Saturday, 7 January 2017

Back from the Dead!

Two somewhat large yet opposing tech stories have emerged this week from CES, the huge consumer and technology show in the states. One of these was the release model and specs for the Panasonic GH5, the hugely anticipated (and far from disappointing!) latest iteration of a camera that will do more for filmmakers within a budget to make stupidly high-quality digital video than anything else currently on the market (until next week at least...!).

And I do want one. More interesting, however, was the unexpected (but suspected at some point) announcement from Kodak that they would be re-introducing Ektachrome reversal film stock after an absence of several years. For both photographers AND filmmakers. S**t the bed. This is good.

The announcement can be found here: Kodak brings back a Classic

For those of you who may not know (or care) why, let me tell you - briefly! For Super 8mm (cine-film) filmmakers there is a tangibility when it comes to using the medium. Reversal stock provides a positive print, so film can be shot, processed at home and projected, all within an hour or so. There is no need for lab development, positive prints taken from the negative, etc to get a result. It is immediate. The colours are richly saturated, the contrast and tone is beautiful, I could go on.

Here's me processing film in a Travelodge bathroom when I was running a weekend course for Raindance in London a few years ago:


When Kodak filed for bankruptcy a few years ago one of the first casualties was the end of production of all reversal film. After what had been quite a resurgence in recent years, especially among artist filmmakers, Super 8mm filmmaking hit a downward spiral. Sure negative film stock was available but it is harder to process and the result is not as pleasing. We wept collectively. Then I lost interest. There were (and are) several grass-roots companies that have tried to keep it alive but production was slow, it was hard to get hold of and expensive.

At the same time the drive towards 4K, 8K etc continued unabated and continues to do so, however slowly but surely the argument about film vs. digital raged on and proponents of film began to regain traction. Take Star Wars: The Force Awakens for example, without a doubt one of the biggest films ever, and shot on 35mm. The re-structuring at Kodak also began to pay dividends. There were whispers of new labs worldwide, new cameras (and there hasn't been a new commercial Super 8mm camera made since the 80's - please correct me if I'm wrong) and it has all come to fruition.

Excited doesn't describe it. I can't wait until it's released. Time to get on Ebay before the price of cameras skyrockets!

Here's one I made earlier, a bit of fun while on holiday: