The creation of a new motion picture film is a rarity in this increasingly digital world. But the true chemical reaction can differentiate itself in terms of what it can accomplish both in shadows and in light. The demo tests highlighted at Fuji Film’s launch of their new Vivid Film 500 & 160 as seen through the eyes of three different cinematographers portray different inclinations that sometimes digital just can’t provide in raw form.
The first was Phedon Papamichael who was the DP on “Sideways”, “Walk The Line” and “3:10 To Yuma” and is currently in pre-production on the adaptation of “Bioshock”. His use of the film was in capturing the contrast in terms of shooting a wide vista background of a salt flat set up as a raceway. His intention was to shoot, in the first part of the short subject, the elements of skin tone in highlight without the use of reflectives. As the progression continues, the aspect that the film can pick up the clarity of the interior of an Airstream (without fill light except for the vehicle’s internal practicals) is quite brilliant. As the short takes us into dusk where the race girls end up dancing with the spirits of Indians with fire reflection, Papamichael points out the details inherent in magic hour using mostly only the available light except for the fill on one shot with a 10K. A later shot with a girl’s face lighted only by the reflection of fire with very little grain shows the practical application of the film in terms of shoot and capture.
The second demo piece however shot by Kramer Morgenthau who the DP on “The Express” and “Fracture” truly highlights the potential of the film especially in a true, stylized setting. In an aspect that both David Fincher and Brian De Palma would be proud of, Kramer captures an almost noir setting based on the stories of the murder of models. The first element which is shot in an underground basement-type situation seems to drip with moisture. The brightness of the action is lit almost all by practicals and flashlights. It looks beautiful. The fact with the film that you can see the sharpness of a muted green on the floor is stellar. The action transitions to a large operatic theater which uses fill light and halos which cause a separation of a couple stops. The film still is able to capture the intrinsic details without overcoming sharp lines or narrow softness. The only variable is if these tests were touched through a digital intermediate at all. If not, this is some damn fine spot work on the part of this DP. Even a rain soaked car dripping with the pelting of the drops has fine detail inside lit only by a soft kino. This is truly the piece that sells the ability of the film because through deep color correction on digital you can get the blacks in the frame to this point but it is nowhere near as organic.
The final demo test piece was shot by Dion Beebe who was the DP on “Collateral” and “Miami Vice” (in digital for Michael Mann) and “Memoirs Of A Geisha”, “Chicago” and the upcoming “Nine” (on film for Ron Marshall). In actuality, Beebe tried to push the stops on the film with varying degrees of success. Like certain elements of both sides of his DP work, some things work and some things don’t. For example, the boat scene to Cuba in “Miami Vice” is edgy, raw and beautiful to watch but some of the scenes on the roofs of downtown in the cusp of thunderstorms in Miami are very grainy and uneven in digital. By comparison, certain elements by him on film can be seen as well with “Chicago” using heavy diffusion effects while “Geisha” was situated unbelievably with its use of color. The test here using shadows lines at the beginning is testing the boundaries of the film but is too busy. When the blues on a wall behind a model are overlit to the point of blowout, it seemingly takes away from the subtleties that this film stock can do. Overlighting on this particular type of film is not as intrinsic as either natural outside light or even better sharp but brief practicals. The low lights of the last shots of a car as it drives towards us on an embankment seem soft with the use of oranges whereas the second test using the soft greens and blacks fares much better.
The great thing about these type of demos is that you can physically see what the film can do in its raw state. With the Fuji chemical engineers on hand to hear responses on the essence of what the film does as well as Beebe and Kramer physically discussing the possibilities and questions themselves on what the potential in what it does is, the continuing and necessary evolution of organic film as a medium lives on.