Re: why we shoot film/contrast ratios and sensitivity

From: Mitsu Hadeishi (email suppressed)
Date: Sun Mar 05 2006 - 12:06:55 PST

I think it would be a shame to lose people who make interesting work just
because of the loss of film as a medium, but to each his own. However, it
does strike me as a bit strange only because it is obvious that eventually
digital formats will equal or exceed film formats in terms of resolution and
dynamic range. I mean, I can understand nostalgia for nostalgia's sake, but
at least for me, it's the art that matters, not the technology; everyone has
their own locus of nostalgia, It does remind me a bit of the old story about
the passenger railroad industry and why they refused to get into air travel
and thus disappeared: they thought they were in the railroad business when in
fact they were in the transportation business.

Everyone is free to make their own choices, of course, but I really encourage
people to really check into what is possible now. Of course there is
something sensual about watching film, projected --- but there is also
something sensual and visceral about a good video projector. A lot of this
has to do with simple things like dynamic range --- film has a dynamic range
of around 9 f-stops, or about 500:1 or perhaps a little more --- many basic
video projectors have a real contrast range of only 250:1; but the ones
designed for cinema have a measurable contrast ratio of 500:1 or even 1000:1.
This makes all the difference --- it's hugely noticeable watching a DVD
transfer on a 1000:1 or higher video projector, suddenly the experience
changes, the effect really is spectacular, and it's a major reason I believe
that video projection is becoming a viable alternative.

Going over other technical measures, many high-end HD cameras already exceed
the signal-to-noise ratio and effective resolution of 16mm, and even match it
in dynamic range --- the one area where film still tends to do better is
extremely low light, but a very high signal to noise ratio HD camera can do
very well in low light given some gain boost.

Of course, I don't have an inherent bias against digital, I don't have a
romantic attachment to film. To those who do, fine, obviously no one can
force you to try something different. My opinion, however, is that
everything changes, and not always for the worse, and I for one am more
interested in what people do with what is available to them.


On Sunday 05 March 2006 13:39, Anna Biller wrote:
> It's true that it's difficult to get film projected, but if you don't
> try then it certainly will never never get projected. Another
> experience that opens peoples' eyes is watching film projected. When I
> invite people back to my musty shack behind the garage and show them
> scenes on my flatbed, it's a sensual experience like no other they've
> had. Even older people who used to work in film but stopped long ago
> are amazed at the vivid experience, a trace memory of something
> pleasurable they've forgotten.
> I agree with Pip, for me it's no small love. If I couldn't work on film
> I wouldn't go to video, I would go back to painting or do plays.
> What do people think of the film "Peeping Tom?" Has anyone seen it at
> the cinema lately? I saw it recently, and felt so implicated by being a
> scopophilic pervert like the character in the film. The guilt comes
> from identifying so much with a serial killer, which is of course the
> tricky thing about the film, as it implicates not just filmmakers but
> all film voyeurs, all film audiences. But what's so sensual is, he goes
> around with this wonderful 16mm camera all the time and records
> everything, documents his whole life, and especially things having to
> do with suffering, pain, love, sex. Does anyone know what kind of a
> camera that is? It looks like it's got 3 lenses in front that rotate,
> and it's portable but larger than a Bolex. Probably a British model?
> On Mar 5, 2006, at 9:25 AM, david tetzlaff wrote:
> > Pip asked
> >
> >> We love film. Don't we?
> >
> > The use of the term is too vague, conflates too much. "Film' denotes a
> > technology and/or an art-form, and we seem to disagree on whether
> > those things can be separated. I love 'film' the medium, but it's a
> > small love, ultimately dispensible under pressure. What I love more
> > are 'the films' the art, the vision, whatever you want to call it.
> >
> > Mitsu refers to "pointless infighting that serves only to distract us
> > from what I think is far more interesting, the discussion and
> > promotion of
> > experimental, innovative, creative work in any medium." Partly true.
> > But the infighting does have a point, which stems exactly from the
> > desire to discuss and promote experimental innovative creative work.
> >
> > I teach production at a liberal arts college. Our students are not
> > 'artsy' and they arrive thinking 'film' is what they see in
> > multiplexes. If I do my job well, they leave with a broadened
> > perspective. I want to encourage them to makes kinds of pieces they
> > have previously unfamiliar with - to encourage them to explore,
> > experiment, innovate. They can't just do this out of thin air, they
> > need to get some sense of what alternative visions are and have been,
> > and they need some exemplars of being different.
> >
> > Here is where people like Sterritt and myself run into a big problem
> > -- the increasing difficulty of presenting this work, as the
> > institutions around us have dropped support of film and gone all
> > digital. Not to mention the fact that a film print is NOT suitable for
> > close study of a work, and an electonic reproduction is...
> >
> > Before you write the 'you could show the films on film if you tried'
> > posts, let me note that I have been running a one person effort to
> > revive 16mm projection on our campus, but there is no one who cares
> > about and no one to do anything but me. I have been at it for a year
> > and a half, but we still don't have a single 16mm projection setup I
> > have confidence in.
> >
> > It is counter productive anytime anyone posting here speaks of a wider
> > audience to come back with some smack about Joe Sixpack and his Plasma
> > of the 'the public are cretins' variety because that is not what we
> > are talking about. We are not speculating. We are talking about
> > empirical evidence, actual people we know, mostly young people, mostly
> > students. We have seen, again and again, how their eyes get opened,
> > maybe even their lives changed, when they get a chance to see this
> > stuff -- in any kind of copy. Have you not read the many posts to this
> > list from people who live in the sticks and are dying to get to more
> > of this stuff but have no opportunity? Yet, the constant response to
> > these queries is to throw up hurdles along with a lot of rah, rah
> > chatter about how easy they are to jump over. Yeah baby, you can raise
> > that money to rent prints if you try! Yeah, all you need is the will
> > and a phillips #1 to keep that old surplus projector humming along so
> > it doesn't chew up those rare prints! Thank you Dr. Pangloss.
> >
> > We also have empirical proof, as Sterritt, mentions, that these
> > potential enthusiastic audiences are best reached by maximizing
> > overall projection fidelity, regardless of the medium of
> > reproduction...
> >
> > I'm happy things seem much better in Europe for the connection of
> > the-art-that-is-on-film with the actual material of film. Things are
> > different here Pip.
> >
> > To sum up, the film vs. electronic debate matters because the
> > ideological gravity of the positions groups of people take influences
> > the actual breadth of distribution of work, and the nature of
> > distribution matters because in the real world real individual people
> > who want and need access to the spirit living in this art are being
> > needlessly shut out.
> >
> >
> > __________________________________________________________________
> > For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.