KODAK VISION3 5219 Customer Testimonial

Daryn Okada, ASC
President
American Society of Cinematographers

Daryn Okada, ASC
Daryn Okada, ASC
Photo by:
Douglas Kirkland

Daryn Okada's feature film credits include Paparazzi, Just Like Heaven, Mean Girls, and the upcoming Baby Mama. Okada shot the demonstration film for KODAK VISION3 5219. The cinematographer later explained how he shot the demo and what results he achieved. Following is an excerpt of that conversation:

What role did you play in the design of the KODAK VISION3 demonstration film?

I was given the basic elements of a three-act story about two boxers who have different skin tones. One is African-American and the other one is Caucasian. They wanted me to shoot the test in various settings: interior and exterior, night and day. The rest was up to me.

What were your personal goals for the demonstration film?

I wanted to test how the film responded in lighting situations that exceeded where we usually go, including its exposure latitude in extreme highlights and the color reproduction in the darkest shadow areas, and mixed color. I designed the shots with director Tim Wainwright and filmed them with both the new (KODAK VISION3 5219) 500-speed stock and (KODAK VISION2) 5218 emulsion. I lit scenes in ways that stretched the possibilities of the new film.

What were the settings for shooting the film?

We shot scenes in an old barn and a warehouse where the boxers were training. Another scene was filmed outside the barn at night, and the final shot was in a boxing ring in the warehouse.

What format was the demo film produced in?

I chose Super 1.85:1 because that format made the most efficient use of the negative area when scanned for digital postproduction. That isn't a novel idea. I suggested that format for a movie I recently shot for Universal Studios that I knew would be a digital intermediate (DI) finish.

Did you shoot side-by-side tests?

No, I decided to shoot the demo comparing the new film and 5218 with the same camera and lenses, one after the other.

What did you learn?

The new emulsion has a much wider range of usable exposure latitude than VISION2 5218 in the overexposure areas. I make that comparison because they both have a recommended exposure index of 500 in 3,200K tungsten light. I found at least two more stops of range in the highlights. I also set up shots with a diverse span of colors to see how they reproduced, including skin tones. The new film records an even richer range of colors and skin tones without the saturation contaminating each tonality.

What kind of environments were you shooting in?

They were all practical locations. We had a pretty intense three-day shooting schedule, so there wasn't a lot of setup time for lighting. It paralleled the real world we work in. I lit the boxing ring in a way that we might find that location realistically. It was mainly top light with practicals for most shots and not much else. I wanted to see what would happen in the shadows and how much highlight detail we would hold. We shot daylight interior scenes in the barn that had areas pretty much in near darkness. I set the camera on a dolly for a shot with the subject in the foreground inside of the barn. As we tracked around the boxer, I framed the ambient sunlight in the open door. The entire exterior was almost seven stops overexposed. I knew that it would hold some detail without blowing out completely, but even I was surprised to see more details in the open door to the exterior as well as the texture of the wooden walls inside the barn on the new film.

VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 5219/7219
A scene from the KODAK VISION3 5219 demo film shot by Daryn Okada, ASC.
(C) 2007 Eastman Kodak Company

What else were you personally interested in discovering?

Since a large percentage of feature films, especially those produced by the studios, are now being finished in DI, I wanted to see if the increased latitude of the new film offered any advantages. The shot in the barn with the subject in the foreground and the bright exterior outside the door was a perfect test. I had the colorist use a Window, and made the exterior and background darker until it looked normal. I liked the details that we got, including colors, and the fact that the luminance didn't look compressed. 5218 was a great advance in technology, but in this situation, details in extreme highlights tend to look a bit compressed compared to the new film, and as expected, lacked some color definition. Also, the VISION3 film had less grain and noise in those highlight areas.

Were you testing for anything else?

This is a somewhat finer-grain negative than 5218, so I wanted to see how it handled pushing and force-processing by one stop. It was transparent. I couldn't see any build-up of grain when we looked at the timed DI projected on a cinema-sized screen. I could see a difference in side-by-side comparisons between test shots on 5218 and the new film after we timed the DIs. The truth is that the 5218 test looked great, but there was an almost magical reduction in grain in the new film without affecting colors.

