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Filmmaking: Using the 35mm Format in Film Production

For the longest time, 35mm was the standard format used for motion-picture production worldwide.

35mm film is the basic film gauge most commonly used for motion picture production and exhibition. Interestingly, this film stock has considerably remained unchanged since its introduction more than a century ago.

While other film gauges such as the 8mm, 16mm, and 70mm became widely available during different time frames of motion picture history, 35mm film has truly passed the test of time of being the standard format used in movie theaters worldwide. As an international standard gauge, it allows a relatively good tradeoff between the cost of the film stock and the quality of the images captured during the shoot and the actual motion picture work projected on the big screen.

35mm film projectors are widely used in standard movie theaters all over the world. From Hollywood films imported to other countries to films shown in many international film festivals, 35mm film is generally the preferred film format.

Top Film Manufacturers

Kodak, Fuji, and Agfa have become the top manufacturers of film stocks for many decades. The biggest among them would be Kodak, followed by Fuji. Prior to the advent of digital photography, these three were also the biggest producers of film negatives used for still photography. During the heyday of film photography, they have the top processing and printing laboratories for photo production.

35mm Film Negative

For more than 100 years of its existence, the 35mm film negative has been significantly improved for: safer use; better film base; formulation to capture in black and white or color; variations in film grains and light and color sensitivity; accommodation of various widescreen formats; and specialized negative processing in the film laboratory to create certain non-traditional visual effects.

Modern filmmaking allows the use of many packages of 35mm film negatives. Buying one roll of film for a shoot typically requires certain specifications, the requirement primarily depends on the film camera to be used for the production. The most popularly used package offers a 400-feet motion picture negative per one roll of film. This is widely used for film productions all over the world. This 400-footer roll is safely protected inside a small-size or medium-size, circular film can. 400 feet worth of film is carefully wound inside it using a film spool.

Other productions require longer film negatives for special purposes such as shooting in slow motion, otherwise known as overcranking. In this process, instead of shooting a scene using 24 frames worth of film negative per second, the captured image requires at least 48 frames or even hundreds or a thousand frames per second to be consumed from the film negative. This very technical process results to what people see on movies as slow motion shot of a scene (where even the drops of water can look so clear in every moment of the action that the naked eye wouldn’t entirely capture in sight). The higher the “frames per second,” the slower the movement would be. Since the film negative is consumed at a faster rate, a roll of film may be requested to be a 1,000-footer can instead of the typical 400-footer can.

As a benchmark, a typical 400-feet can of film negative is equivalent to about 3.5 minutes worth of footage.

35mm Film Positive (Film Print)

The process used in motion picture production employs the same concept as film photography. The main difference lies on the fact that photography produces a still image, while filmmaking produces a series of still images moved at a specific rate per second in order to show the illusion of movement from the still frames. The word “movie” actually comes from the word “move.”

After shooting the film using a negative, the negative is brought to a film developing laboratory for film processing. After this, there are many workflows that can be used to start editing the film. Once the post-production works are done, the film is ready for printing. The film is printed in a film positive, more often referred to as the film print.

For more than 100 years of its existence, the 35mm film positive has been significantly improved for: safer use; better film base; formulation to print in black and white or color; variations in film grains and light and color sensitivity; modifications to include analog and digital sound data around its non-frame areas; and accommodation of various widescreen formats.

Modern filmmaking allows the use of many packages of 35mm film prints. One roll is typically packaged as 1,000 feet per can, or the standard package used for movie theaters, the 2,000 feet per can. The film print is safely protected inside a medium-size or large-size, circular film can. The film inside is carefully wound using a film spool.

As a benchmark, a typical 2,000-feet can of film print is equivalent to about 21 minutes worth of footage. This means that a two-hour film you see in a regular movie theater requires about six rolls of film print.

Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne is a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. From mainstream essentials to independent flair, she knows the drill in making entertaining and well-meaning productions. She can lead a pack passionate about extreme action and technological edge; she can breathe an endearing and sentimental style for a team with a sweet disposition.
https://www.riannehillsoriano.com

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