© 2018 Jessica Suljic, Ryerson University.
Television screens remains ‘on’, on average, several hours a day. Flip channels, control the screen. Remote in hand, you are now conductor. Can you see the mechanisms in place which work while you to watch your news, sitcoms, nature documentaries, and movies?
A flip-book of millions of static images shown in quick sequence create the illusion of a moving picture. The naked eye cannot perceive your daily program this way, so mechanical technology must supplement the eye to see the invisible. A camera.
A camera with a fast shutter speed, which captures at least 300,000 frames per second, removes the mediation of our functional, and mechanical, process of sight.
Slowed down, a camera reveals that each static image refreshes from top to bottom, left to right, pixel by pixel. The screen takes less than a millisecond to refresh itself once. When you blink, you miss pixels and frames which your television produces. Walk away for a minute and these pixels, if they had a mind of their own, ask: What is my purpose? What are the fruits of this effort? If you have a modern high-definition television, they barely catch their breath to wonder.
Constantly refreshing, existing in service to a larger picture which they grasp no ability to view the picture nor capability to comprehend the whole. Perhaps, their mechanized nature demands a concept of unity, and their autonomy could lead to chaos? Or static?
The other magical illusion brought by a television is the illusion of colour. A grand invention of the 1950s.
An infinite array of colour makes way for television in spectacular gradients with sharpness and clarity. The tiny pixels that make up this image, like particles, have contained within them droplets of pure colours, the sub-pixels. When pieced together, they transform from invisible to visible to reveal colours not found in the individual pixels.
Each pixel is made of three basic colours: red, blue, and green (RBG). The retina of a human eye contains three colour-sensitive cones in the same arrangement: RBG (Hunt). (Well, colour vision by the eye is not so simple, but the screen is simply so.)
These are the additive primary colours. RGB is also used for your phone, your computer screen, digital cameras, and more. The colours are produced through the combination of dimming and brightening between RBG. These screens use additive colour mixing to turn RGB into pink, purple, chartreuse, puce, yellow, teal, white, ad infinitum.
To see additive colour mixing, we need to supplement your eye again for the camera, with an advanced lens, and look up close to see the individual pixels. Your white screen is suddenly a colour-coded pattern of RBG at full brightness. White is all colours brightened.
Three basic colours, combined, show endless capabilities.
The high-speed chase of the gazelle by the wild dog on the Discovery channel is nonetheless static image after static image. Static images refreshed line by line, pixel by pixel. The high-definition grasslands are produced by a mere three primary colours, chosen for your own eye’s function.
It is a neutral piece of technology. Mere mechanics. Working microscopically to fool the eye and the brain to believe in the illusion of animation.
You are tuned-in in real-time, from a distance. The image behind the image reveals little more than the potential of any rote medium to transcend itself to the ideological plane, open to control by any person with a mind to supplement its lack of autonomy.
Akpch. Close-up image of TN panel display, Dell Mini 9, Magnification – 300. March 1, 2009. Wikimedia Commons.
Elkins, James. How to Use Your Eyes. Routledge, 2000.
Hunt, R. G. W.. The Reproduction of Colour. 6th ed. Chichester UK, 2004.
László Németh. RGB color wheel (10°) and RGB pixels. June 25, 2013. Wikimedia Commons.
The Slow Mo Guys. “How a TV Works in Slow Motion – The Slow Mo Guys”. Youtube, commentary by Gavin Free, direction by Daniel Gruchy. 18 Jan 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BJU2drrtCM
Unknown. Animated demonstration of frame refreshing through interlaced scanning. GIF image. Public domain.