After 123 Years, Motion Picture Film Cameras Go Out of Production
Film is beautiful. It’s going to be around for years to come. Plenty of feature films and TV shows are still being shot on film, and used film cameras will remain a viable rental market for a long time. But in the last several months, the major manufacturers of motion picture cameras — ARRI, Panavision and Aaton — have all ceased production of film cameras. Celluloid, you’ve had a great 123-year run. So long, and thanks for all the fish!
Here, then, one last ad for film from Kodak, for nostalgic purposes:
You could pick apart so many quotes here, from Brett Ratner talking up film even though his latest, Tower Heist, was partially shot on the ARRI ALEXA, to anyone who says film has greater dynamic range (the ALEXA has the same DR, and RED’s HDRx exceeds it). Not to mention that 4K cameras meet or exceed film’s resolution, which is not to say that digital cameras are objectively better in terms of pure aesthetics — the texture and highlight detail of film are still magical — but cost and workflow-wise, digital has come a long way and will continue to improve to the point where it’s not just a matter of meeting film’s image capture capabilities but exceeding it. Here’s the word from Aaton and Panavision:
[Aaton founder Jean-Pierre] Beauviala believes that that stereoscopic 3D has “accelerated the demise of film.” He says, “It’s a nightmare to synchronize two film cameras.” Three years ago, Aaton introduced a new 35mm film camera, Penelope, but sold only 50 to 60 of them. As a result, Beauviala turned to creating a digital Penelope, which will be on the market by NAB 2012. “It’s a 4K camera and very, very quiet,” he tells us. “We tried to give a digital camera the same ease of handling as the film camera.”
Panavision is also hard at work on a new digital camera, says Phil Radin, Executive VP, Worldwide Marketing, who notes that Panavision built its last 35mm Millennium XL camera in the winter of 2009.
One thing I don’t buy at all is people saying that the best way to archive digital material is on film. Sure, there are plenty of concerns about codecs going in and out of use, but you’re telling me that physical celluloid, which is subject to the ravages of time, temperature, fire, mishandling, and accidents, is a better archival material than 1s and 0s which can be stored as exact lossless copies in many locations? If you’re worried about future-proofing your codec choices, output your archival file in several formats. Not to mention that you can keep the NLE timeline and source files in the digital realm, though good luck opening that FCP7 timeline in Final Cut Pro X! Point for film, I guess.
Anyway, we’re going to see plenty of films shot on celluloid for years to come, but for all intents and purposes the last motion picture film camera has already been manufactured. Check out both articles below for more. Onward and upward!
- A Refreshingly Practical Shootout: Six Digital/Film Motion Picture Cameras Compared in Available Light
- Master Cinematographer Roger Deakins on Shooting with ARRI ALEXA: 'Film Had a Good Run'