how some of those are created, drop by my studio some time. We’ve been creating them for clients for about three years now.

    BTW, Casino Royale was shot on the same equipment we use to shoot HD documentaries right in Floyd County show you’re not that far off the grid. 🙂

  3. we never go see movies either, as the nearest theater is over 30 minutes away- so that would mean an hour of babysitter pay would be taken up with just driving. and we DEFINITELY don’t have any theaters like the one you’re talking about. oh- and i posted a review of your book on my blog yesterday and it’s still up- i’m practicing a little nepotism this week! 🙂

  4. I saw Casino Royale last weekend, my first movie in probably 10 years. It was pretty good. You could even see the freckles on the face of the accountant. Two new things about movies I don’t remember before: having to sit thru what seemed like 30 minutes of advertising before it began after paying good money for the ticket, and outrageous prices for snacks and drinks. They were always high, but this time really, really high.
    Still, there’s nothing like the big screen to get lost for a while.