“Film ETERNA” and “Film Simulation ETERNA”

Masahiro AIDA / Director of Photography


The name of Fujifilm “ETERNA” is derived from the English word “eternal,” which means “permanent and indomitable”.

In 2018, the evolution of the latest digital equipment in video production is extremely fast and a current equipment and technology quickly becomes old. However there are quite many Hollywood blockbuster movies still shot on film. It’s mostly because the film doesn’t mean “old”. The history of movie making shot on film is over 100 years and the digital cinema has been developed while chasing the quality looks like “film”. We have aimed that the digital cinema would achieve the film look and progress, but nowadays quite few people discuss the difference between film and digital.
Shooting on film isn’t most updated but lets us feel it’s always new and fresh because it’s never become old compared to digital. ETERNA may contain the meaning of eternity of film and let us learn much about the superiority of expression by the technical point of view. It means the existence of the film is still important in filmmaking, so we should respect for the sound of ETERNA.

Various kinds of films were used to be named as “ETERNA”; for example, a negative film for filmmaking, a few kinds of positive films for projection, a recording film for Digital Intermediate process (D.I. process), an internegative (also called “dupe negative”), and a Black and White archive film. Currently ETERNA-RDS still exists and takes an important role in the film history because ETERNA-RDS preserves Black and White archive film transferred from three separate color images.

Characteristic of ETERNA

Fujifilm X-H1 now installed a new film simulation, “ETERNA”. ETERNA is hard to find characteristics at first glance, but by knowing the features of ETERNA (as a film), you can feel the superiority and possibilities as film simulation for motion picture. ETERNA (as a film) was born in the trend of digitization of movies and the high sensitivity standardization of photographic film (E.I. 500). It was implemented by several new technologies, such as the success of high sensitivity of fine grain made by Super Nano-Structured Σ Grain technology which was epoch-making at that time.
The film simulation “ETERNA” installed on X-H1 uses a latest digital technology differed from the film ETERNA, but the target picture tone sets the same goal as film, which is as if both ETERNAs (simulation and film) were twin brothers who played over time.
2004, the main of film series of ETERNA was ETERNA500 (Type 8573) that is a photographic negative film of E.I.500. E.I. 500 (ISO 500) was high sensitive as film at that time and enabled us to shoot high quality image with fine grain, dark detail and great sharpness, which influenced improvement of expressiveness and mobility for motion pictures. Especially, many cinematographers loved it because the film contains a stable gray tone and fine skin tone independent from exposure. Cinematographers want to capture a moment under both dark and bright scenes, and the ETERNA could provide stable color tone (not shift by difference of brightness) and support a film tone with beautiful face skin tone and rich gradation reproducibility. The true value of film simulation ETERNA made with the same goal as the film will be realized during constant shootings with it.

Background of the birth of ETERNA

After Fujifilm invented the E.I. 500 film for motion pictures in 1984, people got more interested in a high sensitive film. We were used to commonly shoot with E.I. 50 or E.I. 100 films for better picture quality in photography and motion pictures. Especially in motion pictures we couldn’t change shutter speed much, so the high sensitive film attracted us by better rendering in dark detail and also better mobility and capability with less lighting required and more hours of filming allowed. However because E.I. 500 film was grainier than other lower E.I. films, most of us hoped E.I. 500 film would have gotten finer grain. In the 2000s motion pictures still mainly shot on film but there seemed some innovation in post-production. As we scanned film (telecine) to transfer it to digital, we color-graded and added VFX (CGI) under the very innovated digital process. Then we printed it and projected it on a screen. This process was a major trend. In 2005, this work flow was admitted among more than 50% of filmmaking and in order to acquire better image under a digital process, we expected a new film with better grain, sharpness, gradation and color tone reproducibility. ETERNA was born while we expected a high quality film which, can be manipulated from principal photography up to post digital work flow.

Design Philosophy of ETERNA

In film and film simulation, the design philosophy is basically the same and reflected to them as their features regardless of the technology used. This design philosophy can be shared between both film and digital and I think that it enables us to see the true value of image quality. Fujifilm aimed more latitude in shadow area while they discussed importance of image expression with many cinematographers and focused on representation of Black and White and particularly color reproduction of the dark area. In movie shootings, most scenes with different exposures are continuously captured and the final products will be made by such accumulating cuts. Thus stable gradation and color reproduction are required from shadow to highlight. This is still the same and an advantage of the film simulation ETERNA, which was created as the most important in constructing image quality.
However, recognition of high sensitivity is different between film and digital. Film ETERNA is E.I. 500, which is high sensitive at that time, but nowadays digital cameras have base sensor sensitivity around E.I. 500~E.I. 800 and work great even for higher E.I. (ISO). Fujifilm succeeded both high sensitivity and fine grain, and also they invented Super Nano-Structured Σ Grain, Super Efficient DIR-Coupler Technology, and Super Efficient Coupler Technology to enlarge the latitude in under. The light incident on the silver halide becomes a latent image of development from nuclear particles which is the basis of the image through a chemical reaction. Film continues unstable until development is done. In this process, efficiency of latent image formation was improved by techniques such as improvement of light absorption rate and stabilization of chemical reaction of particles that absorbed light that could achieve both high sensitivity and high image quality.
In short, in order to increase the sensitivity, it is necessary to improve the density of silver halide,which is the photosensitive element of the film. Also Fujifilm developed a new silver halide that can handle the light most efficiently and totally with the further improvement of the light absorption rate by flattening it.

Along the film technology development and the current sensor/processor, the compatibility of more resolution and more dynamic range is similar to the technical development in the design of color reproducibility. The essence of image quality, which can not be expressed by specifications will become a hint to know about what is the most important image quality for human beings.

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