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Andrew Reid

Kodak celluloid film saved by studios - oh and by the way - what's the point?

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Shooting film requires a Discipline. Its not about being fast but being a creator, an artist, is the magic of the unknown within the known parameters. DP's all over would shoot film over digital, for many technical reasons and its proven that it would not be much more expensive. I have shot 35mm (Fuji and Kodak) and the latitude its fantastic. I agree with one comment, there is a democracy in Digital, But film requires craft and Discipline, that can hardly be found in the simplistic world of fast content.  Its easy to dismiss Film, when there is very little knowledge of the craft.

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The argument will work itself out over the course of time.  If top D.P.'s stop using film there will be less call for it.  I'm quite sure most of them have done comparison tests with the state of the art digital. 

You also seem to be assuming here that film is being kept alive as the capture medium.  I think the studios need to keep film around to preserve their work.  When large studios submit their films to the U.S. Copyright office for registration they submit film prints because of their archival quality.   We know that in 50 or even 100 years if there's a projector or scanner around the film will still present a decent image.  Digital on the other hand changes so rapidly that it's less comforting to imagine that a digital file submitted now will be readable in even 10 or 20 years time.  The standard submission format for long form film or video content for those of us without many thousands to spend on film prints is DVD or Blu-ray.  It's recommended to send a backup disc but that's it.  How likely is it that those discs will still be readable if not corrupted in 20 years?  I've spoken with the Copyright office several times about this and they don't ingest the files into their computer system...the discs simply get filed and it worries them too.  

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1. What you list as a problem... meticulous planning... can also be seen as a big advantage. Many advocates of shooting film (stills) say it improves the quality of their photos, because instead of aim, spray and pray they are forced to make sure the shot fits. I imagine this can also lead to sloppy film making, to the crew thinking "meh, so what if I screw up". For some movies the spray and pray approach is ideal, for others not. I also disagree with what you say about dynamic range. You can push films in ways you can't do with digital, and it doesn't fall apart at the extremes the way that digital does.

2. What about archiving? Archiving digital is very expensive, difficult and requires constant attention. As long as you store film in a decent location you can basically forget about it, it will last almost forever (compared to digital). With digital you have to keep moving the files every few years. That's a process that will only be done for movies that are seen as bringing in profit in future.

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Something that doesn't seem to have been mentioned is CMOS/rolling shutter.

The only digital camera that combats this and also has the resolution, DR and colour rendition to really challenge the best film stock is the Sony F65 (some might argue the F55, but it's not in the same league).

You can make amazing, amazing films with the likes of the Alexa and Epic... But to say they "beat" all aspects of film is not factually correct, as they have some rolling shutter. None of us can really put our finger on exactly why people respond so well to film, but I think a lack of RS is part of it.

 

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Something that doesn't seem to have been mentioned is CMOS/rolling shutter.

The only digital camera that combats this and also has the resolution, DR and colour rendition to really challenge the best film stock is the Sony F65 (some might argue the F55, but it's not in the same league).

You can make amazing, amazing films with the likes of the Alexa and Epic... But to say they "beat" all aspects of film is not factually correct, as they have some rolling shutter. None of us can really put our finger on exactly why people respond so well to film, but I think a lack of RS is part of it.

Back to why the Sony F35 may be the most closest to film from a digital camera.  How it handles highlights.  CCD - global shutter.  I have 2.  I love them.  But it's all subjective/  Just like in the film days we would be having these same exact arguments over fuji vs kodak - which one did you like better?  Same shit, different decade.

