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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Digital Cinema Forum   » The future of film ... according to (a guy at) Arri (Page 1)

 
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Author Topic: The future of film ... according to (a guy at) Arri
Julio Roberto
Jedi Master Film Handler

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From: Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Registered: Oct 2008


 - posted 07-09-2009 09:30 PM      Profile for Julio Roberto     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Arri has been in the "film business" for almost 100 years. They should know a thing or two about it.

They interviewed this guy, Chief Technology Officer at Arri, with enfasis on the film stuff, but he kept pushing Arri's digital offerings.

When asked how long he thought film will be around, he said definitely 5 to 10 years. But he also said bluntly that film will be "gone in 20 years".

Also, he says their digital cameras offer the SAME QUALITY of images as film, although at first he (wrongly) says that film offers more dynamic range than digital (this is no longer true, as some digital sensors offer not only noticeably larger dynamic range than film but higher sensibility and lower noise as well).

He mentions how film is grainer and how, for some reason, people like the grain and feel the image is more "organic". My take on this is that for whatever reason people don't like the ultra-clean look of video (too perfect for them?). Not a big problem, as grain can be added in post-production if needed.

I don't want to get into arguments here but, if one wanted, you could shoot digital nowadays and make it look 100.00% exactly the same as film. But if you did that, why the hell shoot digital video? Shoot film if you want a film "look" or shoot digital if you want a range of options on your final look. Including the film look, if you needed it.

Unfortunately, some people shooting digital either choose a very non-filmic look (again, on purpose, as otherwise they would go straight to film if "film look" was their primary reason du jour) or use the cheapest possible digital because they are low-budget and trying to save on a quick-and-dirty product, often producing inferior results, not unlike using 16mm to save money. 16mm is still film, but "inferior" to 35mm generally and those using 16mm usually have low production values and little $$$ to spend on a top Director of Photography, good lighting, etc.

http://www.macvideo.tv/camera-technology/interviews/index.cfm?articleId=115977

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Scott Norwood
Film God

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From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
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 - posted 07-09-2009 11:51 PM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Wow...the editing in that video is truly horrible.

The interviewer also seems to be unclear on the fact that "Arri" refers to the company and that "Arriflex" refers to the cameras that Arri makes.

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James B Gardiner
Film Handler

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From: North Altona, Victoria, Ausrtalia
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 - posted 07-10-2009 07:14 AM      Profile for James B Gardiner   Email James B Gardiner   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I agree with you Julian,
I personally think that FILM is pushed by those in positions of power as it is more likely to keep them there.
There excuses are based on lazyness and being frightened by that they don;t understand. But in general, they cannot be bothered to learn the new digital technology.

Like digital sound was loved by the cinema goer as it was more realistic, so is the crystal clear pictures. Grain is nothing but an artistic choice. If you prefer it and consider it organic, great. The young kids most likely consider it noise.

Tho in general film can look better then digital, Digital does look better then film on a wider exhibition basis. But then there is 4K being forced upon us by Sony, and TI being dragged in, even tho they have stated, 2K was good enough.

James

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Mike Schulz
Expert Film Handler

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From: Los Angeles, CA
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 - posted 07-10-2009 08:07 AM      Profile for Mike Schulz   Email Mike Schulz   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
It is all about money. Period. Digital will eventually be cheaper for the big budget films once the technology gets better. As for exhibition, digital will slash a huge portion of the post-production costs once the major portion of screens are equipped. Sending out 6500 hard drives is much cheaper than striking and delivering 6500 prints and once they get all of the kinks out of the satellite delivery systems, it will save even more money. It has been a slow process getting all of the exhibitors on board because the technology is still new, it is relatively expensive. Inevitably, all first run screens will be digital. It might be 5 years or it might be 10 but one thing is for sure, it will happen.

As for all of the "experts" and CFO's of these bleeding edge companies, of course they are going to talk about how much better digital is than film. It is in their best interest to get theatres equipped as soon as possible and the best way to do that is to spread bullshit. Now I am not saying that digital is crap in every regard but I will say that the current technology is definitely not up to the quality standards of film.

