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Future of 35mm


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#1 A.J. Green

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 11:46 AM

This is a pretty broad question but I'm looking for broad range of experience.

What can 35mm do that video can't? I'm asking this as I've got a pitch for some finance and I have to justify shooting film over video formats. More specific than film 'just looks better' or better latitude or control of DOF - I'm looking for connection with the technical to story and to atmosphere, like frame rate change mid shot to focus an emotion - that sort of thing. Any good stories and ideas would be much appreciated, this is my first post -thought I should wait until I had a question worth asking!

Thanks in advance.

Andy
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 12:51 PM

Frame rate changes etc are more a feature of the camera you're on as opposed to the medium you're shooting.
For film; DoF Manipulation, Variety of Stocks for Different locations/looks, better color rendition, proven and mostly standardized workflows, better dynamic range. Now you take these technical benefits and pair it to the story you're telling. Without knowing the story you're telling it's pretty nebulous. I mean; hell, video works better for some stories than film does. . .
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#3 Simon Wyss

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 02:10 PM

Chemical film is more down to the ground, is more basic because physical. You have always materials that store picture and sound. You can break it or cut it. You put it together with cement or by welding or with adhesive tape. There is someone loading a magazine, there is someone rushing to a lab, there are technicians who develop, who lace up printers, who make density measurements. There are projectionists in tens of thousands of theaters. Film needs manpower. Video, I call it video, is made as a finger tip thing. No rubber gloves, no cotton gloves, no cleaning liquids, and no waiting. Films take time to grow, to ripen, to bear fruit. That is what's killing 35 mm (and any other format), the ever too hastened attitude. Films cost money, money for working people. One example for this being good: Synchronism can be regulated until the last moment. I am free to observe the cinema synch concept in threading the projectors. Do you have that control in the digital world ?

Optics are different because photographic film layers are not infinitely thin. Cameras differ considerably depending on whether you want a cat on your shoulder or a versatile instrument for a CinemaScope adventure. With film you can deploy contrasts up to eight stops on screen (density log 5 is possible). The whole process of editing with a resistance from the sheer mass of material tends to sort film editors from non film editors.

You can make a film without electricity: Spring driven camera, hand driven printer (not that much of a difficulty), hand driven projector with limelight. The Lumière for instance copied first with the apparatus in front of a sun lit white wall, lens removed. Many a travelling operator in the 1890s processed his strips in a hotel's tub. Read Oscar Depue's memories, very funny.

Film sharpens your senses. You do it. Television and video and computer imagery is completely void of any sensual quality.

To round it off, film connects you to the 19th century like a nice book connects you to the 15th or cookery connects you to the dawn of civilization.
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#4 David Rakoczy

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 06:04 PM

But most Films are shot on 35mm and transferred to 1s and 0s then back to Film for projection and/or straight to DVD... so a lot of what you described Simon does not apply.

The long and short of it is Film is Film. Period. Why do you think most 'real' projects are shot on Film?

A.J... you really answered your own question. You know what's up ;)

Do a 'Film vs Video' Search... this debate is endless....

Edited by David Rakoczy, 06 November 2008 - 06:07 PM.

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#5 A.J. Green

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 06:57 PM

Simon, this is what I'm talking about and I love your passion as I feel we're only at the start of using film. I've shared you're post with my director (note: I'm a Producer not a DP - I only shoot film)

This is what my director has to say,

For me, film has soul. Digital has maths. Silver halide crystals suspended in gelatine, seem to capture light like the neurons capture memory. Not merely reality, but reality through the prism of emotion, through the assymetrical matrix of organic matter. In the image created by light shining through celluloid, the mind seems to recognize the character of its own dreams.

Video offers not dreams, but a poor-man's approximation of reality. It is the fact that it has no appreciable, or at least desirable, innate aesthetic that is the real hammer blow for me. People do not choose video for that "gorgeous digital look". In fact, huge time and effort in postproduction is put into making it look like something it is not. And the look is that of film, the very medium the proponents of digital rail against. This fact makes it very plain that the choice of digital over film is one made on perceived economic and practical grounds, rather than aesthetic or artistic ones. And in the creation of art, should practicality take precedence over quality?

