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Film For 4K UHD Delivery

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In the past 30 years we have seen a phenomenal transition in video formats and broadcast television, writes Adrian Bull, Managing Director, Cinelab London.

A brief summary of the evolution of TV from the mid-eighties takes us from analog composite to component, digital composite to digital component, and from 4:3 to 16:9 widescreen all in the space of 15 years.

From the start of the noughties the advent of HD saw an explosion of over 35 formats designed to cover a variety of resolutions and frame rates.

A further 15 years on we are now seeing the next big step to 4K UHD with a further jump in resolution and support for enhanced colour space and dynamic range.

Whilst video rapidly evolved, film largely remained unchanged – the four prevalent film gauges 8, 16, 35 and 70mm (65mm) have all been in use for well over 50 years, and many cameras from the 60's and 70's are still in regular use.

The technology that continued to develop was the film stock, and every film benefitted from these developments whether a budget Super8 short or a blockbuster feature.

As video formats have evolved, the same film negatives have been remastered time and time again, each time getting closer to representing in the video world the detail and dynamic range that had been captured on film from day one.

We can demonstrate clearly the difference between a 2K and 4K scan on 60-year-old 35mm negatives, and super 16mm negatives with fine grain 50D stock can comfortably resolve 2.5k resolution and 35mm over 6K.

With 4K delivery in mind, acquisition on film can be a smart and very cost effective choice.

Hire costs for film cameras are lower than ever and you can buy a 35mm camera for much less than the cost of a day hire of an Alexa 65.

With a sensible shooting ratio of around 12:1 a two camera 35mm / 3-perf shoot can come in at a similar budget to a 2K Alexa shoot.

If a 4K delivery is required, with film this can be decided at the final delivery stage where the overhead is a 4K select take scan, rather than 2K.

This typically adds in the region of £15k-£20k to a feature film budget.

To use 4K digital cameras and retain the raw data throughout the production is incredibly expensive by comparison.

For Cinelab London, we have seen a dramatic increase in interest for remastering archive film content in 4K in the past year.

Feature films, TV dramas and pop promos all shot on 35mm film can be scanned and restored to a higher quality than ever before, creating visually stunning results.

Film is far from fragile, it remains amazingly robust as an archive format and as well evidenced can be used repeatedly to produce ever better results as our video world struggles to catch up.

This article is also available to read at BFV online here, page 36.


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