I do believe that eventually the look of digital will get there. They will have to figure out ways to get the projectors to more or less mimic the characteristics of projected film. The current generation of projectors have to be calibrated perfectly for each individual show and then depend on the DCP not looking like crap which is the biggest problem I have seen so far.

How many multiplex chain theatres calibrate their digital projectors often? How many use the recommended lamps? How many milk said lamps for as long as they can before replacing them? With film projectors in this environemt you pretty much only have to worry about whether the lamp is flickering or not. In the digital world there are many other factors to make or break your presentation. For example: Take a good looking 35mm print that is playing in house #2. Tomorrow you move that print to house #5. Guess what? That print looks exactly the same on both screens. In the digital world you have to factor in color calibration. The cinema where I work has 8 digital screens all of which still have 35mm projectors in place so we remain equipped to run either format if one fails. I don't know how many times I have walked back and forth between digital presentations on different screens of the same movie and they both look different. Supposedly all of our screens are properly calibrated which should be true since we have technicians in our booth weekly doing maintenance on our projectors. To me that is a HUGE fundamental problem that I don't think digital can ever overcome.

Why are we wasting time with a new technology that is almost in every way inferior to what we have used for nearly 100 years? Oh yeah, I forgot... MONEY.

I really can't wait for the day that the digital technology gets to where it needs to be but for now 35mm kicks its ass in almost every way.

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Scott Norwood
Film God

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From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
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 - posted 07-10-2009 08:23 AM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The guy in the video was talking about acquisition, not exhibition, however. He seemed to be pretty astute, and the general message that I got was that he doesn't really care whether people buy film cameras or digital cameras, since his company manufactures both types, as well as film scanners, film recorders, lighting equipment, lenses, and other production hardware.

I'm willing to bet that the per-unit profit margin is higher on film cameras, but that the digital cameras are expected to have a shorter service life, and will need to be upgraded or replaced more frequently. (The camera in the picture of me is a 1960s-vintage Arriflex 16BL, which is perfectly usable 40 years after it was manufactured.)

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

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 - posted 07-10-2009 08:54 AM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Julio Roberto
Also, he says their digital cameras offer the SAME QUALITY of images as film, although at first he (wrongly) says that film offers more dynamic range than digital (this is no longer true, as some digital sensors offer not only noticeably larger dynamic range than film but higher sensibility and lower noise as well).
If video cameras really were better than film in every measure there wouldn't be any of the soupy, smeary, unsightly CRAP all too irrefutably visible in electronically shot movies like Public Enemies, Get Smart and quite a few others.

Video camera technology just is not there yet. All we're getting from the guys at Arri and any other company selling video cameras is a sales pitch.

Film photography still has greater resolution as well as better color balance, contrast and black levels in its CMY subtractive color model.

The only area where video is any better than film is color gamma range. The additive RGB color model is wider in dynamic range than any subtractive model. However, we don't ever see any of that in "digital movies" because the assholes who want to replace every film camera with a video camera don't have the balls to allow video to look like video.

If you want that full RGB additive synthesis model to shine through, as well as the properly balanced color curve of it, then you can't squash it through a bunch of pretentious film look filters. Further, if the "film look" processing isn't done just exactly right, that switch from RGB to CMY color intensities will result in a drab looking mess that still looks like video, just shitty looking video.

The same RGB to CMY problems exist in translating digital still camera images to CMYK mode for print publishing. Just clicking Image>Mode>CMYK in Photoshop can make a good looking RGB digital camera photo suddenly look like shit. Much of the highest quality photography in magazine & book publishing is still shot on film. The imagery, sometimes in the form of large format chromes, can be acquired using drum scanners that process the images in the CMYK model.

Here's the even more important factor: in areas where film fails to photograph the image it fails gracefully. Video just gets the shot all screwed up to hell. If you underexpose a film shot you still have clearly discrete film images. A video camera doesn't manage that so well. The CCD or CMOS imager chokes on that low light source struggling to see what's out there. That can create a data traffic jams that results in a smeary mess. This is easily seen in low light settings and very visible in light challenged scenes with lots of movement. Try compensating by boosting the gain and you end up with clearly visible red and green pixel noise in the black areas of the image (watch certain scenes of The Lookout to see the Panavision Genesis camera fail in that regard).

The funny thing is if the video fans had the courage to allow video to stay looking like video those motion artifacts wouldn't be quite so distracting. We're used to seeing stuff like that with video that's allowed to stay looking like video. When it's trying to pretend to look like film the motion artifacts become distracting.

CCD and CMOS imagers will eventually improve to match and surpass native resolution of 4-perf 35mm film as well as increase processing speed and sensitivity levels. I don't know when that will happen, but it's obvious to me the technology just isn't there currently.

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Julio Roberto
Jedi Master Film Handler

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From: Madrid, Madrid, Spain
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 - posted 07-10-2009 11:17 AM      Profile for Julio Roberto     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Bobby,

We agree to dissagree once more [Wink] . With just about every single point.

Specially video failing over film in underexposed situations were, precisely, they hold the advantage over film, which degrades better-looking in highlights but worse looking (grain) when underexposed. The amount of noise ("random colored pixels") in digital is, usually, far less than the amount of noise (random dark blotchs of grains) in film. Visit some astronomy sites and figure why they are using digital over film to shoot the (dark) skies nowadays. They have nice comparisons with film.

So, in this point, I have the absolute opposite view from you.

On the rest of them, I also don't share most of it, but at least the opinion is not radically opposited.

Or maybe it is. You are mixing and matching several points, some of which I don't think are (that) relevant to the comparison.

Let me point you out to this gentleman, with his charts to prove it. Let's talk about resolution.

He is comparing FULL FRAME film (which is quite larger than academy or super-35 frame, which is at the same time larger than 1.85 cropped frame, which is further screwed up once you account for the generational copies inter-positive, inter-negative, needed for an exhibition print, which is then further screwed by the inherent wow-and-flutter of mechanical projection) and let me extract one sentence:

http://www.normankoren.com/Tutorials/MTF7.html

quote:
The handwriting is on the wall for film. 16 megapixel sensors (10 for the X3 sensor, if they can produce it) have resolution challenging medium format film. Large users of film have already switched to digital. Film sales are rapidly dropping. Film production lines will shut down as sales drop. Variety will decrease and prices will increase. Traditionalists will complain, but the quality of digital images will carry the day. At 16 megapixels, many traditional view camera applications are migrating to digital, where they can take advantage of Canon and Nikon tilt-shift lenses that turn 35mm/digital cameras into baby view cameras.
And he is talking about 16mpx cameras and MEDIUM film format. The camera I just got for myself, i.e, is 21.1Mpx, and here we are talking about S35 35mm frames at best.

There are many myths in the film-vs-current-moderm-digital-sensors, like the above mentioned resolution and the bothersome dynamic range being superior in film which, until recently, was true, but not anymore, at all beyond the shadow of doubt to anyone who wants to see the data.

The ONLY advantage of film over digital, nowadays, is the handling of OVEREXPOSED areas. All the rest: resolution, gamut, fidelity, sensitivity, noise, underexposed handling (crushing blacks or lack of detail or excessive noise in dark areas), dynamic range, motion rendering, etc, are surpassed, sometimes appreciably, by digital, but mostly just matched.

Now: I'm not saying that there are tons of digital products out there that (cleanly, easily) match-or-surpass film, and MOST OF THEM DON'T. I'm saying that it's no longer impossible to make them and the digital sensors to do them exist in the market and the products are starting to appear.

Also, I'm not saying that most current digital motion pictures or photographs made in the past years clearly surpass film-based ones in terms of quality. Most clearly don't. But this has more to do with the creators of such images than with the technology to create them being necessarily, substantially, "inferior".

