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Kodak Ektachrome makes stellar comeback with HBO's 'Euphoria' Kodak Ektachrome makes stellar comeback with HBO's 'Euphoria' Vanity Teen 虚荣青年 Lifestyle & new faces magazine

TV & Film

Kodak Ektachrome makes stellar comeback with HBO’s ‘Euphoria’

You’ve probably heard the news that Euphoria @euphoria, HBO’s teen series featuring Emmy Award Winner Zendaya @zendaya, has been shot on 35mm film and you might not understand why this is important for photography and cinema.

As digital technology developed through the mid to late 2000s, many photographers and filmmakers switched to digital technologies because of the convenience and economy it provides, especially since it doesn’t require additional costs in processing and scanning. Due to this, some companies, such as Fuji, permanently halted the production of motion film and other manufacturers followed.

Kodak (based in Rochester, New York) and ORWO FilmoTec (based in Germany) are the only two companies who are still producing motion film, which as the name suggests, is a type of film used to record images in motion and which for nearly 100 years, was the main format used by cinema until the arrival of digital.

If the new season of Euphoria has a distinct look to you, it’s because it has been shot entirely on Kodak 35mm film, including the recently reintroduced Kodak EKTACHROME.

Kodak Ektachrome makes stellar comeback with HBO's 'Euphoria' Kodak Ektachrome makes stellar comeback with HBO's 'Euphoria' Vanity Teen 虚荣青年 Lifestyle & new faces magazine
The introduction of EKTACHROME made it easier to have color slides (source: Emulsive).

Kodak EKTACHROME is a slide film stock that has existed for nearly 80 years, and was introduced as an alternative to Kodachrome (discontinued in 2009) which was of very high quality but required a longer, complex processing with big industrial machinery and dangerous chemistry, making it difficult for people to shoot color slides and impossible to develop at home.

With the introduction of EKTACHROME, smaller film labs and enthusiasts had access to slides easily and the film stock provided fast speeds and small grain for photographers who wanted sharp and vivid images. This film stock was so good, it ended up going to the moon and was chosen by NASA for the historic Apollo 11 mission in 1969.

Kodak Ektachrome makes stellar comeback with HBO's 'Euphoria' Kodak Ektachrome makes stellar comeback with HBO's 'Euphoria' Vanity Teen 虚荣青年 Lifestyle & new faces magazine
A special formula of EKTACHROME was developed by Kodak for use in space (Source: American Cinematographer/NASA).

EKTACHROME was discontinued entirely in early 2012, and it was brought back by Kodak in 2018 initially for photography in 35mm format, and then for movies in 8mm and 16mm. After a couple of years, it was available for photographers in larger formats, such as 120 and 4×5.

Slide film has been fading away from the market during the last few years, making it harder for newer generations to use it. Right now the only slide film stocks that are currently available are Kodak Ektachrome, Fuji Provia and Fuji Velvia.

Kodak EKTACHROME in motion film has been available for some time in 8mm and 16mm formats, but a special order is generally necessary for larger productions like Euphoria as consequence of technical differences between still and motion 35mm film, which requires to source bigger quantities of unique chemistry necessary to coat the film and to adjust the manufacturing process for a bigger scale. This is the reason why Sam Levinson, Director of Euphoria, had to reach out to Kodak before using EKTACHROME as it was a technical challenge for the Rochester company.

Kodak Ektachrome makes stellar comeback with HBO's 'Euphoria' Kodak Ektachrome makes stellar comeback with HBO's 'Euphoria' Vanity Teen 虚荣青年 Lifestyle & new faces magazine
Taylor Swift’s ‘All Too Well’ featuring Sadie Sink & Dylan O’Brien had exterior images shot on 35mm Kodak EKTACHROME film (source: British Cinematographer).

One of the fun things about EKTACHROME is that unlike color negative film, which requires darkroom printing or scanning in order to see the images, EKTACHROME can be viewed with any light source available as it was created for projection, and it provides very fine grain with punchy contrast, a color palette that reproduces skin tones vibrantly, and loves yellow and blue colors.

Kodak Ektachrome makes stellar comeback with HBO's 'Euphoria' Kodak Ektachrome makes stellar comeback with HBO's 'Euphoria' Vanity Teen 虚荣青年 Lifestyle & new faces magazine
Slides (on the left) can be seen in with any light source, as opposed to negatives which need to be inverted (source: The Darkroom)

Considering that this stock was fully discontinued just 10 years ago, it’s great news that new photographers and filmmakers will have the possibility to enjoy the world of reversal film nowadays with its breathtaking visual experience for many more years in the future, considering that most stocks have disappeared and there are now only 3 options left.

How does Euphoria looks to you now that they have shot it entirely on 35mm film? Let us know!

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