Watch: Film Stock 101, From Chemistry to Mechanics

You might not know as much about film as you think you do.

Do you know why IMAX film runs horizontally rather than vertically? What's the difference between nitrocellulose and cellulose acetate?

What Is..., a new web series about the history of the medium of film, serves up these answers and more. Although geared toward relative newcomers, the below videos offer some fascinating insight into the mechanics and chemistry of film stock, including information about its (literal) silver lining: silver halide.

And here's a detailed answer to an age-old trivia question:

Where do you stand on the film vs. digital debate? (We already know where Jeff Nichols stands.)     

Top image credit: StillFX / Shutterstock 

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Your Comment


Film's place in modern world? In a museum.

July 16, 2016 at 1:44PM, Edited July 16, 1:44PM

Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor

Meh, yet another troll-bait story for the digifan martyrs.

July 19, 2016 at 8:27AM


Okay person from RED bomb squad.

July 21, 2016 at 6:58AM


Great vid! but the claim Red has 16.5 stops of dynamic range is hysterical. I think you got the film and Red specs confused. Arri Alexa and film still both have more dynamic range than RED cams. That 16.5 stops claim by RED is completely false. And if it is true, it proven test after test how Alexa and Vision3 500T still beats RED in dynamic range stress tests and highlight falloff. And if you include photography film lines like Kodak's Portra400, you're looking at about 21 stops. Also Spectre was mostly shot on film, end scene was Alexa 65, and Civil War was mostly shot on Alexa some shots were RED. Also 35mm film can be scanned at 6k, 5-perf 70mm can be scanned at 12k(if possible), and 15-perf 70mm can be scanned at 36k(but no scanner can do that, unless you scan each frame piece by piece. Hope this helps clear any confusion among readers. I'm just trying to help readers know field facts.

July 20, 2016 at 11:52AM, Edited July 20, 11:53AM


Hey friend, how the editors made the crosssdissolve on a real film?

December 28, 2016 at 6:00PM, Edited December 28, 6:00PM