But no point on having this argument right now. Let's just wait about 1, perhaps 2 more years, and then you'll be able to see with your own eyes in (hopefully) 4K projectors at the theatre the images we are talking about here and then become convinced yourself, first-hand, w/o theoretical arguments, which has the edge: 2010-digital-video vs 2010-35mm-motion-picture-film.

Although to be honest, the comparison is gonna be hard as I'm pretty sure you won't be able to see film that hasn't been scanned, digitally manipulated (graded, color-corrected, screwed with) and then printed-out again, so I guess it will still have to be a theoretical comparison or will have to be watched right after an 80's revival film-festival. [Wink]

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Scott Norwood
Film God

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From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
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 - posted 07-10-2009 11:26 AM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Important distinction: negative film (the type normally used for motion pictures) is more tolerant of overexposure than underexposure, while reversal film (the type used for slides and, historically, for 16mm TV news film) is more tolerant of underexposure.

In general, overexposing color negative film slightly (by 1/2-2/3 of a stop) will decrease grain and improve shadow detail.

If we are going to discuss image "quality," then we need to define what that means. Is it resolution? Color depth? Ability to reproduce motion? Subjective opinions from audience surveys? And are we measuring the original image as formed in the caera, or are we measuring an answer print or release print or a projected D-cinema image? All but the first involve processes that happen outside of the camera itself which can affect image quality.

And are we talking about ideal conditions or real-world conditons?

Also worth noting is that not everyone necessarily wants an image with the highest possible resolution. Some films are (intentionally) shot with older lenses, diffusion filters, on 16mm, on SD video, etc., and these are legitimate aesthetic choices.

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Julio Roberto
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 - posted 07-10-2009 11:44 AM      Profile for Julio Roberto     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Yeah, I agree, Scott.

Ideally, this doesn't need to become another long, boring, theoretical thread about film-vs-digital.

They are both good. Which one is "better" (and what "better" means) is not that important.

I just wanted to point out that even Arri, the biggest player in film-adquisition together with Panavision, is pbbly considering film a dying medium some 10+ years from now and that they consider current (2009-2010) digital video adquisition "just as good" for motion picture use.

I kind-of-wanted to dismiss the notion that digital (adquisition) MUST be "vastly" inferior nowadays to film, specially since some sensors exist that are actually appreciably superior in most of the parameters that could measure image "quality".

That's all.

Now film is still great and, if you are after a film look, it may end up being cheaper and better to use film. I certainly would consider (and even favor it) for some uses. But that's not to say that shooting digital would necessarily produce an inferior quality image. Not any more.

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Greg Anderson
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 - posted 07-10-2009 11:51 AM      Profile for Greg Anderson   Author's Homepage   Email Greg Anderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Scott Norwood
Wow...the editing in that video is truly horrible.
The looks suspiciously like the Arri NAB booth, which means that this video was shot three months ago. And don't any of these young whipper-snappers shooting video today know about the concept of "crossing the line" when you set up your cameras?

This video seems to underscore the whole problem with high-quality, low-cost gear today. You can put great tools into the hands of people who have no idea what they're doing. But, as with all things digital, some people seem to think that great gear solves every problem, no matter who's using it.

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Bobby Henderson
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 - posted 07-10-2009 12:55 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
We agree to dissagree once more [Wink]. With just about every single point.
Julio, you must be putting on a blind fold when watching movies that were shot with video cameras.

If what you're claiming about video is true, there should be absolutely no problems in image quality with movies like Public Enemies, etc. None of those very real, VERY VISIBLE problems should be present at all. Actually, with what you're claiming, new high water mark standards in image quality should be newly achieved with electronic cameras versus film cameras.

With video produced movies such as Collateral or Miami Vice we should be seeing image quality far better than the cinematography in Heat -particularly in the night scenes if what you're claiming in your huge passages of text is true.

The funny thing is the film-based stuff STILL LOOKS BETTER. Paste in 100 pages worth of white papers about video cameras if you like. It won't change anything.

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Steve Guttag
We forgot the crackers Gromit!!!

