Final goodbyes for film

Even the few remaining drive-in theaters are going digital now.
Even the few remaining drive-in theaters are going digital now.

As a photojournalist with more than a half-century under my belt, I saw the medium used to produce photographs change dramatically over the years — from both a 4×5 “press camera” and a 120-film YashicaMat to a 35-mm Nikon that was my choice for several decades.

But film left my life in 1999 when my then dependable Nikon F5 was replaced by a D1, all digital camera body that used compact flash cards instead of film.  For the next five years, I used a Nikon D1 (and then D2) and an F100.

Nikon fell behind in digital development and I switched to Canon in 2004 with an EOS-Mk II which, at the time, produced stunning digital photos on eight megapixel cards.

My last trip to a darkroom was in late 1999 and haven’t been near one since.  The Mark II became a Mark III, then Mark IV and I switched over to the 5 D, MKII, which shot both still and video, in 2007.

When Amy and I started shooting video documentaries, we shot in 2002 on a Canon XL-1 S which used digital video cassettes.  We shot the original Friday Night Jamboree on two Canons and later switched to high-definition Sony cameras just a couple of years later and then switched to the all digital Canon 5D MKII and later the MKIII to deliver motion images on compact flash and SD cards.

I think about that now as I pack the car for a trip this afternoon to shoot stills and video for the Joshua’s Hope Concert at the Triple J Palace barn on Rock Ridge Road.  Stills will come from a Canon EOS-1D X and moving images from a Canon C100 cinema camera body.  The still images are captured on twin 32-GB compact flash cards and the video goes to a 128 CFast card.

Instead of film canisters and negative sleeves, my images and videos are stored on hard drives that now to into the terabytes and are backed up hourly.  Using Photoshop or Premiere Pro or Final Cut X delivers quality product using either a desktop Mac Pro or a MacBook Pro.

Is film dead?  Paramount in January of this year stopped releasing movies on film in the United States.  Other studios are falling into place.

“It’s of huge significance,” Jan-Christopher Horak, director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive, told the Los Angeles Times in January.  “For 120 years, film and 35 mm has been the format of choice for theatrical presentations.  Now we’re seeing the ned of that.  I’m not shocked that it’s happened, but how quickly it happened.”

NFL Films, which captures all the slow-motion footage of National Football League events, announced this year that is is no longer a “film” company.  Now their camera operators used all-digital Arri Amira digital cameras.  The company is still keeping its name but won’t keep using film.

More than 90 percent of the movie theaters in the United States have now switched to digital technology.  That has put a heavy cost on smaller theaters because digital projectors cost about 70 grand and many independent movie houses are using community fund-raising to finance the changeover.

But independent filmmakers welcome the change.  The Canon 5D MKII put an inexpensive camera into play to help them compete in the marketplace.

They times, they are a-changing and the pace of that change is also increasing.

One Response to Final goodbyes for film

  1. Is the output with digital as good as with film, or is it just acceptable for the photojournalist’s job?, Was a business decision with the cost of processing eliminated from the equation what tipped film to out of favor?