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Celluloid Vs. Video: A Perception Of Light In Digital & Film Sight By Muhammad Ali Adeeb

A Perception Of Light In Digital & Film Sight

By Muhammad Ali Adeeb

Award Winning Motion Picture Director, Producer & Media Expert

"I put every possible effort to make this article as neutral as it should."

Facts Of Life:

Pictures similar to painting can be produced using computers. That does not mean oil painting is going to vanish. 

On the other hand, digital image acquisition, High Definition or better, may replace film in the near future for major TV Broadcast shows.

For movies in theatrical releases, Celluloid will remain the best option. Film (Celluloid) is superior to all electronic mediums (Digital) by all means. But only accomplished artists can get that superiority implemented.  

The Name celluloid

The name celluloid actually began as a trademark of the Celluloid Manufacturing Company of Newark, New Jersey, and the name was registered in 1870. In the late 1880s, celluloids for photographic film were developed.

In this article, Electronic, Video, Digital, and TV Mediums, all are used to represent High Definition.

Tech Definition

Filmmaking using Film (Celluloid) relies on photons of light striking a frame of film -- which is coated with a thin layer of emulsion made up of tiny silver halide crystals that are suspended in the mixture -- resulting in a photo-electrical reaction that results in a latent image being imprinted on the film.

High Definition digital video on the other hand, based on  sensors with two-dimensional fixed grids of pixels that, like film, undergo a photo-electrical reaction when struck by light photons, which are then stored for future amplification onto monitors.

Totally Different Mediums

Digital is easier to use and offers appropriate quality for News, TV Dramas, and most TV shows, whilst Film is matchless for large screens, art concerns, and archiving of extremely important contents.

Certain "movies" will be best achieved if shot on HD, while pure cinematic projects must be "captured" on film to deliver the message.

As "movies" are concerned, here are the 2 main different factors: Quality-Look & Production Course.

Quality Portrayed

Image Quality: TV oriented people misunderstand quality. They always link quality to the number of horizontal lines. Indeed, quality of an Image is something else, is like fingerprint: it has a signature.

Resolution: On the other hand Electronic Media resolution is measured with the number of pixels and lines Horizontal and Vertical, and it may reflect a sort of quality. While lines count is a secondary issue, again, Film if imposed to such a measure, surpasses Video.

Dynamic Range: This is an area where all electronic mediums including best possible Digital Video must remain silent.

Color: Film captures and reproduces a broader range of colors, with lifelike and artistic stamps both.

Furthermore, Long Exposure and Double Exposures are standard features for Film Cameras. Digital Picture Manipulators can perform similar tasks in the Post for the Digital Domain.

Long Stable Life

Film is still the best method of long term archival. Also, Film equipment are safe investment unlike Digital that may be replaced every two years. Video has progressed through numerous tape formats, and many incompatible systems and broadcast standards being used in various parts of the world.

For producers with an eye on international distribution, film has for decades been the obvious choice. it has enjoyed consistent worldwide standards. A 16mm film can be broadcast anywhere among the globe, regardless of the broadcast standard, and a 35mm film can be shown in almost every theater in the world.

Development comes continuously from Digital platform manufacturers like Sony, but also from Film domain like Kodak, Fuji, and Arri, that may surprise industry with new Film partial invention or enhancement, like a better and cheaper emulsion. The power of technology is not bound to one side.

Work Traditions

After a century of Celluloid-Film production, a rich and highly sophisticated Work Tradition has been matured and established in all Film production arenas. In the realm of

Film, talents will find their way after they have run appropriate productive experiences.

On the contrary, within TV production jam-packed atmosphere, unqualified newcomers may quickly find themselves functioning in different roles, Cameramen, Editors, and sometimes as Directors. In the Middle East, this case is a norm. I recall Fellini's Ginger e Fred, a Film that depicted TV production cycle evidently.

LOOK at the LOOK

Making a Film combines philosophy, arts, and techs. As for image, creating true Film image "cinematography" does resemble painting somehow.

While video has some advantages over Film, it still has the problem of "Image". Video footage looks mechanical. Digital is a banal medium that records scenes in a harsh act style with strong solid colors faraway from art and fidelity both.

With irreconcilable image capturing or recording characteristics, Film looks like Film, and Electronic Media looks like Electronic Media.

Film seems more Lifelike, Realistic, and more Artistic. One of the secrets of Film is that it looks as diving through the image with a magical depth of field.

Film produces softer image that contains subtle tonal, pleasing facial tones, richer vibrant range colors, embossed textures, and details. However, "Look" is a wonderful advantage of Film, describing it is not sufficient, it should be observed.

Saving Money

Keeping TV aside, shooting Video for a Film release can be inexpensive upon first estimate, but is not cheap in the end. It costs about (Average) US$ 400.00 per minute to transfer a video feature to 35mm Negative with optical sound and a release print.

With rentals of High Definition Cameras are similar to 35mm cameras, you are actually saving in the Film Stock, lesser shooting days, and other minor factors. In a smaller budget Features, you have made a saving. But medium and larger Features spend only a few percentages of their budgets on Film Stock, most of the budget goes to both cast and crew.

Decide: Video Or Film

We all know that major TV Dramas are still shot on Film.

Leaving the luxury 65mm (70mm) aside, 16mm films and 35mm films do have very high resolution and a broad dynamic range, in addition to the "Look" that has become associated with storytelling; Documentaries and Features, both.

In contrast, the slightly sharper image of video and harsher colors, are associated with news and currents: Video production is typically used for corporate, medical, training, promotional, public relations presentations, entertainment productions, and Sitcoms, in addition off- course to live coverage of events where advantages of video can really be exposed.

Based on that, Quality, and True Cine Experience are not questionable; Decision will have to be made based on other factors including:

1)) Show Target: For Theatrical Release, Or For TV Broadcast.

2)) Short allocated time: video can be shot and edited very quickly.

Digital is handy, and useful. In certain circumstances, like disco-type-story, Digital due to ease of use is the only way to make a film. But when it comes to art-true film language, theater cine experience, long life archive, stylish storytelling, then film is the first and only choice.

However, major festivals and distributors pay more attention and respect to Film.

Equipment Identified

The (A-Minima) Super 16mm camera, manufactured by the French company Aaton has opened up new possibilities for moviemakers interested in shooting and preserving their work on film.

Arri's new (435 Extreme) and Arricam (Lite) are options for serious 35mm with sophisticated features.

On video; The (HDW-F900H), 24P High Definition CineAlta camcorder with new second generation HD progressive scan CCD, offering full High Definition Common Image Format - 1920 pixels by 1080 lines - resolution.

There is an addition to the CineAlta acquisition system product line a High Definition camera, not a camcorder; The (HDC-F950) which provides full-bandwidth digital 4:4:4.

Off course there are more brands and makes that are not listed here, as this article is not maintained as a survey.

Open-minded Discrimination

Only few directors can philosophically, artistically and commercially, control Film Projects. For them, Celluloid is such a lovely medium to use. It distinguishes between accomplished gifted artists, and act-popcorn.