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Soon, No More Film Movie Cameras 227

Posted by timothy
from the video-has-another-crime-to-answer-for dept.
phil reed writes "Creative Cow Magazine reports that manufacturers of movie cameras have quietly discontinued production of film cameras. There are still some markets — not in the U.S. — where film cameras are sold, but those numbers are far fewer than they used to be. If you talk to the people in camera rentals, the amount of film camera utilization in the overall schedule is probably between 30 to 40 percent. However, film usage is dropping fast, which has ramifications up and down the production line. Archivists are worried."
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Soon, No More Film Movie Cameras

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  • by Hyperhaplo (575219) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @07:32AM (#37723128)

    There are a whole range of careers available for data center specialists..

    • by satuon (1822492) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @07:40AM (#37723154)
      They weren't worried about their jobs. They worried that now movies will be stored in physical mediums that last a lot less than 100 years. I know that digital information isn't bound to the physical medium - you can copy it to newer mediums, but there's still a valid concern.
      • Solution: make a film transfer of any movie you want to archive. Also, they could transcode the digital info onto film in the form of one really long-ass barcode.

        • by swalve (1980968)
          That's awesome! Fuck this blueray shit, I want to rent movies on punchcards!
      • by JBMcB (73720)

        If it makes them feel better, they can store the movie data on tape backups. If properly stored, magnetic tapes can last several decades.

      • by CaptBubba (696284) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @07:51AM (#37723216)

        Old film isn't exactly the most stable stuff out there either. Nearly every film before 1951 was recorded on nitrocellulose film which is very susceptible to breaking down (also to burning as well). We've lost many of the films from the silent era to the film simply eating itself.

        Every generation of media has a special challenge which is eventually overcome. Digital is no different.

        • by Hyperhaplo (575219) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @08:00AM (#37723252)

          I was thinking that it is much easier to duplicate and manage digital films... and more specifically perhaps that we will see an industry arise catering for very long term secure digital storage that will last for centuries.

          Imagine many data centers spread across the planet, duplicate copies of stored items, offline and online access... we seem to be on this path now with The Cloud..

          • Imagine many data centers spread across the planet, duplicate copies of stored items, offline and online access... we seem to be on this path now with The Cloud..

            That's a great idea . We could get it all organized and call it something catchy - like 'Pirates' or something.

        • by EdZ (755139) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @08:21AM (#37723340)
          It really depends on the film type used. 3-strip dye-transfer prints, for example, are almost indestructible if stored correctly (i.e. negligible degradation over time).
        • .... how many were stored in a climate controlled archive?

          Some films do have problems with age. This is especially true of film reels from the early age of the motion picture. But in most cases the degradation is more a function of the film not being stored properly because no one imagined wanting to preserve them for posterity all those years ago. Just like during the studios used to just throw out animation cells, they used to can old reels after they retired them from the box office. Consider one of my f

        • by couchslug (175151)

          Fun fact:

          Nitrocellulose film could be cut up and used as "gunpowder". Note the location, whose inhabitants were plinking Brits with their jezails during the first Eurocolonial adventure in the region!

          http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0BQY/is_8_47/ai_76558924/ [findarticles.com]

          "One of the intriguing qualities of nitrocellulose is that it is the basic material in many harmless, domestic products including celluloid plastic, early photographic film, rayon, fingernail polish and lacquer. Not that such items couldn't be conv

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @08:37AM (#37723420) Journal

        They worried that now movies will be stored in physical mediums that last a lot less than 100 years

        You mean, like film? Making film last 20 years is easy. Making it last 50 requires considerable effort. Making it last 100 is really hard. The advantage that film has is that it degrades gradually. A film that's been badly stored (assuming it doesn't spontaneously combust, which is a problem with a lot of old films) will probably be watchable, but the quality will be bad. Digital recording tend to either be perfect or completely unplayable - there isn't much middle ground. The advantage of the digital recording is that, while it is not damaged, copies will be exactly the same quality as the original. This makes archiving a lot easier.

        • Archiving Digital data is not in fact easier than archiving film. To archive film, you put the negative in a climate controlled environment. That's it. To archive digital, you need to put the disks or tapes in a climate controlled environment, then constantly recopy and verify the data. It is actually more expensive to preserve a film digitally than to preserve the negative.
          • Yes.

            An often overlooked fact is that with media that is reliant on mechanical playback, not only do we need to archive the media but also the machines that play them back. Even for analog data, this is sometimes difficult. Remember NASA's moon tapes that could not be played back until a player was reconstructed [thelivingmoon.com]?