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Andrew, I just couldn't let this post go.  I guess I would fall into the category of the "privileged few" having been a "film" director for over 35 years and having shot film almost exclusively.  Let me start by saying while I do have a certain sense of nostalgia for film,  I'm not someone who doesn't enjoy and in fact embrace new technology.   I've been happily shooting "video" for the last 5 years with a ML equipped Canon 5D Mark 2.  I have been waiting for the "perfect digital cinema camera" to come along before I upgrade.  That has yet to happen.  Because I'm an old  guy, perhaps I may have a different prospective on this issue.  The fall of film (in my demented perspective) is not that digital is better.. but because its cheaper.  The seeds of the fall of film I think began in the early 80s.  When I made my first film, I shot it in 16mm.  At the time, a 400' roll of film (about 10 minutes running time) cost $34.00. Because of the Hunt Brothers trying to corner the Silver market, within a few weeks, the price of Silver went through the roof.  Kodak raised the price to $76.00, which of course also included raising the price of print stocks.  After a few more weeks, the price of Silver collapsed.  Kodak never adjusted the price back down.  Since then the prices of film and processing continued to rise until film and lab work fell out of reach of all but high end users.  This left a huge hole in the market that video filled. In todays economy film cannot survive.

Regarding Film versus Video;  I made a film for Warner Bros in 2001.  It was shot on an Arri 535 (Super 35mm) and was posted completely digitally.  It was only the second film ever done that way at the time.  The very first was the Cohen Brothers "Brother Where Art Thou?" The film completion bond company called it "Voodoo Technology".  Now looking back on it all these years later, I still think this marriage (Film Capture/Digital Post) was the best it ever was.  Let me be clear, you can get some terrific looking images with digital cameras but if you look at films made 10-15 years ago there are still looks you just can't get with an electronic sensor. There is a smoothness.. a silkiness that's just wonderful.  

For me digital has three big problems.  

Number 1  Rolling Shutter.  LISTEN UP CAMERA COMPANIES!!!  Don't even think about putting out another video camera with this problem... This is NOT a minor issue.  (Yes I know some of the cameras are coming out with global shutters...and I know there are work arounds).   You shouldn't have to rethink how you shoot something to accommodate the camera.

Number 2  6 O'clock News Syndrome  - I guess that I'm the only one who sees this as I've never heard anyone else mention it but it drives me crazy. During some action scenes you suddenly become aware you're watching "video" and it takes you out of the story.  The movie suddenly looks like the 6 o'clock news and the illusion of film is suddenly gone.  This seems to only happen during moving or action shots.  I wish I could finger the culprit here but I just can't tell what's going on. Maybe someone can tell me. 

Number 3 And this one is HUGE.  Archiving of Images.  Many of the major film studios still do Black and White film separations of their movies including motion pictures shot on digital.  Film has a shelf life of at least 100 years.  This is now a proven fact. To date there is no safe and foolproof way to ensure what you shot will survive longer than a few years. I believe this era will be a period of the greatest loss of photographic images... It saddens me deeply... 

So will I go back to film? Probably not (except for shooting some art projects with my old 4x5 Grapflex). Do I miss it? Yes.  There is something very tactile and wonderful about it.  You open the side of the camera ... " I love the smell of Silver Halides and Acetate in the morning.... Smells like ... Victory". 

PS sorry for being so long winded.

WM

_DSC0096e.jpg

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I think points 1) and 2) might be the same thing, William. Fast action shots with even the faintest rolling shutter could be the very thing that is pulling you out of the illusion of the cinematic experience.

Great post, by the way.... there is a reason people are nostalgic about film. It is because it is a beautiful format.

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I respect your opinion that film is dead, but my main issue with that, is that the archiving process is proven to be better on film than in digital. The best in digital at the moment is LTO tape, and that will only stay for 20 years. If you ever went to a Cinematheque, you will see that most of the films there are kept in film, even digital ones. When Kodak filed for bankrupcy, my first thought was "Fuck, what about the archiving films?". Digital storage companies have great R&D teams that probably are looking for a reliable form of archiving, but that's not profitable for them. Even if they do find a way of better archiving, will they make it a product? They are probably focusing on speed and sizes, as 4K video reaches the market, and not long life storage. And as digital technology improves, what about formats? As you probably know, there are several of codecs and formats being used for films around the world right now. When I went to my local Cinematheque, they still had professional video TV decks from the 80s. Yes, the 80s. And their main issue was that the company that made those decks couldn't provide repair pieces for them because they didn't have the means to produce them. So, they have hundreds of tapes waiting to be archived in other formats because technology went on and got better.

