4 years ago5,000+ Views
The advances in digital camera technology and the difference in size and weight when compared to film motion picture cameras is notable. I this photo I'm holding an Arriflex BL2 35mm camera with a 1000ft film magazine, in all about 80lbs. 1000ft of 35mm film equates to about 24 minutes of footage (24fps). An equivalent digital camera weighs 1/4 as much. Of course the argument can be made that film vs. digital - film is superior quality. And just why do people think that? Isn't digital supposed to be sharper? The truth is yes and no. When one refers to sharper - in terms of clarity, the lens is typically a vital factor and professional level digital systems are designed to use the same lenses as 35mm systems. The other main component associated with sharpness is the amount of grain visible in each frame. Digital systems have an advantage in this arena in most cases, but this factor depends on the 35mm film stock it is being compared to. Kodak Vision 3 stocks have so little visible grain (depending on the ISO rating) that in many cases you wouldn't be able to tell that it isn't digital in terms of sharpness. There are two considerations as a director of photography that makes me score film above digital in terms of overall image quality. The first is latitude - the range of viable exposure from darkest to light that a stock or medium can capture in a single frame, measured in f-stops. Kodak Vision 3 stocks boast nearly 15 stops of latitude. By comparison the best current digital systems have at best 10 stops. Pro-am cameras like those made by Canon, Sony, and Panasonic, typically have 5-7 stops of latitude. The best way to describe latitude is - anyone who has used a digital video camera indoors during the day has seen that if everything inside is exposed properly if you pan across a window it will appear overly bright, everything outside of the window will be white. This is because the difference in brightness between the light indoors and outside is greater than the latitude of the camera. With Kodak Vision 3 35mm film, you'd have enough latitude to allow you to see through a window into the world outside. This next quality is purely subjective and I'll preface my observation with a question, "Name one thing in nature that grows in a square shape". Nature prefers the circle; planets and stars are round, most fruit is round, rain drops are round... the pupils of your eyes (what you view the world through) and the general shape of your head is round... Film grain is natural - generally perceived as round ( actual halides which form film grain can be a lot of different shapes including the form of a rain drop when splashed against the windshield of a car), our eyes register film grain as circles. Digital media is pixel based - pixels are square or rectangular, depending on the selected aspect ratio. I personally feel that film "feels" better to watch because any visible grain is shaped in a pattern that our minds automatically recognize and accept. Grain produced by digital formats I think can become stressful for some people (who are more visually sensitive) to watch for extended periods of time. I also think that the reason many people feel that ultra sharp digital footage feels sterile or "cold" is because their minds have a harder time accepting the shape of the grain, and the more consistently uniform way it is presented. Digital film grain may vary very little from frame to frame, where the grain in each frame of a film's negative is unique like a fingerprint - which is why film's grain patterns are much more noticeable. Of course the practicality and convenience of digital has streamlined production work flow and it allows for instant review of the footage. With film you have to develop the footage and it can often be hours or as long as a day before the footage can be reviewed (called "dailies"). For me, I still prefer film to digital. The use of one over the other really depends mostly on budget. In the end the argument can be made that digital, overall, is significantly less expensive than film. And these days the difference in budget that film vs. digital represents can be the difference between a film getting made or being shelved.
The only bad thing is having to lug around that 80lb camera! I agree with you though, film has many aesthetic qualities that digital just isn't on par with.
I remember the days of film cameras but alas we no longer even have labs in South Africa.
Also - to be fair, one ARRI model in particular is typically known as the boat anchor, the 535B.