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The Future of High Speed film


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#1 Keneu Luca

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Posted 20 July 2006 - 10:05 PM

Is Michael Mann choosing to shoot video these days purely because current film stocks aren't fast and fine-grained enough to catch details at night?

Even if ths isn't his (and other filmmakers) reason for switching, it got me wondering.

I don't follow the research and development happenings of Kodak and Fuji as other filmmakwers might, but I do wonder, are they aggressively seeking to produce stocks that can capture as much or close to all the things the human eye can see at night?

It seems to me that it is theoretically possible. An unprecedented ultra speed stock with extremely fine grain. Kodak could call it HUMAN VISION.

Alright, I call it right now, the rights to that name are mine. :P

I do realize that such a stock would require a similar technological advance in lens optics. So, assuming this would happen too.

Edited by Keneu, 20 July 2006 - 10:07 PM.

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#2 Daniel Stigler

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Posted 21 July 2006 - 12:03 AM

Is Michael Mann choosing to shoot video these days purely because current film stocks aren't fast and fine-grained enough to catch details at night?



A lot of current HD cameras aren't as fast as 500 ASA filmstock is. This might be one reason the companies selling these videothings never give a sensitivity rating of their sensors in ASA.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 July 2006 - 12:21 AM

The base setting at 0 db on most HD cameras is similar to current high-speed stocks, around a practical 500 ASA. You could say it's 320 ASA on one camera and 640 ASA on another, but for all intents and purposes, high-speed film and HD are similar in sensitivity.

The difference is when you boost the image to compensate for underexposure when shooting in really low light levels. As film gets push-processed, it gets more contrasty -- you don't have any more shadow detail, you're just boosting the density of the areas that got exposed onto the negative. Plus you lose a little sharpness because you are recording detail only on the larger (faster) grains.

As video gets gain-boosted, the contrast doesn't go up, so there is an openness to the shadows for city night stuff that is different than pushed film, which will probably have better blacks but less shadow detail. This is even more obvious if you compare city nightscapes where you've pushed film two stops versus boosted the gain on an HD camera by +12 db, let's say.

Combine that with the fact that usually you are shooting near wide-open on the lens, which creates a shallow-focus look in 35mm but there is more depth of field on average with a 2/3" CCD camera. Plus if you want to use a zoom at night, most 35mm zoom lenses are a little slower and physically larger than HD zooms.

So all of this contributes to the perception that you can shoot in lower light levels with HD than you can with 35mm.

Since the primary factor that determines the sensitivity of a film stock is the size of the grains (larger grains have more surface area exposed to light), it's hard to design a really fast film that is also fine-grained. The recent Kodak Vision-2 stocks have already taken advantage of some new designs that are more efficient at collecting light.

I've heard that there is a practical limit to the speed of color negative, although I think Kodak and Fuji should release a super-fast film no matter how grainy it is, just to compete with digital, maybe a 1600 ASA stock (if people like Mann aren't afraid of electronic noise, they probably won't object to visible graininess either.)
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#4 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 21 July 2006 - 12:32 PM

I've heard that there is a practical limit to the speed of color negative, although I think Kodak and Fuji should release a super-fast film no matter how grainy it is, just to compete with digital, maybe a 1600 ASA stock (if people like Mann aren't afraid of electronic noise, they probably won't object to visible graininess either.)


---The practical limit is due mostly to fogging from cosmic rays and standard background radiation.
Thus the film has an extremely short shelf life. Apparently too short to be practical.

Perhaps Mr.Pytlak can expand on this.

I used to shoot stills with Konica EI 3200. Comparing prints from that with prints from E-4 Ektachrome pushed a stop and a half to EI 400, I found the grain to be similar.
I would expect the grain on a modern EI1600 stock to be comparable to an early 50s color negative.

The big problem I had was accurately focusing wide angles in dim light. A rangefinder would have beeb better than an SLR.


___LV
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#5 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 21 July 2006 - 01:37 PM

Kodak did of course have Kodak VISION 800T Color Negative Film 5289, using the older VISION technology. The newer Kodak VISION2 500T Color Negative Film 5218 provides much less graininess than 5289, even with some underexposure and/or push processing to match the higher exposure index of the older film.