Yes, digital is "cheaper" and more "democratic" (democratic and cheaper from certains points of view), but if we stop funding the only company in the world that still makes THE reliable medium to store films, we should probably stop funding all those Cinematheques all together because history is useless.

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Most of the people attending this forum do so because they think you observe the development of affordable film or video equipment with reason.

1.I dare the assertion that most of your (and everyone's) favourite films were shot on film stock. 

2. Let people decide what emulsion e.g. film or digital they want to choose. They have their reason. A lot of important director don't like the look of digital, even of an Alexa, and the don't like it for workflow reasons.  Michael Haneke, for instance. Because even an experienced DP sometimes has to use gear that he wasn't yet able to accustom himself to.

3. Very simple, indoor vs. outdoor. You know why so many people are enchanted by video low light scenes? Why so many amateurs test their cameras for low light? Well because the look better in dim light that in sunlight. Check No country for old men. Desert shots, film stock. Hard to beat. Check Skyfall, Roger Deakins amazing cinematography. Wit one exception. Last sequence with Moneypenny on a rooftop. Daylight. Mmmh, the scene looks very digitally recovered. It looks familiar. Overexposed scene brought back with "Clarity" or whatnot. Not really pretty. Film stock is far more forgiving in that case. DR and highlight rolloff. Hard to beat on film. Same goes to stills. BW street photography: OVer or underexpose, doesn't matter, the image is all there. Try that with a raw file. You can wrangle the latter a bit, but every experienced eye will discern just this. Go in a photo gallery. Most of the art stuff is shot on film. It has a certain pictorial quality. Lets be happy to be able to shoot with great IQ on video. And I'm glad fims stays around for a while. 

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A lot of the arguments here are valid, and on both sides. 

But i cannot understand why one should be happy that film is gone..? Why would giving another choice to DPs be a bad idea ? Why would you not agree with Kodak still making film ? 

I'm all for spending the money you save with digital on something else. It's an economic reality, nobody can deny that. But do you really think you'd like Nolan's movies better if they were shot on digital ? Is that all there is to it for you ?

It seemed more like a rant than an analysis. And like someone else said, if you want to shoot digital, the mere fact that film is also available on the shelf changes absolutely nothing to you... what's not to like in having more choice ? I don't get it.

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"For a filmmaker like this working slowly with the restrictions of celluloid reinforces the technique further. For me, it leaves me cold emotionally."

There's no way this argument stands for a second.

The cinema films have been shot on film for more than a century before digital cinema not only appeared but was the main medium. So you're telling me that during that century, all films were crippled by the fact that celluloid slowed down the directors so much that they had to only resort to technique, thus making emotionally cold movies ? Really ?

Even some documentaries shot on film are wonderful !

Of course digital now is the way to go. It just make sense. But saying it will make a better cinema emotionally, just because it's quicker, is just not a valid argument to me. At all.

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​This is a myth, Celluloid does not restrict you from shooting any slower than you would on Digital. Experienced and less experienced DP's would know that their film has been exposed right. Assistants can change magazines on a whim and check the reliable mechanics on the camera, for the last 25 years there has been video assist, in order for the director to see the action framed as it would on the camera. BTW news reporters would shoot on CP16 cameras reversal film that would be develop in minutes. Only the last 7 years with the explosion of HDD's on cameras, we can transfer (albeit at some speed) Digital images, but in the days of tape we had to wait in real time for the ingestion. Celluloid should serve as an alternative for the medium, I love shooting the Alexas and Blackmagics, but the magic that comes from film is something to experience. BTW Fuji and AGFA I believe they still make Film.

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I've worked with film scans for some time, when creating CG for movies. I love film since that time, and shoot film (photos) mostly since 2008 year. Film is fantastic. The feature I love most - extremely large DR, unachiavable for digital, but what even more important the Characheristic curve of film expose is creating very soft highlights. I also love film images for its details, but without sharpening feeling. We call this plasticity, but I not sure it's the right English word. Film has no hard edges. But has lots of details.

Well, I should mention film colors, of course. Film colors and its "plasticity" (plastique) creates very pleasant general feeling.

