Thursday, January 19, 2012

Adieu Kodak. The Age of Celuloid is Over.

When I first picked up a Super 8 camera and began making movies back in the 1960's, I longed for professional equipment.  16MM!  By the time I was actually doing film production and directing commercials and music videos, I was indeed shooting with professional equipment.  16mm cameras delivered a pretty good image once it was transferred to video for the final edit, but for commercial work I shot on 35mm with a big honking Panavision camera. 

I haven't made commercials in a while, and my personal film making was confined to 16mm and more often video.  Most recently I have been shooting everything on digital cameras and editing at home in my own edit suite with my Mac and Final-Cut Pro HD.

I guess it should come as no surprise that the medium I grew up trying to master changed out from under me, and I changed with it to an extent.  The idea of shooting anything on film now seems anachronistic.  The final product will end up as a series of ones and zeros and will be seen on flat screens or through the magic of DLP projection on a big screen.

That change is most likely what led to the demise of Kodak, the premier maker of professional motion picture film as well as the film for your home cameras.  Now it's hard to find a still camera that uses film, and even harder to find a lab who really knows what they are doing.

A few months ago the word came that Panavision, ARRI and Aton the three biggest camera companies were ceasing production of film cameras.  They have developed super high resolution digital versions that deliver every bit the resolution of film and more.  Son we will see motion pictures presented in HFR Digital projection.  This means High Frame Rate.  The usual rate is 24 frames per second, but the new HFR cameras shoot at 40 to 60 frames per second which will totally eliminate the flicker of current projection technique. More than that, it will make the screen seem to vanish, an effect I have witnessed at demonstrations and had my breath taken away.

I embrace the new technology because it makes the art of movie making easier in many respects.  Yes the "look" of film won't be the same, but I suspect some day we will lament loosing the "look" of good old low resolution TV.  Luckily, the huge libraries of film sitting in vaults around the world are slowly being scanned and converted to high resolution digital media, and I applaud the effort.  It will keep many cherished films around for a long time.

Meanwhile, I have waxed nostalgic for the whole process of loading film into cameras, dealing with jammed magazines, checking the film gate to be sure no dust was present when the last shot was made.  I will miss the physicality of film, but it is inevitable.  Times change.

Luckily the art of story telling using moving pictures has not changed, only the medium.  But I still miss the feel of the film itself.  Think I will go home and thread up my projector and watch a movie....oh wait, I don't have a film projector any more!

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