In my opinion, it is. Let’s look at a few details.
First off, frame rates. Most 35mm films are shot at 24p, which is the revered “film-style” frame rate. Video is usually shot at higher frame rates, such as 30p or 60i for broadcast, which results in an unrealistic, “soap opera” effect. Movies shot on digital are still shot at 24p, although newer movies, like The Hobbit, are being shot at 48p, due to “motion blur” prevalent on 24p productions. Now, I believe that 24p is the best frame rate.
Why should I, right? It’s too antiquated, there’s motion blur, and it’s just not the standard anymore. Let’s look a bit more closely, though.
Now, the phenomenon known as motion blur – the common blurring of scenes when panning quickly across a shot – is a non-issue. GASP! Yeah, that is correct – it’s a non-issue. Why? Put your hand in front of your face, and move it from side to side, but do not move your eyes, and focus on ONE POINT in front of you, like your computer’s webcam. Do not deviate from that point. Move your hand from side to side. It blurs, right? Okay, good. Now track your hand with your eyes, moving your eyes in the direction your hand does. Your hand should always be in focus.
This is why motion blur is a non-issue. When we are not tracking our eyes on anything, motion blur exists IN OUR EYES! And do we track objects on a movie screen? No, we don’t, we take in the entire scene in. Higher frame rates allow us to track our eyes, but if we don’t, it makes no difference and the picture is unpleasant, and the tracking movement is extra work for us. 24p is the way to go. It looks real, but just unreal enough to remind us it’s a movie.
Now, let’s talk about picture quality. This is just all in the favor of film. In digital, you have tiny square picture elements. Any straight line that isn’t vertical or horizontal is not smooth, it’s jagged, and even if we can’t see the jagged edges, it is a noticeable degradation in picture quality. Film takes the frame and presents it exactly like how we see it in real life. All lines are distinct and smooth, and the resolution is unbelievably detailed. Colors are pure and true, and film also fades out beautifully. Digital sensors can’t pack in that much detail, because they depend on numbers, and numbers must be limited. Numbers are blocky and jagged. Film is analog, it doesn’t have any numbers. What is recorded is exactly what was seen in real life, and that’s what counts.
The resolution of film is simply unbelievable. It varies from image to image, but the amount of megapixels required to equal a single 35mm negative is approximately 26MP. The digital movie cameras produced today are nowhere close to that number, the highest resolution ones are 5K resolution, which is close to 5-6MP. If you wanted to project a digitally-created movie onto a gigantic display that’s 3 times the size of the screen at your local multiplex, you’d see rapid image quality loss and pixelation. If you try it with film, the loss of quality will be minimal.
So yeah, that’s my little ode to film. No matter what happens, I hope that celluloid still lives on in some form even after video takes over. There’s just something about film that makes us immediately associate it with the movies.
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