First VS Video

Instructional Video Production 4(1+3)

Lesson 03: Principles of Visual Grammar

First VS Video

What is the difference between 'film' and 'video'? After all, both are mo­tion picture imaging. But then, video is used to make other formats of programmes that film cannot lend itself to. For example, if we were to shoot a one-day cricket match or a quiz show for telecast, video would be ­the obvious choice. Video offers a range of possibilities that film cannot­ the most important one being live editing. But in terms of quality: Are both different? Which is superior?

The quality of 35 mm motion picture film (as viewed on television) is believed to be better than video. For decades film has enjoyed consistent worldwide standards. A 16 mm film can be broadcast on any of world's broadcast systems (regardless of the broadcast standard) and a 35 mm film can be shown in almost any theatre in the world. However, video has pro­gressed through numerous tape formats-VHS to Betacam to DVCAM (a low-cost broadcast standard video tape). Further, video formats of one broadcast standard are not compatible with another broadcast standard (about which we shall learn a little later). For producers making films for international distribution, celluloid film has been the obvious choice.

Industry experts feel that with high definition television (HDTV)-a video format that provides sharper images than any other format-making its appearance and more and more people going in for film-style produc­tion in video, the gap is slowly disappearing. What's more, HDTV can compare with the quality of film.

In film, the image is recorded on negative film. The original negative film is used to make a master positive or intermediate print. From the mas­ter positive a 'dupe' (duplicate) negative is created; and from that a positive release print is made. This adds up to a minimum of three generations. At each step, the film goes through some minor changes in terms of colour and texture, and there could also be accumulation of dirt and scratches. Video is much simpler. You shoot on tape. There is no 'chemical processing' in­volved. You just dump the rushes onto a computer and edit the film and put it back on tape. While films can also be shot with multiple cameras (as in the case of Benhur, Matrix, or even the Hindi film Nayak), reels from each of the 20-30 odd cameras have to be brought to the editing table and as­sembled together-quite a laborious process!
Video is much simpler. You want to shoot a cricket match with multiple cameras. You set up all the cameras at strategic angles, capture action as it happens, and also edit the entire cricket match 'live'. Your programme on the cricket match is ready!

However, film has an edge over video in the sense that it can resolve several times more detail than video. The subtle shades of colours and hues are captured very well on film than on video. These days, manufacturers are also experimenting with producing video equipment that can almost match the quality of film. Since film loses much of its sharpness in its route from film camera to television, a technique called image enhancement is used when the film is converted to video. Image enhancement sharpens the overall look of the film image, but subtle details, once lost, cannot be brought back.

Equipment-wise the cost of film and video equipment can almost be the same. But in terms of raw stock, film certainly costs more than video. That is because once you expose film, you cannot reuse it, unlike a videotape, which can be reused up to at least two times before it loses broadcast picture quality completely. It is another matter that professionals using video for broadcast purposes do not reuse tapes. Like discussed earlier, added costs are in the form of 'chemical process­ing' of films; whereas video does not involve any processing.
Further, costs of post-production-special effects, etc.-are much greater in film. That is why, more and more producers prefer to telecine (the pro­cess of converting film into video is called telecine) their film and resort to non-linear editing on computers. However, the reverse process of convert­ing video into film (called reverse telecine) is also expensive. However, the ease with which one can operate with video pushes producers to go in for telecining and editing on computers.

So is one superior to the other? Well, the question is not of- superiority but of the 'purpose of the production'. Film and video both have advan­tages and disadvantages and therefore it is the purpose-whether it is for a theatrical release or broadcast-that ultimately decides which medium to choose.

Will video replace film? Well, it may, considering that more and more films in developed countries and to a certain extent in developing countries are being shot on video and released in theatres. Since the film industry has already invested in millions, the makeover completely to video might take some time.

Last modified: Friday, 20 April 2012, 5:56 AM