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.
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.
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.
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