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 - posted 07-10-2009 02:49 PM      Profile for Steve Guttag   Email Steve Guttag   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The problem with Julio's arguements is it is in the theoretical as far as movie aquisiton is concerned.

They are not shooting with the latest most anything...they are shooting, by and large in 2K...a resolution that is visibly vastly inferior to 35mm 1.85 film...even to the untrained eye.

I don't have any doubt that digital will surpass film and that in some respects it already does.

I've yet to see, in a motion picture film, video ever look superior to film...in fact, just the opposite, if there is a DI involved, then the film output suffers from that weak link...it isn't film's fault...the the film maker for using such an inferior format such as a 2K DI.

If you actually look at any digitally shot movies in low-light...the noise is incredible...much worse than the grain that I've seen on 35mm film.

When the DIs get up to 4K and beyond, things will actually start to look better on film too. So long as 2K DIs are the rule, the images are going to suffer.

Same goes for 2K projection...on a small enough screen (under 20-feet), 2K isn't too bad but it most certainly falls apart above that...the detail is not in the image to fill the voids between the pixels...35mm film, on the other hand, can capably do well beyond that...30-35 feet wide though it is getting pretty rough too. 70mm looks fantastic on most any size screen and I've seen nothing in digital that is coming close to it...too bad the studios are not shooting with it.

4K...will be a vast improvement in digital though...I can see its potential though all of my viewings have had their share of color issues (Sony, ya know). The image though is certainly notably sharper and holds up better on larger screens (40' wide or so).

Steve

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Julio Roberto
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 - posted 07-10-2009 03:51 PM      Profile for Julio Roberto     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Steve:

So you can no longer say you haven't seen digital motion captured images in low light (underexposed) conditions that match (or surpass) film, here are a few dozen examples of such shots done with a $2300 digital camera by Canon.

MANY OF THE SHOTS are done at f1.8, f2.4 and even f4.0 by non-professionals. ALL THE SHOTS ARE DONE AT 30fps (even when they say 25p, they've been shot at 30p and then converted). Imagine what can be done at 24fps and with wider apertures. Also, realize these are compressed at least twice before they reach you and most compressors don't work too well with low light levels as they tend to make blocks of grey with little detail ... well, blocks of grey with no detail.

But, indeed, I was talking more from a theoretical point of view (which will likely become a practical reality in a year or two), rather than a comparison to movies shot last year (or before).

http://vimeo.com/5206854
http://vimeo.com/4244785
http://vimeo.com/5152602
http://vimeo.com/5241766
http://vimeo.com/5291026
http://vimeo.com/4434571
http://vimeo.com/5459652

Actually, just click here and choose any random 10 or 20 clips and see for yourself.

http://vimeo.com/videos/search:canon+mark++night/sort:likes/format:thumbnail

Now this is not an expensive uber-duber camera that is brand new. It's been in the market for some 9 months and it's under $2400. This camera has a rating in photo mode that can equate to over 20.000 ASA in a theoretical film stock.

And these are UNDEREXPOSED and extreme examples to show not-horrible low light performance. You usually don't see an underexposed movie shot on film because ... well, if you have the money to rent the equipment and make a film, you pbbly had some money for proper lighting and a DP who knew what he was doing.

When shooting video, it can be made to behave as a low-grain stock of several thousand ASA's

Now, please, people, stop saying that "you have never seen low light shadow detail from a digital camera that wasn't riddled with noise and looked butt-ugly", so we can put the end to one myth that digital MUST be inferior to film in low light (when the opposite is true as no film stock has a sensitivity of well over 3000 ASA with little noise-equivalent=grain at 30fps). If you must insist, I can spend a few hours looking around and selecting 10 or 20 clips for you to erase that notion for good.

Again, I'm not saying that bad digital low-light products don't exist or that good low-light performing film products don't exist. I'm saying it's wrong to say that film is always, necessarily, superior to digital in low-light performance and that no products that outperform film exist in the digital realm.

