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Old October 6th, 2012, 09:37 PM   #1
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A film replacement camera I'd like to see

I was reading where Fujifilm is no longer going to make film for motion picture production and will be embracing digital workflows:

Announcement on Motion Picture Film Business of Fujifilm | Fujifilm Global

I guess that only leaves Kodak (?) in the game of providing film for motion pictures. And Kodak is not the most stable company at the moment:

Kodak Files for Bankruptcy as Digital Era Spells End to Film - Bloomberg

I don't work with film at all, but I still prefer certain aesthetics of film over digital and I feel like naming my own wish list (and it's pretty short) for a genuine digital film-replacement camera, in case Kodak eventually go belly-up and I never get a chance to work with film. While the newer crop of digital cameras are getting ever-closer to film with dynamic range and resolution, there are still some improvements and features I'd like to see.

1/ Skin tones.
This one is big and I recently watched 2 movies which I thought were digital and I was really admiring the richness and detail (showing the variations) of the skin tones and I thought, "Yes! Digital has finally arrived in this area and I'm now satisfied that it can render skin tones as well as film." It later occurred to me to look up each of them on IMDB, just to check which models of digital camera were used, and I was stunned to find that they were both shot on film. I think that the Alexa is pretty good in this area, but film is (to me) still superior and I would like to see this gap finally bridged with the next generation of cameras.

2/ Picture profiles (scene files) which can emulate a variety of processed film stocks.
I don't ask for much, do I? (kidding)
It might seem like a "big ask", but the increasing ability of digital cameras to manipulate the final image with a variety of cinegammas, etc. makes me think that it might be possible if their technical people really set their minds to it.

Before the emergence of the digital colorist working with the Digital Intermediate taken from film, I figure that the DP would have selected his film stock, filmed it and then sent it to the Technicolor labs. At the lab, Technicolor would "work their special magic" to bake in the final "look" with chemical processing. And that final look is what I meant by "processed film stocks".

And I'm thinking of a variety of processed film stocks from over the years: 50s, 60s, 70s, 80, 90s, etc. Perhaps you have a menu section on your camera for "early 1960s" and you go into that and can select a profile to give you the look of the Doctor No processed stock (the first Bond movie, with all of those great-looking Jamaican and tropical island shots). Or go into "early 1970s" and select "The Godfather". Or "late 1970s" (Star Wars). Or "late 80s" (Die Hard), etc., etc.

I don't know how the technical people (at the camera companies) would do it. Perhaps Kodak keeps small amounts of archived negative stock from over all of the years which can be scanned for their characteristics? Or perhaps they can do it from the completed movies from these eras? And then match them to the characteristics of their current camera sensors and electronics?

This kind of idea is pretty much opposite to shooting everything flat and getting the colorist to handle everything in post (like the upcoming Blackmagic camera). With this one, you know which look you want, set your Picture Profile, expose it properly, shoot it and hand it off to the client (or with only some minimal tweaking in post).

A week or so ago, I shot some footage of a new apartment complex for a corporate client. It had a lot of interesting architectural features externally and I selected a good Picture Profile for it. I was happy with the footage. When I got home, I caught the beginning part of the mid-1980s movie "Commando" on cable in HD. When I saw the beginning shots of their house in the mountains, I really wished I'd been able to select a profile to give me that exact look (or very similar) for shooting those apartments. It would've been sensational!

While I think that digital cameras will evolve their own unique "looks" and "feel" as time goes on, the matter of "film replacement" is still a sore point with me and I would like to see digital cameras push forward in terms of skin tones and processed film stock emulation. Then I wouldn't feel we were really losing "the aesthetics of film", even as motion picture film production continues to dwindle.

Just my two cents.
David Knaggs is online now   Reply With Quote
Old October 13th, 2012, 02:57 PM   #2
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Re: A film replacement camera I'd like to see

Hi David, 2 cents well spent.

Imo some of your desires will be filled, but in due course the new producers, kids on the video block who keep in step with the march of technology ..
won't take film into account and eventually, not even be able to afford to give it a second thought.

Like everything else these days, production is being further screwed down by the economics of it.

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