5 frames with...

5 frames with Kodak Vision3 in Medium Format – by Tim Lebedin

December 30, 2019

I don’t know much about movie production in general, let alone moviemaking using film. How do the cameras work, how do they process the film, the color grading, etc. etc. Its all like a black box to me. One thing I know is the actual film stock used in moviemaking these days – Kodak Vision. There used to be others, but seems like most of them are discontinued. Probably most of you are familiar with the stock by now – you can get it in every other film store/lab, lots of listings for it on ebay. With one “but”: in 35mm. Frankly speaking, I never even cared about the stuff that much – shot it once or twice, got decent results, nothing too spectacular. But you know, sometimes we all have these 2 am iPhone notes, internal dialogues, what if-s… And so had I. “If there is a medium format Cinestill, there should be a medium format Kodak Vision3, amirite?” Yeah, guys, there is.

I started digging information about this on the net, and came across some mentions of 120 cine film here and there, but nothing specific. I found out, that 65mm film (which is almost the same size as 120 film) is used to make movies in Panavision (if the film is pulled through the camera vertically) or IMAX (horizontally) format. And, since movies these days are shot on Kodak Vision3, it is pretty safe to assume, that, in theory we can get 120 format IMAX film.

After some research I found only two places you can buy 120 spooled Kodak Vision3 from. It is a film lab in Moscow and just one seller on eBay. The film I shot was bought in the Moscow place, so I can’t be 100% sure that they are the same and made from the same material. They both are cheaper then cinestill though.

The thing is, as I found out, IMAX film should be just a bit wider, than the regular 120 – about 65 mm (vs. ~61 mm), but the negatives that came from the lab are the same size as regular Portra, HP5 etc. So I contacted the lab I bought the film from, and they told they actually do cut the rolls from 65mm movie film (the Cinestill website says, that their 120 film is made of “special order material” of some sort). And of course, as you may’ve already thought, the term “IMAX” is probably incorrect, since it is not just the film, but also chemicals, scanners, etc. etc. Heck, even if this has nothing to do with IMAX, it is still kinda neat having motion picture film in medium format!

Since it is movie film, it is perforated and some of the image area is exposed onto the sprockets (not sure if Cinestill 120 is perforated). Personally it is not an issue for me, just something you need to keep in mind when shooting this film. I think it adds a vibe even. Just don’t put somebody’s face in the edge of the frame.

I can’t say I’m that impressed by the shots I got so far. I shot just 1 roll of 250D and 1 roll of 500T. I shot the 500T at night and I was expecting that colder tungsten white balance, but most of the frames turned out green-yellow-ish.

They are by all means still good and usable and look awesome when color-corrected (not applied for photos in this article), but editing film in post is something I’m just not used to. I’m not sure if that is some kind of a scanning issue, or the street lights are just way too yellow (they are, to the eye), but I got more balanced scans under the same street lights on Fuji Pro 400h.

This car was pakred on my street for a few months, until I finally got to shoot it. It has been gone ever since. Some hardcore yellow cast on this shot, too

This was actually shot in total darkness, to the point I couldn’t even see the upper part of the ferris wheel. The sky is red-ish because of the light from giant billboards, not sure why the ferris wheel is this color

The shots on 250D look more true to life, I would say. But cinematic? Not really. I don’t know how to explain this, but to me it feels, like the images are dark, like you have to strain when looking at them. The colors are really nice though, with a slight yellow cast.

Probably my favourite shot from the both rolls. Had a real hard time getting a clear frame without people on the foreground on such a sunny day.

The sunset shots look kinda underexposed, but actually you can see lots of shadow detail in them

What do you think about Kodak Vision3? Is shooting it really worth the trouble? Plenty of people say, that Portra and other modern Kodak emulsions use pretty much the same tech as the Vision3, and with modern artificial lights tungsten balance is not really a thing anymore.

