Types of Film Artifacts | Categories of Film Artifacts
What is a film artifact? What are artifacts in film?
A Film Artifact on 16mm and/or 35mm film emulsion is a mark, blemish, or defect caused by the developing, handling and storage of a film strip - usually resulting in a negative or positive phase effect. For example, an area of the film is lighter than its surrounding - the negative phase - or darker than its surrounding - the positive phase effect. There are many different types of artifacts on film that occur.
What are the types / categories of film artifacts?
The categories of film artifacts are: film leader, which consists of both head leader and tailer leader from 16mm film and 35mm film emulsion, film countdowns or countdown leader, film grain, film dirt, film dust, film noise, film scratches, film burns, film flash frames, film splices, film punch holes, film markers / cinemarkers, and film mattes or aspect ratio mattes.
Adding and combining these unique film artifacts and film textures in custom ways on top of your vide footage is one of the best and easiest ways to give your video footage the realistic film look - without breaking the bank.
Film Leader (Head & Tail Leader)
A Film Leader is a separate length of film attached to the front (head leader) or back (tail leader) of a 16mm and/or 35mm film strip - which helps in the threading of a projector or telecine. Which is the process of transferring the picture on the film into a video format that can be edited in your editing suite of choice.
A Film Countdown is also referred to as the SMPTE universal film leader, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. The universal film leader is attached to the head and includes the countdown and technical information about the film, including title, studio, production number, aspect ratio, sound level and mix, reel number and color.
It features a countdown from 8 to 2, with a short beep heard at the 2 mark - commonly referred to as the "2-pop".
Film Grain / Film Grain Overlays
Film Grain or Film Grain Overlays is the processed silver halide that can be lifted from the film stock during the telecine process, and can be used by overlaying on top of digital video in the editing suite with different blending modes to give your video footage the authentic feel of being shot on 8mm, 16mm, or 35mm film. You can add light film grain, medium film grain, or heavy film grain without the high costs of actually shooting, processing, and digitizing the film footage yourself.
Film Dirt / Film Dust / Film Noise
Film Dirt, also called Film Dust or Film Noise is similar to film grain overlays but consists of real dirt, dust and hair particles on the film emulsion / film stock. This is another layer that can be added atop film grain to transform your video footage that much more.
Film Scratches are another type of film overlays / film artifact which give the impression that the film stock is scratched.
A Film Burn in photography or cinematography happens when the film stock / film emulsion is exposed to light of any kind - usually appearing along the edges of the film frame. Film burns can happen when a new roll of film is loaded into a camera, when the film gate opens to capture the image, and when the film stock is being post-processed.
Depending on how much light and what color, film burns can appear in shades of white, blue, green, red, orange, and yellow.
Film burns are used in editing as a natural transitions between two shots in the timeline.
Film Flash Frames
A Film Flash Frame is similar to a film burn, in that it's exposure to light on the film emulsion, but is typically less / quicker / shorter amounts of exposure to light. Typically 1 or 2 frames of the reel. They are also used in editing similarly to film burns, as a means to transitions between two shots.
A Film Splice is when the two film stocks / film frames have been joined together by an adhesive like tape or contact cement with a film splicer. Much like film burns and film flash frames, film splices are used in editing as an authentic way to transition between shots.
Film Punch Holes
A Punch Hole is a marker on the original film stock made by a punch hole tool and used to transition between two shots in the timeline.
Film Markers / Cinemarkers
A Film Marker or Cinemarker is a mark on the film stock with a water-based marker like a sharpie or felt board marker. This is another type of film artifact that can be layered atop your digital video footage with blending modes to achieve unique film looks.
Film Mattes / Aspect Ratio Mattes / Dirty Letterboxes
Film Mattes or Aspect Ratio Mattes are commonly referred to as film letterboxes. This is the actual film frame itself (outside the picture), that is over-scanned in the post-process. You can then drag and drop different aspect ratio mattes on top of your digital video in the timeline to give your footage vintage 4x3 square picture which makes it look like its shot on standard 8mm or 16mm film. Or you can choose to use cinematic widescreen film mattes to make super 35mm film looks or ultra-widescreen film looks.
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We hope you’ve found this article on the Types of Film Artifacts and Categories of Film Artifacts to be useful and practical. For more valuable info, tools, and resources for film directors, videographers, photographers, motion designers, video editors, and creatives - check out the Ultimate List of Filmmaker Resources, Glossary of Essential Film Terms, or all blog posts.
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