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The Analog Embrace: How Some Experiences Are Surviving the Digital Age

Zeros and ones were promised to be the future, and digital media would take over in various ways. But the transition hasn’t been easy, and in some situations, customers are turning to analog experiences for something more tangible.

Journalist David Sax and author of Analog Revenge: Real Things and Why They Matter, explains that setbacks are inevitable. “We are analog creatures in an analog world,” she sums up. “The digital world is simulating that in one way or another.”

The response to that simulation varies from medium to medium. Sax’s book describes the revival of analog technologies. “Physical products, turntables, and laptops have been disrupted by alternatives like streaming music, Amazon, or software,” he explains. “But analog media saw growth just as those technologies were at their peak. For example, vinyl grew when Spotify peaked.”

pressing records

It is not a half theory, there are completely new companies that follow the desire for analog experiences. Others have to cope with increased demand.

For example, United Record Pressing, the largest record printing plant in the United States, in existence since 1949, had to relocate to a larger facility in 2017 to accommodate increased demand. Even White Stripes frontman Jack White opened Third Man Pressing, helping to meet record-breaking needs in the US as well.

Elsewhere, industries are finding new ways to satisfy the growing interest in physical media, including taking digital soundtracks and recording them. data disk was founded in 2015 as a record label dedicated exclusively to releasing video game soundtracks on vinyl. They have partnered with Sega, Capcom, Konami, and SNK.

Jamie Crook, the founder of Data Disc, explains his point of view: “I really don’t know where the current growth of vinyl has come from, but it’s been a gradual thing for many years, largely thanks to all the independent labels that kept the record going. format. I live during the dark years. It would be misleading to suggest there’s been a sudden boom, but I’d say interest has been growing faster since around 2010.”

That led to Data Disc, “to us it just seemed like an obvious market, especially as film soundtracks had grown rapidly in popularity since around 2012. We have our own mastering and recording studio here in London, and a member of our The team also has experience in product licensing, so we were already set up for this type of company. We still do almost everything in-house to this day.”

Since the team uses its own mastering studio, you can take your time during the mastering process.

To some, the process may seem counterintuitive, taking a digitized video game soundtrack and then remastering it for an analog format. What is the point?

“If a record is well-mastered and carefully edited, then it can be a hugely satisfying experience that offers a different listening experience than a digital download,” says Crooks. “However, neither format is ‘better’ than the other; they are just different.

Likewise, a lossless download is just as satisfying in its own way. When it comes to data drives, we have a surprisingly large customer base and our customers buy drives for many different reasons, all of which are equally valid. There really isn’t a single answer as to why people are buying records in 2022.”

Some say vinyl sounds warmer and connects better with the listener, while others say physical media is a way to support your favorite artists, build a collection, or have a real item that can’t be removed from a service. online. . There are theories about how physical objects generate powerful and lasting memories, and analog media can easily generate nostalgic or sentimental memories. Even CDs have seen an increase in sales lately.

.img or flash generator?

Audio isn’t the only thing experiencing a resurgence after a spike in digitization. The photography market has changed significantly in recent years as smartphones are now equipped with impressive camera sensors and are in everyone’s pockets. But when it comes to preserving memories, instant cameras are still relevant.

Instant cameras were a product of a seemingly bygone era. Taking a photo and getting a printout seconds later was all the rage in the past, but finally, digital cameras arrived on the scene and film photography quickly felt antiquated.

But since then, Fujifilm’s Instax format of instant photos has renewed interest in analog photography. Polaroid is also back, after The Impossible Project acquired the brand and its original intellectual property in 2017. It also offers new cameras for photographers seeking the joy and novelty of physical photos.

It’s hard to tell if instant photos are a fad. In 2004, Fujifilm sold just 100,000 cameras for the entire year, but in 2016, Fujifilm posted sales of 5 million units. That number has since settled with the camera company’s announcement. 3.5 million sales in 2019but no matter how you look at it, that’s impressive for a form of photography that was supposed to die out when digital cameras came along.

“In a world where most images are created on smartphones, cinematic photography has made a comeback,” says Ashley Reeder Morgan, Vice President of Marketing for Fujifilm North America. “We have seen a definite increase in both interest and usage of analog photography products in 2022, primarily among Generation Z.”

“Instax, and analog photography in general, have become cultural phenomenons with this generation because they represent not only a creative tool for self-expression, but also a unique way to share, create and connect with others in a way that is meaningful, deliberate and staff. “

Morgan explains that Instax is memory you can walk away with, and that’s something the market is grappling with. Fujifilm accounts for more than three-quarters of the instant photography category in the US.

Even 35mm cameras are getting some attention, with new products and solutions for photographers returning to or learning about the format for the first time. Disposable cameras are also making a comeback. “In addition to our Instax products, consumers have also flocked to our QuickSnap single-use film cameras,” says Morgan. “With film photography, there is an element of mystery and surprise that is lost when you create an image digitally and spend a lot of time editing it, or just redoing it until it’s ‘perfect.'”

They suggest that film photography is raw as it lacks filters, retakes or editing. “With analog, you don’t have the option of taking the same pose multiple times, unless you want to use up your entire movie!” Says Morgan “There’s something appealing about being ‘in the moment’ and capturing that organic image without a lot of repetition.”

New films from brands like Cinestill and Lomography keep things fresh as new faces in the film arena, while Kodak, Ilford and Fujifilm are revamping their film offerings, bringing back discontinued products and creating new ones.

“Wherever possible, Fujifilm has resurrected key film stocks for patient and consistent users requesting them,” says Morgan.

They are not the only ones. kodak that make twice as many movies in 2019 as it was in 2015, suggesting that the sudden rise of films with younger photographers has been fueled by the growing visibility of film and film cameras on social media channels like Instagram. These days they are increasing their film costs and plan to invest in more production facilities to meet the demand.

All digital or all analog? A little of both?

While it’s clear some analog outlets are finding ways to stay relevant in 2022, it’s not a zero-sum game. There don’t have to be winners or losers. “It’s not a rejection of digital experiences, it’s complementary,” says Sax.

“It’s indicative of how we want to live, not one or the other, but more of a balance. We strive to find alternatives that give us more pleasure or something that digital doesn’t.”

weather The revenge of the analog covered products, Sax’s next book The future is analog takes a broader definition of what analog is and looks at how real-life experiences are more engaging than digital ones. “During the Covid-19 pandemic, we were encouraged to stay inside and not physically interact with people,” he explains. “When we were forced into that digital existence, we realized how horrible it really is.”

He says that the idea of ​​digitizing aspects of our human experiences was the goal for decades. From community hangouts and Zoom calls replacing in-person meetings to in-home movie launches or watching the latest sports show from your couch, few digital replacements rival the feeling of actually being somewhere. in person.

“All of those things were promised as a digital possibility, and that they would bring us fulfillment,” he says. “But the future that we were taught and sold, we were never really questioned.”

It’s something to think about as we move forward with the virtual reality promised by the Metaverse. As new digital experiences and products arrive, it’s important to remember that you can also become attached to your analog, personal, collectible and vintage things.

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