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What is 35mm film resolution?

Posted in entertainment, film, movies, technologies by commorancy on December 26, 2018

filmstrip-fI’ve seen a number of questions on Quora asking about this topic, likely related to 4K TV resolution. Let’s explore.

Film vs Digital

What is the amount of pixels in a 35mm frame of film? There’s not an exact number of pixels in a single frame of 35mm film stock. You know, that old plasticky stuff you had to develop with chemicals? Yeah, that stuff. However, the number of pixels can be estimated based on the ISO used.

Based on an ISO of 100-200, it is estimated that just shy of 20,000,000 (20 million) pixels make up a single 35mm frame after conversion to digital pixels. When the ISO is increased to allow more light into the aperture, this increases film noise or grain. As grain increases, resolution decreases. At an ISO of 6400, for example, the effective resolution in pixels might drop to less than 10,000,000 (10 million) due to more film grain. It can be even lower than that depending on the type of scene, the brightness of the scene and the various other film factors… including how the film was developed.

If we’re talking about 70mm film stock, then we’re talking about double the effective resolution. This means that a single frame of 70mm film stock would contain (again at ISO 100-200) about 40,000,000 (40 million) digital pixels.

Digital Cinematography

Panavision Millenium DXL2With the advent of digital cinematography, filmmakers can choose from the older Panavision film cameras or they can choose between Panavision‘s or RED‘s digital cameras (and, of course, others). For a filmmaker choosing a digital camera over a film camera, you should understand the important differences in your final film product.

As of this article, RED and Panavision digital cinematography cameras produce a resolution up to 8k (7,680 × 4,320 = 33,177,600 total pixels). While 33 million pixels is greater than the 20 million pixels in 35mm film, it is still less resolution than can be had in 70mm film at 40 million pixels. Red DragonThis means that while digital photography might offer a smoother look than film, it doesn’t necessarily offer better ‘quality’ than film.

Though, using digital cameras to create content is somewhat cheaper because there’s no need to send the footage to a lab to be developed… only to find that the film was defective, scratched or in some way problematic. This means that digital photography is a bit more foolproof as you can immediately preview the filmed product and determine if it needs to be reshot in only a few minutes. With film, you don’t know what you have until it’s developed, which could be a day or two later.

With that said, film’s resolution is based on its inherent film structure. Film resolution can also be higher than that of digital cameras. Film also looks different due to the way the film operates with sprockets and “flipping” in both the camera and projector. Film playback simply has a different look and feel than digital playback.

RED expects to increase its camera resolution to 10k (or higher) in the future. I’m unsure what exact resolution that will entail, but the current UW10k resolution features 10,240 × 4,320 = 44,236,800 pixels. This number of pixels is similar to 70mm film stock in total resolution, but the aspect ratio is not that of a film screen, which typically uses 2.35:1 (Cinemascope widescreen) or 16:9 (TV widescreen) formats. I’d expect that whatever resolution / aspect that RED chooses will still provide a 2.35:1 format and other formats, though it might even support that oddball UW10k aspect with its 10,240 pixels wide view. These new even wider screens are becoming popular, particularly with computers and gaming.

Film Distribution

Even though films created on RED cameras may offer an up to 8k resolution, these films are always down-sampled for both theatrical performance and for home purchasing. For example, the highest resolution you can buy at home is the UltraHD 4K version which offers 3,840 x 2,160 = 8,294,400 pixels. Converting an 8k film into 4k, you lose around 24 million pixels of resolution information from the original film source. This is the same when converting film stock to digital formats.

Digital films projected in theaters typically use theatrical 4K copies, much the same as you can buy on UltraHD 4K discs, just tied to a different licensing system that only theaters use.

Future TV formats

TV resolutions have been going up and up. From 480p to 1080p to 4K and next to 8K. Once we get to 8K in the home, this is the resolution you’ll find natively with most digitally captured films. Though, some early digital films were filmed in 4K. Eventually, we will be able to see digital films in its native resolution. 8K TVs will finally allow home consumers to watch films in their filmed resolution, including both 35mm film and 70mm film stock both as well as many digital only films.

For this reason, I’m anxious to finally see 8K TVs drop in price to what 4K TVs are today (sub $1000). By that time, of course, 4K TVs will be sub $200.

8K Film Distribution

To distribute 8K films to home consumers, we’re likely going to need a new format. UltraHD Blu-ray is likely not big enough to handle the size of the files of 8K films. We’ll either need digital download distribution or we’ll need a brand new, much larger Blu-ray disc. Or, the movie will need to be shipped on two discs in two parts… I always hated switching discs in the middle of a movie. Of course, streaming from services like Netflix is always an option, but even 4K isn’t widely adopted on these streaming platforms as yet.

Seeing in 8K?