            So even if long-term digital storage is stable, efforts have to be made to also archive the format and how to play back the media. Analog film has an advantage in this arena because playback is relat

      • So store them in The Cloud, they will be safe there. Right?
        • by timeOday (582209)
          Correct. (Without the sarcasm). Millions of dollars have been spent and people sent to jail, all in an effort to eradicate movies from filesharing networks. So far as I know, they've never managed to extinguish all copies of even one single movie.
          • I don't know, I've spent months looking for the leaked workprint of X-Men Origins: Wolverine (the wires and green screens and hastily thrown in placeholder CGI made an otherwise horrible movie hilarious) but I can't find it anywhere. Everything I've found is either the actual released film mislabeled as the workprint, a dead link on megaupload or rapidshare, or completely dead with no seeds.

            I honestly think this is going to be the future method of the MPAA and RIAA in dealing with piracy. They can't stop

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        Uhhhh...why? Its all ones and zeroes. You could put it in .avi or .mkv, you could store it on discs or drives or NAND, hell you could even print it as a long stream of ones and zeroes if that melts your butter.

        Hell if anything I'd say film is what you have to worry about, its fragile and don't take changes in temp and humidity well and is a bitch to copy so is less likely to have multiple backups. With digital its as simple as copy or transfer to format or medium, its pretty damned easy. I know that I hav

      • What they care about is, naturally enough, archiving. Which is done with 16mm microfilm and 35mm microfilm (similar to movie film). In fact, the federal government "archive" standard (required for all government records) is MICROFILM. NOTHING ELSE. PERIOD. Meaning, that every county office all over the united states has 2 systems in place. 1) Microfilm station with head camera. Probably looks like an overhead projector setup. Most likely uses 16mm film. Some still use 35mm. And 2), the fully moder
  • by bartron (772079) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @07:39AM (#37723150)

    Archivists might be worried but you can't say there wasn't enough warning. Production houses have been switching to digital since at least the 90's.

    • by nattt (568106)

      Film only lasted as long as it did because of digital intermediates and digital technology, film scanners etc.

  • by subreality (157447) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @07:45AM (#37723190)

    The good: Film stock is expensive. Being able to play back what you just captured is invaluable. Reloading by slapping in a new hard drive saves downtime. Cutting the size and weight of the camera down by 70-90% gives you flexibility. Recording in any aspect ratio by just pressing a button is awfully convenient. Filming at high frame rates like it's nothing is damned cool. Digital projection in theaters and HD sets at home let you have an all-digital workflow.

    Improving: Film has (had?) better dynamic range. Digital cameras are getting cheaper, but still more up front; still, you make it up pretty quickly.

    The bad: Film has established reliable procedures for archiving. Data's still iffy.

    So yeah, other than nostalgia for film grain, digital is the future. This isn't a surprise to anyone in the industry... A few years back digital gained solidly "good enough" picture quality at an attainable price, and everyone's switching as fast as they can get comfortable with the new toys. The technology just keeps getting better, so this isn't going to reverse.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Cutting the size and weight of the camera down by 70-90% gives you flexibility.

      I think you're exaggerating a bit how much the film is of the camera, there are some pretty compact 35mm video cameras and the professional ones are still rather big and heavy. Yes, my little prosumer camera also does 1080p now and that couldn't be done with film, but I doubt anyone's going to make a serious production on it.

      • by all204 (898409)

        I've shot some projects on 16mm with both an old Aaton camera and a small Bolex. The Bolex was quite small and handy, but has some major drawbacks. (Although cool as hell to play with.) One of the issues most people seem to gloss over or ignore is the effective resolution of the film stock itself. Namely 16mm will give you a good 1080p conversion, 35mm somewhat higher than 1080p and 70mm, I'm not entirely sure, but greater than 4k. Notice all those WWII in HD footage on the history channel? That was all 16m

        • by Kjella (173770) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @09:29AM (#37723626) Homepage

          Don't want >1080p now, no problem, but shoot it on a 1080p camera now and you're screwed later. Shoot it on 35mm and your good for 2K later.

          Uh, since 4k and 2k refer to the horizontal resolution 1920x1080 is already ~2k. A direct scan of a 35mm film negative will have a bit more detail than that, but plenty film grain too so in practice they're pretty close as we've seen on many 35mm to BluRay transfers. Note that with analog processing the actual resolution in a cinema was typically less than 1080p so it's not like it was better in the "good old days". Digital 4k all the way from the camera to a 4k projector is likely to look better than 35mm and more like something shot on 70mm, which was fairly exotic. Relatively little was shot on it then and even less now, I'd wager.

