The Look of Film

Event Cinematography In A Digital World

Having worked with 8mm film cameras while growing up and 16mm cameras in college I'll forever be in love with the fluid motion and organic texture which film can capture. Unfortunately there are major disadvantages to using film as a medium for event production. Film's inherent drawbacks include a severely restrictive amount of shooting time, excessive lighting requirements, a lack of easily achieved synchronized sound recording and prohibitive processing and transfer costs.  Fortunately electronics manufacturers have made great strides toward making the visual attributes and vintage feel of film accessible to videographers. The technology of image sensors, digital processing and lens resolution have improved to the extent that it has become increasingly difficult to determine whether broadcast television and even feature films are shot on film or video. Given the right tools and the knowledge to use them the visual qualities of film and video can be very hard to distinguish. Below are some of the recent advancements that allow a film-look.

Film-like frame rate
The addition of the progressive frame-rate of 24 frames per second, the same as film, rather than TV's interlaced 'video-look' allows video to have the motion-blur of film. The visual result of 24 frames per second on video, like film, is smooth and flattering with out the hard-edged artifacts of faster frame rates.  Learn More »

Higher resolution
The current high-definition cameras capture an image that is displayed as 1920x1080 (2,073,600 pixels). This compares to standard definition's 864x486 (419,904 pixels) - nearly five times more visual information in every frame. Learn More »

Increased dynamic range
Dynamic range refers to the camera's ability to render details in shadows while still retaining detail in bright highlights.  A wide dynamic range allows realistic levels of contrast rather than featureless whites and not-so-black blacks.  Film has a very wide dynamic range, but modern video camera sensors have closed the gap considerably. Learn More »

Widescreen aspect ratio
The monitors and TVs being sold today are widescreen.  Their aspect ratio is 16:9, which is the same ratio as HD video cameras and cameras used for feature films.  Most standard definition video cameras, as well as some film formats (8 and 16mm), have an aspect ratio of 4:3, which is a nearly square shape.  Standard definition video with a 4:3 aspect ratio and 8 and 16mm film will not fill a widescreen television's width. Learn More »

Control over the depth of field
A shallow depth of field (DoF) is a visual cue we perceive as being an attribute of an image shot with large format film cameras. The DoF is the portion of a scene that appears sharp in the image. Many variables determine the DoF, including the aperture, the format size, the camera-to-subject distance and the focal length of the lens. Video cameras normally suffer from a wide depth of field - all parts of the frame are in focus. Larger film formats, with their larger format size, can produce a very narrow focus range. This creatively serves to force the viewer's attention on one portion of the frame while blurring the foreground and background elements. The filmmaker can use this additional tool to tell the story. Fortunately, recent advancements have made it possible to achieve a narrow, flattering depth of field with video formats, which until now have had very small sensor sizes. This offers wedding cinematographers complete control over their depth of field, adding another film-like look and feel to the final production. Learn More »

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