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Do you prefer Positive or Negative Film?


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#1 Terry Mester

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 04:12 AM

Do you prefer Positive or Negative Film?

I want to enquire of Super16 cinematographers as to whether you prefer Positive (Reversal) Film or Negative Film. If you are going to be doing duplicating, then you have to shoot with Negative Film. However, if you're only going to Telecine your camera original, do you consider Positive Film to be more useful and beneficial as a cinematographer? One benefit to shooting on Positive is that if there should be any quality issues with the Telecine, you can look at the Film to see if the problem is with the Film or the Telecine. Now I realize that Kodak doesn't currently offer enough Ektachrome brands to suit all Super16 colour filming needs. I want to convince Kodak to offer a few more Ektachrome brands to Super16 users. Would you like to have more Ektachrome choices available to you?
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#2 Dominic Case

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 05:49 PM

One of the greatest advantages of shooting negative is its latitude, or exposure range. You capture a much wider range of tones, which you can then work with on telecine. If you shoot reversal you are throwing that advantage away.

So far as looking at the film itself (for quality issues) is concerned, why can't you look at negative? If a few more telecine operators bothered to look at the actual negative itself, we'd have far fewer anquished postings here and elsewhere about mysterious scratches or flashes or jittery images.

In the old days when it was used for newsgathering and current affairs, the point was that editors could cut the original material without waiting for a print - and telecines were better configured for transferring a projectable amage than a negative. But that was then - this is now. Today I can't see any good reason for shooting reversal for telecine.
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#3 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 06:04 PM

It is all case by case, but negative generally rules for its latitude, as Dominic points out.

I know some telecine ops who are terrified to get their hands (gloves or not) on the actual negative even if they suspect something is actually wrong with it. Liability may be a reason, the US being the land of the lawsuit, but I really dunno.
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#4 Will Montgomery

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 09:23 AM

I know some telecine ops who are terrified to get their hands (gloves or not) on the actual negative even if they suspect something is actually wrong with it. Liability may be a reason, the US being the land of the lawsuit, but I really dunno.

Really? Every colorist I know deals with negative film 98% of the time... they wouldn't have much of a job if they were afraid of negative...
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#5 Topher Ryan

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 05:43 AM

If reversal stocks are inherently finer grained than negative stocks, and we aren't doing a hell of a lot of printing these days, would it not make sense for Kodak or Fuji to put more R&D into new reversal stocks. What is the real barrier to achieving better latitude with reversal?

http://www.cinematog...=...st&p=295323

I've always known negative stocks to have greater latitude compared to reversal, but I am a little ignorant as to why. Did negative become king simply because, for decades, workflows depended on striking prints and protecting the camera original from projectors and steenbecks (and thus all R&D went that way)? Is there some other law of nature I am overlooking?

Now that we often immediately scan the camera original into the digital realm, could we have even finer grain by applying new technology/chemistry to reversal stocks?

Is the difference in grain even significant?

Negative film makes a little more sense to me in 35mm acquisition, since (for now) most theaters show 35mm prints. And I guess in 16mm we just take whatever hand-me-down stocks our big bro is wearing. If digital projection really takes over and we still shoot on film, would it make more sense to have badass reversal stocks? Is DI any easier from reversal/prints? (In the DIY scanning quest it is!)

A Brave New World where reversal 16 latitude and grain performance matches vision3 35... and DI for cheap! Am I dreaming?
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#6 K Borowski

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 09:14 AM

At least as far as Kodak is concerned, I think it has been almost ten years since they've improved their slide films. They've axed a significant portion of their inventory since then, including the VNF line and all slide films with speeds over 200D.

Considering the advances Kodak has made in neg. film sice then, I'd say a lot of the finer-grainedness of slide film has been mitigated by all of the R&D on neg.

The slow speed makes them nigh near useless for a lot of applications in cinematography.

The availability of only one stock, one with wonky color saturation, is a further drawback.

The S8 offering, E64T, is something Kodak should be embarassed they introduced. That film is over 30 years old, and is grainy because it was originally somethign used with the fashion photographers with the big accordion cameras, with the big sheets of film to use.

It was never intended for S8, then or now.


