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Motion picture film vs. walmart film


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#1 Danny Lachman

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Posted 14 November 2006 - 09:35 PM

Hi, My question pertains to the quality of film and what determines how to get a sharp picture.

I've always noticed that hollywood flicks get really sharp picture, however they use high speed films - such as Enterna 500 for example and it still turns out looking sharp as hell!

And as a still photographer I thought the only way to get sharp pictures was to use low speed films - like 100 or 200. However I've taken one or two photos on 800 speed and gotten fairly sharp images. I was wondering if their was a difference in the quality of film that motion pictures use compared to regular kodak or fuji film you can buy at walmart. I also was wondering what determines how sharp your image turns out.


here is that 800iso photo that came out sharp when exposed correctly:
800iso.jpg

but here is 100 speed exposed correctly and it's REALLY grainy for that speed:
100iso.JPG

so really, what's determining how sharp the film comes out and why am I not getting as sharp of images as the film industry?

By the way I use a nikon camera with nikkor lenses.

Thanks!
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#2 Jason Debus

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Posted 14 November 2006 - 10:39 PM

How are you scanning these images? 35mm negative?

The 800 speed image is also inhearantly more contrasty because of the lighting which helps the appearance of sharpness.

In general though the higher the speed the larger grain you get, depends on the specific stocks you are using though. In MP film the negative area is smaller because the film runs vertically instead of horizontally.

You can get hi-res scans off of consumer grade scanners which help to see the texture of the grain better. Here's some examples of some that I've done (negative or slide scanned on a $100 canon):

Posted Image
Kodak Porta 160NC

Posted Image
Kodak Porta 800

Posted Image
Kodak Porta 800 overexposed negative 2-3 stops and pulled back in PS

Posted Image
Kodachrome 200 (slide)

Posted Image
Fuji Superia 1600

Posted Image
Fuji Superia 1600

Posted Image
Kodak Ektachrome 64T slide (processed C-41)

Posted Image
Fuji 50D slide (processed C-41)

Posted Image
Fuji 100D slide (processed C-41)

You should be able to get sharp pictures with these films! Hope this helps, there are better informed posters that can comment on the lighting which can also help you with getting a sharp image.
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#3 Danny Lachman

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Posted 14 November 2006 - 11:06 PM

Hmmm... as far as getting to see what my 35mm negatives really look like, maybe I should invest in my own negative scanner because I always get the store to do it for me... I did not know they were that cheap! I've spent probably 100 dollars on cds they burn them on in the photo store already.....

anyways that's not really getting too far into my question but thanks for the pics you posted - slide film definitly has smaller grain but most motion pictures don't use positive film right?
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#4 Jason Debus

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Posted 15 November 2006 - 11:49 AM

Hi Danny,

I'm not the most informed when it comes to MP stocks vs still film but my understanding is that it is similar enough technology that you should get pictures as sharp as MP film. If you project a still slide of E64T onto a 40 foot screen it should look as sharp as a movie. I'm not sure if Kodak has incorporated their Vision 2 technology into their Porta line but I think Porta is at least comparable to Vision which many movies are still shot on. Plus 35mm photo has a larger exposure area which helps. If you are looking for ultra-sharp no-grain you may want to consider medium format which has a significantly larger negative than 35mm.

Much of the perceived sharpness in motion pictures has to do with the lighting. For example in still photography, doesn't a photo taken with a flash look much sharper than natural lighting? But again as I stated in my previous post there are better informed posters that can address lighting and how to make an image look sharper (I can tell you edge light helps!). I think my main point is that there isn't a significant difference in the film stocks themselves where sharpness is concerned.
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#5 Joe Sexton

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Posted 15 November 2006 - 12:06 PM

Lenses. Cheep lenses = soft pictures. I have never found the film to have much effect on sharpness. I have noticed that cheep film seems to have poor color reproduction and are a little more contrasty, but as far as sharpness, a properly exposed film should be sharp regardless of the brand. Technically speaking you should be able to get a sharper picture with still film then motion picture film. In fact Seattle Film Works used to package motion picture film to be used in still cameras and the pictures never looked as good a consumer grade Kodak print film.
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#6 Gavin Greenwalt

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Posted 15 November 2006 - 02:05 PM

It's my experience that a cheap scan will increase the apparent grain by a factor of 10 at your walmart or Walgreens etc... Even if they scan the negative not a print (much more rare).

