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Film: "The Stuff"

Page history last edited by Air Dupaix 13 years, 11 months ago


The Roots of Film Stock




In order to discuss the materials used in creating motion pictures, we must first examine the basis from which motion pictures began: the photograph. Joseph Niepce, Louis Daguerre, and William Henry Fox Talbot were inventors who worked on developing innovations in the field of photography in the early nineteenth century (2). While Niepce and Daguerre worked together in France on photography technology related to traditional photography, Talbot worked in England on a different form of photography. Talbot discovered a method that made it possible to produce multiple prints by way of using a negative (2). This form of photography technique is the most closely related to the process used today in the modern film industry.



The Beginning


Thomas Edison is the first to be credited for using a flexible film stock in motion pictures (2). Film stock is the photographic film that motion pictures are shot and reproduced on (3). Edison had worked with William Dickson on the development of the film camera system that would soon be the standard piece of equipment used to shoot motion pictures (2).  Edison passed on the project of developing film stock to George Eastman (2). Eastman worked alongside John Carbutt and Hannibal Goodwin in order to develop film stock (2). The introduction of celluloid, a transparent and flexible film base material, made the creation of the material we know as film stock a reality (3). Before using celluloid, motion pictures were produced on rolls of paper, which were far more fragile and created poor quality images compared to cellulose (1). When hiring Eastman to create film stock, Edison gave specific dimensions about the type of material to be used.  The film stock which Eastman patented in 1884, was thirty-five millimeters wide and perforated in two rows, with four holes per frame, for the entire length of the material (2). While Edison

gave Eastman a standard to go by, early film produced was not always a standard size due to differences in various cameras (1). This fact, along with the inability to process red light, were two of the deficiencies of early film stock (1).



From Then to Now


Film used in today’s motion pictures is obviously more elaborate and complicated than the film stock first developed in the late nineteenth century. A piece of film will contain multiple layers of filters and emulsions: a safety base is the first layer, followed by an anti-hilation layer, which helps prevent fogging in the film, next are emulsions of red, green and blue (each having a filter between them) (1). Modern film stock also contains dyes of yellow, magenta and cyan that are released when the film is processed, in order to give the film a complete spectrum of color (1). 



Death to Filmed Film?



As films travel through to the 21st century, a technological revolution has occurred. Audiences are purchasing equipment that allows them to view movies in ways that only the local cinema could offer before. Surround sound, wide "screens", and "high resolution" are all that people seem to want from their movie experience. To accommodate this trend parts of the movie industry are digitizing their entire process of production and moving entirely away from film stock itself. But why would they do this?


The pros of for digitizing the film making process would be to cut down the time and costs the production companies making films. The first important aspect of the digital film revolution is the editing process. The editor can simply manipulate computer files, as the Wikipedia of film informs us, "without waiting for the film stock to be processed" (Wikipedia: Film) and in some instances simply send the completed movie to a server by passing any physical form of the movie altogether. Another big push for the digital motion picture is distribution costs, to obtain a single film print would costs $1,200 where as if you had a digital copy according to the digital cinema page, it would "fit comfortably on a off he shelf 300GB hard drive-which sell[s] for as little as $40...[and w]ith several hundred movies distributed every year, industry savings could reach $1 billion or more" (Wikipedia: Digital Cinema). The final push for digitization is preservation of films, the most concerned films would be conserved, like nitrate and single strip color films, and digitize them in a simple process of either scanning the film or using a high-resolution telecine to record them thus allowing the "film" to be saved on a computer.


The negative of these wonders of digitization would be the cost to consumers, issues of storage and tastes for projected films. The initial cost of conversion from film projectors to digital is a difference of $100,000 per screen. Wikipedia's article on Digital Cinema said that "a film projector for US [is] $50,000 and an average life span of 30 to 40 years. A digital cinema playback system can cost 3 to 4 times as much and hold a higher risk of component failures and has an economic lifetimes of 5 years with some units lasting only 10 years" (Wikipedia: Digital Cinema). The storage of the films would be in jeopardy as well, "no current media, be it optical discs, magnetic hard drives or digital tape, can reliably store a film for a hundred years, something that properly stored and handled film can do" (Wikipedia: Digital Cinema). But the best defense of the filmed motion picture would be the aesthetic of watching films on film. I personally hate blueray disk, high definition movies because they are not at the 24 frames per second pacing that I've grown to love (Wikipedia: Film) or to put it ineloqqently, the film "feels" like a horrible High-defntion news cast instead of a movie. Nick Goundry in his article "IMAX: The Bigger Picture", comments mainly on IMAX films but his line about new technology holds true with digital films as well. "An inevitable result of this new technology is that the format opens itself up to the same criticism routinely leveled at mainstream Hollywood; the 'wow' factor induced by cinematic spectacle is prioritised over good storytelling" (Brightlights) and thus with digitized movies we get the Michael Bays of the world instead of Hitchcocks.



Works Consulted


1. Ellis, Jessica. "What is Film Stock?" wiseGEEK. n.d. Web. September 22, 2009.


2. "Film Industry, History of- Early Photography, Film Inventions, Film Content, Film Art Emerges, The Studio System, The Television Era." Online Encyclopedia. n.d. Web. September 22, 2009.


3. "Film Stock." Wikipedia. July 5, 2009. Web. September 22, 2009. 


4. "Digital Cinema" Wikipedia.org. September 23, 2009. Web. September 29, 2009.


5. "Film" Wikipedia.org. September 25, 2009. Web. September 29, 2009.


6. Goundry, Nick. "IMAX: The Bigger Picture" BrightLightsFilmJournal.com

Comments (1)

Sean Desilets said

at 10:42 am on Sep 24, 2009

• Missing: width variation
• Might want some stuff about the impending death of film
• Interpretive possibilities: kinds of images produced by different kinds of film

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