Furthermore, this "economy" frequently proves to be false, as what is being shunned is a century of expertise in the format that is still the overwhelming choice for the world's top filmmakers, and for the motion picture industry. "Practical" benefits also frequently prove illusory as unforseen technical constraints hamper both photography and postproduction. The increased slavery to monitors wrenches the image out of the control of the cinematographer, whose viewfinder actually gives the best sense of what the image will mean to an audience in a dark theatre, cut off from other extraneous visual distractions.

Video also breeds indecision. Why decide when you can shoot a scene from every angle? If you don't need to decide, you don't need to think. Moreover, all you have done is postpone th inevitable, and landed your editor with a morass of "options" all which the quality of one idea, brilliantly executed. Film breeds conviction. Everything about its means of production encourages the filmmakers to rigourously interrogate why they are doing what they are doing, and to commit to one course of action.
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#6 Benson Marks

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 10:32 PM

Frame rate changes etc are more a feature of the camera you're on as opposed to the medium you're shooting.
For film; DoF Manipulation, Variety of Stocks for Different locations/looks, better color rendition, proven and mostly standardized workflows, better dynamic range. Now you take these technical benefits and pair it to the story you're telling. Without knowing the story you're telling it's pretty nebulous. I mean; hell, video works better for some stories than film does. . .


I couldn't agree more. Some movies are better when shot on video than on film. Personally, I don't give a care whether a movie was shot on 35mm or on some fancy prosumer-level digital camcorder. Nobody really cares what the movie was shot on as long as it was great. You can make a great low-budget movie shot on digital video ("The Blair Witch Project" is partly video), just as you can also make a really lame movie that was shot on 35mm (I don't even need to make an example. Most movies, I'm guessing 90-95% of them, are shot on 35mm.). I would pick digital video if you're doing an independent or low-budget film, but I would do 35mm only if you're doing a larger-budget film that is over the $1,000,000 mark. Then again, I'm not in the directing business yet, so I don't necessarily have experience with either of the two formats. All I know is that I don't have a preference myself. Who knows? My attitude could be different some years from now.
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#7 Bruce Greene

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 01:02 AM

Simon, this is what I'm talking about and I love your passion as I feel we're only at the start of using film. I've shared you're post with my director (note: I'm a Producer not a DP - I only shoot film)

People do not choose video for that "gorgeous digital look".


I think this subject is akin to talking about religion:)

That said, I think some do choose digital for that "gorgeous digital look".

While I shot my last picture on 35mm film, I still like the look of digital. I think if I put the digital stills I shot next to stills from the scanned film though, it would be very hard to tell them apart, at least until enlarged enough for the film grain to show. I know that my digital stills look far better than the dailies scans.

To me, the display medium has more to do with the look than the recording medium. I've seen digital projection of of 35mm that looked "digital" to me and film projection of digital original that looked perfectly film like. I think I'm beginning to like the digital display more than the average film projection though.

I will predict though...that as viewers get used to large screen digital displays at home, they will come to prefer the look of digital display over the film projection at their local multiplex. But I must be careful...this can be considered heresy around here!
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#8 Fran Kuhn

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 01:22 AM

Hi Andy,

For me it's all about the look. It's like this: Film = Tom Waits. HD = Billy Joel. Both talented guys, but if you have to ask the difference, you just don't get it.

BTW I shoot mostly digital everything (stills and motion) for clients these days. It's hard to get the digital genie back in the bottle because clients are addicted to seeing everything on-set on a 30-inch cinema display. I still shoot film for anything family-related or personal projects.

