I'd always used Kodak stocks until around 1990, with the odd side-step to Agfa 320 when I wanted to control contrast and grain wouldn't be a problem. Then I was told that the commercials I was shooting would no longer be printed but would be transferred direct from neg.
This caused me huge problems. I'd always exposed for a very dense neg. as I found that this was a very good way of smoothing out skintones. Telecine did not like dense negs, in fact, it didn't like highlights at all.
The search was on for a stock that would transfer highlights cleanly from neg.. I was pointed in the direction of XT100 and sure enough it worked much better on Telecine than the Kodak stocks, as did the XTS400 which followed.
Agfa then asked me to try a stock they were about to launch, XTR250, and I was a total convert!. It was a stock that transferred well from Telecine and it handled extremes of contrast. I'd found a stock to make me happy. I even appeared in ads endorsing it.
In late '93 I took part in some focus groups that were organised to get unbiased, we weren't told until afterward who the manufacturer was, comments about a range of films and looks.
Early in '94 I was approached by Kodak to test some prototype stocks that they were working on. I accepted and spent a wonderful week in France with my regular crew testing 2 prototype stocks side by side with '93 and XTR250. They had a good prototype but while it had advantages in the shadows the skintone wasn't quite as good as XTR250.
I then tested a follow up stock and it WAS as good as XTR250, in fact it was better. I showed the results of side by side testing to my Agfa rep and then switched to what became 5287. This was the stock for me. The shadow response went on for ever and the highlights didn't clip until they were really pushed.
For a very short time another film was available from Kodak, Primetime. This was a stock totally optimised for TK, I loved it, so, of course, it was dropped. Apparently a lot of DP's thought that it was too grainy, this was probably because they shot it at 640 as recommended by EK, if rated at 320 it was gorgeous.
I was asked to take part in trialling of the follow up stock, Vision 320, and was impressed by its sharpness and lack of grain . I've used it on most of my commercials this year, '96, and it seems to have the same look as '87 but with increased sharpness and reduced grain although I do think that it has lost some of it's extended shadow response. It's also better with highly saturated reds.
I'm continuing to test film stocks regularly and as soon as Fuji come up with a stock that will beat Kodak I'll switch. My latest tests make that look a long way away ...........
1999 and I've just shot a demo film for the new Fuji 250 Tungsten and Daylight films.
I loved the new films when printed and they looked even better when transferred on a Spirit.
They look much gentler and smoother than the equivalent Kodak stocks, so now if I want an "in ya face" look I'll use the Vision stocks and when I want something a little more subtle & delicate it'll be the Fuji
2000 and Fuji released the F400, this film seems to have the best characteristics of the Agfa XTR 250 combined with the best of the Kodak 5287, a film made just for me!!
I'm still testing films, both as they come out and in pre-production for both suppliers, I'll post more when I'm allowed to.
2001, well, the films I was testing for Kodak have now been launched, '84 "Expression" and a lower contrast SO63. I love the '84, it's a different look to the F400 but it's a low con optimised for TK stock and so I now have 2 high speed films that are perfect, but different.
So how about a slow speed low con stock?
2002 and Kodak have given me the first of a range of films designeed to replace the Vision platform. It's cleaner, has great highlight handling, the shows look OK too :-) but the main thing is the grain, it's a different shape to the Vision, rounder, smoother and much finer.