Why does 35mm film look so great at large sizes?

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I’ve been thinking about this recently. I’ve noticed many old music videos and television shows. Specifically old Beatles music videos and old Twilight Zone episodes have been remastered for Blu-ray with almost no imperfections whatsoever. My question is, how is it that something shot on 35mm film can looks so clear when transcribed to digital? How is it that it can project so large on a screen when the film itself is so tiny?

Thank you

In: 7

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film has tiny grains of silver or other chemical that change color when exposed to light and treated with other chemicals.

silver can form really small grains, smaller than hair, so you can easily get 4K of them in the 35mm width.

then you just need a very good scanner to turn those grains into pixels.

Film is an emulsion of tiny silver halide crystals. When exposed and developed they create the image.

Silver halide crystals can be as dense as 25,400 per inch. So in a 35mm square of film you have roughly 35,000 x 35,000 ‘pixels’. With that much definition to start from 4k is a no brainer.

Everything you see is being projected onto your retina at the back of your eye, which is basically a screen slightly smaller than a frame of 35 mm film. All the light coming into your eye, which means everything you see at any instant, is being squeezed onto that tiny space by a lens at the front of your eye.

In fact, if you look at [a diagram of how the light rays travel toward and into the eye](https://www.google.com/search?q=image+upside+down+retina), you’ll see that the “image” shrinks to a size small enough to fit through your pupil, and continues shrinking down to an infinitely small point in the middle of your eye, and then it enlarges again, upside-down, finally arriving at the retina.

So basically there is no limit to how small an image can be. The only limit is in the ability of the projection “screen”, be it your retina or a frame of film or a sensor in a digital camera, to resolve and store the detail.

For film, looking at the density of silver halide crystals is a good starting point, but they clump together and aren’t evenly distributed like pixels, and the film is layered, with the color being provided in dye clouds which aren’t as precise as the crystal clumps. So it’s difficult to make a comparison to a digital sensor which has precise pixels on a perfect grid.

Ultimately, the detail you can get in a frame of 35 mm film is equivalent to somewhere between a “4K” (8.3 megapixel) and “8K” (33 megapixel) digital image, tending toward the low side of that range.

To add to what others have said I’d take a look at the size of the digital sensors in modern cameras, they also are roughly the same size as 35mm film and often smaller. The ‘sensor’ in your eyes is also much smaller again

0 views

I’ve been thinking about this recently. I’ve noticed many old music videos and television shows. Specifically old Beatles music videos and old Twilight Zone episodes have been remastered for Blu-ray with almost no imperfections whatsoever. My question is, how is it that something shot on 35mm film can looks so clear when transcribed to digital? How is it that it can project so large on a screen when the film itself is so tiny?

Thank you

In: 7

[removed]

film has tiny grains of silver or other chemical that change color when exposed to light and treated with other chemicals.

silver can form really small grains, smaller than hair, so you can easily get 4K of them in the 35mm width.

then you just need a very good scanner to turn those grains into pixels.

Film is an emulsion of tiny silver halide crystals. When exposed and developed they create the image.

Silver halide crystals can be as dense as 25,400 per inch. So in a 35mm square of film you have roughly 35,000 x 35,000 ‘pixels’. With that much definition to start from 4k is a no brainer.

Everything you see is being projected onto your retina at the back of your eye, which is basically a screen slightly smaller than a frame of 35 mm film. All the light coming into your eye, which means everything you see at any instant, is being squeezed onto that tiny space by a lens at the front of your eye.

In fact, if you look at [a diagram of how the light rays travel toward and into the eye](https://www.google.com/search?q=image+upside+down+retina), you’ll see that the “image” shrinks to a size small enough to fit through your pupil, and continues shrinking down to an infinitely small point in the middle of your eye, and then it enlarges again, upside-down, finally arriving at the retina.

So basically there is no limit to how small an image can be. The only limit is in the ability of the projection “screen”, be it your retina or a frame of film or a sensor in a digital camera, to resolve and store the detail.

For film, looking at the density of silver halide crystals is a good starting point, but they clump together and aren’t evenly distributed like pixels, and the film is layered, with the color being provided in dye clouds which aren’t as precise as the crystal clumps. So it’s difficult to make a comparison to a digital sensor which has precise pixels on a perfect grid.

Ultimately, the detail you can get in a frame of 35 mm film is equivalent to somewhere between a “4K” (8.3 megapixel) and “8K” (33 megapixel) digital image, tending toward the low side of that range.

To add to what others have said I’d take a look at the size of the digital sensors in modern cameras, they also are roughly the same size as 35mm film and often smaller. The ‘sensor’ in your eyes is also much smaller again