<rant>
Then again, I've found just about no more infuriating industry than the still photography development business. You get some kid in highschool, who is God of his machine, and makes all manner of arbitrary decisions about what is and is not worthy of his holy art. An operator once didn't develop 4 photos because they "were too underexposed." No poop sherlock, I was shooting test charts, and to add insult to injury they tried to charge me the full rate because they still had to 'process' all 24 exposures.

I fully endorse the anonymous, corporate machines slaving away to develop your negatives at your local superstore. They're usually newer and more reliable than your "high end" photography shop, and you don't have to deal with the a**ho** behind the counter.
</rant>

- Gavin
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#7 Bryan Darling

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Posted 15 November 2006 - 05:48 PM

Most one-hours and mini labs tend to over sharpen on scans. Unless specifically set, I've found scans coming from any mini lab machine to have artifacts from sharpening. It looks very apparent in your 100 speed picture. These are scanned on the same machines as they make prints from. Also note the quality will depend on the file type, usually JPEG, and the amount of compression. You can see compression artifacts in both. Most times the technicians of these machines will have no idea to the inner workings and setup menus that can adjust these settings. It is setup but either the machine's company tech, ie. Fuji & Noritsu, or a tech employed by the using company, ie. Walmart, Ritz, etc.

You'll get better results from an independent pro lab that knows, really knows, about their machines and the processes involved. You will pay more, but the difference in quality should be apparent.
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#8 Danny Lachman

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Posted 16 November 2006 - 10:21 PM

It really sounds like my film probably is coming out sharp - I just need to invest in myown machine - it'll cost less in the long run. I'm now glad I've saved all my negatives!

The only way I'll know if I'm getting good exposures comparable to motion picture films will be to get a hold of a scanner where either I or the person operating it has a goal of scanning it accurately.
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#9 Bryan Darling

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 01:14 AM

I'd go to a pro or semi-pro lab with your next roll, have it processed and scanned. It shouldn't cost too much, maybe around $20. Just getting your own machine won't necessarily give you better scans. Unless you get something like a good Nikon film scanner, cheaper scanners have less dynamic range amongst other things. There is something to be said for machines that cost $150k new, I refer to the ones that are being used in mini labs as well as pro labs. You'll find that both Costco and pro labs use Noritsu machines, the quality will depend on the operator and the machines initial setup.
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#10 Christophe Collette

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 12:31 PM

Hi there, you can tell from your second image posted that what you referred to as grain is actually digital grain, not film grain, it looks to me as if the person who scanned your image saw it was soft, so he just added excessive sharpening to make up for it. Filmstock is in both discipline is fairly equivalent to my knowledge ( I would just say that kodak portra NC or VC is less contrasty than vision2 at equivalent ASA, you have more details in the blacks on Vision 2 stocks ), but remember that 35mm in photography vs 35mm in cinema is not the same, the image on your negative in photography is at least one and a half times bigger ( I don't know the exact ratio but film plane is much bigger, you are using the negative horizontally ) therefore increased size should make for less grain and more details on the neg so making image look sharper. So the problem is not there. I am both a Dop and a photographer so I can tell from experience. Get your film scanned in a decent place or ask the operator for -2 sharpening on their initial settings, that does it for me, I often go to 1h minilabs and with this note it comes out just fine. Get some decent lenses too, very often I can tell straight away when looking at a photo if it has been shot with a leica or contax for example, their lenses are so sharp it makes a world of a difference. Stopping down is also a good idea, lenses are less sharp when wide open and shooting below 1/60 of a second on an SLR can produce not so sharp images especially with a tele or zoom lens. Zooms are soft, don't use them if you don't want soft images or get a good one ( very expensive ). If you want even sharper images, then move up from 35mm to 120mm, lenses are often better and film size will allow for more details on the neg. You can find great medium format kits very cheap these days, 200$ gets a long way, a Mamiya 645 even. Lighting also plays a role, flash is sharper, especially if you are backlighting as well. And finally, get both your camera and your eyes checked if you still have softness problem, it sounds dumb but it's really important as a photographer or Dop to have 20/20 eyesight if focussing manually or pulling focus yourself.

Hope this helps,

Chris
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#11 Hal Smith

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 12:52 PM

For what it's worth, 5/7285 is virtually identical to 35mm Ektachrome 100VS still film. I've poured over all the technical data on Kodak's website and there's very little, if any, difference. Importantly, John Pytlak didn't tell me I was nuts when I emailed him about the two - he didn't say "yes, they're the same", but did allow as how they were very similar films.
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