Re: [Frameworks] Quo Vadis Celluloid?

From: Jeff Kreines <>
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2011 15:33:12 -0500

When talking about the look of "nitrate" people often ignore one important fact: earlier film stocks had a much higher silver content than current (B&W) stocks -- back then the silver was slathered on with a trowel. Current B&W print stocks are anemic in terms of silver content -- the last half-decent stock was 7261 B&W reversal stock, which Kodak killed off.

B&W nitrate prints, when projected, have a luminous quality due to the higher silver content and possibly also from the way the nitrate base pipes light -- which in some people's opinion is closer to the way modern polyester stocks are affected by the light passing through them, quite different from triacetate stocks. The look of carbon-arc lamps (vs. modern Xenon) also is a factor in what people recall as the special look of 35mm nitrate prints.

Nitrate negatives (and other nitrate film) are scanned all the time. While care must be taken, nitrate is not as scary as is commonly believed, though there are many true horror stories of nitrate fires.

It would be quite simple to add flicker to digital projection. The newest 3D digital projectors (including home projectors) alternate between projecting a left and right image. It would be easy to substitute black for one of these images. One could also use projectors that are capable of a higher framerate and feed them from a computer, with files that add black frames as desired.

A simple mechanical shutter could be added in front of any non-colorwheel projector, and if one wanted to be extra clever it could be synchronized with the framerate. There is a new 3 LCD projector from Panasonic (the AE7000) coming next month that is 3D capable, and has, according to early reviews, very high contrast ratio and good blacks. There are reviews at

I have been doing a lot of tests recently with scanning film at different resolutions, and found that higher resolution scans and higher bit-depth, and high dynamic range, made a huge difference in terms of image quality, even when the resulting scan was later down-rezzed to HD or even SD.

Interestingly, this was especially apparent with grainy small format film -- for example S8 Tri-X reversal. When scanned at low resolutions (720P, 1080P) there are not enough pixels to properly sample all the grains in the image, and the grain can take on a strange look with the pixels affecting the perceived shape of the grain (the edges get squared off). It is similar to the Nyquist theorem in the world of digital audio -- the sampling rate must be at least 2x the highest frequency one is trying to reproduce (ergo CD sampling rates of 44.1kHz, and common audio sampling rates of 48K and 96K and even 192K). Film scanned at higher resolution -- 2.8K to 3.3K -- had no such problems. (All tests were done on the same scanner, at 12 bits, so the scanner was not a variable.)

Finally, while I have not seen The Tree of Life, it was shot entirely on 35mm film, but went to a 4K digital intermediate because tests showed that the current Kodak print stocks appear to be optimized for DIs and not for photochemical prints -- they are contrastier than they used to be, according to the film's DP Emmanuel Lubezki. There is an interesting piece here:

Again, I have not seen the film, but it appears to be made in a far less Hollywooden way than most current Hollywood films.

Jeff "recovering from 4 months on the road" Kreines

(Thanks to those from Frameworks who provided places to stay!)

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Received on Tue Aug 23 2011 - 13:33:31 CDT