The F Word

Okay, it’s not what you’re thinking. This is not an expose’ on the merits of an overused expletive appearing not only in everyday life, but in crashing symphonies of dissonance in virtually every pay-for-TV dramatic show now airing. Instead, I’m referring to that other “F” word that’s thrown around as carelessly as “Kleenex”, “Xerox”, “Googling” and a host of other phrases that once proudly referenced a one-of-a-kind product or brand. The F word is “Film”. As in, “Quiet, we’re filming!”, or “I hope you have enough film in the camera for this.”, or “Are you filming now?”

In virtually every case, I can assure you there’s no film involved. In fact, there’s nothing even remotely mechanical that suggests that the camera or recording medium is “running”. Today, sadly, it’s mostly photons of light hitting silicon chips that create an endless stream of digital bits recorded to a frozen slab of God-knows-what in an organized procession of data. You can’t pick up a memory card and “see” what you’ve “filmed”. And if something goes wrong with your “filming”, there’s not even a scratched, jumpy image to console you – there’s usually just a silent slab of jumbled recording bits, unable to acknowledge that you even attempted to “film” something. [Read more…]

The Secret of Film

Dunkirk movie posterA few weeks ago, I went to see the new Christopher Nolan movie Dunkirk. I knew the movie had been shot entirely on film, both Imax and 65mm. (large, large formats – much better resolution than standard 35mm film). The IMAX digital theater in our local town is a pale reflection of what I’d seen years ago when IMAX was a film-projected format. Let me digress a moment…

IMAX was invented as a huge film-projected format way back in the 1970s when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The film that ran through the camera was 65mm wide, but it was flipped on its side for maximum image area. The biggest problem was designing cameras and projectors that could run these enormous gobs of film at 24 frames per second without literally exploding celluloid into the atmosphere. The cameras were heavy, didn’t hold much film (also really heavy) and were difficult to make silent while moving that much film. Not being one who uses superlatives gratuitously, the images were stunning, with a depth and resolution unlike anything I’d seen before or since. (Think 4K magnified by at least 4). When you went to see an IMAX film back then, that’s what you got. The down side was that most IMAX theaters were in museums or other science/touristy locations. The films were almost all documentary based and ran around 30-40 minutes. That was then.

[Read more…]