Did you make other observations?

One thing I like about film is that it sees and records the world the same way that the human eye does. I had a sense that the new film is a significant improvement in that area. The 5218 negative has plenty of underexposure latitude, but I noticed that the image stayed more consistent with the new film working with it through a DI. The new film records less apparent grain, and it has more exposure latitude in the highlights and more color resolution in both the darkest and brightest areas. I found that it was much faster to achieve the look I was going for in DI with VISION3.

Did you do any lighting in the barn or was it all natural?

Most of it was ambient coming through open areas, but I augmented it a bit to keep the light consistent in case the sun moved while we were shooting.

How about the third setup, which was a night exterior?

The idea was to shoot a night exterior scene outside the barn in darkness to see if it would react the same way as 5218, because I have such a good feel for 5218 in those types of scenes. I found that the new and old stocks both recorded what I envisioned, but the new film captured more details. It is difficult to put into words. It has everything we like about 5218 but with a little more punch and clarity of color.

VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 5219/7219
A scene from the KODAK VISION3 5219 demo film shot by Daryn Okada, ASC.
(C) 2007 Eastman Kodak Company

Were both or either of the boxers in the night exterior scene?

The actor playing the Caucasian boxer was in that scene. He is outside the barn splashing water on his face, because I wanted to see how the new film handled highlights in that situation. I mixed some Unilux strobes for lighting the water. The shots included practicals in the dark background. The entire image was incredibly rich in a way I haven't seen before, with less or no digital artifacts created in DI, because the finer grain structure and color palette had less noise to begin with.

So what were the other setups?

We had two different locker room setups with each boxer. One was at night and the other one had sort of a sunset look with mixed lighting. I used a fluorescent source with daylight in the background and exposed for tungsten on one of them.

What did you notice after timing that test scene in DI?

The new film recorded more details and a richer range of tones.

What if you want grain for a certain look or feeling?

That is one of the advances I saw in the new film. If you want grain or more texture you can have the lab push the process to get that look while holding true colors.

Were there any surprises, or was it all what you expected?

I guess the biggest surprise was how the reduction in grain affected what I did with the time I had in DI. I found that I could isolate backgrounds and make them darker without introducing electronic noise. And the fact that I chose to have large parts of the frame overexposed in some shots was transparent.

Why is that important to you?

I think this new film is very chameleon-like. It can be whatever you want it to be, depending upon the look you want and the situation that you're shooting in. It doesn't force you to work one way or another in different environments.

VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 5219/7219
A boxer trains as part of the KODAK VISION3 5219 demo film shot by Daryn Okada, ASC.
(C) 2007 Eastman Kodak Company

Did knowing you were going to do a DI affect how you shot the demo film?

Knowing that much of the demonstration would be finished in a digital intermediate realm, I stretched the entire range of latitude of the film because I wanted to see how it handled a film-out. I also wanted to see how prints made from a DI master compared to shots printed directly from the negative, so original camera negative was cut into the DI negative.

What resolution did you do the DI in?

The negative was scanned at 4K resolution and down sampled to 2K, so that we could time the DI in a more interactive environment. I didn't actually make a lot of changes during the DI. Mainly, I used Power Windows when I wanted to isolate something in a shot to explore a worst case scenario maybe an overexposed background and make it look right. I feel that this film is very DI-friendly. It retains natural-looking details, tones and colors. That gave me a lot of freedom to efficiently fine-tune looks.

Would you use the new negative for a film with a pure optical finish?

Absolutely. It is a finer grain negative with more exposure latitude that enables you to record more details. What surprises me is that we have associated films with extended range to look more pastel and grainy, but VISION3 has even a little more punch in contrast and saturation, even when it's directly printed and posted photochemically. This is just my opinion, but I think it widens the gap between film and digital origination.