The tools, techniques, grammar, and cultural practices surrounding the production, distribution, and viewing of “video” and “film” have been converging for a long time. Film has adopted much of the grammar of the “video” while video can now be used to shoot a film. Each term can be on the one hand used interchangeably, while each can also be used to describe a very specific set of tools, techniques, grammar, and cultural practices.
We would not describe a collection of short “exerimental videos” as films, on the other hand, most people would describe The Celebration as a film, yet when they rent it on DVD, they’re more likely to call it a DVD or video. The medium used in production and distribution has a strong influence in terms of what we call something. I wrote an essay titled “Film is dead… and we have killed it” about the transition of film as a medium for making films giving way to video and digital as a medium for making films. You might find it interesting, amusing, or ridiculous.
I use the word “film” and “filmmaking” to describe any practice of making movies in the cinematic storytelling tradition, regardness of the medium used for image acqusition, it does not matter. There is a “film” look and a “video” look that is based on a combination of technology, language, conventions, physiological response, and I’m sure most viewers can tell the difference between a “wedding video” and a “film” about a wedding. Is it simply semantics? Is it elitism (video=amateur/home, film=professional/art)? Something else? Words are laden with meaning.
My use of terms like “film” and “filmmaking” over “video” and videomaking” is simply motivated by a desire to demystify and contribute to the democratization of filmmaking. I use “film” and “filmmaking” to describe any practice that involves using motion images to tell a story, regardiness of acquisition medium. The social practice of filmmaking has always involved much more than the medium used to record images, filmmaking represents a tradition of storytelling deeply rooted in the means of production, cinematic language, means of distribution, and a culture of distribution and viewing in terms of film festivals, film societies, film publications, film reviews, and the social and cultural practices of viewing and discussing films.
On the other hand, many experimental video artsts have preferred to use the term video to differentiate their methodology and tools as they want to break away completely from the cinematic storytelling tradition. Experimental film and experimental video refer in most circles to very different bodies of work, as their choice of medium, especially when working experimentally, has a profound impact on what can be done. Stan Brakhage scratched and painted on the film itself (Mothlight and Dog Star Man come to mind), while Zbig Rybczynski’s work with compositing was only possible with the goundbreaking electronic cinema tools he did his work with (his Steps based on the Odessa Steps sequence of Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin comes to mind). Each of these experimental artists were clearly bound to their medium, Brakhage as a “experimental filmmaker” and Zbig Rybczynski as an “experimental videomaker” so the terms get complex, again, laden with meaning.
Is there in fact a difference between a “wedding video” and a “wedding film”? Possibly a wedding video is more along the lines of reportage, while a wedding film might take more a storytelling approach? In summary, the tools, techniques, and social practices surrounding “video” and “film” are converging. Is something a film or a video? It depends on what you mean.