-Fran
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#9 A.J. Green

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 04:17 AM

Thanks Fran and everyone else,

Tom waits like a flashed roll of Reala 500D and Billy Joel more HDV and Billy Idol that's like shooting the movie on a cell phone. Joking aside, I take the point being made here - the content picks the format. What I'm asking is this: When you've gone for 35mm what are the characteristics that have informed this descision, Tom Waits has a gruff and ruff and tumble style to him - often found proping up the bar so maybe I'd go for the Fuji Reala if I'm shooting mixed light, and shoot S16 to res-down - maybe not? so I was looking for some of these descisons relating to film in general over video not which is better. Any thoughts?

cheers, Andy
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#10 georg lamshöft

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Posted 09 November 2008 - 07:26 AM

From my perspective (simple guy just sitting in the cinema watching your work ;-) it makes a big difference. Whenever I saw a digitally shot movie (with a serious digital cinema camera like Genesis) I was distracted by the artifical look of movement.
From my experience in still photography I know that 35mm can resolve 4k detail and using a hybrid process (not digital OR film but shooting film & scanning) gives you the best of both worlds but scanning is an art for itself and many DIs are simply horrible and far from showing the true potencial of the film. With all the 1080p-formats (Blu-Ray...) and the simple transfer to this format when using HD-cameras sometimes gives you the impression that 35mm isn't better, but that's a problem of post-production, not of 35mm itself.

Film is chemical, it's failures still look "natural", because our eyes/brain are also working in a similar way, while even the slightest digital/mathematical artifact looks artifical. Digital cinema cameras will come, and they get better every year but 35mm is also progressing and still gives superior results (in my eyes) while it's disadvantages (speed... that made digital so popular in still photography) are nearly irrelevant when producing a x-million-€ TV-series or movie - or am I wrong?

I always get the impression that many people use digital just because they think it's inappropriate using "19th century-technology" in the 21st century!? It makes me sad seeing horrible digital images by so talented people like Mann or Fincher while incredible, accessible and affordable (by them) technology like 65mm is simply ignored.

I think the industry should seek for the best possible quality of both technologies and let the dops, directors (=artists) instead of businessmen decide...

Just my two cents... :rolleyes:
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#11 Joseph Zizzo

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Posted 09 November 2008 - 10:04 AM

from an aesthetic/philosophical standpoint, my view at this point is that HD is kind of like that person we all know whose home is perfect and spotless and neat all the time. we kind of don't know how they do it, but it is a little too perfect, and not lived-in at all, and kind of artificial. for me, that is HD. Film is more like the way most of the rest of us live: spotless and perfect under the right circumstances, kind of imperfect and a little unpredictable under others. but natural-feeling in most circumstances.

from a technical standpoint, the HD formats gobble up light. you almost never have enough. this especially a nuisance when shooting urban night exteriors. a good 500 asa film, like 5229, can see so much on city street, with only minimal augmentation necessary. you can really underexpose it, so effectively you are working at 800 or 1000asa, without increasing grain much, and that's without pushing the film in the lab. most HD formats say they are equivalent to 320 asa, but i have not found that to be the case. they are most happy at 250, without boosting the gain, which then will make your blacks break up in a decidedly unpleasing, electronic, noisy kind of way. underexpose film, and you get these nice soft black/grays in the shadows and beautiful falloff in the mids.

HD really doesn't like tungsten light, or any light other than daylight, for that matter. shoot under uncorrected flourescents with film, and you get this nice, subtle, greenish tone - very natural looking, and totally adjustable in telecine/DI. with HD, it looks like the set was painted lime green, and it's very difficult to adjust in post without all sorts of unintended consequences. this aspect of HD makes skintones a problem - it's hard to get people's faces to look natural under many lighting situations - which is kind of a bummer. many others on this forum have attested to that fact, if you want to do a little search.

you have to keep giving HD light, but then you can't let the highlights get too hot! for example, on a big wide bright daytime cityscape, HD looks amazing if you shoot it with the sun at your back, front-lit. but if you go for a back-lit look, the shadows get too deep, and the highlights off the metal and glass - and skin, if there are people in the shot - are too bright. there is no way to expose wherein the highlights don't clip or the shadows don't go too dark. so far i have not found a way around this.

