CE27 - Culture, créations, patrimoine

Jean-Pierre Beauviala and the Aaton Company – audiovisual technics and their uses, historical, esthetic and practical modalities – BEAUVIATECH

Submission summary

When cinema entered the third millennium, it was accompanied by the so-called digital revolution; a phenomenon that supposedly led to the replacement of one technical paradigm by another as traditional celluloid film gave way to digital cinema. In reality, this is an ongoing process that did not radically transform all practices at once, but which developed, and indeed continues to develop, differently according to the fields, skills and trades concerned. The project will analyse this complex transition through practical, sociological, economic and aesthetic perspectives.
It will focus on the core issues of this development by providing a comprehensive account of technology’s place in cinema history, practice and theory using historic, epistemological, aesthetic and socio-professional contexts. Beyond simply a historical analysis of the digital transition itself, the project will, more specifically, examine the interactions between celluloid and digital film from a technological point of view. One hypothesis is that the digital transition must be considered less from the perspective of discontinuity than from that of continuity or displacement (of practices, trades, economic mechanisms, aesthetics, theoretical or epistemological considerations, etc.). The link between memory and digital innovation therefore lies at the heart of this project, whose vision is also to help establish a memory of celluloid film as practices are changing, techniques are being transformed and cinematographic know-how is shifting or disappearing. This transition will be investigated using an unpublished archival collection made available to us by Laurent Mannoni, director of the Conservatoire des Techniques at the Cinémathèque française (a project partner). It consists of the archival collection of inventor and engineer Jean-Pierre Beauviala, a leading figure in the history of cinematographic and audiovisual technology and founder of the French company Aäton (now Aaton) that made audiovisual equipment from 1972 to 2013 before its acquisition by Transvideo. The company spanned both the celluloid and digital eras as it was behind ground-breaking technological innovations in celluloid film-making and was a major actor in the shift to digital techniques, while playing a decisive role in the emergence of analogue video. Although this collection is at the centre of our research, our findings will be linked to other ongoing research projects using other collections, especially the work carried out in Lausanne on the Bolex and Kudelski (Nagra) collections, at the Cinémathèque française on the Éclair collections, or the Michel Brault collections at the Cinémathèque québécoise in Montreal. (The Technès programme ensures a close working relationship between the University of Lausanne and the Université de Montréal).
Three lines of research have been identified:
1: Studying the celluloid/digital transition through its economic, sociological and technical implications by integrating the issue of video, which was, in many ways, a precursor of the birth of digital technologies.
2: Reconsidering cinematographic productions based on a study of the aesthetic, theoretical and historical implications of this technical approach that, while providing a highly accurate interpretation of the passage from celluloid to digital, will put this transition into a broader context that takes into account the technical history of cinema.
3: Imagining new outlooks for the heritagization of cinema, which requires an archiving dimension (indexing of the collection and reflection on methods for the promotion and heritagization of its content) and a practical dimension (linked to, for example, the lost practices of celluloid-based cinematography and thus to its uses), which is inseparable from a scientific dimension (consideration of the equipment and how it works).

Project coordination

Gilles Mouëllic (Arts:Pratiques et poétiques)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


APP Arts:Pratiques et poétiques
IRISA Institut de Recherche en Informatique et Systèmes Aléatoires

Help of the ANR 150,731 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: October 2018 - 36 Months

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