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Learning Film Stock Characteristics


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#1 Alex Hall

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 03:08 PM

Hi All,

I am an aspiring cinematographer and I'm trying to learn all I can about film stocks and thier characteristics. I dont have the means or the budget to shoot 16 or 35. What is the best was to learn about the film stocks out there and what they can do? Thanks
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#2 Edgar Dubrovskiy

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 03:17 PM

Yes, this is an interesting topic for me too. I always shot on digital, but now start getting into film (16mm at the moment). Is there any chart or list of basic film stock characteristics?
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#3 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 07:39 PM

Isn't there some site where the have various stocks shooting the same scene with the same lens, camera and stops under different lighting conditions to use as a comparison test? If not it would probably be a good idea.

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 12 November 2007 - 07:40 PM.

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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 09:11 AM

Most film manufacturers list their stocks characteristics and curves that you can read. Kodak also has stills of original negative date which shows you little bits with their approximate exposure values.
A good way to learn about film, overall, is to shoot some stills. It's not EXACTLY the same (being a still and not in motion) but it will give you a good idea of what types of tolerances film has (the porta 400, for example from Kodak, reminds me a good deal of expressions 500T) as well as the amount of information recoverable from misexposure (if you have access to a negative scanner, such as one of the Nikons).
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#5 David Auner aac

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 10:03 AM

I am an aspiring cinematographer and I'm trying to learn all I can about film stocks and thier characteristics. I dont have the means or the budget to shoot 16 or 35. What is the best was to learn about the film stocks out there and what they can do? Thanks


Kodak has nice DVDs with stock comparisons available. You should be able to get them for free at your local Kodak branch.

Cheers, Dave
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 11:24 AM

Trouble is that modern stocks are so similar that the differences are not particularly visible on DVD, barely in HDTV. Plus video color-correction can change the characteristics of a stock. Of course, to some extent this means that if you are shooting for standard def broadcast, the differences between 200T and 500T Kodak Vision-2 are pretty subtle, slightly less visible grain.

I remember seeing the Kodak demo on Vision-2 on the big screen and even during a three-way split-screen between 100T, 200T, and 500T, it was hard to see much difference, and on a TV screen, near impossible.

You really need to shoot a test and print and project it to see how the stock really looks. Or at least, go to Kodak or Fuji and arrange for them to project their demos, which they will do.

A line-up is generally designed to match each other, just vary by speed and thus grain. Then there are the few oddball special-look stocks, like the low-cons (Kodak Expression and Fuji 400T) and the high-con (Fuji Vivid 160T.) Otherwise, Kodak Vision-2 50D, 100T, 200T, 250T, and 500T are all designed to look like each other, same goes for Fuji Eterna 250D, 250T, and 500T.

Then there are the older stocks like Fuji Reala 500D and F-64D, and Kodak's Vision-1 '79 and '74.
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#7 K Borowski

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 07:06 PM

Neg. stocks all use the same dyes (within Kodak, not sure about Fuji) which is called single channel printing technology in still photography. THis means all your Vision2's use the same dyes, and all of your Vision stocks used the same dyes, although the individual EXRs might have varied from one speed to another.

Kodak brags about how its movie stocks are designed to "intercut seamlessly", so I agree it would be hard to see the difference unless you're in a situation where you're pushing a stock to it's limit (where the 500T would probably be the best choice anyway).

You can buy short ends of ECN-2 stocks and respool them for a still SLR for a quick comparison, although it's difficult to find processing. I'd recommend Dale Labs in Florida for this (they even make "prints"/slides on ECP Vision print stock), as A&I is overpriced and has had bad reviews. Keep in mind that, unless you're using a "half frame" 35mm still camera you're getting twice or 2 2/3 as much retail area ( an inch and a half square) as you would be getting per frame of movie film, so this will further minimize the differences as the grain is smaller in an 8-perf image.

It might be best (I swore I'd never be the one to say this too) to get the film you shoot scanned as high resolution still files so you can look at each frame under high magnification and really have a chance to compare one stock to another in a small area of the frame.

It's important too when doing tests to resist the urge to be artistic and shoot something standard with each stock, as boring as that may seem. You can still be creative and find an interesting scene or attractive subject, just keep the pose and lighting as close as possible when crossing between stocks.

Also try to keep in mind that you want to try to vary your lighting, not your T stop or filtration to get proper exposure with different ISO speed stocks, or else you will introduce other variables like lens distortion or aberations from being stopped down too far which will cloud the objectivity of your comparison.

~KB
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