O.K.,  Shane Hurlbu made the test. But that's a wrong test, he didn't manage the film right, and I am not agree with his conclusions.

But I assume that lot of people will love digital picture more.

But you should know "the point". 

 

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Again, as much as I love my digital technology, the film restoration freak in me still comes to the fore here, and others have brought up this very valid point: long-term storage and archiving of one's projects. It is common knowledge that a properly stored film element can last decades, even to a hundred years-plus. I did some restoration work of footage shot in 1914, during World War I recently, and for the most part, the footage was in fine shape. A feature film, preserved on 35mm color-sep stock and vaulted is the gold standard. Even recent as 2009 HBO was archiving all their filmed entertainment...on film.

But it isn't cheap.

There's not yet a reliable, trusted solution for digital media yet. Do you really want to trust the feature film you slaved over to even enterprise-class hard drives or SSD's for long-term storage? Even LTO tapes (which we commonly use in my current position), don't have that long a shelf life, comparatively. 

To further extrapolate: Will the ProRes, DNxHD or even DPX codecs and file formats still be recognized by whatever systems or platforms we'll have in fifty years?

I Sincerely HOPE that the digital media technologies will crack the code for long term archiving of digital media. Because we aren't there, but we desperately need to be. And irony alert: if I won the lottery today, I would certainly archive my important work on film and vault it until that solution comes along and proves itself. :)

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Andrew, I just couldn't let this post go.  I guess I would fall into the category of the "privileged few" having been a "film" director for over 35 years and having shot film almost exclusively.  Let me start by saying while I do have a certain sense of nostalgia for film,  I'm not someone who doesn't enjoy and in fact embrace new technology.   I've been happily shooting "video" for the last 5 years with a ML equipped Canon 5D Mark 2.  I have been waiting for the "perfect digital cinema camera" to come along before I upgrade.  That has yet to happen.  Because I'm an old  guy, perhaps I may have a different prospective on this issue.  The fall of film (in my demented perspective) is not that digital is better.. but because its cheaper.  The seeds of the fall of film I think began in the early 80s.  When I made my first film, I shot it in 16mm.  At the time, a 400' roll of film (about 10 minutes running time) cost $34.00. Because of the Hunt Brothers trying to corner the Silver market, within a few weeks, the price of Silver went through the roof.  Kodak raised the price to $76.00, which of course also included raising the price of print stocks.  After a few more weeks, the price of Silver collapsed.  Kodak never adjusted the price back down.  Since then the prices of film and processing continued to rise until film and lab work fell out of reach of all but high end users.  This left a huge hole in the market that video filled. In todays economy film cannot survive.

Regarding Film versus Video;  I made a film for Warner Bros in 2001.  It was shot on an Arri 535 (Super 35mm) and was posted completely digitally.  It was only the second film ever done that way at the time.  The very first was the Cohen Brothers "Brother Where Art Thou?" The film completion bond company called it "Voodoo Technology".  Now looking back on it all these years later, I still think this marriage (Film Capture/Digital Post) was the best it ever was.  Let me be clear, you can get some terrific looking images with digital cameras but if you look at films made 10-15 years ago there are still looks you just can't get with an electronic sensor. There is a smoothness.. a silkiness that's just wonderful.  

For me digital has three big problems.  

Number 1  Rolling Shutter.  LISTEN UP CAMERA COMPANIES!!!  Don't even think about putting out another video camera with this problem... This is NOT a minor issue.  (Yes I know some of the cameras are coming out with global shutters...and I know there are work arounds).   You shouldn't have to rethink how you shoot something to accommodate the camera.

Number 2  6 O'clock News Syndrome  - I guess that I'm the only one who sees this as I've never heard anyone else mention it but it drives me crazy. During some action scenes you suddenly become aware you're watching "video" and it takes you out of the story.  The movie suddenly looks like the 6 o'clock news and the illusion of film is suddenly gone.  This seems to only happen during moving or action shots.  I wish I could finger the culprit here but I just can't tell what's going on. Maybe someone can tell me. 

