Originally Posted by Glimmie
Also keep in mind that film has gone through 100 years of technological improvements as well. Older film stocks did not have the resolution and grain patterns of the modern stuff, that is say the 1990s vintage. So many of the old movies will look a bit disappointing HD or not.
That's not true at all.
1) Film (once they stopped using nitrate-based materials) has been pretty much the same for almost 100 years. The only differences are the quality of the dye later and how fine the grain is on low light stocks. Early stocks needed much more light to get the same image a modern stock can yield with flashlights. That's why older movies employed arc lights the size of a Volkswagen to provide ample light. The same goes for 35mm still picture film. I sometimes shoot pictures with a black and white stock that hasn't changed since the 60's when it was first made. It looks beautiful.
2) Many older movies were shot on larger film stocks that have much finer grain than modern ones.
3) With plenty of light, any film stock - even 16mm - can look excellent when transferred to HD. The problem is, there was a trend in the 70's and 80's to shoot horror movies practically in the dark with low light stocks that would get all thick and clumpy when there wasn't enough light.
4) Before digital compositing, effects were made in one of 3 ways:
- The first method was to shoot through glass plates that a matte painter had painted part of the scene on. While this prevented the need for layering up film, it was slow and expensive.
- The second method was to shoot a scene with the effects portion masked off, wind the film back through the camera and shoot the effects portion with the live action portion masked off. While they worked with dupes later, when they started this method, the master camera neg was used for both passes. That meant if you screwed either pass up, you had to re-shoot both. By using a dupe, it meant some loss of quality from the duping process.
- The latest method, prior to digital compositing was by shooting the live action and effects on separate film elements, then sandwich them together to combine them. While this was the cheapest way (at the time), it meant you layered grain on grain. That's why films with a lot of visual effects in the 70's and 80's tended to be very grainy during effects sequences.
The later two methods of effects shots tended to make images look worse than straight uneffected shots.
5 - Black and white stocks have a trendmendous amount of visual clarity - far more than color. The reason is, the lack of a dye layer. That yields far more contrast and sharpness than you can get shooting through the necessary color chemistry.
6 - Early color (real color, not tinting) using the 3 color technicolor process was bright vivid and more than capable of producing a measly HD image. The problem is, sometime in the 60's, studios started growing leery of the costs of it and began using Kodak's single strip color film. The problem is, they used the cheap stuff that tended to fade and turn greenish. That means that stuff from that era does often need extensive color restoration.
The point here is, it's not the age of the film. It's how it was shot, how effects-heavy it was and whether they used quality stock or not. Even then, there's plenty of resolution.
Resolution of film doesn't always equate to how clean the image is.