Some people claim you can’t see the difference between 1080p and 4K. This is actually an untrue statement. 1080p resolution, particularly on a 55″ or larger TV, is easy to spot the pixels from a distance… well, not exactly the pixels themselves, but the rows and columns of pixels (pixel grid) that make up the screen. With 4K resolution, the pixels are so much smaller, it’s almost impossible to see this grid unless you are within inches of the screen. This makes viewing films in 4K much more enjoyable.

With 8K films, the filmed actors and environments will be so stunningly detailed as to be astounding. We’ll finally get to see all of that detail that gets lost when films are down-converted to 4K from 8K. We’ll also get to see pretty much what came out of the camera rather than being re-encoded.

Can humans see 8K? Sure, just like you can see the difference between 1080p and 4K, you will be able to see a difference in quality and detail between 4K and 8K. It might be a subtle difference, but it will be there and people will be able to see it. Perhaps not everyone will notice it or care enough to notice, but it will be there.

Film vs Digital Differences

The difference between film and digital photography is in how the light is captured and stored. For film, the camera exposes the film to light which is then developed to show what was captured. With digital photography, CMOS (Complimentary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) or possibly CCDs (Charge Coupled Devices) are used to capture imagery. Most cameras today opt for CMOS sensors because they’re less expensive to buy and provide equivalent quality to the CCD sensors. For this reason, this is why RED has chosen CMOS as the sensor technology of choice for their cameras. Though, RED cameras are in no way inexpensive, starting at around $20k and going up from there.

Overall

In concluding this article, I will say that 4K is definitely sufficient for most movie watching needs today. However, Internet speeds will need to improve substantially to offer the best 8K viewing experience when streaming. Even Netflix and Amazon don’t currently provide even an amazing 4K experience as yet. In fact, Netflix’s 4K offerings are few and far between. When you do find a film in 4K, it takes forever for Netflix to begin streaming this 4K content to the TV. Netflix first starts out streaming at 480p (or less), then gradually increases the stream rate until the movie is finally running at 4K. It can take between 5-10 minutes before you actually get a 2160p picture. Even then, the resolution can drop back down in the middle and take minutes before it resumes 4K.

Today, 4K streaming is still more or less haphazard and doesn’t work that well. That’s partly due to Netflix and partly due to the Internet. The streaming rate at which 4K content requires to achieve a consistent quality picture can really only be had from Blu-ray players or by downloading the content to your computer in advance and playing it from your hard drive. Streaming services offering 4K content still have many hurdles to overcome to produce high quality consistent 4K viewing experiences.

For this reason, 8K streaming content is still many, many years away. Considering that 4K barely works today, 8K isn’t likely to work at all without much faster Internet speeds to the home.

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iPad 3: First Thoughts

Posted in Apple, ipad, technologies by commorancy on March 17, 2012

So, while I originally wrote that I didn’t see the purpose in the iPad, I have since changed my tune. But, from really only one perspective: multimedia. It’s a great portable movie and entertainment device. I also use it for a replacement for pen and paper at work in meetings, for quick email reads. web surfing and I use it as an ‘in a pinch’ workstation for systems administration. These are my primary use cases. Clearly, though, watching movies and listening to music is where this device shines most. And now, taking movies and photos with the 5 megapixel camera… all I can say with the iPad 3 is, “Wow”. The screen resolution and camera are worth the price. Apple has finally created a device that, in my estimation, probably costs more to make than the price for which it sells.

If you have an iPad 1, this is definitely worth the upgrade. If you have an iPad 2, you pretty much have everything except the great camera and the Retina display. The Retina display is definitely worth the money. The lack of visible pixels definitely makes the whole iPad experience so much clearer and cleaner. This is what the iPad 1 should have been out of the gate. Had Apple pushed the envelope for the iPad 1, this device would have been so much more so much faster. Too bad it took Apple 3 tries to get it here, but we’re finally here.

WiFi only for me

I didn’t buy the 4G LTE edition. First, I don’t like the service plan costs and the limited data from the carriers. If the mobile carriers could actually be reasonable in pricing and charge rates similar to ISPs like Comcast (both price and speed), I might consider the mobile carriers. Second, the mobile carriers need to change their business models and they don’t want to do this. The whole 2 year contract commitment with capped ceilings and high overage rates is for the birds. The carriers finally need to do away with the contract model and go with a standard monthly commitment like Comcast or any other ISP on planet. Suffice it to say, I’m ranting about the carriers rather than talking about the iPad 3. See, now that’s the whole reason I bought the WiFi only edition. Everywhere I need to use it, I can use it on WiFi with no carrier hassles. I don’t have to deal with crappy carrier service, crappy rate costs, bad connectivity, stupid contracts, dead spots or any other silly carrier BS.

