Sunday musings: the illuminating differences between film in cinema vs film in photography

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by kdghantous, Aug 15, 2015.

  1. There are two big problems with film in photography:
    1. The most important problem is scanning. You still cannot find a scanner that is at the same time: cheap; quick; high quality.
    2. Cost. This is not a deal-breaker and it isn't always a problem. Black & white film is very cheap, relative to slide film, which is eye-poppingly expensive.
    But in cinema, those two problems don't really exist. I mean, film is very expensive. But other production costs are, too. You cannot seriously make a TV show without good cast, agents, crew, producers, etc. Film is just part of that cost. So in relative terms, it's not a huge deal.
    And as far as scanning goes, it's relatively easy, in part because it's always the lab's job. But movie film is standardized. Once you set up a roll, the rest is automated. The closest equivalent in photography is APS, which allows easy scanning, but that is not well supported by either labs or manufacturers. Try finding a mechanical M mount rangefinder camera which takes APS film.
    The Flextight X5 is the only scanner that I'm impressed with. It does not exaggerate graininess, unlike the other scanners. But it's not just expensive, it's slow. So forget it.
    I would love, love, love to shoot more film. I'd even be interested in pre-paid slide film, like Kodachrome used to be. The challenge of nailing exposure, among other things, makes slide film such great stuff. But with problems like this, it's easy to use digital cameras for everything.
     
  2. No but you can learn post processing.
     
  3. "But in cinema, those two problems don't really exist. I mean, film is very expensive. But other production costs are, too. You cannot seriously make a TV show without good cast, agents, crew, producers, etc. Film is just part of that cost. So in relative terms, it's not a huge deal."​
    There's never been a time that the cost of film wan't a huge deal. Film is prohibitively expensive for independent movie makers and always has been. My stepfather was an independent filmmaker, mostly shooting PSAs and industrials between more creative projects during the 1960s-'70s. The cost was significant back then and often a factor in shooting fewer takes, in addition to costs for union crews, talent, etc. On a couple of projects his budget was so squeaky tight he had me - a 12-13 year old kid with a new SLR - shoot the stills. Great experience for me, although my photos were probably barely competent.
    From the late 1980s I was involved in a few independent movie productions, most of which never got anywhere, and all were done on video because film was prohibitively expensive. At the very least the videos were done as demos in hopes of attracting investors. That's probably the case with the vast majority of movie-making hopefuls over the past 20-30 years.
    That's why Quentin Tarantino, in the extras segments for Pulp Fiction, recommended Hi8 video to aspiring filmmakers 20 years ago. Filters, smoke machines and post work could come pretty close to emulating the look of film. With digital, indie filmmakers like Gareth Edwards on Monsters (2010) have taken it to the nth degree, using ordinary affordable digital video cameras, pickup actors, and doing most of the post work himself on a home computer with off the shelf software. Great looking and sounding movie, very professionally done, although some might find the pacing a bit slow - it's more about suspense than horror or action.
    Some cinematographers and directors still insist film is best, but their skills and talent could probably fool most of us if they shot only digital. Even artists like Vilmos Zsigmond could probably get the same results with digital now that he got with McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Much of the look we associate with film is actually attributable to the single camera or few-cameras techniques necessitated by the cost of shooting and editing film. Video and, much later, digital, enabled cost effective multi-camera techniques, quick cut editing and an overall hyper-kinetic look, while avoiding the jittery look of classic nouvelle vague jump cuts.
    With the exception of a tiny handful of specific scenarios where film might hold a technical edge, the only reason to use film now is because you enjoy it and the process, not for any perception of technical superiority, whether for still photography or cinematography.
     
  4. A gourmet meal requires expensive ingredients plus an array of kitchen utensils, expensive stove, time for preparation
    and mad skills to create. Yet the visual appeal, aroma and taste make that meal very special and immensely enjoyable.

    But why bother when MacDonalds or Taco Bell are so cheap and convenient?
     
  5. A gourmet meal requires expensive ingredients plus an array of kitchen utensils, expensive stove, time for preparation and mad skills to create. Yet the visual appeal, aroma and taste make that meal very special and immensely enjoyable.
    But why bother when MacDonalds or Taco Bell are so cheap and convenient?
    Totally false analogy if you're hoping to provoke another fim-vs-digital slugfest. It's 2015. Film lost. Not great news but it's old news now.
     
