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August 26th, 2015

(Instant) Film Is Not Dead: Fujifilm Sees Strong Sales of Instax Cameras

Just last month, we noted how Fujifilm was putting a number of films on the chopping block. But according to an investor presentation, the company is still doing a brisk business in instant cameras.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 7.41.02 AM

What accounts for the rise in sales? According to Fuji, it’s thanks to young girls ages 10-20, who grew up in the digital age and see making instant prints as a “fresh experience.”

Whether they will continue to do so in the future remains to be seen, but those still using film appear to be having fun, so it’s bound to endure a bit longer.

(Via Imaging Resource)

June 11th, 2015

Three Reasons to Go 4K

Sponsored by Samsung

Display resolutions don’t change often, but when they do, the change is momentous. When the world switched from standard to high definition, the revolution transformed both the media and electronics industries.

A similar revolution is underway again, as the world starts its trek from high definition to 4K or “ultra-high definition.”

As with any change of this sort, early adopters face a number of challenges before taking the plunge, but those who do strike early can be rewarded. Here are three reasons why now is the best time to invest in 4K.


Photo © Andrew Putschoegl

It’s the future

The consensus among market research firms is that 4K-television adoption is a matter of “when” not “if”—and the “when” starts just about now. The Consumer Electronics Association projects that 4 million 4K TVs will be shipped this year in the United States alone, up 208 percent from 2014. Worldwide, the trend looks similarly bullish. Futuresource Consulting pegs the global market for 4K TVs at 100 million in just three years, representing more than a third of every TV sold.

As those screens find their way into homes, the race is on to fill them with content that fully takes advantage of all that resolution. It’s why streaming services like Amazon and Netflix are rapidly building up their library of 4K videos, from original programs to feature films and documentaries. YouTube and Vimeo have also rolled out support for 4K video as well.

Whether your video is destined to be viewed on desktop monitors or TVs, creating a 4K “master” of your video is an investment in the future of your work, viewable on the highest quality displays ever built for the world’s living rooms.

It makes your HD video better

Many industries, such as wedding videography, don’t necessarily need to produce a 4K deliverable today. Even if you a client only requires an HD file, it can still make sense to shoot in 4K. All those extra pixels give you ample room to crop or reframe your video to improve image stabilization or remove extraneous detail without sacrificing resolution. You can pan across your 4K video using post-production software without rapidly running out of pixels.

Depending on how you’re shooting, a 4K-video file may also capture more than just additional pixels, but more color information as well. Armed with this additional color information, you can down-sample a 4K file to HD with improved color detail.

Screen Grabs Are Awesome


Enhance! Zooming in on a 4K screen grab / Photo © Andrew Putschoegl

Shooting in 4K doesn’t just mean high-quality video; it can enhance your still photography, too. Isolating still images from HD video produces images that are a measly 1920×1080 pixels in size or about 2 megapixels—barely enough for a decent print.

A 4K still frame, on the other hand, is a chunkier file, either at 4096×2160 or 3840×2160 pixels in size, depending on your setting. That’s equivalent to an 8-megapixel image, ample resolution to print by.

This doesn’t just mean that stills from your video production will be higher quality (though they will be), it also means you can use 4K video as a “burst mode on steroids” for moving subjects to capture images that your camera might otherwise miss. It’s not necessarily applicable in every situation of course, but it opens up new creative possibilities that aren’t available to you when shooting in high def.

Samsung and PDN recently launched the 4K Filmmaking Challenge, giving motion shooters the opportunity to shoot a short 4K film. One grand-prize winner will receive $2,500, an NX1 and a profile in a print PDN/Samsung supplement. Check it out at

May 13th, 2015

PDN Video: Gillian Laub on Winning Over Reluctant Subjects to Film “Southern Rites”

Gillian Laub: "Southern Rites" And The Challenges of Access from PDNOnline on Vimeo.

In 2009, Gillian Laub’s story in The New York Times Magazine about segregated high school proms in Mount Vernon, Georgia, stirred national outrage, which finally forced the community to integrate the proms. Afterwards, Laub faced down the hostility and threats of locals to work on a documentary film about race relations in the area. In this PDN video, she describes the challenges of filming where she was unwelcome, and how she managed to win the confidence of her subjects– including a murder suspect who had granted no media interviews before he sat down with Laub. Titled “Southern Rites,” the film debuts May 18 on HBO. Laub’s still photographs are showing at Bonnie Benrubi Gallery in New York City from May 14-June 27, 2015. Damiani will also publish a book of the work in June.

PDN Photo of the Day: Gillian Laub’s “Southern Rites”

Shaul Schwartz’s Reel Peak Films: A Production Company Devoted to Editorial Documentaries

March 12th, 2015

The Best Drone Movies: NYC Drone Film Festival Crowns Winners

We’re still in the infancy of drone cinematography, but there’s more than enough content available now to start passing judgement on it.

The New York City Drone Film Festival wrapped up earlier this month and handed out awards, or “Dronies” in nine categories. To enter, films had to be five minutes or less with at least 50 percent of the footage captured using a drone.

A few of the winners, like “Superman with a GoPro,” may be recognizable from their days on the viral video circuit, but a few were new to us. We’ve included a few of the winning films below. The full list is here. (more…)

February 5th, 2015

PDN Video Pick: Vincent Morisset’s Interactive “Way to Go”

Promotional still from "Way to Go"

Promotional still from “Way to Go”

When you travel from point A to point B, what do you see? How does the experience change when the route becomes familiar? These are questions asked in “Way to Go,” a new interactive video project funded by the National Film Board of Canada and premiered at the recent Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier program.

Part film, part game, “Way To Go” takes players through a 3D environment with a 2D character, following a predetermined path through an immersive, interactive environment. Players control a blockheaded animated figure, deciding whether to walk, run, stop, jump, fly, or investigate elements in the environment recorded on video.

“I’m really interested in the notion of space and time,” says Vincent Morisset, the project’s director, “and how we relate to our environment in real life, and if there was a way to transport or put into perspective this really universal premise of going from point A to point B.”

The visuals—art directed by Caroline Robert—are a striking mix of video footage, hand-drawn animation and live GL effects. Morisset captured the live video with a DIY pole-mounted 360-degree camera rig comprised of six GoPro cameras. He’s visible in the game as the black figure holding a pole that follows the main character everywhere through the interactive universe.

“In 2015 it’s less and less easy to get lost, we’re constantly knowing where we are,” Morisset says. “There’s something to the line and the path that resonates with how we deal with our environment.” As the character is confined to traversing the universe along a pre-determined path, the exploration is in the changing perspective—what do you run past, what do you stop and investigate?

The NFB previewed the project at a virtual reality at Sundance’s New Frontier utilizing the Oculus Rift VR headset. While the game is playable on any computer with a Web browser, the Oculus experience took full advantage of the 360-degree camera footage to provide a truly immersive experience.

Sounds are synced to the movements of the character. Composer Phillipe Lambert designed a Euclidean rhythm console so that the complex rhythms interweave seamlessly with the pace and movements of the character.

Lambert, Robert and Morisset, along with Édouard Lanctôt (a developer and technical director), make up AATOAA, Morisset’s Montreal-based digital studio. Their commercial clients include Red Bull and Google, and they’ve produced an interactive video for Arcade Fire’s “Just a Reflektor.” “Way to Go” is the team’s second personal project; their first, “BLA BLA,” was an interactive short film exploring human communication.

To experience “Way to Go” yourself, visit For more on the interactive projects produced with support from the National Film Board of Canada, visit:

Promotional still from "Way to Go"

Promotional still from “Way to Go”

February 3rd, 2015

Ilford Offers Glimpse into the Mind of the 21st Century Film Photographer

fp4-plus-35mmThe photographic film business is a bit like the Black Knight — it’s been remorselessly hacked into bits, but it’s not dead yet.

In fact, it’s enjoying something of a resurgence as the Impossible Project, Ferrania, Lomography and others keep the flame alive.

Black-and-white film supplier Ilford recently surveyed their customers, canvassing “thousands” of users across 70 countries to understand why they’re shooting film. While the company didn’t release all the numbers, they did offer a few highlights that help shed some light on the state of film photography. To wit:

* 30 percent of survey respondents were under the age of 35 and 60 percent of them had picked up film photography over the past five years. Their interest in film was often spurred by receiving a film camera as a gift

* 84 percent of survey respondents were self-taught and 49 percent develop and print their own photos in a darkroom.

* 98 percent of respondents shoot black-and-white film, 31 percent did so exclusively

* 86 percent use roll film.

When asked why they choose to shoot film, photographers told Ilford that they “wanted to slow down.” The limitations of film, they said, forced them to think carefully about their craft as opposed to digital where “you just shoot.” Photographers also told Ilford they thought of film as “retro” and fun.

December 23rd, 2014

PDNPulse: Top Stories of 2014

As another fascinating year in the world of professional photography comes to a close, we look back on the stories that drew the most interest from PDNPulse readers this year.

From manipulated news photos, to photographers arrested for doing their jobs, to collaborative efforts between photographers and an interview with one of photography’s most influential star makers, these stories capture some of the highs and lows of the photography business today.

1: George Steinmetz Wonders: Was It Worth Getting Arrested for National Geographic Cover Story Photos

2: 2014 Winter Olympics Op-Ed: Everything You’ve Read About Problems for Photographers in Sochi is True

3: PDN Video: Lens Blog’s James Estrin’s Career Tips for Photojournalists

4: Photographers Share Intimate Images of Loved Ones for Curated Photo Website

5: AP Severs Ties With Photographer Narciso Contreras Over Photoshopped Image
5a: Photographer Fired by AP Says Decision Was Fair, But Process Wasn’t

6: How Much Do Editorial Clients Pay? “Wiki” Gives Names and Fees

7: If that Kim Kardashian Photo Looks Familiar…

8: Calumet Photographic to Liquidate, Closes U.S. Stores

9: Photographer Creates Free iPhone App for His Signature Style

10: Wal-mart Sues Photographer’s Widow Claiming Copyright for Decades of Portraits of Walton Family

11: Suffolk County Pays $200K to Settle News Photographer’s Unlawful Arrest Claim

12: How Should Clients React to Sexual Coercion Allegations Against Terry Richardson?

13: AP Photographer Anja Niedringhaus Killed in Afghanistan

14: Cowboy Lifestyle Photographer David Stoecklein Dies, 65

15: Photojournalist Camille Lapage, 26, “Murdered” in Central African Republic

December 18th, 2014

FILM Ferrania’s Plan to Save an Analogue Slide Film Factory From Extinction

© Aischa Gianna Muller

Corrado Balestra taking spectrophotometric measurements of an emulsion sample in the LRF. Balestra is an expert in emulsion manufacturing and melting. © Aischa Gianna Muller (

Film is finished. Film is dead, declared deceased by David Lynch, among others. Contrary to all declarations, however, this year, two enterprising Italians have recently begun manufacturing film, and may have hit a turning point in their quest to make film’s resurgence a sustainable reality.

In 2003, Ferrania became the first of the major film manufacturers to declare bankruptcy. The Italian company, which produced the cinema film stock for such classics as De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief and Fellini’s 8 1/2, along with 35mm and 120 film for stills, had an expansive campus in the Liguria region of northern Italy, and the capability to produce almost 330 million rolls of film per year. Those days ended with the expansion of digital photography.

But there’s new life for the old Italian brand. Intrepid film devotees Nicola Baldini and Marco Pagni have managed to form a new, leaner version of the old company, called FILM Ferrania, with a group of former employees itching to get back to their life’s work. They recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising $322,420 to purchase and relocate the old Ferrania manufacturing equipment, which had been collecting dust on the Liguria campus. They’ve already begun manufacturing the first batches of 135 and 120 film for still photography, as well as Super 8 and 16mm film stocks.

“Everyone told us we were crazy,” Baldini says in their Kickstarter video, admitting “perhaps” it was true. “Or maybe not…” Pagni counters.


Marco Pagni (left) and Nicola Baldini (right).

Their plan was to scale down the massive operation of the old Ferrania to make it more sustainable. The original company still produces industrial chemicals at the Liguria campus, but the equipment they needed was scattered throughout a series of abandoned buildings.

The small Research & Development team is comprised of former Ferrania employees Corrado Balestra, Daniele Montano, and Danilo Ferraro (who study and prepare the chemicals); Ezio Perone (who coats the film); Renzo Manera (who finishes the film); and Marco Scognamilio, who oversees the entire process. They set up shop in the Laboratori Ricerche Fotografiche (LRF), the small R&D building on the Ferrania campus where they used to test the films they manufactured. It’s a small-scale version of the entire plant; everything needed to make film lives inside the LRF. It was owned by the government of Regione Liguria, where the plant is located. But seeing economic benefits to the restoration of the old plant, Regione Liguria offered FILM Ferrania team a favorable lease.

But the team still had a “goldilocks” problem. The equipment in the LRF was too small to mass-produce enough film for their business, and the full-scale operations were too large: The building that (just barely) contains the precision coater they needed was nine stories high and 100 meters long. “Big Boy,” as the team calls the industrial film coating facility, is designed to make as many as 330 million rolls of film in a year—an unrealistic goal for sales, as Ferrania’s 2003 bankruptcy proved. 

“If there’s gonna be any long-term viability for film, it has to be done on a much different scale then it’s done currently,” says David Bias, who heads FILM Ferrania’s nascent U.S. office. “The scale of the operations of Kodak and Fuji are literally just too big for long-term sustainability.”

So the Ferrania team set out to scale their operations “just right,” using the Kickstarter funds to purchase “Trixie,” the large-scale triacetate base production machinery that makes the plastic that holds the film together; “Walter,” the high-volume chemical synthesis lab that makes the chemicals (named after Breaking Bad‘s Walter White); and “Big Boy,” which they would scale down to meet their production needs.

So who is the Ferrania customer? To hear Bias tell it, their customer base is diverse: professional digital photographers who shoot film in their spare time, kids who grew up with digital devices in their pocket at all times, for whom film is a brand-new thing, and older people who never really latched on to digital devices. Film used to be the only option for photography; now that there are so many options, shooting on film has become a deliberate, conscious choice.

“No longer do you have to buy film if you want to take a picture,” Bias says. but it doesn’t mean people won’t buy film. The last analogue photography project Bias worked on,  the Impossible project, proved that. “You want to buy film. That’s a very, very different kind of thing.”

Ferrania can’t match the scale of Kodak and Fuji, so its film won’t be a low-cost alternative—Baldini and Pagni’s goal is not to undercut the big boys. Kodak and Fuji are the only other players who can manufacture color film from start to finish, and as they continue to make less film at higher prices, the companies that rely on their materials for production—such as AgfaPhoto and Lomography—may not be able to keep up. Ferrania should have an advantage to start, at least; their first production runs will be reversal film—which Kodak already killed, and Fuji has severely cut back (most recently, cutting Velvia 100F 120).

“Kodak and Fuji are going to exit from their traditional analogue market,” Baldini claims in an email interview with  PDN, “while Ferrania is investing to redefine the market in order to be sustainable for many years ahead.”

Baldini’s drive to save film is partly about esthetics. He is a filmmaker, and his decision to launch the company began with his desire to shoot on film that didn’t exist anymore. Time will tell if the artistic vision of a pair of dreamers will provide a solid enough foundation to support a business. But the pair has at least 5,582 Kickstarters at their back, and a quick look at the #FilmIsAlive hashtag on Twitter and Instagram—which they’re using to promote the relaunch—shows they are not alone. The audience is there, and they’re passionate. But as operations get into full swing, will they put their money where their mouths are?

Baldini says the company’s profitability hinges upon how much film they are able to produce, “because the market is very willing to accept new analogue products that fit specific needs.” They plan to ramp up production steadily over the next three years, and project a profit as early as 2016.

“I think film has become more of an art material,” Bias says. “The people who shoot film, want to. They seek it out, and they spend the money that it takes to do it.”

Related Link: The Future of Film, May 2012


November 14th, 2014

New Book Explores the Rich and Wacky History of Toy and Novelty Cameras


The Charlie Tuna camera,  manufactured in 1971.

The Charlie Tuna camera, manufactured in 1971, could be had for three StarKist tuna labels and $4.95. Photo by J.K. Putnam.

Early in his career, renowned fine-art photographer Stephen Shore made a project using a Mick-a-Matic, a snapshot camera shaped like the head of Mickey Mouse. True story.

It’s funny to imagine one of America’s foremost photographers out in the world making art with a Mickey Mouse head hanging from his neck. But many artists have used toy and novelty cameras. For Shore, the Mick-a-Matic allowed him to explore snapshot photography as a concept and phenomenon at a time when photography as an art form was formal and almost exclusively shot in black-and-white.

Other artists are drawn to the unpredictability of toy and plastic cameras. Photographers “love these toys, they love the authenticity of the unexpected,” says Buzz Poole, co-author of Camera Crazy, a new book that recalls the history of mass-market cameras, from the Eastman Kodak Brownie Camera, released in 1900, up through present day toy cameras. The book is a delightful look at the fascinating and, at times, ridiculous forms cameras have taken. In addition to popular and well-known cameras from Diana, Holga and Lomography, there is a Fred Flintstone camera, soda and beer can cameras, a Charlie the Tuna camera, a Looney Tunes camera that talks, and a spy camera shaped like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups package. “That is just a weird product,” Poole laughs. “[The manual] tells you how to trick people into stopping so you can get a clear picture of them without them knowing.” (more…)

November 13th, 2014

The Hidden History of the Zoom Lens in Films and Movies

What do the zoom lens and atomic bomb have in common? Both have roots in the second World War and both owe their genesis, in part, to qualified engineers fleeing the Nazi regime.

Nick Hall, a researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London composed the following short history of the zoom lens for the Society for the History of Technology’s three minute dissertation contest. It’s a fascinating, if brief, overview of how a once controversial technology permeated U.S. filmmaking.

Via: Studio Daily