The fine-grain of slide films is due to the development process, just as the shallow latitude range is. It's the nature of the beast. When you develop, bleach, and then re-develop film, the finest-grain silver is what ends up in the final image. The "negative" step of the slide process removes all of the higher-grain silver.

Then again, just because the grain that ends up in the final image is smaller doesn't translate to higher resolution either, necessarily. The grain is smaller; the image isn't sharper. . .


If you want better latitude with reversal, Topher, you'd need to lower the contrast, which is, I think part of why ECO was designed that way (another part of the reasoning being that its low contrast allowed it to be more-easily copied multiple times). So the ability to project it and need for a high D-max makes achieving better latitude difficult at best.

In general, in layman's terms HIGHER CONTRAST = LOWER LATITUDE.
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#7 David Rakoczy

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 09:50 AM

Do you like positive or negative film?

That is like asking do you like Italian or Sushi?... it all depends on what you are in the mood for.... what the project calls for... that is why we have a menu of Stocks to choose from.
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#8 K Borowski

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 10:09 AM

Do you like positive or negative film?

That is like asking do you like Italian or Sushi?... it all depends on what you are in the mood for.... what the project calls for... that is why we have a menu of Stocks to choose from.


I honestly wish there were more of a selection of reversal stocks, because they are good for certain situations, would be great for low-budget stuff.

But there's only one item on the menu E100VS. That stock serves a very limited range of uses, unless you want to shine 100,000W of light off of tin-foil on the ceiling to achieve normal-looking exposure.

Also, consider a conversation where you have to tell the director "Gee, sorry, we were over by a stop and a half on that shot because they set the stop wrong on the camera. We'll have to reshoot it entirely."

Not going to go over well.
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#9 David Rakoczy

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 10:14 AM

That might help... tho I shoot 100t (rated at 64) all the time.. no need to be afraid of Light... B)
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#10 K Borowski

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 10:26 AM

That might help... tho I shoot 100t (rated at 64) all the time.. no need to be afraid of Light... B)


I can see E100VS working for a music video or a spot, but it'd be a difficult time shooting an entire feature, with nightscapes, and tunsten indoor shots with a 100D stock. Forget what the light loss is with D to T, but it's big, 2-1/2 stops? That'd be 16 or 20 speed indoors. YIKES.

It's a shame there isn't a better repertoire of reversal stocks. With a 400-, 200-, and 100 speed line, like they used to have, that would work.

Honestly, I think Fuji would be a better choice than Kodak. I hear they still have a 400, and I think a 1600 reversal film available.

In order to shoot reversal on a feature, unless you are working with a very limiting single stock (like they did thirty years ago), I would think someone would have to buy straight from Fuji and get them to reperf. their still films with cine perforations instead.

That would probably be something with a high minimum, 100,000 feet or so, and a premium price.

Reversal is priced significantly higher than neg. film, so this is something else important to be considered. Unless you are going to edit by hand to only telecine your keepers, a risky proposition, I'd hazard the guess that the finishign costs with reversal will be twice as high as those with regular neg. film.
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#11 Terry Mester

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 06:42 PM

Thanks for your comments. I must say that, as a Super8 user who's only shot 40 ISO K40 Reversal, I have never found the limited exposure latitude of Reversal Film to be a problem except when shooting indoors at night. I've been able to get acceptable images shooting indoors during the day with only the drapes open and the regular household lights on. Adding a little extra light would have made the setting perfect. I have also been able to get acceptable images shooting outdoors on the east (shady) side of a building only an hour before sunset. With correct Aperture Stop, Reversal Film shouldn't pose a problem.

Shooting outdoors with 50 ISO Negative would of course be even easier than K40 Reversal. I personally can't see the need for 250 ISO outdoors if you're using a tripod. I would not recommend using 500 ISO indoors because of the increased visible graininess. It's much better to provide proper lighting, and use a lower Speed.