  6. Not false. Film lives. Macdonalds lives. Chateau LeFreak lives.
     
  7. Well said by Lex. False premise by Bill (Bill, have you ever worked with the raw output from a Red cinema camera, or any of the newer generation of Arri or other devices?). The gourmet features you're talking about are the talent, the lighting ... the content. Especially with newer 4K cameras shooting losslessly to super fast external storage, ready to go post tools can reduce that output to the dynamic range, granularity, response curves ... "feel" of film to your heart's content, and bring far, far more to the table in the sort of flexibility and cost savings that allow productions to spend MORE on talent, time, set dressing, travel, lighting, and the other logistics that actually make a difference in final results.
     
  8. When I shoot film, I shot film. I got slides and I project them. I got negatives and I print them in the darkroom. I used a scanner but not for real scanning but for previewing figure out color filtration for printing.
     
  9. Depth & Texture=Film.
     
  10. Depth & Texture=Color Grading skills in digital and film captured cinema.
    And if I see another movie color graded with overly cyan shadows against urine yellow highlights I'm going to puke. And I've seen it both on film and digital captures.
    http://petapixel.com/2015/01/06/movies-scenes-look-like-straight-camera-versus-theaters/
    http://juanmelara.com.au/blackmagic-cinema-camera-davinci-resolve-colour-grading-breakdown/
     
  11. A good flatbed scanner for prints from the darkroom is not expensive.
     
  12. Proud to say that after 30 years of shooting film, I've never had an awful result like those of the posted links, but this just plays to the people that don't care about their Photography and to those who take the path of least resistance, hence the reliance of modern tech to do everything other than hop out of the bag and take the picture without an eye. Sunday musings! Lol.
     
  13. "But movie film is standardized. Once you set up a roll, the rest is automated."

    Not exactly. Yes, you can get a "one light" scan or print, and automation is already good and getting better. But in all but the smallest no-budget independent films, every single shot gets tweaked by a colorist. The colorist's full-time job is to make sure that the color and exposure in every single shot is perfect. Color and exposure can even be changed within a shot.

    Both Karim and Lex are correct on the cost of film. In a Hollywood movie, it's a relatively insigniciant cost compared with salaries in the mllions for the director, actors and others. In an independent film where the cast and crew might be working for a share of the profits rather than a salary, it might be the single largest expense.

    The game changer today is that an independent filmaker can rent a Hollywood-level digital camera and get Hollywood quality images (assuming he knows how to use it) for less than he would have spent on even 16mm film and processing in the past. Even if someone gave you a Panavision or Arriflex camera package, the cost of using it would be prohibitive for pretty much anyone without a Hollywood budget.

    The price of professional movie film cameras is dropping just like they have for still photography film cameras. One company has been offering a Mitchell BNCR package for $9,995 on ebay for a year with no takers. The BNCR has been obsolete for years, but half the movies most of us ever watched were shot on a Mitchell, and you can still shoot anything you want with it if you can just afford the film.
     
  14. And if I see another movie color graded with overly cyan shadows against urine yellow highlights I'm going to puke.​
    I know. It's horrible. How can this tripe sell the film more than a 'normal' look can? Photographers have Photoshop, directors have DaVinci. Contrast that to the best Web designers who gave up Shockwave and Flash ages ago. It's all about affectations and fads, not about the image.

    Film, with basic timing, looks beautiful. You don't have to do much to it. Then there is positive film, although you do have to get it right in the camera. If Kodachrome was available and relatively cheap, I'd be tempted to use it for as much of my photography as possible. Alas.

    The colorist's full-time job is to make sure that the color and exposure in every single shot is perfect.​
    Oh, yes, that is absolutely right. I was referring only to scanning (cinema vs photo), not to the final image. :)
     
  15. For digital cinema capture I think SpeedLook has pretty much come up with a very convincing film look...
    http://matthayslett.com/speedlooks-for-resolve-the-ultimate-digital-to-film-look/
     
  16. From what I have seen of most recent movies film vs digital is the least of the problems. Most of the action movies seem
    to me to be a continuous flow of computer generated or computer enhanced bytes to the point that I feel a am rewatching
    many of the films I saw in the past 15 years. There are a lot of issues to be ironed out between film and digital but first
    films have to have good writing, acting, directing etc that would be good movies regardless of the medium used. Then
    we can worry about film vs digital.

    And to add some other points I think t was Tom L commented on some problems with color in the Man From Uncle, I walked out before I could notice since the movie was one big cliche. We also had a thread about blocking digital cameras from taking pictures of overdone locations. What we need is a way to block action scenes that have already been done too often.
     

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