If I want to buy a MiFi device (which I have), I can use this to connect my iPad to the Internet, which is the best of all worlds. With a MiFi, I can use it with multiple devices, including my iPad 3, iPod Touch, my LG phone and my notebook and even my home computer when Comcast decides to have outages.

I also find the WiFi speeds are far superior to using LTE anyway, so that’s why I bought the WiFi edition. That, and it’s cheaper on the wallet, both in the iPad cost and that there’s no monthly recurring service fees.

Entertainment

The iPad 3 is definitely my entertainment device of choice (other than my 46″ flat panel display when at home). For portable entertainment, the iPad 3 is it. It is now simply the device of choice for watching movies, playing music or playing games. It is now officially the Sony gaming killer. It may not kill the Xbox, yet. But, Apple has the upper hand now. If they could woo over some big gaming companies like Ubisoft to put Assassin’s Creed on there and, at the same time, release an Apple bluetooth video game controller, this would easily become my gaming platform of choice. Perhaps even over the Xbox. Of course, Apple would need a gaming network including chat and whatnot. So, there’s some hurdles for Apple to overcome. But, the iPad 3 has the beginnings to kill the gaming market if they go after it.

For watching movies, 1080p images flow fluidly on the 2048×1536 pixel display and the images are literally stunning. There is no other portable device on the market that can do what the iPad 3 does for watching movies. The other tablets have a huge leap to make to get where the iPad 3 is for entertainment.

Now if we can get movie studios to start releasing their films in at least 2048 pixel widths on blu-ray (or even iTunes store) so we can actually take advantage of this new resolution.

Camera

Ok, so I’ll let this section speak for itself… Here’s an image I took with the iPad 3 earlier. Note, size below is 688×922. Click the image to see it full iPad 3 screen size. The fact that it produced depth of field with that tiny lens in this semi-macro shot is amazing.

I haven’t yet tried the video camera, but that’s on my list of things to try out. So far, this is a very impressive device and, for me, well worth the money. Now I need to determine what to do with my old iPad 1. It’s over a year old at this point. Amazing how technology gets obsolete so quickly. But, I got my money’s worth from the iPad 1 considering that it was mostly a gift.

If you’re on the fence about getting an iPad 3, don’t be. It’s definitely worth the money to get the resolution on the device. The camera is amazing and watching 1080p movies on it is stunning. Now if we can get Hollywood to catch up to this device and release movies in at least 2048 pixel widths, 1920×1080 seems old and outdated.

Gaming

I haven’t yet tried much gaming on the device, so this section will have to wait to be written. Suffice it to say that the iPad 3 tremendously enhances the look of all apps, though. So, games should look stunning on this display. The thing I will say, though, is that this device has tremendous potential to take over the gaming market with the right level of support.

iPhone apps

This is one thing I didn’t expect. When running iPhone apps on the iPad, the 2x scaling finally works properly. No longer does it scale up this low res tiny display and make it look all pixelated. IOS now actually scales up the fonts, buttons, text and all scalable aspects and retains the screen resolution. So, even though it’s still a small real-estate app, the 2x scaling remains high-res. So, apps from places like Redbox (who refuse to write iPad versions) finally look good when scaled up on the iPad 3. All I can say here is, impressive and long awaited.

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Verdict

The iPad 3 is definitely worth the money if nothing else than for the screen resolution. The camera is also quite amazing. The device is a tiny bit thicker and heavier than the iPad 2, so it may not fit all iPad 2 cases on the market. But, the smart cover works quite well. As well, the restore process from my iPad 1 was so smooth, automated and reasonably fast, I walked away and came back and it was done. Apple has definitely made this part of the process much much better than previous versions.

If you own an iPad 2 and are thinking of upgrading, you should stop by and play with one first. You might want to wait until the iPad 4 to get a bit more life out of your iPad 2 before discarding it. It is worth the upgrade, however, if you are an avid movie watcher.

If you own an iPad 1 or any other tablet, upgrading to this tablet is a no-brainer. The speed and power of the iPad 3 is apparent right from turning it on.

There is only one thing that Apple missed to really support this screen resolution properly. Apple should have produced a 128 (or 256) GB edition of the iPad 3. With this resolution comes much more space needed by 1080p movies. So, we really need at least a 128 GB version of the iPad 3. I’m guessing we’ll see this with the iPad 4 or possibly a refresh of the iPad 3 later this year (as it’s not really worth a full version release just to double the memory on the unit). However, if you do plan on using it for movies, you will do yourself a favor to buy the 64GB edition as you will need this space to store your movies and music. In fact, as I said, 64GB really isn’t enough for all of the movies I want to carry around with me, so for a heavy movie watcher, 64GB is definitely not enough.

Apple, if you’re reading, we want at least a 128GB model. I’d personally want a 256GB model and I’d be willing to pay the added cost for that amount of memory on the iPad.

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