A Picture and a Few Words

There’s an unusual aspect of the English language (and perhaps other languages as well) that I’ve noticed the past several months.  I’ve identified a concept we need a good word for because we don’t have one.  The problem I’m talking about is the terminology for taking pictures digitally.

Back when pictures were first taken, images were recorded on a piece of glass with a photosensitive layer of silver nitrate.  Later, a flexible plastic called cellulose nitrate came into use, and this is what Edison used when he invented his motion picture camera.  Since the cellulose nitrate was a thin material and the photosensitive material was extruded onto it in a thin film, the material came to be called “film.”  Later, cellulose acetate replaced cellulose nitrate because the nitrate form was extremely flammable, and the acetate form was called “Safety Film.”  Cellulose acetate film exists even today in all sorts of forms and formats, color and black-and-white, but it’s being replaced by digitally capturing images by digital cameras.

And that’s where the problem lies.  Back when film was in its prime, making a movie or a documentary or taking a motion picture of a news event was called “filming” it.  Later we had videotape and doing the same with a videotape camera was called “taping” it.  For example, first they “filmed” TV shows, then they began “taping” them.  But what of capturing digital images, either still or moving?  What do we call it?  I’ve seen news reports where the author of the report used the word “film” or “filming,” probably because he/she didn’t have a word that means “capturing images in digital format.”  I even commented on one of these and chided the author (as I recall, it was a report from a reputable news service) for using the term “film” when the images that person was talking about were obviously digital and there wasn’t any film associated with the report at all.

So, what do we call it?  When we had film, we called it “filming.”  When we had tape, we called it “taping.”  What word do we use now?  “Digitizing?”  “Digitally capturing moving images?”  “Digitalling?”  “Digitalis?”  (Well, anyway…)  Leave us not be too ridiculous.  We need a word that identifies the action of making a digital image; that is to say, we need a good digital verb.  I haven’t come up with a good term as yet.  Suggestions anyone?

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