          As for 4k, yes it's expensive but not like Hollywood-expensive anymore. Compared to paying Will Smith $20,000,000 to star in your movie renting a Red camera or a Cinealta F65 is peanuts. Then again, unless you're going to be in 4k digital projection cinemas then it's not going to help you today, only when what comes after BluRay comes out. That could take a very long while. Not to mention I wouldn't bet on the tool chain being ready for it either, if only the raw footage is 4k then it'll be a huge job to upgrade it. We saw that with many things made for TV, even if it was shot on 35mm film all the rest was done in SD and would have to be redone.

          • Compared to paying Will Smith $20,000,000 to star in your movie renting a Red camera or a Cinealta F65 is peanuts.

            This is key for pro work. The camera cost is a very small percentage of the total budget. Most productions rent them. Since your intermediate step is more than 90% digital these days (nobody rotoscopes by painting on the film any more), you might as well forgo the chemical process altogether and use digital capture.

            Archiving is a separate issue and if one bothers to read TFA (which is pretty good BTW, congrats) you see a number of companies are actively working towards solving all the problem us brillian

          • If the editing software companies are smart, they're saving the *actions* of the editor as well as the raster results. That way, the edits can be replayed later at a higher resolution, which is probably sufficient for most of most films - there would likely be areas that need more detailed editing, but that would be a much smaller expense than re-editing an entire film.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          16mm will give you a good 1080p conversion, 35mm somewhat higher than 1080p and 70mm, I'm not entirely sure, but greater than 4k.

          1 35mm frame = 4 16mm frames
          Many movies, including the original Tron, were shot in 70mm (4x35mm).

          The film's speed [wikipedia.org] plays an important part in its resolution as well. The faster the film, the lower the resolution.

      • It's not just the reels on top. The mechanical film path through the camera is also gone, which involves a lot of big metal parts.

        Seriously, look at these things: http://www.red.com/products/epic [red.com] ... The body is 5 pounds. Another 5 pounds for a lens, and you have a cinematography camera in about 10 pounds.

        Picked up a Panavision lately? The body alone weighs more than that. By the time you've strapped on a lens and a loaded reel, it's quite a load to lug.

        • It's not just the reels on top. The mechanical film path through the camera is also gone, which involves a lot of big metal parts.

          Seriously, look at these things: http://www.red.com/products/epic [red.com] ... The body is 5 pounds. Another 5 pounds for a lens, and you have a cinematography camera in about 10 pounds.

          Picked up a Panavision lately? The body alone weighs more than that. By the time you've strapped on a lens and a loaded reel, it's quite a load to lug.

          Picked up a fully loaded RED1 [wikimedia.org] recently? It doesn't weigh 5 pounds anymore. Between the monitor, the stand, the recorder box, and half a dozen other little gizmos they can bulk up pretty fast. Actually getting a 4K system that is light and small and useful is a problem that a number of people actively are addressing.

          People get around this by using smaller cameras like the Sony EX3 and changing their shooting style to match the camera (like the 'documentary' scenes in District 9) (which was mostly shot on

    • The bad: Film has established reliable procedures for archiving. Data's still iffy.

      Afaict with a few golden rules you can make a very safe digital archive

      1: keep lots of copies (remember unlike with analog medium there is no quality penalty for making a copy) at geographically diverse locations
      2: keep block checksums and check them frequently. Use other copies to restore corrupt blocks.
      3: Give network sharing read permission only.
      4: don't let the same people have admin privilages on all your locations.
      5: keep some copies completely offline

      • by loshwomp (468955)

        Afaict with a few golden rules you can make a very safe digital archive

        Sure, you can, but can you convince $CORPORATION to do the same when most of their attention is focused on *preventing* copies (think access control and DRM)? We'll probably always find a way to archive DVD/Blueray/whatever is released but the original HD source and audio tracks are probably locked away on $CORP's server and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      The bad: Film has established reliable procedures for archiving. Data's still iffy.

      Yeah right. Just ask any celebrity who's had their cell phone hacked and naked pictures posted online how "iffy" that global archive is...

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      "Being able to play back what you just captured is invaluable"

      It's called video tap, and it works on 35mm cameras.

