Analog Aesthetics in the Digital Era

I was recently watching an episode of The Goldberg's when I got this feeling that something wasn't right. It took me a while, but then it donned on me: the image quality is too digital, too perfect for a show about the 1980s. It's clear that painstaking detail goes into recreating the 80s for authenticity but this one glaring but hard to notice (yes, I just said that) signifier of the present remains. For those of us who lived through the low-def era, we know the texture and quality of analog video intimately. And, although I noticed this contradiction in the program, I'm not at all suggesting that they revert to the previous paradigm. However, I do think a one-off episode that looked, sounded, and felt like VHS is not a bad idea (take note, showrunners!).

To meet the nostalgic needs of we older folks, developers have created a ton of "downgrading" filters and apps to make pictures and videos look like analog video and/or VHS. The same is, obviously, available to filmmakers. It happens all the time that a movie will show footage from the past that is clearly brand spanking new, but it perfectly resembles that old, hazy, muffled, scan-lined, footage.

Some clever pranksters have taken these tools to contemporary programs that we're used to seeing in HD/UHD. Check out the videos linked from the Boy Genius Report article on this phenomenon. Game of Thrones as an 80s/90s TV show is the most precious and hilarious thing ever. They not only downgraded the footage, but they also applied the formal properties of 80s/90s TV to the current credit sequence. This is a lesson not only in the flexibility of digital media, but also the dramatic changes televisual formats over time.

Click here to travel back in time with Game of Thrones.