Digital to film capture
January 10, 2018 9:45 AM   Subscribe

For a project I'm working on, I need to have a way to get specific images on positive film. What's a good way to do this in 2018?

My plan is to treat it like a macro reproduction situation, using an led display as the image source. However, what kind of density can I expect? It seems obvious that the whites would be brighter than I'd like. This shouldn't be an issue for positive film, but I'd probably have to make some kind of curve for negative film.

Does anyone here have any experience doing this? Or have a reference to someone who still has the equipment necessary to this the traditional way?

posted by tedious to Media & Arts (8 answers total)
You're right that slide/positive film has narrower latitudes for getting the image density correct, compared with negative film. If you're uncertain that your first exposure will be what you want, you might want to shoot a few frames of each image, bracketing the exposures with slightly shorter or faster speeds. You'll probably need a tripod if you're doing exposure times of slower than 1/125 seconds. And if you're shooting off an LED screen, get the color balance as close to daylight as possible to avoid a strong cast. You might want to err on being a little on the warm side.

If you have a photo lab near you that still does E-6 (slide) development, they might give you some pointers. Maybe they can refer you to local studio photographers who'd be able to help you as well, if you don't currently have a film camera.
posted by lisa g at 10:45 AM on January 10, 2018

Does it have to be photographic film? If you need to produce positives from digital images, then you could simply print positives onto transparencies instead of using photographic film. If you like, you can print them in a 35mm strip at or the size that positives would come out for your preferred film format.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 10:57 AM on January 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

It has to be film émulsion, since latex/uv/lightjet doesn't have the layered aspect I need.

Re: shutter speed, I'm thinking I need it to be slower than whatever the refresh speed of my display, say 1/50 or slower for 60hz that way I don't catch banding? Or is this only an issue for digital sensors.
posted by tedious at 11:41 AM on January 10, 2018

I did this recently, but my project didn't require to have necessarily very good color reproduction.

Some things I did:

1. Took photos using the screen of a Retina Macbook Pro 15" for the high pixel resolution. I considered using a projector, etc, but in the end a rMBP screen seemed best.

2. For the same reason you mentioned, shot everything at a low shutter speed (1/30s) on a tripod. This might not be necessary, but it worked.

3. I set the exposure manually, using the sensor readings off of a gray card image that I displayed on the monitor.

4. I took a few different versions per slide, bracketing exposures a little bit.

It turned out pretty great, better than I expected. I think I used Provia 100F E-6 slide film and got it developed at Duggal in NYC.
posted by suedehead at 1:16 PM on January 10, 2018

Suedehead, which exposures ended up looking most accurate?

I don't own a device as pixel dense as a retina display so I'll have to make do with a 24" 1080p display.
posted by tedious at 1:45 PM on January 10, 2018

I can’t remember unfortunately, and don’t have those notes anymore! I do recall being surprised that I had to open up the aperture all the way, even with max screen brightness, so it might have been something like f2.4, 1/30s, ISO 100. But it’ll probably be better if you calibrate with the gray card.
posted by suedehead at 8:11 PM on January 10, 2018

Oh, I also remember testing the process with a DSLR - not using the exposure settings from the DSLR with the film camera, but running it through the process to test that my whites were white in the resulting jpg, etc.
posted by suedehead at 8:15 PM on January 10, 2018

35mm film needs 4096 pixels to look good if there is text or fine details involved. People, landscapes etc may be fine at 2048. Usually this is done using a film recorder. Duggal still lists film output on their website, and there are other labs which probably would charge less. If you just have a few, it would be worth sending it to a lab. If you have a lot then getting a better monitor/tv would be worthwhile.
posted by Sophont at 10:39 PM on January 10, 2018

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