Monday, 15 February 2010

Dynamic Voodoo.

Dynamic means in a state of flux, variable, not fixed. Despite the fact that corporate iSpeak has corrupted this wonderful and multi-purpose word to mean ‘thrusting’ and, quite possibly, ‘has a personality entirely fuelled by cocaine’, it is a brilliant word. Because, in a practical sense, it means ‘not boring’.

In music, ‘dynamics’ are, essentially, contrasts. The difference between fast and slow, loud and quiet, hard and soft. Whilst listening, dynamics – for example your iPouch jumping from Gotan Project to Slayer or an organ and strings break in the middle of a blisteringly heavy Cradle of Filth tune – are what gets you to pause in your discussions of the latest Canon full-frame sensor or the England rugby teams World Cup prospects. Dynamics are what pull the girls back on to the dancefloor after they’ve abandoned an unrelenting jungle racket for a fag and a group deconstruction of the preposterously posing males still gurning amongst the empties and sweat.
All of which brings me on to the concept of dynamic range. Quite obviously I suppose, this is the measurable difference between extremes – between the hardest and softest, lightest and darkest etc. When we build a system to measure, record or reproduce something we have to concern ourselves with dynamic range – if a camera is too sensitive it will always over expose unless you are in near darkness. Conversely, not sensitive enough and you can only take pictures in blazing sunlight. As, with my trusty Nokia N86, I know all too well. Those of you who have been following my photographic exploits on face-space know it does a perfectly acceptable job of reproducing a sunlight-laden beach scene. But ask it take a picture during twilight, or even just indoors, and you get a grainy, blurry underexposed travesty of jpeg-noise and shoddy LED flash.

Last night I looked up at a truly magnificent vista of blazing stars in the mercifully unpolluted Santa Theresa firmament. It was incredible, the three stars of Orion’s belt blazing like a 1970s underground Russian nuclear test. Now while the Canon 1D, I am assured, can see in the dark, it costs over four thousand pounds , weighs four kilograms, and you still need a tripod to take a half decent picture of the heavenly void. Whereas my eyes cost me nothing, weigh a handful of grams and let me see both stars and a trio of bikini clad Californian beach-babes reclining on a UV soaked tropical beach without any additional equipment whatsoever. Now that is dynamic range.

Dynamics are fantastic. And so is the human body.

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