Number 3 And this one is HUGE.  Archiving of Images.  Many of the major film studios still do Black and White film separations of their movies including motion pictures shot on digital.  Film has a shelf life of at least 100 years.  This is now a proven fact. To date there is no safe and foolproof way to ensure what you shot will survive longer than a few years. I believe this era will be a period of the greatest loss of photographic images... It saddens me deeply... 

So will I go back to film? Probably not (except for shooting some art projects with my old 4x5 Grapflex). Do I miss it? Yes.  There is something very tactile and wonderful about it.  You open the side of the camera ... " I love the smell of Silver Halides and Acetate in the morning.... Smells like ... Victory". 

PS sorry for being so long winded.

WM

_DSC0096e.jpg

​The above comment is thee one, you can close the thread now.

 

As a lover of movies that was raised on movies shot on film, I can tell. I can see the blown highlights of day scenes, I can see the cropped black bars that "emulates" anamorphic 35mm minus what makes it so magical along with the fake lens flare plugin that's put on top of every shot. The grain with film and the movement of it, all I have to do is point to Michael Mann's latest movie Black Hat. Go download the trailer, its there, the ghosting images of a digital sensor. Film improves movies of all like, just look at low budget B movies from the 70s and 80s, they carry a charm with them and character. Look at low budget B movies of today and it does not have lasting value cinematically say for a few exceptions.

Not to come off too strong Andrew, but your distaste for film in this article is quite absurd, I had to balance it out. Digital is great, I don't doubt the benefits but it isn't film and that's OK. With the coming of time it will just be more prevalent in Hollywood with everything going digital, even the sets and props. With the rise of the independent digital movies(which is a good thing and a bad) its going to take some real effort to find the best among the mediocre, the loss of restriction is a good along with the bad. Then again that usually comes with better film makers out weighing the lesser, its just going to be hard for them to stand out among the sea of creators filming with their iphones in this youtube centric world of not being able to focus more then a few minutes on content. Along with the entries of short films on vimeo that don't scratch the itch that is film storytelling expression with their shallow depth of field and handheld shots because putting the camera on a tripod is "too old fashion" and everything must feel kinetic like the Bourne series right next to the sea of test videos for camera gear, almost outweighing films on that site... I'm ranting now so best to stop.

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Like, how many 'files' were lost by the 'youngest' person on set deleting the files on the wrong card or overwriting....?

 

​What shonky productions have you worked on where the youngest, or any inexperienced person was allowed to play with cameras or computers unsupervised? And you are aware that files can be recovered simply and easily since about 1995, unless the same morons who let the teaboy play quake on the production computers also let him take a used card and put it back into a camera and start recording with it.

If your production has the budget to shoot film, then your production has the money to not have the most inexperienced wally on set touching things with delete buttons and the budget to have undelete software, raid harddrives and a full days worth of cards, with a box to put the used cards in that's locked.

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I shot on film for 15 years mainly Kodak Vision Stocks - but some Fuji too - Ive shot on digital for the past 10 years - do I miss it .....errr Not Really

but it does have a look you cant quite get with digital - plus its an archival devise too -

I have loads of cans of film stored from all my jobs in the 1990s .......You can hold it upto the light and look at what you did.......

god knows what will happen when all our hard drives pack up.....we will wish we all had a good archival system then........

 

 

ps did I mention shooting on film COSTS A FORTUNE.....I dont miss all that ....negative insurance...remember that hidden cost on every joib...

22
25

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I shot on film for 15 years mainly Kodak Vision Stocks - but some Fuji too - Ive shot on digital for the past 10 years - do I miss it .....errr Not Really

but it does have a look you cant quite get with digital - plus its an archival devise too -

I have loads of cans of film stored from all my jobs in the 1990s .......You can hold it upto the light and look at what you did.......

god knows what will happen when all our hard drives pack up.....we will wish we all had a good archival system then........

22

​Exactly. In 20ys you probably won't be able to watch your nowadays footage. How can we know that future players will support todays codecs? And I'm talking about the case when you make your footage survive these long 20ys.

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