We'll have to resort to white papers and charts to debunk the other myths: that film MUST have a wider dynamic range and that film MUST have higher resolution than digital. Specially film when used for motion picture which most of the time is 1.85 cropped, academy or S35 aperture at best usually, and must be duplicated to a release print and mechanically projected to be seen.

Again, believe what you want, those two premises are NO LONGER true, although indeed they are USUALLY the case for the time being.

But, again, no point on arguing about this (once more) right now. Let's just wait for a year or two and see if any of the new digital adquisition products showing up ends up in the hands of a half-decent talent team and we can start seeing all-digital movies equal-or-better than film in most quality measurements on the (silver, 3d, of course) screen by ourselves and, thus, no need for theoretical arguments anymore. [Wink]

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Mark Gulbrandsen
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 - posted 07-10-2009 08:38 PM      Profile for Mark Gulbrandsen   Email Mark Gulbrandsen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Julio,

This is nothing new... I've been touting the exact same thing here for at least three years now!!! The good news is that there is almost a digital camera ready to replace 65mm cameras... same rez as 65mm neg stock, and same aspect ratio and so on and so forth...

Mark

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James B Gardiner
Film Handler

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 - posted 07-10-2009 11:13 PM      Profile for James B Gardiner   Email James B Gardiner   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
My turn.
To ad to Julio's points.
The camera he is talking about is the Canon 5DmkII.

Currently this camera is making a mess of the digital film camera industry. I know Sony, JVC etc are all running scared.
They are literately selling 5x what they expected on this product. It's sucess has changed the industry completely.
This camera makes all there 50-100K kit all seem obsolete. Tho , there is more to a camera then a sensor. (But strangely many people cannot see past that. Ie form factor, the package etc.)

Now, Nikon will likely bring out a competitor at the November show for Pro still cameras. And.. the Nikon has even BETTER low light performance then the canon.

In the Stills world, Film is totally been abandoned apart for the niche areas where some aspects of film still produce desired results that digital cannot. However, this is not common, and a very expensive way forward.

This will of course happen in the motion film area too. I am a little surprised it has taken longer then it has, however, as I have said, there is more to taking a shot then the camera, its the camera man too. This is a generation thing more then anything else.

I have noticed that film-tech seems to be an ivory tower with man holding onto the romance of film. Personally I don;t care. I am a computer tech that has drifted into the doing digital side of exhibition. I just observe and based on what I see, make conclusions.

Film is simply out of date.
I like to compare it to DJing (For which I did for 10 years when I was a younger lad) evolved from vinyl records to CD's or other forms of digital playback..

At the end of the day, the punters on the dance floor didn't really care if it was vinyl or CD, the story that was the track was shared and they enjoyed it.

Tho the debate between DJ's was heated and went on for years. Today, the top DJ's basically never use vinyl any more.
WHY, well as I like to point out, what sounds better is not really the issue here. The main reason they don;t use vinyl is because vinyl has limitations. While digital has Blue sky. The DJ's, though the use of digital, have created new playing styles and performance possibilities. Impossible with vinyl.

This holds true for Film as well. Film is dead to me as.. it simply cannot evolve anymore. But once we are digital, the sky is the limit. Night shots that are impossible using film. etc.

One of my favorite would be a new standard of 60fps for cinema. Can be easily converted down to any common distribution format in use today, and would make a film screen, using clean digital images, look like a window into the world that the film creates. Something film grain, scratches and gate movement can never do.. (60fps for film is possible, but like 70mm unrealistic anymore. too $$$$$$$)

So, to me. Film, please leave the building, its time to ignite the booster and leave orbit, and you don;t have a ticket.)

To finish of, I would like to also visit the definition of what make one better then the other.
If we want to talk about which can be better.
Many of you say, film looks better.... if your looking at an answer print compared to 2k. But then again, apple with apples, there are 8k digital systems out there. That would even arguably compare with 70mm.
If we talk about the typical image a widely distributed film presents on screen compared to 2K.
A typical 2K system will ALWAYS look better due to the massive lossy process the film has to go through.

So which is better. What is possible or what is typical??
Please take this into consideration.

James

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