      "Reloading by slapping in a new hard drive saves downtime"

      Changing magazines on a film camera is just as easy and quick. Pop one off, pop the other on.

      "Cutting the size and weight of the camera down by 70-90% gives you flexibility"

      There are tons of small motion picture cameras. The A minima is way smaller than any comparable HD camera for example.

      "Filming at high frame rates like
  • by mehrotra.akash (1539473) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @07:50AM (#37723212)
    What about the thousands of screens that still use film? Will they ALL have to change their projectors, or will the digital recording be converted to film for them. Also, doesnt film have effectively unlimited resolution, while digital is limited to something around FullHD(1920*1080)?
    • by nattt (568106)

      35mm film negative measures around 3k resolution - so 3000 pixels across. Any more rez on the scan and you won't get more detail out of the image. Digital is already at 5k with the RED Epic. Digital is not limited to HD, and most "HD" cameras don't measure HD resolution anyway.

    • Re:Movie theaters (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Hadlock (143607) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @08:10AM (#37723290) Homepage Journal

      While it's recorded on film, it's edited on a computer, and then duplicated back on to "film", which really is just a long strip of color laser printer transparency paper. The edited digital film is transferred at 4096x2000 give or take. The only films shot in 1080p were independent films. You'd be shocked at how many films are distributed this way. Something like 90%.

      The end result is that the picture you see in the theater isn't as clear as the image you saw in the 1980s, but it's still ultra sharp for the purpose it's used for.

    • Re:Movie theaters (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AC-x (735297) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @08:21AM (#37723338)

      Given that most post-processing in film has been digital for decades but digital projectors have only just started to become widespread, I'd say we already have perfectly good ways to produce 35mm prints from a digital source.

    • Film resolution is limited by the grain size. It's about 3k grains across on 35mm. 1st-gen digital projection was 2k pixels across; the current standard is 4k; 8k may become popular if 3D stays in fashion.

      • by tgd (2822)

        4k is extremely rare, even today. Even IMAX Digital isn't really 4k.

        • by nattt (568106)

          4k scan is typical for 35mm film. 65mm (think Baraka or Samsara) would be scanned at 8k. IMAX would be scanned higher still. As for digital projection, 2k is standard, 4k becoming more common.

          • by timeOday (582209)
            That's comparing apples and oranges. Scanning 35mm at 4k doesn't mean it ever had that much resolution. The grain is clearly visible.
          • Digital IMAX is, iirc, 2 * 2k projectors, which is not quite 4k, even if the pixel count matches (I don't know the vertical resolution, for instance...) I don't know what it's shot at...

      • by nattt (568106)

        3k is the neg. Projected film doesn't generally measure more than 720p in a typical cinema. Digital projection already out-measures film projection.

    • by tgd (2822)

      Virtually all movies are edited digitally, so for a decade film prints have been from digital copies, anyway.

      And given the costs of film copies (and the corresponding cut in profits from the distributor), theaters are being very heavily incented to go digital. (And the rise of 3D is pushing that, too.)

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @08:22AM (#37723348) Journal

    Ordinarily, being the geek that I am (and having worked at the very forefront of digital cinema) I'd be pleased that faster, better cheaper technology is replacing film, even in the "capture" (recording) stage.

    However, as a wanna-be physicist, I know(?) that color is NOT just the simple mixture of three (or more) primaries; that is in Real Life(tm) it is a continuos spectrum and that film cameras (I think) capture it with some chemicals that are not just sensitive to a narrow slice of this spectrum. I compare this to modern CMOS based cameras in which the sensors, even if they are similarly "broadband", probably have different responses to light than say Kodachrome.

    So, does this account for why some people say digital looks different than film? Can it corrected? Do people care? I worked in compression not color but I guess I should have learned this. :(

    • by nattt (568106)

      Film negs use three layers which respond to it's three primary colours, CMY. Digital generally uses three filters to do RGB primaries. Our eye's cone cells come in three types - LMS.

    • by realityimpaired (1668397) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @09:16AM (#37723570)

      Digital will never be 100% for everybody... for most of us, it's pretty close though. The reason is that while light is a continuous spectrum of wavelengths, our perception of light is a mix of 3 primaries. There's 3 basic colours of cones in your eye (red, green, blue... what a coincidence!), and your brain compares how much each of those react to different wavelengths to produce a colour. Digital display relies on this in order to reproduce the same perception of colour... it displays relative intensities of each of these three primaries in order to trick your brain into thinking it's looking at a different wavelength when it's actually looking at a combination of primaries.

