Wildly OT... Film's not dead yet
Ran across this list of films shot on film the other day... Highlights...
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
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Kodak made a deal with the majors to keep producing film stock for them. It was announced before NAB.
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Interesting that Charlie brought this up. I was in a camera store in the Dallas area the other day. The owner mentioned there is an Italian company, don't remember the name that is making motion picture film. It is one of those kick starter companies but it is nice to know film is making a bit of a comeback. Even got to look at a Bolex 8mm, not Super 8, camera. From the year 1954, great condition and a bit heavier than I thought it would be, not much. That baby was built like a tank! The owner said he will have classes soon on dark room stuff. Will attend and perhaps post a blog here on it.
Just purchased a H16 recently.
There will always be people shooting on film. Just like there are people who chisel sculptures. Artists will do whatever it takes to achieve their aesthetic. Anything.
The larger question is when film is considered an archaic medium primarily practiced by a passionate adherents who embrace it because it's archaic. In that sense, crafts like armory and blacksmithy are very much alive. Are we not at that exact point with filmmaking on film? The Hollywood equivalent of the Renaissance Faire -- embracing the archaic craft because it's archaic, a playful but sincere rejection of modern values as the only ones worth pursuing.
Looking at that list, the thing that struck me is how few films are shot on film. I know that that list is about emphasizing the awesomeness of the specific movies, without attempting to be comprehensive, but Hollywood released 697 movies last year, about a dozen of which Kodak calls out.
The thing is that those dozen probably do represent a meaningful percentage of films shot on film.
We ran an article exactly year ago, raising the question of when film labs would go away, and the answer is, we're pretty much there. The Last Film Lab?
The article pointed out that there were then 9 members remaining in the Association of Cinema and Video Laboratories, with one about to close. That makes 8 as of last April. I don't know how many more closed in the year since, but I'd guess a couple. In any case, the ACVL no longer exists. Not enough members left to even pretend it was an Association.
Even Kodak admits that the remaining film labs that remain are trying to hang on a business that's focused almost entirely on 16mm, Super 8, and bw. There are, says Kodak, virtually none whose business includes 35mm and up. A couple dozen in the entire world.
Which is another reason why I'm guessing that the majority of films being shot on 35mm is coming out of Hollywood, for the simple reason of access to labs.
The other thing that strikes me about that list is how old the directors are. Only three under 50, and one of them is 48, and the other 49.
For Abrams on Star Wars, I feel like he's more committed to wide screen anamorphic. I'm willing to bet that the next generation of digital anamorphic filmmaking will be enough to get him off film forever.
There are also a number of folks in these quarters whose favorite application of film isn't shooting, but projection. Film distribution really is dead...outside of a few specialty houses who, lie the extreme artists, will do anything it takes to achieve an aesthetic.
So to circle back, there's a big gap between archaic and dead, but as big as it is, at a certain point, it's also moot.
Tim, as always thanks for posting! Also, thank you for posting the link to the article. Read the comments and came across the name of the company the owner of the store mentioned. I wish I had taken a picture of that Bolex camera to share. I was told some of the lenses on that camera were valued at least $100 in U.S. Dollars, the asking price for the camera was just slightly over the cost of just one lens!
As far as the price of a Bolex H16 camera on eBay, the asking price does vary widely from one seller to another. Some were priced around $70 but not sure of working condition. Others were priced around $1000, but most were priced somewhere in the middle. A few H8 variety were listed.
Not sure when the dark room classes will start but very interested in attending.
On a side note, someone was using one of those instant film cameras at a birthday party in the restaurant we were eating at. Prints were a bit smaller then what came out of the original Polaroid camera. Was interesting to that in action. Ferrania is making even the standard 8mm film.
Interesting to see young people interested in film. In fact some college age kids were interested in a 16mm projector I was going to sell it but decided to keep it.
