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Old June 14th, 2007, 11:46 AM   #1
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Explaining stylistic difference between interlaced and progressive

Hey all,

I've posted this on a couple other websites so sorry if you've seen it before, but I wanted as many opinions as possible.

How do you explain to clients or others not in the industry the stylistic difference between interlaced and progressive video? Not the technical 2 fields vs. 1 field at a time, odd/even lines explanation...but how it looks. Let's say I show you something shot at 30p and the exact same thing shot at 60i. Could you explain the difference that you were seeing?

Here's how I usually try to explain it (sorry for the outdated examples). I usually say interlaced has a very smooth, live, camcorder-ish, newscast-look to it, like "The Cosby Show". Progressive has more of a film, grainy, theatrical look to it, like "Cheers". But some people don't "get it"...even if they are watching the two formats side by side.

Any ideas how to explain it without getting too technical? Just wondering.

Jonathan
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Old June 15th, 2007, 10:07 AM   #2
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Stylistically, the choice of progressive over interlaced is one step toward the elusive "film-look," that many digital filmmakers want. This is especially true for narrative films, and is desirable because it's the look we've seen on screens for a century. When progressive is coupled with lower (24/30) frame rates, our brains see it and conclude, "movie" – and when the brain sees 60i it concludes, "news," "sport," etc. The main reason for this is that film flickers across the screen at 24 frames per second, and we've been watching those flickering images all our lives.

On television today, more and more sitcoms and dramas are being shot in progressive video, rather than film, and it's becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference – not that this is a bad thing. It's interesting that you chose as comparative examples "The Cosby Show," and "Cheers," rather than say, "SportsCenter," or the "Evening News" on the one hand and "The Last Samuri," on the other. You are surely of the TV generation.

However, I don't agree with your use of the word, "grainy" in the context of progressive video. You can make you footage look grainy, if that's what you're after, but it doesn't come automatically with the use of progressive.

All else being equal (story, sets, lighting, etc.), a stream of progressive frames is clearer and flickers like film – interlaced is more life-like and smoother across the screen. If people don't get it from watching it (though I believe at a subconscious level, they actually do), then they are unlikely to get it from a verbal or written description. It's like explaining the color red to someone who has never seen it.

Last edited by Jack Barker; June 16th, 2007 at 09:54 AM.
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Old June 18th, 2007, 03:54 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply, Jack.

A few clarifications.

When I say "grainy", I know that film isn't grainy...I think I meant the level of contrast acheived by film. I go back to the "Cheers" example, that the blacks were EXTREMELY dark. You couldn't even see Ted Dansons' eyes...they were just like dark sockets.

And the examples, yes, are more TV-related. A more recent example could be a Soap Opera vs. Law and Order. Now, you and I understand what makes a film look like film (production-wise with lighting, gamma, etc). But I'm trying to make someone who doesn't have our background understand it and get a picture of it. I agree with your last line about if they can't see it, they can't see it. I think I'm just going to decide for them.

Jonathan
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Old June 18th, 2007, 04:30 PM   #4
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Best way to explain it is to show it. Shoot some representative examples of each (it helps if they're all identical scenes) and show them to your prospective client on one of those small, inexpensive portable DVD players with the built-in displays.
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Old June 19th, 2007, 09:10 AM   #5
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Chris...

Tried that. They couldn't see the difference played on either a computer or on a regular interlaced TV.

Oh well.

Jonathan
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Old June 19th, 2007, 09:38 AM   #6
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60i is like looking through a window.
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Old June 27th, 2007, 10:54 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan Kirsch View Post
Chris...

Tried that. They couldn't see the difference played on either a computer or on a regular interlaced TV.

Oh well.

Jonathan

That sound strange to me. Try to show them a very similar scene, one in progressive and one interlaced. To me the diffrence in motion is clearly visible.

I remember, years ago, when watching some tv shows (McGyver, i.e), sometimes there where some scenes which looked less like film than the others... i don't know if they used a non-film (video) camera, but definitively there was something diffrent.
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Old June 27th, 2007, 03:23 PM   #8
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I find a good way to explain it is to use the "daytime soap opera look" to "HBO feature film/series" look.
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Old June 27th, 2007, 03:30 PM   #9
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maybe interlace is a "live, immediate" look, whereas progressive is a "considered, authoritative" look?
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Old June 27th, 2007, 04:01 PM   #10
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So after a few days trying to explain it to him, I just let him hold the camera and showed both 60i and 30p through the viewfinder. He wants 30p. Said that 60i was "too fast" when he was panning around. Weird.

Thanks, all.

Jonathan
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Old July 4th, 2007, 11:00 AM   #11
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Depends... if it is a project I want to shoot in 24p or 30p I describe 60i as "the soap opera look" ;) Honestly, it depends on the project. I personally think that when the camera is directly addressed, it is generally best to use 60i. For high action stuff I like 30P and for narrative, story telling, doc style, etc. I go with 24P.



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Old July 5th, 2007, 12:39 AM   #12
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60i is like looking through a window.
Hmm. Well Wade, I don't know where you buy your window glass, but my windows don't produce interlace motion artifacts ("jaggies").

:)
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Old July 5th, 2007, 02:37 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Jonathan Kirsch View Post
Chris...

Tried that. They couldn't see the difference played on either a computer or on a regular interlaced TV.

Oh well.

Jonathan
I'm not trying to be clever here but if they can't see the difference it seems like there's not much point in trying to explain it to them - go ahead and shoot how you want to or in the most appropriate way for the project! ;-)
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Old July 5th, 2007, 09:32 AM   #14
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Thanks all...

Problem solved. I posted a few posts up that he chose 30p...which is what I was going to do if he couldn't tell the difference.

And yes, I did the "soap opera" vs. "Law and Order" explanation, too...ended up showing him through the viewfinder and let him pan around and see for himself. That did it.

Jonathan
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Old July 5th, 2007, 11:00 AM   #15
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i find that the 60i looks a lot like when they show the viewfinder view on a tv show, with that little "rec" flashing. and yeah my mom was watching young and the restless the other day and i was definitely thinking it looked like 30p
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