Long Live 35mm

Tuesday 19 August 2014, 11:54

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

Kodak announced recently that they would continue to produce 35mm film - this is good news and here’s why...

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    Comment number 1.

    I agree about having the choice and I have a great affection for 35mm (not least because of my years of still photography with it), but if it disappeared from our screens tomorrow, I wouldn't shed a tear, because digital, for me, has become the format sent from Heaven.

    We all know what digital can do, how it can be easily manipulated to suit your vision, and it's only going to get better. Obviously, the scary thing is its archival frailty (who doesn't know someone who's had a storage drive suddenly die on them?), but I will never go back to 35mm, even for old time's sake. But if people are still in love with it and aren't yet ready to kiss it goodbye, let them have the choice with which to create their vision. After all, 35mm gave birth to cinema and, for that reason alone, who can't still be in love with it in some way?

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    Comment number 2.

    Another aspect to this is that of archive preservation. I am an audio-visual archivist working in the USA and recently visited the Library of Congress Audio Visual Conservation Center in Virginia. Really interesting place doing remarkable work in preserving movies and audio recordings. They are transferring every available format into a digital medium for historical preservation and access. One of the interesting titbits I learned is that digital movies are projected in the cinema using a format called Digital Cinema Package, DCP. These currently aren't archived as they require a specific code, provided when the movie is at the cinema venue, to unlock the hard drive for projection. This encryption code is specific to each instance the movie is played. Therefore, the conservation center is prioritising older formats for preservation due to the ease of access to them for projection. It is easier to transfer older formats into a standard digital format for historical preservation.

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    Comment number 3.

    I'm done with 35mm as a projection format. I grew tired of the shocking state of prints. I watched War Horse with a bright green line down the side of the frame through most of its running time. Even good prints still judder in the frame, and seem to suffer from anamorphic lenses that can't keep the picture sharp from the centre to the edge. The sound cutting in and out where the optical digital track has been slightly damaged in handling.

    I've had precisely one disappointing digital experience - Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter looked like it was originated on a home DV, but that was probably more the film itself than the projection.

    I love the brightness, the sharpness and the rock steady picture digital gives. The original shooting format doesn't seem to matter. Jurassic Park looked just as beautiful as Skyfall. I personally think the celluloid hold-outs are doing it more for tech-fetishism reasons than because it makes any difference to the end result. I don't think they're quite there with the HiFi buffs who buy £1000 cables for their home systems, but I don't think there's many compelling technical reasons to prefer film over digital, and in a very short time there will be none.

    On the subject of archiving, DCP isn't an archival format, it's an exhibition format. I don't think anyone would expect to archive a DCP, any more than you'd take a print that's been playing in the multiplexes as your archive copy. I'd hope the industry is working hard to ensure that our digital legacy is preserved, and that they do a better job than they've done with celluloid.

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    Comment number 4.

    The problem with digital is that all modern CGI films become a blurry low FPS mess during action sequences.

    Then there's the problem with there being no more projectionists because of the digital revolution so who is going to run the old projectors?

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    Comment number 5.

    I can see the difference between the two formats, and to me 35mm is more beautiful and subtle...so far. I can see digital has come a long way in recent years and will probably reach the level of film soon. But it hasn't yet, so have both available.

 

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