In order to achieve the best possible images with Super16, I would strongly advise against using the Zoom Lens unless it is absolutely necessary. You are diminishing the resolution when you use the Zoom, and this isn't desirable with a small Super16 Frame. Try the following test to see for yourself. Capture a few scenes with the same "width" of field. Take one shot with the Camera farther away, and using the Zoom. Then put the Zoom OUT, and move the Camera position inwards to achieve the same width of field. When you compare the two images, you will see how the resolution is higher with the Zoom out.
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#12 David Rakoczy

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 09:30 PM

In order to achieve the best possible images with Super16, I would strongly advise against using the Zoom Lens unless it is absolutely necessary. You are diminishing the resolution when you use the Zoom, and this isn't desirable with a small Super16 Frame.


I understand your point and that is why I own a set of S16 Zeiss Super Speed Primes instead of a Zoom.. but I have to say.. I would love to own an 11-135 Zoom.. GREAT Lens.. breathes a bit but GREAT!.. and the 8-64... FANTASTIC! No breathing at all!!!... I operated an entire season of Silk Stalkings on just these two Zooms and they are indeed GREAT! I will soon be shopping for that 11-135 :wub:
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#13 K Borowski

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 09:31 PM

Thanks for your comments. I must say that, as a Super8 user who's only shot 40 ISO K40 Reversal, I have never found the limited exposure latitude of Reversal Film to be a problem except when shooting indoors at night. I've been able to get acceptable images shooting indoors during the day with only the drapes open and the regular household lights on. Adding a little extra light would have made the setting perfect. I have also been able to get acceptable images shooting outdoors on the east (shady) side of a building only an hour before sunset. With correct Aperture Stop, Reversal Film shouldn't pose a problem.


Sure, for home movies, which I have shot myself, outdoors slow film is fine.

But, let's face it, there is an awful lot of action that takes place in the dramatic world and the real world in light that a 16 or 20 speed tungsten rating film can't handle.

And, while I am good with reversal even with just the sunny 16 rule, even with a calibrated spot meter mistakes can and do happen.

Latitude is a nice thing to have instead of a costly re-shoot.
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#14 Oliver Christoph Kochs

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Posted 09 August 2009 - 04:57 PM

S16 isn't that much a "reversal format". There's a lack of projectors, so S16 is to put it simple only for telecine and scanning and maybe to blow it up on 35. So it's the higher contrast with lower latitude, the low speed etc. but i think (?) there's also more chemistry involved in processing reversal - one step more that might eventually damage your film. I'm not a lab tech but i think that there are different machines for neg and reversal. Neg 16mm should be hundred percent S16 safe but i'd not be sure if that's the case on 16mm reversal as most projectors are regular. You might get scratches from non S16 machines and that would ruin your film. So i guess that's a NO-GO for reversal here.

BTW have i been looking for a S16 projector. I found out that it's possible with Eiki and Elmo machines. Who has one? Is it worth it?
Regards Oliver
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#15 Dominic Case

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Posted 09 August 2009 - 06:48 PM

BTW have i been looking for a S16 projector. I found out that it's possible with Eiki and Elmo machines. Who has one? Is it worth it?

Super 16 has no film soundtrack, so you can only project silent film. Therefore there is very little reason to have a projectable (i.e. positive) image on super 16 stock, or to have a projector that is capable of super 16.

Many years ago in the lab we used to neg match super 16 and make a grade work print to check the cut and the grade before making a blow-up to 35mm (which was, originally, the sole purpose of super 16). Then we needed a Super 16 projector, which required the gate of a standard 16 Eiki projector to be filed out and all the rollers to be undercut.

If you try this, be sure that the optical light path is wide enough to cover the super 16 gate. Not all projectors will allow this.
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#16 Terry Mester

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Posted 11 August 2009 - 01:14 AM

Didn't Arriflex used to make a Super16 Projector? I don't know why they and Aaton don't get together to make one. There is certainly a need for a S16 Projector as there is a limited S16 market for home movie use. The availability of a Projector enhances this market. To provide for sound, each time the Shutter opens, it could produce a DTS pulse to be used by a separate PC computer for keeping a Digital Sound Track synchronized to the Film. It would be easy to do this in a computer.
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#17 Anthony Schilling

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Posted 15 August 2009 - 08:05 PM

I love to project S8 and 16mm films. When it comes to color, I really enjoy the 100D reversal the most in both formats. Getting workprints of neg film in 16mm for projecting usually look flat and far less interesting to me by comparison. For telecine, it's a different game because I can make the negs look a lot more intereting.
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