A pervasive argument in film's favour is its proven archival value. Hollywood knows that films have long market lives and developments in tech like VHS, DVD, BLuRay and now UHD bluray have shown that being able to go back to a high res archival master to rescan and sell that popular "old rope" again is important.
Against that is that the instant gratification and huge supply of new material perhaps make the desire to archive less desirable.Data may be more volatile but cheaper to archive.
[Michael Gissing] "A pervasive argument in film's favour is its proven archival value. "
I agree that the film is by far the most reliable archiving medium, but that has nothing to do with acquisition. Plenty of digital material is printed to film for preservation. That's the key workflow of the Library of Congress, for example, for exactly that reason.*
In fact, Fuji HAD been right behind Kodak for motion picture film, but stopped motion picture film production in 2013...EXCEPT for archival print film! THAT's the part of the film business that remains an ongoing concern for them, because film really is a straight legit archival medium. There's a future in it, not just a past.
Gotta love the new product line name for their archival film product line, too: Eterna. LOL Beautiful. Anyway, here's Fuji's 2013 announcement of the end of film production for anything but archiving.
For that matter, though, I imagine that most projects shot on film will be digitized at some point. Scratch that. I'd say virtually ALL film projects are digitized at some point. Certainly for theatrical distribution, including "film" festival distribution -- but not necessarily strictly theatrical distribution.
For example, would you really be shocked if David Mathis's next Bolex epic gets transferred to Blu-ray at some point? Or maybe posted here at the COW? (Yes David, that's an invitation. LOL)
So, the superiority of film for hundreds of years-grade archiving is just that, nothing more. Not at all an argument in favor of film as an acquisition or distribution medium, because acquisition, distribution, and archiving are all independent of each other.
*re: the Library of Congress and film as an archiving medium: we ran a fantastic article about this a few years ago that I can't recommend highly enough, one of my favorites that we've ever run: The Library of Congress Unlocks the Ultimate Archive System, by The Library's Ken Wiseman.
Spoiler alert: the ultimate archive system is film.
What's really striking is that non-nitrate film has what's called a Preservation Index north of 2000 years. Two thousand! Also striking: that number is what Ken calls "non-controversial." Nobody in the preservation community is pushing back on the notion that temperature-controlled film can still be usable in 2000 years.
I know a number of people are taking the "under" on whether there are still humans in 2000 years. I'm taking the "over." But for me, it's a push bet whether or not we still have eyeballs. LOL
No kidding though. Read the article. You will be amazed and astounded, and the Americans here will take enormous pride that there's at least one really smart guy on the Federal payroll. LOL
[Tim Wilson] "I agree that the film is by far the most reliable archiving medium, but that has nothing to do with acquisition. "
Actually my argument is principally about acquisition. The archive ability of film means that as future distribution formats and resolutions have been developed, film can always go back to the camera original and be digitized at the resolution required. A digital master has a certain resolution baked in. Until recently film has exceeded all digital resolutions and that is why its power as an archive for redistributing via new formats has been so important.
From now on that powerful argument for acquisition is less persuasive but it still does factor in the decision to shoot some big budget features on film.
Interesting list. It would be interesting to see a list of Hollywood movies shot digitally with comments on what the digital medium used was. Some are done in Sony 4k such as a Million Ways to Die in the West. That one definitely had a digital look. Lucas shot the 4th Star Wars all digital long ago and it got a lot of criticism for its look.
At the other end there is still a community shooting Super-8, but it is so grainy I find it hardly watchable.
[Claude Lyneis] "Interesting list. It would be interesting to see a list of Hollywood movies shot digitally with comments on what the digital medium used was. Some are done in Sony 4k such as a Million Ways to Die in the West"
Here's a list of some films that used the Alexa.
Here's a list of some films that used RED.
Most of the films of the past 2-3 years that have been nominated for an Oscar for best picture, best director and/or best cinematography have been shot digitally (most likely on the Alexa). For this last round of Oscars only one film nominated for best cinematography was shot on film (no, it didn't win).
