Large format cinematography as the new standard. Obsolescence of the S35? – YM Cinema

The DCS (Digital Cinema Society) released another great episode titled “DCS Large Sensor Cinematography”. The section attempts to address the benefits, aesthetic and technical differences, and challenges of shooting with larger format sensors compared to the Super 35. Is large format becoming the new norm? Can the S35 be defined as obsolete?

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Large format cinematography. Photo: DCS (Digital Cinema Society)

This is the full version of Digital Cinema Societyformat-independent exploration of large-sensor cinematography. The presentation demonstrates the benefits, aesthetic and technical differences, and challenges of shooting with larger format sensors versus the Super 35. It includes interviews with renowned cinematographers and industry experts. industry, plus behind-the-scenes coverage and sample footage. Julio Macat, ASC, Tobias Schliessler, ASC, Director Nigel Dick, Nancy Schreiber, ASC, ARRI Lens Specialist Art Adams, Megan Donnelly of Abel Cine, Zeiss’s Snehal Patel, Matthew Duclos of Duclos Lenses, Panavision’s Aaron Kroger, DIT Lewis Rothenberg, Steve Yedlin, ASC and cinematographer Todd Bell. This program is dedicated to the memory of Douglas Trumbull, the “godfather of large format cinematography”, as the DCS states. look at this here that the video can not be implemented. The video discussion is below and contains our own personal opinion.

Megan Donnelly of Abel Cine.  Large format debate.  Photo: DCS (Digital Cinema Society)
Megan Donnelly of Abel Cine. Large format debate. Photo: DCS (Digital Cinema Society)

The camera that changed everything was the Canon 5D Mark II, as it allowed video to be shot using its entire 35mm full-frame sensor. On-set photographers transformed overnight into filmmakers.

There is no need to present the advantages of large format sensors. The calculation is quite simple. A larger space will give you larger pixels, greater color accuracy, less noise, more resolution, etc. Of course, there are also disadvantages. For example, larger sensors require more power, better heat management, higher bit rate, and larger lenses. Optically, large format cameras will allow you to get closer to your subject with greater intimacy with the actors and without distorting because you can use narrower lenses. Unlike the Super 35 which, to get a wider field of view with the same distance from the subject, you will need to use wider lenses and thus distort your subject. In addition, the main advantage of large sensors is the shallow depth of field. In fact, this advantage goes X2, as it is the physical characteristic of larger sensors, plus the optical ability to use narrower glass.

Nancy Schreiber, CSA with the Canon C700.  Photo: DCS (Digital Cinema Society)
Nancy Schreiber, CSA with the Canon C700. Photo: DCS (Digital Cinema Society)

There is no need to present the advantages of large format sensors. The calculation is quite simple. A larger space will give you larger pixels, greater color accuracy, less noise, more resolution, etc.

At the time, many films were shot on Vista Vision, which is equivalent to full frame. However, in order to facilitate the operation and the cost of making the film, Super 35mm film was produced and its popularity increased significantly. This is one of the main reasons why Super 35mm cameras were used the most by filmmakers. Therefore, the public got used to the S35 look. This saved on film inventory and made film cameras more compact. Extreme sizes like 65mm were used in the special production (IMAX). However, the birth of digital cameras changed all that.

An IMAX camera: 65mm film.  Photo: DCS (Digital Cinema Society)
An IMAX camera: 65mm film. Photo: DCS (Digital Cinema Society)

In order to facilitate the operation and the cost of making the film, Super 35mm film was produced and its popularity increased significantly.

The camera that changed everything was the Canon 5D Mark II, as it allowed video to be shot using its entire 35mm full-frame sensor. Photographers transformed themselves into cinematographers overnight, using the video capabilities of the large sensor to create the shallow depth of field that was (and still is) synonymous with cinematic imagery. While Canon has led the way, Sony has gone further with its Alpha line. Since then, the definition of “Large Format” has become well established among videographers, filmmakers and visual content creators. For example, explore the slide below that shows the ratio of large format cameras to the S35 regarding the 2020 Oscars and the 2021 Oscars. Note that the large format segment has been significantly expanded.

Oscars 2020 vs Oscars 2021 - Large Format and Super 35 Cameras
Oscars 2020 vs Oscars 2021 – Large Format and Super 35 Cameras. Click to enlarge.

ARRI is making a brave move with its long-awaited S35 4K camera, as ARRI has previously stated that it strongly believes in the Super 35 format.

It seems the cinematographers praised the “look & feel” of the large format. Moreover, camera manufacturers mainly release large format cameras. For example, almost all new cameras released recently have built-in large sensors (RED Raptor, Canon R3, Canon R5 C, Nikon Z9, Kinefinity MAVO Edge, Sony VENICE 2, Panasonic LUMIX BS1H) while only two cameras released recently have Super 35 and MFT sensors (RED Komodo and Panasonic LUMIX GH6 accordingly). We certainly see a significant trend towards larger sensors, especially in the high-end market. Nonetheless, ARRI is making a brave move with its anticipated S35 4K camera, as ARRI has previously stated that it strongly believes in the Super 35 format, which is still expected to remain popular in broadcast. Regardless of the cinematography, filmmakers need a super solid excuse to use Super 35 for the big screen. Unless you want to film. For example, ARRIFLEX Super 35mm film cameras are widely used when a pure celluloid look is desired. On top of that, the majority of high-end filmmakers prefer to shoot in large format.

The ARRI Mini and the ALEXA 65, and their sensors.
The ARRI Mini and the ALEXA 65, and their sensors.

Camera manufacturers mainly release large format cameras. For example, almost all new cameras released recently have large sensors (RED Raptor, Canon R3, Canon R5 C, Nikon Z9, Kinefinity MAVO Edge, Sony VENICE 2, Panasonic LUMIX BS1H).

Let’s try to predict the future. Canon, Nikon, Sony and Panasonic will continue to make full frame cameras and even medium format cameras. Canon will focus on large sensors and beyond with its Cinema EOS. Sony will refine the Alpha line using its medium format sensors that are implemented on Hasselblad cameras. RED Digital Cinema will be focusing its DSMC3 on Vista Vision sensors, and there’s a chance (we think) there will be a newer version of the Komodo with a full-frame sensor (also a global shutter?). However, ARRI will try to put the Super 35 back in the spotlight, playing conservatively with its next ALEXA S35 4K camera, which is sure to produce stunning images. But between the lines, it’s safe to say that the Super 35 is starting to become an obsolete format. Do you agree?

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