What is the physical limits of analog film? I understand that a film projector has way more moving parts compared to a digital projector and cost more, but can a digital projector out project a mechanical projector for better viewing?

Taking the best analog film and the best digital processor which would play the movie the sharpest on a screen today? and what is physically possible or with in human perception?

I'm not asking about the method of recording but the method of projecting and the resolution achieved by the projectors alone. It kind of reminds me of the lumberjack and the machine I think, but in this case it is analog vs digital in a resolution race and the limits are what physics would allow.

  • Related: movies.stackexchange.com/q/35801/20764
    – OrangeDog
    Aug 7, 2019 at 20:01
  • Ever since DVDs hit and people were mystified by the incredible improvement, I was skeptical. One look at any scene under a streetlamp on DVD and you could instantly see defined "rings" of color. Digital has its flaws, though at least you don't lose quality when making copies of it. Analog will always be, IMO, superior to digital. Aug 7, 2019 at 20:07
  • Possible duplicate of: What is the Resolution of 35mm film? as well as Was film actually “better” than digital media?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Aug 7, 2019 at 20:45
  • 4
    I think this is too broad. One challenge is that “out perform” is not well-defined. The first answer discussed resolution, but there are many other parameters of projection performance, such as contrast and gamma and color purity. There’s also the question of wear and aging, which is relevant because analog film wears and ages, and digital doesn’t. Even if 35 mm analog film might look better on the first viewing, after five years and 1500 viewings it might look a lot worse. Add to that the effect that the projector themselves have on the final quality. Aug 7, 2019 at 23:24
  • 2
    @ToddWilcox the question has defined "out perform" and is specifically asking about projection resolution.
    – OrangeDog
    Aug 8, 2019 at 11:09

1 Answer 1


Analogue projectors don't have a resolution. It's entirely dependent on the size and grain of the film. In general, raw analogue film has a much higher "resolution" than digital formats.

[IMAX digital] has a maximum perceived resolution of 2.9K, compared to traditional IMAX 70mm projection, which has an estimated resolution of 12K.

-- Wikipedia

  • 1
    As I mentioned in my comment on the question, resolution is only one aspect of performance. Currently the best digital cinema cameras have better dynamic range on capture than 35mm motion picture film. Whether digital cinema projectors can reproduce that full range on screen or whether the dynamic range of digital projectors is better than analog regardless of the range on the medium is another question. The point is, resolution is only one small part of the story. Aug 7, 2019 at 23:33
  • 35mm isn’t the best film format though, which is why I used IMAX.
    – OrangeDog
    Aug 8, 2019 at 7:39
  • The question specifically asks about projection resolution.
    – OrangeDog
    Aug 8, 2019 at 7:41
  • 1
    That’s true and fair, but we don’t know if the asker even understands the other parameters besides resolution and how they affect overall quality. Also, is it fair to only compare the best analog format? In any case, the question is closed. FYI I did upvote your answer, it’s a great answer to the question and I just wanted to comment that there are other factors that could be compared. Aug 8, 2019 at 13:09

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