      The thing is... your "red" cones aren't all responsive to exactly the same frequency. Ditto the green and blue ones. And my red peak sensitivity band is almost certainly different from yours. Because digital display doesn't reproduce the exact colours you're sensitive to, it'll never be 100% true to life. It'll be close enough that most of us won't notice the difference, but it can't be 100% true to life. More than that, some humans, mostly females, actually have 4 colours of cones instead of 3, and can see slightly into what most would consider the ultraviolet range (I'm one of them). For those people, digital playback can never be as vibrant as real life, because it's not capturing that extra information that the eye sees. (and no, Sharp with their quattron, is still a waste of money, because the 4th colour isn't yellow).

      • by Arlet (29997)

        Of course, analog film also uses 3 different pigments, that don't perfectly match the colors of your cones, so it can't be 100% accurate either. At least with digital, it's much easier to improve the gamut, since you don't need messy chemicals, just a bunch of color filters.

    • by luckymutt (996573)

      So, does this account for why some people say digital looks different than film? Can it corrected? Do people care? I worked in compression not color but I guess I should have learned this. :(

      I don't think so. I think some people say it looks different when they are talking about low budget, quick turn around digital like like soap operas and low budget independent shot on consumer grade equipment.
      When the digital pipeline is professional grade, shot, comped, edited and finished at 4k, then I think most people won't spot the difference (that is, if the director is going for a "film" look, which many do)
      As for color, some pro digital cameras sport up to 18 stops of dynamic range, which is gr

      • by jon3k (691256)
        Well I don't know if comparing film and digital video on a digital monitor really tells you much :) You'd need a film projector using "analog" film and a digital projector with a digital source to get a real comparison, right?
    • by swalve (1980968)
      Film looks "correct" because it is analog and made of real world chemicals that have the same flaws that the real world does. The green pigment in film (for example) shares some of the non-linearities that the green pigment in grass and tree leaves do. The color gamut reflects the real world better. Where digital is more linear, and a bit more artificial. You can also make Serious Photography Mistakes on digital and just correct them, where in film, you are more stuck with it. So, for example, if you s
    • by bryan1945 (301828)

      There are processing systems that make digital look more like film. The different systems have varying levels of success. Here is a generic Wiki article about it-
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filmizing [wikipedia.org]

      Sorry, I tried to look up individual systems, but couldn't find any since I forgot their names. I had an acquaintance make a film for about $6K, and when I first saw it I asked him how he afforded film. He told me about his digital setup and I was quickly lost in the tech details.

      The processing is getting b

    • It is not the colour range so much as the intensity range. Companies are working hard on building sensors with a larger range, but a sensor with both the resolution and the dynamic range of film is not there yet. It might be possible to manufacture a camera with multiple sensors and neutral density filters to expand the range, but I don't think anyone has done so.

      Film is still widely used in the television industry because of that. A large percentage of high-budget TV dramas, commercials, and movies are
    • Film isn't continuous either. It's layers of color filters.

      In fact, the only hope you have for a continuous spectrum is to do some kind of scanning spectral imaging setup like is done in some planetary mapping satellites - you don't get to have a 3 dimensional sensor, and I'm not sure where you'd put the diffraction grating to separate the spectrum of a 2-D image even if you could, so you have to scan a line for every frame. You're going to need a pretty bright light source for TV HD - at least 1080x as p

  • Don't fret so much about lost media. You can always remake a film, with the added bonus of improving it for modern sensibilities. Lose your blues, everybody cut footloose! Next up: Soylent Green, it's people!
  • by leandrod (17766)

    No Chinese manufacturer? In still TLR photography Rollei, for instance, is gone, but China’s Seagull is still going on.

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @01:45PM (#37725232) Homepage Journal

    So are those of us that appreciate analog.

  • by FlyingGuy (989135) <`flyingguy' `at' `gmail.com'> on Saturday October 15, 2011 @09:17PM (#37727752)

    I know this will get lost in the background noise, but ti needs to be said.

    File has more latitude, better color reproduction, and does not have jaggies, compression tear or bizarre artifacts.

    Film has an ethereal quality and it allows my eyes to relax and take everything in while letting me slip into that space were I am transported to the realm of the movie.

    One day film will be gone completely. For now I have stocked up on as much 35mm film stock that I can afford to but and have it in deep cold storage. The chemicals required to develop it will always be there and I have the formula's to mix it.

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