Film isn't dead as in literally gone from this Earth, but as far as growth potential goes it's done. No one makes film cameras anymore and I can't imagine there's much along the lines of R&D for developing new film stocks.
Interesting to see the Arri and Red films. The Lone Ranger made both Kodak and Arri because they used both in filming it. I saw a liked Red films, Lucy, The Counselor, Flight and Ellysium.
As far as I know Bolex still makes film cameras, Pro 8mm sells new Super 8 cameras. Not sure of large film format, though. There is an Italian company that is making various formats of film, can't remember the name at the moment. Also noticed that the standard 8mm format film is available.
The magnetic timeline, it's magnetic-o-matic!
[David Mathis] "As far as I know Bolex still makes film cameras, Pro 8mm sells new Super 8 cameras. Not sure of large film format, though."
Maybe it was just the 35mm cameras that are no long made. A couple years ago I thought I remembered a flood of tweets when something go discontinued...
I have not seen any new 35mm cameras on the market. Hoping for a kick starter company for a large format camera. Kodak does still make that format of film. I was lucky to purchase a used H 16 for a very reasonable price. Rather not say how much don't want anyone getting jealous! ;-)
Will say it is priced cheaper than the Rhonda camera.
[Andrew Kimery] "Maybe it was just the 35mm cameras that are no long made. A couple years ago I thought I remembered a flood of tweets when something go discontinued..."
It was Fuji 35. The only film they make now is for archival purposes, with the delightful product line name, Eterna. Its purpose is to create black and white separations for color digital masters. Here's the story on Fuji Eterna, which won a Sci-Tech Academy Award for its contributions to archival technology.
Film really is the most effective and efficient film preservation medium, with a lifetime reasonably and not at all controversially measured in the thousands of years.
Is there a digital storage medium that reliably lasts 1% of that? Not many, for sure.
And as I noted in an earlier post, Kodak concedes that the vast majority of their film stock is 16mm, Super 8, and black and white. Virtually none of it is large format.
You remember that story from earlier this year, about Kodak signing an agreement with a bunch of studios to keep making film stock? (LA Times here.) The films mentioned in the first post could easily represent the majority of the use of large format film stock.
Here's a 2014 story that notes that in October 2013, the number was down to 111 worldwide.
In the US, by April 2014, the number was down to EIGHT. Your guess is as good as mine how many remain a year later.
However many there are, Kodak also acknowledges that those film labs are subsisting almost entirely on the same 16mm, Super 8, and bw processing that -- apart from the studio deal -- Kodak is subsisting on themselves.
So, film ceasing to exist in any form? Of course not. Not ever. Ceasing to exist as an artistic medium? No, no more than people have stopped painting on walls.
Ceasing to exist as a viable business? Already there. I'll bet that there are more people making a living on the Renaissance Fair circuit in the US than there are in the film manufacturing and processing business. So yes, let us be clear: the arts of ruffled collars, brewing mead, and cafes that only sell turkey legs are very much alive too.
Pretty soon, film production will be down to just be JJ Abrams, Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, and David Mathis. The good news, David is that Kodak will make sure you have all the 16mm stock you need, and at least one lab to process it in.
[Tim Wilson] "It was Fuji 35. "
I think this was what was bouncing around in the back of my head.
"While the debate has raged over whether or not film is dead, ARRI, Panavision and Aaton have quietly ceased production of film cameras within the last year to focus exclusively on design and manufacture of digital cameras. That's right: someone, somewhere in the world is now holding the last film camera ever to roll off the line."
Film is probably the most reliable means of storage and acquisition. Do me trust a digital camera or the hard drive? No way, not today and not tomorrow. Digital format is always changing bring new opportunities but more often challenges. Will it be compatible with my NLE of choice? Is my current system up to the task? Is my system obosolete?
At least in the dinosaur land, there was a much more universal workflow. Not anymore, with the constant changing environment. The format of today will be obosolete tomorrow. How it feels anyway.