P. S.: I don’t know if anything about IMAX film written in here is 100% correct, but this is everything I found out. So if you happen to know, if these are “Dunkirk” cutoffs, or just some kind of a homemade something something, please do drop some knowledge on me.

Drop in on my instagram page too @outta__focus.

Cheers

Support 35mmc

For as little as $1 a month, you can help support the upkeep of 35mmc and get access to exclusive content over on Patreon. Alternatively, please feel free to chuck a few pennies in the tip jar via Ko-fi:

Become a Patron!

Learn about where your money goes here.
Would like to write for 35mmc? Find out how here.

8 Comments

  • Reply
    Pierre-Alix Favillier
    December 30, 2019 at 10:31 am

    Hi Tim, not sure if you are aware of the analogue insights channel on YouTube but I think the following link might be useful and related to your article. I think there are issues when it comes to shooting stills on film that is intended for motion pictures due to the post processing involved with movies and general expectations of the photographer.

    https://youtu.be/41YAh2tIjeE

    Let me know what you think.

    Pierre

    • Reply
      Timmeh129
      December 30, 2019 at 10:56 am

      Hey Pierre! Yeah I’m aware of the channel and i believe i’ve seen the video at some point. I know that silbersalz uses movie equipment, but as one can imagine, that is not widely available. However, as far as i know, the lab i give out my films to, uses true ecn2 chemistry to develop motion picture stocks. Granted if they don’t lie, of course, lol. Of course the scanner is not the gargantuan IMAX or something scanner, and the software is not the same, but then again, the issues that you are talking about are part of the reason why i decided to write this – is all the cinema film fuss worth shooting it?

  • Reply
    Terry B
    December 30, 2019 at 11:38 am

    Tim, I feel confident in saying that the perforated 120 film you refer to is actually a master 65mm film type from which 70mm films are then printed. Google 70mm film to find out about its history and what the extra 5mm is used for in the final print.
    As you did ask the question is it worth it? I have to say based on the colour response here, sadly, no. For conventional photographic purposes it seems like too much hard work. Even predicting how the film will respond to the subject matter appears nigh on impossible and then, as you point out, a great deal of effort looks like it will be needed to get any sort of “normal” result in PP. IMHO, far better to stick with standard type film emulsions that are specifically designed for still photography.

  • Reply
    CharlesMorgan
    December 30, 2019 at 5:12 pm

    Kodak Vision is used as the basis of Portra 400 and 160 I believe, if not yet 800. I’ve shot re-spooled Vision 250 in 35mm and the colours were a delight, but I also had to clear the remjet, which I only partially succeeded in doing. I had no colour cast at all – I used normal C41 chemicals after remjet clearing. I would have expected more blue in the 500 but all the light balance could be adjusted using the WB in Lightroom.

    I personally think your last shot is about a stop underexposed especially with the backlighting, it’s not the detail but the muddy tones.

  • Reply
    Muthu
    December 30, 2019 at 6:18 pm

    The first pic with the street lights is a brilliantly composed shot

  • Reply
    Sergio Palazzi
    December 30, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    Hi, very nice article!.
    Looking at the first shot, with the greenish tone, I suppose it is due to old and phased out mercury lamps, that still are in use on so many poles all around the world (in front of my home, too). The lamp on the right looks “warmer” than that on the left. The inner lamps look more natural.
    The wheel’s colour could derive from scattered lights of this shade, although non reciprocity effects are surely present.
    Actually, we’re starting a study about some consequences (e.g. in fashion) from the fact that the changes in visual perception and rendition as the light sources of XX century will probably all disappear in next decades. It has also relevant effects on photography… a great 2020 is opening!

  • Reply
    Louis Sousa
    December 30, 2019 at 9:38 pm

    Classic images with a unique rendering. Very beautiful.

  • Reply
    Roger B.
    January 1, 2020 at 11:27 pm

    Your ferris wheel image is a beauty: Much more evocative than a similar shot with “correct” color. Worth another go-round, IMHO.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.