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Industry Professionals Comment on KODAK VISION3 Film

A Conversation With Fred Murphy, ASC

Fred Murphy

Fred Murphy, ASC

Fred Murphy, ASC majored in architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design, and began his career shooting 16 mm documentaries. He earned his first long-form, narrative film credit for Girlfriends in 1978. Murphy has subsequently compiled an eclectic range of some 70 cinema and television credits, including Ghost Town, Anamorph, Dreamer, Secret Window, Auto Focus, The Mothman Prophecies, Stir of Echoes, October Sky, Hoosiers, and Eddie and the Cruisers. His television cinematography has earned three Emmy Award nominations on In Treatment (2009), Witness Protection (2000), and The Final Days (1990). Murphy shot the 35 mm demonstration film of the new KODAK VISION3 250D 5207 Color Negative Film. Here, the cinematographer explains his reactions to the film, what he wanted to see and what he saw. Following is an excerpt of that conversation:

Tell us about the test you shot with the new KODAK VISION3 250D 5207 film. What were your impressions?

The introduction of the new line of (VISION3) films was a giant leap forward. The 500-speed (KODAK VISION3 5219) gave us more freedom to tell stories in the darkest settings. I was looking forward to testing the new daylight film. I actually shot two 35 mm tests. The first one was simple. I put someone in front of a backdrop and lit them and the background separately. First, I shot tests underexposing the negative in half-stop increments up to four stops. Then, I shot tests overexposing the film in half-stop increments up to four stops. I also experimented with fluorescent, mixed, cooler and warmer lighting. That was the basic test.

What was the purpose of that basic test?

I wanted to get a sense of how the new stock compares to (KODAK VISION2) 5205, the film it is replacing. I wanted to see how much you can underexpose the negative without noticeable grain, and how it handles skin tones, colors and contrast in different kinds of light. Basically, I was comparing it to how our eyes see the world.

What did you do after that basic test?

We made up a few little scenes with people moving about in different settings, again testing to see how the new negative handled under- and overexposure, and how it rendered contrast and skin tones in various types of light.

What were your conclusions?

The differences are subtle, but important. In general, it renders a richer, more natural look, including contrast, colors and skin tones. These tests included over- and under-exposing just parts of some frames. Those shots look natural. The underexposed areas aren’t grainy or murky looking, and the overexposed parts aren’t blown out. There is also a broad range of latitude that enabled us to record details in highlights and shadows.

Truthfully, I’m not a very technical person. I just know what looks and feels right to me. I believe this new film will give us more freedom to underexpose the negative in mixed lighting, when necessary. I also believe this new stock will be especially useful when we are shooting urban, exterior scenes that run a little later in the day or when clouds dim sunlight.