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Old 17-02-2013, 17:36
David Waine
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Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: UK
Posts: 1,566
Film uses silver in its emulsion and the world's reserves of it are running out. That is why digital has been developed. A decade ago, digital image quality was not in the same league as film, but intensive development has changed all that. Go along to watch a new feature film at your local multiplex and you will be hard put to tell whether it was shot on film or digitally if you didn't already know.

'Les Miserables' was shot on 35mm film, but I saw it, projected digitally, at my nearest IMAX venue. The image quality was flawless, which just shows what can be achieved. Of course, as IMAX is not a wide screen format, they would have used the entire film frame, unlike the vast majority of films over the last twenty years or so, which used 'Super 35', which is directly descended from RKO's ultra-cheap 'Superscope' of 1957. This achieved a wide screen aspect ratio by shooting conventionally and masking it down so that only a fraction of the frame was actually used. That is why a widescreen film will often look better on one of the local multiplex's smaller screens than one of the big ones. It requires less enlargement to fill the screen. Super 35's achilles heel was always that its image quality was right up against its limits where big screens were concerned.

Although digital cannot yet match the sheer resolving power of 35mm, it tends to produce a smoother image when greatly enlarged, so the final image on the screen is comparable. At the rate the technology is developing, it is likely that digital will surpass the capabilities of film within a decade or so, and will then take over completely.
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