Film Quality "Breakpoints"?
December 28, 2010 10:17 AM   Subscribe

Are there major concrete breakpoints in film quality/style over there years? Or are these more to do with the film to video conversion (I watch movies on television). Or are these perceived changes based on my historical memory?

I was watching Back to Future Part II/III and noticed how they seemed "contemporary"-- that the quality of the film and the opening credits and the cinematographic style didn't seem so foreign than current day. I've noticed this in movies like Die Hard, Scrooged, Batman, etc. I've prophesied that movies after 1987 or so have this "feeling".

Is this just my perception? Being born in 1982, my mass-market memories started around then and I have distinct memories of watching NFL Films and other filmed movies in the mid 90s. This would be around the time I sense the "break" occurred.

Or is this just film-video transfer technology (Back to Future just was remastered for Blu-Ray, the movie was definitely HD)
posted by sandmanwv to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Some of this has to do with the quality of the print from which the transfer was made.
posted by Jahaza at 10:41 AM on December 28, 2010

There definitely were many concrete breakpoints, notably things like Technicolor and various Eastmancolor technologies. You might find some interesting info on Wikipedia's List of motion picture film stocks to see if any of the dates on the timeline match up with your ideas of when things started to look different to you. I bet a lot of it is just film vs. video, though, if we're talking 80s/90s.
posted by bcwinters at 10:49 AM on December 28, 2010

bcwinters and Jahaza have it right - the quality of transfer from film to remastered digital edition depends on a wide array of factors. The filmstock used (colour fading is common in film, but later stocks and advances in preservation stemmed the tide of 'pinking'), the quality of the print that is put through the scanner, the amount of remastering... All of these play a part.

However, if a first generation print is properly preserved in archival conditions from the off (trainee film archivist banter here...) then, regardless of the period it's from, it will be pretty much pristine and ripe for a high-quality digital transfer.

I think that your prophesy has more to do with the general feeling of the film.

Interestingly, I watched Batman in uni a couple of weeks ago. I'd always considered it a fairly modern and gritty adaptation in the past, but this was the first time since seeing the Nolan Batman series... Compared to The Dark Night, Batman is like a pantomime! It's brash and garish and hammy and just so eighties!

Maybe wait another decade and then rewatch these films, perhaps then they'll seem dated.
posted by dumdidumdum at 11:36 AM on December 28, 2010

PS. I was born in 1987, so if there was a shift at that point I was a bit preoccupied with naptime.
posted by dumdidumdum at 11:39 AM on December 28, 2010

Do the Adam West Batman shows trigger this reaction in you, sandmanwv? I've always been shocked by how great they held up visually, and I'm wondering if they trigger the same reaction you write of, as they were produced in the 1960's.
posted by NortonDC at 11:53 AM on December 28, 2010

I wondered this for some time. I asked my husband, who is something of an expert. He said it was the change in film technology. I find the quality of some movies in the 1970s oddly cheap. Like polyester pant suits morphed into film. The 1980s seemed to transition back to lusher film quality.
posted by fifilaru at 12:25 PM on December 28, 2010

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