The Insider's Guide to Production: The Future of HDTV is film - Sponsored by Kodak Entertainment Imaging (UK)

The advent of digital imaging technology doesn't mean film is dead. In fact, the future of high definition lies with the format.

In a world where hype is everything, high definition is certainly getting its fair share.It's easy to lose a sense of reality, but I believe film is still the best capture medium... here's why. Film is sexy. It looks better. There's more detail. Film has a unique, dreamlike, organic quality. It's natural. It replicates the way the eye sees and it lasts longer. Film is future-proofed, offers more creative flexibility and is compatible with every format.

The truth is that the advent of HD has blurred the message about the real value of film.

People are aware of film as a format, but they are not necessarily thinking about it in the correct way. The 21st-century emulsion technology that is built in to celluloid is nothing less than a state-of-the-art, cutting-edge imaging science - but sometimes that gets overlooked.

The point here is that format is merely a conveyor belt - it's actually what's on it that counts.

And the beauty of film is that all the technology is found in the consumable and not in the hardware - multiple layers of emulsion as thin as a human hair, offering a creative palette to satisfy even the most powerful of imaginations.

The fact is, the imaging workflow for the entire industry is set up for film.

You can shoot anywhere on the planet and take the film to any neg cutter, any post-production house or laboratory and put it on any projector in the world.

No other format can boast that.

I am a realist, however, and I do accept that there are two polarised camps in this industry: the "HD nuts" and the "film nuts".

And the trouble is, the argument is getting progressively fogged on both sides of the divide.

It's a myth that Super 16mm film doesn't capture enough data for HDTV; it's time the delete button was struck firmly on that misconception.

Super 16 continues to be a significantly more versatile and easy-to-use medium - and everything that has been captured on it in recent years could easily be broadcast in HD.

So it is a definite HD format for capture - and 35mm is still the best capture format available.

Scream for the boys in the white coats - and tell them to bring straitjackets if you wish - but I am happy to shout loudly from the rooftops that film is the future.

But let's look at the facts.

Film is the only truly reliable archival medium. It is format independent, and the data captured will last hundreds of years if properly archived.

Compare that statement with the levels of performance of even the best digital storage media, which have a relatively short lifespan - even under optimum conditions.

Now, let's talk about resolution.

When combined with digital scanning, a 35mm frame of film can deliver at least 8k worth of meaningful digital data to post-production processes. That's a number which today's electronic cameras just can't match.

Let's turn our attention to latitude and exposure control.

Film is capable of handling over- exposure far better than digital cameras. Extreme brightness can result in "clipping", which is where the image blows out. Once a video image has clipped highlights, there's no amount of post work or money that can bring back the highlight detail.

And the features and benefits just keep on sliding right into frame.

The nature of film provides continuous tonal gradations between black and white - it's much closer to a continuous sampling medium - and it provides greater colour fidelity.

Plus, when it comes to slow motion, film is certainly no slouch. This medium is so versatile that it has the ability to reliably capture both high speed and slow motion more naturally.

Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to deny HD its place - I'd be a fool to attempt that. It is a great creative tool, but I find it sharp and unforgiving.

I have been labelled a "blinkered film evangelist", but it needs to be recognised that Kodak is a world leader in imaging science. First and foremost, Kodak is an imaging company which offers a broad church of film and digital solutions.

We form partnerships with creatives right through the workflow process - from capture, post-production and distribution. We've got software tools that help to maximise the data captured from film. Then, of course, there's our colour science, dust-busting, artifact removal and look creation (which could include special effects from our CineSite operation) - right through to distribution, whether that's digital cinema or our own film stocks.

All these digital products come under my wing too, so it's not just about "bigging up" motion-picture film - it's all about choosing the best and most appropriate solution or medium. And when it comes to moving-image capture, that medium or solution is still film.

We are constantly looking to push the boundaries of imaging science, whether that is film, hybrid or digital technologies - and we continue to be committed to the future of celluloid.

We've recently launched the Vision2 range of five new films - all with excellent grains, stunning sharpness and true speed ratios.

Film is still used with all generations of camera, telecine or other equipment - and the conclusion to be drawn is as clear as HD itself.

The superior image quality of HD delivery makes film's advantages even more obvious. And that's where we came in... the future of HDTV is film.

David Webb is the director and general manager at Kodak Entertainment Imaging (UK).


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