Cinematographer Steve Yedlin has been doing some super cool work on how to prepare digital images so they look like they were captured with film. Maybe you’ve heard of him, maybe you haven’t. I knew his work from Brick and Looper even though I didn’t know his name until recently. I’m very much looking forward to seeing his work on the new Star Wars movie.
Yedlin loves film, but he doesn’t believe in “the mystery of film.” He believes film has specific artifacts that can be isolated, modeled, and simulated. According to him, as long as you find all the artifacts and model them accurately, you can then recreate the “look” of film using digital cameras.
Have a look at Yedlin’s Display Prep Demo. In it, he compares cinematic images shot on film with digital footage that he prepared to look like film using the techniques he’s developed. See if you can pick which clips are film and which are digital. I sure can’t. He claims that nobody has been able to pick which is which with any sort of consistency.
VFX artist and supervisor, Todd Vaziri (@tvaziri), wrote up a great introduction (which is sadly no longer available on Storify) to Yedlin and what he’s getting at with film modeling.
Yedlin has done a bunch of writing on his web site and on Twitter (@steveyedlin) about film and color. There’s a lot of detail that that I’m glossing over here. Definitely go read it from the source. I especially recommend On Color Science for Filmmakers. Here’s a taste:
“When filmmakers with brand allegiance to celluloid deride digital acquisition as having a recognizably bad video look, they’re absolutely right in describing a survey of what they’ve seen in the past. But the reason they’re right is not the reason they often proffer, which is that film enjoys some sort of magical privilege that digital is perpetually barred from. It’s simply because many filmmakers today who use digital formats unquestioningly accept the standard methods of display preparation which are rooted in video engineering and not photographic richness. The two recognizable looks being compared (the “film look” and the “video look”) are merely the most stereotypical of pre-packaged display recipes for each camera-type, not mutually exclusive attributes enforced by the camera or film-stock brands.”