Kodak continues significant R&D in new technology for motion picture films. Whether new high speed films are on the way...? Time will tell, I won't.
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#6 dd3stp233

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 04:24 AM

I find it rather strange that there isn't already higher speed stocks for motion picture use since there are and have been several for professional still photography. To name a few Konica srg-3200, Fujicolor Provia 1600 and Fuji Superia 1600. For black and white Kodak Tmax 3200 and Ilford Delta 3200 and that's just to name a few. So it seems the technology for making very high speed emulsions is already available. They just have not adapted it for use in motion picture film.
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#7 Chris Burke

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 08:09 AM

I find it rather strange that there isn't already higher speed stocks for motion picture use since there are and have been several for professional still photography. To name a few Konica srg-3200, Fujicolor Provia 1600 and Fuji Superia 1600. For black and white Kodak Tmax 3200 and Ilford Delta 3200 and that's just to name a few. So it seems the technology for making very high speed emulsions is already available. They just have not adapted it for use in motion picture film.




I think that such a high speed stock could come in handy for projects that will live on video only. I personally don't mind grain, even if it is big and bold. It seems as if people these days equate visible grain as being bad somehow. I like the look of a pushed film stock over the electronic noise one sometimes gets with a HD camera in low light situations.
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#8 Charles MacDonald

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 07:56 PM

I find it rather strange that there isn't already higher speed stocks for motion picture use since there are and have been several for professional still photography. To name a few Konica srg-3200, Fujicolor Provia 1600 and Fuji Superia 1600. For black and white Kodak Tmax 3200 and Ilford Delta 3200 and that's just to name a few.

I think their used to be a "newspaper" 3200 also if I recall, I can rember shooting some of it about 12 years ago now. Fairly detailed pictures by streetlight, with a handheld Pentax. I supose that the folks that it was aimed at have gone Digital these days, Still it is surprising that with all the other movement of still film to Movie, that they have not made something like that a "specail order" - even if it would need C-41 processing.

Of course the minimum batch size may make it likly that they would have to thow a lot of it away, As was pointed out such speeds mean natural radiation becomes the storage life limit no matter how cold you keep the stuff.
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#9 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 24 July 2006 - 12:38 PM

Very high speed films are also more sensitive to pressure marks and static marks, which have especially stringent design specifications for motion picture stocks that will be used in a wide variety of cameras and conditions.
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#10 Erdwolf_TVL

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 10:11 AM

A cheap-and-nasty way to achieve high-speed, low grain would be to capture the three primary colours on three separate strips of high-speed black-and-white. Like the old Technicolor systems.

Perhaps Kodak can develop a stock where the silver halide grains are replaced with nanobots that are not just light- but also colour sensitive. Then, you'd have only one colour layer and grain comparable to current-day B&W.
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 10:15 AM

A cheap-and-nasty way to achieve high-speed, low grain would be to capture the three primary colours on three separate strips of high-speed black-and-white. Like the old Technicolor systems.


The trouble with that idea is that current color negative technology is already finer-grained than b&w technology, and the prism/filter design of a Technicolor camera would lose a couple of stops in the system.

Here's an even simpler way to use high-speed stock with less visible grain: 65mm.
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#12 Robert Hughes

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Posted 27 July 2006 - 02:54 PM

Perhaps Kodak can develop a stock where the silver halide grains are replaced with nanobots that are not just light- but also colour sensitive. Then, you'd have only one colour layer and grain comparable to current-day B&W.

The trouble with that idea is that the nanobots might get loose during the processing steps and infect the waterways. It'll be a Blue World within minutes! :o
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#13 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 27 July 2006 - 03:03 PM

Here's an even simpler way to use high-speed stock with less visible grain: 65mm.


Most cinematographers know that. :) Unfortunately the production companies usually forget that "Size DOES Matter" when it comes to formats and image quality, whether it's film or file size. Not sure how many "beancounters" have seen how good larger formats can look on a big screen, or know that 4K really makes a significant difference in image quality.
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