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General question regarding film stock


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#1 Jimmie Vigil

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 02:59 AM

Hello, I am currently going to school as a film major (but I'm only doing GE right now). I don't plan on becoming a cinematographer, but I have some questions I was hoping you guys could answer.

1. What is the easiest way to learn about different film stocks? Are there books or websites that compare (with pictures) different film stocks?

2. Are older film stocks still available? The reason I ask is that I have a predisposition to the way films looked in the 1960's and 1970's. The modern attempts at recreating these looks always seem to fail in my opinion, and I was wondering if it is possible to get that look today. I noticed that in the film, Lumière et compagnie, they achieved a VERY old look (perhaps older than I'd like to use) using the original Cinematographe invented by the Lumière Brothers, working under conditions similar to those of 1895. Would using the same equipment from any given era along with a modern film stock get you that era's look?

Sorry if these questions are too general or use improper terms, I'm still learning.
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#2 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 03:16 AM

You're asking for the "easiest" way, right?

Well, Kodak sometimes holds screenings of film tests that they've conducted with various film stocks. That's a good introduction to the characteristics of what they carry. Also, Fuji offers a free DVD on their website with various examples of all their current Eterna stock.

Hard time consuming way, yet very valuable for my experience:

I like to purchase 100' rolls of a certain stock and do an "exposure test" to see really where it performs best and where it really starts to fall apart.

An exposure test is when you light an stationary actor with a gray card beside them, and a half black and half white background. You then do various takes, starting from Normal exposure then changing your f-stop on the lens (or adjusting your lights to get a different exposure) with each take, respectively, progressively underexposing the image and then progressively overexposing the image. You then get a print of your film and get both a normal print and a timed print (the timed print adjusts every take back to normal exposure, so you can really see the characteristics of the film and its grain)

Hope that answers your question.

Regarding film stocks from the 60's or 70's...tough luck, I'd say. It all depends on what sort of look your going for, but keep in mind that back in the early days of cinema the film stocks were very slow, thus requiring A LOT of light. So if you're looking to recreate something like that, a slower stock would probably do you some good.
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#3 Jimmie Vigil

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 04:19 AM

Regarding film stocks from the 60's or 70's...tough luck, I'd say. It all depends on what sort of look your going for, but keep in mind that back in the early days of cinema the film stocks were very slow, thus requiring A LOT of light. So if you're looking to recreate something like that, a slower stock would probably do you some good.


Thanks for the info about the dvds and if I ever have the money to conduct the more thorough tests that you've described, I'm all for it (I love that sort of thing). As for the 60's and 70's film, was speed the only difference? I can see how that would lower the depth of field since everything in the background can't be lit as well as the foreground, but does that explain why the contrast and detail is different?
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#4 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 01:45 AM

Regarding motion picture films of the 60s and 70s, the printing process of the time (negative to reversal process) may have partly contributed to a certain 'look' that seems reminiscent of films of that era. Lens technology and film stocks would have played their part too.

Of course a lot of colour movies made during the 1930s and 1940s were shot using the three strip technicolour process (three individual strips of black & white film with coloured filters) so it is no surprise that such films had a very distinct and peculiar 'look' which is quite unlike anything seen today.

Some film originated television shows of the 60s and 70s (particularly the grainy exterior footage of BBC shows) had a certain look. Many such shows (with the exception of US shows) were shot on 16mm film which produced grainier footage compared to the modern film stocks used to shoot 16mm nowadays. Additionally, most of the 16mm film stocks of this period were reversal rather than negative. And the technology to transfer film to video back then was quite dated and also contributed to a certain 'look.'
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