Kodak's Expanding "Vision"
by Christopher Probst
Kodak's Expanding "Vision" | Vision and Vision Premier Color Print Films | Vision 800T 5289 Color Negative Film | Kodak's ScreenCheck Certification
Vision 800T 5289 Color Negative Film
Building upon the continual research and advancements made in emulsion technology that have been utilized in the Vision family of color negative films, Kodak announced the creation of Vision 800T 5289, the "fastest color negative film ever made available to cinematographers." The high-speed, tungsten-balanced film is based on the same Vision family tonal and color reproduction characteristics, but with additional improvements in emulsion design and crystal sensitivity, the film achieves a true 800-speed exposure index.
"Vision 800T incorporates seven new silver halide emulsions, which improve light-gathering efficiency and allow for the capture of more shadow details in low-light situations," says technical associate Michael Ryan of the Origination Film Technology division at Kodak. "In the early 1990s, we introduced T-grain technology with the EXR films, which dramatically reduced grain while increasing sharpness. Since then, we've learned how to work more efficiently with tabular grains and coupler chemistry components to build color film layers. We've optimized the size and thickness of the grains and have developed some new chemical addenda that allow us to more efficiently process photons to get more [exposure] speed."
These advanced emulsion-building techniques have been successfully applied to four previous Vision color negative films: 200T 5274, 250D 5246, 320T 5277, and 500T 5279. "The basic premise behind the design of the Vision family of films was to improve the image structure performance lowering the apparent granularity and increasing the sharpness, while keeping the reproduction of tone and color the same," Ryan maintains. "With the Vision family of films, we started to triple-coat the magenta layer whereas all previous emulsions consisted of dual layers featuring a fast and a slow component which allowed us to make certain design changes in the emulsion that greatly reduced the film's granularity while improving the overall sharpness.
"Vision 800T is a continuation of the same tonal and color reproduction aspects of the current Vision stocks, but the new film takes advantage of further improvements in the emulsion design by adding a third yellow layer. Because the film is tungsten-balanced, the yellow [blue-sensitive] layer is the most challenging layer to increase in sensitivity, and therefore ends up being the grainiest. In Vision 500T, there are tabular grains in the slow component of the dual yellow layer, but not in the fast component, which utilizes a 3-D emulsion. With Vision 800T, we still don't have tabular grains in the fast layer, but since we now triple-coat the yellow layer, we have tabular grains in the slow and middle-speed portions, and utilize some of the proprietary chemical addenda that we have previously incorporated on the Vision films in the other layers.
"However, even though the addition of the third yellow layer allowed us to keep the granularity closer to Vision 500T's level," Ryan continues, "with Vision 800T's faster speed, the other two layers the cyan and magenta are still at a slight disadvantage compared to 500T. Vision 500T was able to keep the same speed of its predecessor, EXR 5298, but utilized the improvements in imaging efficiency for reduced grain and added sharpness. Vision 800T, however, uses this improved emulsion efficiency for added speed. We kept the image structure the same as the 5298, but we increased the speed of the film by two-thirds of a stop. So from a granularity perspective, 800T is more on par with 5298."
What this increased light efficiency and speed means for cinematographers is added flexibility and a two-thirds of a stop cushion to fall back upon when under the gun. "Two-thirds of a stop may seem like a small advantage," says Aschman, "but it can give you a decisive creative edge when you are working on the edge of darkness at magic hour, underwater or in any number of other situations."
Director of photography Lloyd Ahern, ASC was able to test Vision 800T during the filming of director Walter Hill's upcoming sci-fi feature Supernova. "We shot one test on a stage that was part of a futuristic set," Ahern submits. "We were shooting through several layers of a curved Plexiglas wall that were about 20 feet apart, and light was bouncing all over the place. I had a 400mm lens on the B-camera and shot the scene with the two older 500-speed films EXR 5298 and Vision 500T and Vision 800T. The images recorded with the Vision 800T are sharper and snappier, the blacks are blacker and you can see more details. The most impressive aspect of this test is that you can feel the energy [of the shot] as the film cuts through the layers of Plexiglas and comes in on the face of our lead actress, Angela Bassett. There is an added dimension that helps to make her connect with the audience.
"[Based on that experience,] I'd choose Vision 800T for many situations," states the cinematographer. "I'd use it if I had an action sequence where there were 20 footcandles of keylight and we were shooting slow-motion at 48 and 96 frames per second, a situation where you'll need all the speed you can get. I'd also use the 800T for night exteriors. When you are running and gunning at night, why use a 500-speed film when an 800-speed stock looks just as good? For sunrise or sunset, an 800-speed film would allow me to begin earlier and work later, giving me a bit more time to capture those types of dramatic shots when light is provided by nature."
In adding another tool to the cinematographer's arsenal, Kodak is sure that Vision 800T will find an active role in modern film production techniques. "It is our experience that whenever we develop a new camera film, cinematographers always invent creative ways to use it that none of us anticipated," Aschman points out. "It will be intriguing to see how different cinematographers interpret the use of this film."
Vision 800T is currently only available in 35mm as 200-, 400-, and 1,000-foot loads, while Kodak is currently testing a 16mm version of the stock to determine the market's interest. "This film is an interesting step in a new direction," Ryan concludes, "but it is not the final word in how far we can push the science of film design and manufacturing. There is plenty of headroom for future progress."