that being said, the digital formats are advancing in leaps and bounds, and i'm sure that's all we'll be shooting in 5-10 years. i just can't wait for HD to be as versatile as film! :rolleyes:
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#12 Glen Alexander

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Posted 09 November 2008 - 01:02 PM

From my perspective (simple guy just sitting in the cinema watching your work ;-) it makes a big difference. Whenever I saw a digitally shot movie (with a serious digital cinema camera like Genesis) I was distracted by the artifical look of movement.
From my experience in still photography I know that 35mm can resolve 4k detail and using a hybrid process (not digital OR film but shooting film & scanning) gives you the best of both worlds but scanning is an art for itself and many DIs are simply horrible and far from showing the true potencial of the film. With all the 1080p-formats (Blu-Ray...) and the simple transfer to this format when using HD-cameras sometimes gives you the impression that 35mm isn't better, but that's a problem of post-production, not of 35mm itself.

Film is chemical, it's failures still look "natural", because our eyes/brain are also working in a similar way, while even the slightest digital/mathematical artifact looks artifical. Digital cinema cameras will come, and they get better every year but 35mm is also progressing and still gives superior results (in my eyes) while it's disadvantages (speed... that made digital so popular in still photography) are nearly irrelevant when producing a x-million-€ TV-series or movie - or am I wrong?

I always get the impression that many people use digital just because they think it's inappropriate using "19th century-technology" in the 21st century!? It makes me sad seeing horrible digital images by so talented people like Mann or Fincher while incredible, accessible and affordable (by them) technology like 65mm is simply ignored.

I think the industry should seek for the best possible quality of both technologies and let the dops, directors (=artists) instead of businessmen decide...

Just my two cents... :rolleyes:


I've ranted on in previous posts about film but since you're from Berlin.

So, why doesn't the Berlinale have a VV projector? I was going to submit to it but I'm not going to reduce my VV film down to 4-perf land.

Edited by Glen Alexander, 09 November 2008 - 01:03 PM.

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#13 Paul Bruening

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Posted 09 November 2008 - 02:04 PM

What can 35mm do that video can't?


Bankrupt you?
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#14 Stephen Williams

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Posted 09 November 2008 - 02:22 PM

Bankrupt you?


Hi,

I think the depreciation on many video cameras over the last 30 years would have bankrupted you first!

Stephen
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#15 Glen Alexander

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Posted 09 November 2008 - 02:32 PM

Bankrupt you?



ha ha ha, that's the truth :lol:
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#16 David Rakoczy

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Posted 09 November 2008 - 03:27 PM

I think the depreciation on many video cameras over the last 30 years would have bankrupted you first! - Stephen


Amen Stephen... amen!

Edited by David Rakoczy, 09 November 2008 - 03:28 PM.

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#17 Hunter Hampton

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Posted 09 November 2008 - 04:31 PM

Back Then:

Sony Betacam SP Camcorder Price: about $50,000

Arri Sr3 s16mm camera price : about $50,000

Today:

the betaSP camera sells for about $4000

and the SR3 sells for $25K-35K used

How is that for going bankrupt? ; )
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#18 Dan Goulder

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Posted 09 November 2008 - 04:34 PM

What can 35mm do that video can't?

Look great. (Video can look good.)
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#19 David Rakoczy

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Posted 09 November 2008 - 06:18 PM

...and whatever a SR2 or 3 depreciated.. the Lenses sure made up for it! ;)
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#20 georg lamshöft

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Posted 10 November 2008 - 02:15 PM

"Look great. (Video can look good.)"

As strange as it sounds, that's exactly my impression. I have seen many film & video work were I wasn't sure about the technology used, but sometimes I see specific scenes that look so "great" that I know for sure that this is film (and I was never wrong)!?


@Glen Alexander

I don't know anything about VV-projectors on the Berlinale, but some participating cinemas have 70mm-projectors, is there any chance to make a 70mm-print from your VV-work (propably not without an expensive DI)?

The German commercial-director Nico Beyer uses VV since many years, maybe he knows more than I do!?
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