Film is a medium of the past, right? For some, this is true! Why pay for film stock and developing fees when you can have unlimited takes on a digital video camera?
Many people forget that digital is an instant gratification version of film. ISO, iris, shutter speed... what does this ancient language mean? Nowadays we can just turn the camera on, put it on auto, and press record. Done! Sure this is nice for the quick YouTube video or shot of your friend singing "Mother Lover" drunk... but honestly? Why wouldn't you want to control your image?
Don't get me wrong, high end digital HD video cameras with manual settings are awesome. I love my HVX200 35mm Adapter rig. But in a way, I still feel like this is cheating. I could never imagine sites like Vimeo or YouTube catching on if 8mm and 16mm cameras were still the norm. In a digital age where everything is instant, why go back to film?
I decided to pay my respects to film and its history by investing in a gorgeous Bolex H16 16mm film camera. Without a doubt, the best $235 I've spent on eBay. When I got it, I had no idea where to start. I started fiddling with knobs and cranks to see what they did. I hate reading manuals unless I absolutely have to. For the Bolex, I definitely will have to spend a good amount of time reading up on this 60 year old camera to fully utilize its functionality. But just to say that I've atually shot 16mm film is awesome. 16mm is the "HD" of our grandparents. Even today, some low budget films such as The Wrestler and Hurt Locker are still shot on 16mm. Something about digital will never compare to the look of film. Sure we can fake the "look" in editing, but it will never truly be the same thing. The random bursts of light flickering as each frame passes through the projector is hard to replicate. The random film burns that occur when the film gets overexposed or too hot. These and more are all characteristics of film that can never be mirrored in digital video cameras. Many Directors of Photography (DoP) who shoot high budget Hollywood films swear by the use of film over digital. Only with film are you able to capture extensive amounts of detail in both the highlights and the shadows (aka dynamic range). Film is and probably will always be the norm for big Hollywood productions. The quality and dynamic range of each film frame far surpasses anything obtainable on a digital camera.
I am very excited to shoot on my 16mm. As soon as I get a decent C-mount lens for the Bolex I hope to shoot a little short film test. Considering you only get about three minutes per 100ft of 16mm film, it kind of has to be a "short" film. Anyways, until that time, here's some photos I've taken of my camera. Something about old cameras and the way they look just has that sort of vintage appeal that makes it a piece of art.
Here's my newly acquired Bolex H16 16mm film camera in all it's glory!