NFL Films, the production company that has dazzled our eyes and ears with beautiful 16mm footage and slow motion aerials of the National Football League, will stop shooting its regular season and postseason games on film. For 2014, they are now moving to the ARRI AMIRA as their main production camera, with likely a number of other supporting cameras that have already been in use. While film got a shot in the arm thanks to the news that Hollywood will continue buying Kodak stock, this is certainly a setback.
Here's a snippet from the NY Times post describing the move to the AMIRA:
Testing began on various models with the goal of finding one that would replicate the look of high-speed film and satisfy Steve Sabol, who counted cameraman among his many roles at the company. One problem that Sabol and others at the company wanted to avoid is the fluttering on digital video shot at high speeds, Katz said. The experiment continued after Sabol’s death in September 2012, as cameramen used models from Sony, Panasonic and Arri, mainly for close-ups and bench shots.
“We wanted our cameramen to have the same comfort they’ve had with film cameras all these years,” Katz said.
Eventually, NFL Films chose the Arri Amira and bought 30. Steve Sabol never saw what the Amira could do but did see another Arri model, the Alexa.
If you're not familiar with the amazing work they do, here is a highlight reel from the 2013 season:
The AMIRA seems like a perfect fit for NFL Films, between the ProRes codec, high frame rates, and shoulder-ready design. Here's some footage shot with it from a few months back:
With deadlines getting tighter and tighter, moving completely to digital allows them to offload footage each quarter and send that back to NFL Films HQ, where it can then be edited and sent to other networks that use the clips. The company has been experimenting with digital for some time now, shooting plenty of footage on cameras like the ALEXA and the RED EPIC, with a wide range of other digital cameras in the mix.
Film, however, has been the one constant over the years, and the majority of game action has been 16mm for most of NFL Films' 50 year history. They've had their own lab for some time, and have even processed plenty of negatives having nothing to do with football (including one of my student films).
If you're bummed about the look changing, the company is still planning on shooting film for some projects until their stock runs out:
There is still some unused 16 millimeter film left at NFL Films. Some of it will be used for future documentaries, but the last bit will be used for “NFL Films Presents,” a show that is moving to Fox Sports 1 this season after a long run on ESPN.
For more about the change, check out the NYTimes post, but in the meantime, it looks like this will be an extremely rare sight on NFL sidelines: