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Old March 30th, 2010, 08:45 AM   #16
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I just wanted to make a general comment that the "feel of film" or its "rich look" did not happen overnight.

And to make the further distinction that there are two types of film: Color and Black & White.

Ever see any of the really early Technicolor films from 1930s Hollywood? Did they give "pleasing or realistic skin tones"? Not for some years. The point is that it had to be worked on and improved - constantly - before it got to a state of aesthetic maturity. Technicolor used to send its representative to the sets of the major Hollywood movies just to make sure that the technology was being implemented correctly and that constant improvements were being made (although she would later clash with Directors and DPs who wanted to take the look of the movie along their own artistic vision rather than her purpose of "showing how good Technicolor can look"). My personal benchmark of when color film (Technicolor) reached full maturity and I'm 100% happy looking at it is Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" (1959). There were many significant milestones before that (such as "The Red Shoes") but nothing I was 100% happy with. So, it took a good 25 years or so (in my view) for color film to reach full maturity.

And what did color film eventually push aside? Black and white had reached an incredibly high aesthetic level by the 1940s, with all of those film noirs, not to mention the classic "Warner Brothers look". (A lot of that has to do with great art direction too.)

Just as Spielberg and Tarantino disdain using digital today, so did some top-line directors and DPs rail against shooting in anything other than Black and White. And purely for aesthetic reasons. The great Billy Wilder shot B&W exclusively until 1963, made one in colour and then promptly went back to B&W. Only in the 1970s did Billy fully switch to color (I suspect due to investors' pressure). But Billy was one of the great noir directors and got sensational results with B&W. So that was entirely understandable.

I guess all I'm saying is that I see a great deal of analogy between the "B&W/Color" phase and the current "Film/UHD" phase. And that the current aesthetic qualities of color film which are now treasured by DPs were not present when it first started. It took years of hard work and constant improvements to get there.

That's what I like about the RED company. They've got no illusions about what they've still got to do and so they're doing it. And now that Arri has joined the party in a serious way, I'm sure that digital acquisition will continue to rapidly improve towards its full aesthetic maturity. It might still take a few years, but it will happen.

Purely my two-cents-worth.

EDIT: Oops. I just remembered that Wilder did "The Seven Year Itch" with Monroe in color in the mid 50s.

Last edited by David Knaggs; March 30th, 2010 at 02:02 PM. Reason: Correcting a goof.
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Old March 30th, 2010, 10:11 AM   #17
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The reason many still prefer film is that digital looks like the real world while film glorifies it now as always, me i dont mind the real world.
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Old March 30th, 2010, 10:19 AM   #18
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Film is all about making it look better than real -- as in the Technicolor masterpiece NXNW that David points out above.
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Old March 30th, 2010, 10:31 AM   #19
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That's a great argument David, very original and I appreciate your adding it. It's ironic that it has taken the DI and digital restoration process to return many of the early color films back to their original glory, possibly improving the skin tones beyond how they were originally presented!

Martyn, I think you are right in that film glorifies to an extent, but I would say that if digital was truly able to present things realistically, that would be a best-case scenario. There are still a lot of examples of plastic or waxy-looking skin tones produced even by the best of our current cameras. High-resolution images seem to magnify every wrinkle and pore in a way and present them straight-up, while our own "high-res capture system" (i.e. our eyes/brain combo) doesn't necessarily register that information.

Consider it this way: if you have a crush on a young lady, you may tend to overlook the fact that she was out late last night and has a few bags under her eyes, or the beginnings of crow's feet, etc. If a director wants us to have a crush on his leading lady in a romantic comedy, being that we don't have an automatic attachment to her, it's best if we don't represent the actresses' flaws but present an idealized version of her so we see her as the romantic interest sees her. It's as much a part of filmmaking as editing or scoring or whatever results in creating a mood. Certainly the choice can be to show the character warts-and-all, but that's a different kind of movie. Plenty of films have been made on 35mm that accentuate the "real" look of the actors (21 Grams comes to mind) to prove that film is more than capable of this.

When "ER" switched from 35mm to RED for the last few episodes of its run, I thought it looked remarkably similar except for the occasional plastic-looking rendition of skin tones. This sort of thing is a work in progress of course--I look forward to seeing more footage of Mysterium-X to see how this may have improved. We're getting there.
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Old March 30th, 2010, 11:06 AM   #20
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The new M X sensor and Alexa look extremely interesting.

Film can also make the world look extremely gritty, while digital can look very clinical. Again, this is something that will be developed and I suspect much depends on how the images are handled in post. The whole process effects how the image looks, which seems to include if it's a print or digital projection.

The picture on the B & W CRT V/F often looks better than the rather boring colour version on the monitor.
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Old March 30th, 2010, 03:17 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
It's not about quantifiable stops of latitude, it's about the look.
Sure, it's always about the look, as it should be. But if you have more quantifiable stops of latitude and dynamic range, you're naturally going to have more "look" options.
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Old March 31st, 2010, 02:37 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
That's a great argument David, very original and I appreciate your adding it. It's ironic that it has taken the DI and digital restoration process to return many of the early color films back to their original glory, possibly improving the skin tones beyond how they were originally presented!

Martyn, I think you are right in that film glorifies to an extent, but I would say that if digital was truly able to present things realistically, that would be a best-case scenario. There are still a lot of examples of plastic or waxy-looking skin tones produced even by the best of our current cameras. High-resolution images seem to magnify every wrinkle and pore in a way and present them straight-up, while our own "high-res capture system" (i.e. our eyes/brain combo) doesn't necessarily register that information.

Consider it this way: if you have a crush on a young lady, you may tend to overlook the fact that she was out late last night and has a few bags under her eyes, or the beginnings of crow's feet, etc. If a director wants us to have a crush on his leading lady in a romantic comedy, being that we don't have an automatic attachment to her, it's best if we don't represent the actresses' flaws but present an idealized version of her so we see her as the romantic interest sees her. It's as much a part of filmmaking as editing or scoring or whatever results in creating a mood. Certainly the choice can be to show the character warts-and-all, but that's a different kind of movie. Plenty of films have been made on 35mm that accentuate the "real" look of the actors (21 Grams comes to mind) to prove that film is more than capable of this.

When "ER" switched from 35mm to RED for the last few episodes of its run, I thought it looked remarkably similar except for the occasional plastic-looking rendition of skin tones. This sort of thing is a work in progress of course--I look forward to seeing more footage of Mysterium-X to see how this may have improved. We're getting there.
Charles your an author for sure,i cant argue with you but i have to say most of the HD tv
material is filmed digitaly over here and most of it looks realy good.
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Old March 31st, 2010, 11:16 AM   #23
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I agree Martyn, I've seen plenty of great-looking HD (like to think I've shot some myself)!
Sometimes, though, things go a little awry.

Insung, not quite following your point on this--you initially presented it as "Question is would you choose 13.5 stops of latitude of film vs 13.5 stops of latitude of digital?". My response was based on this theoretical argument, which isn't yet true.

Once digital supersedes the range of film, it will be interesting to see what is chosen. For studio work where the values are entirely controllable, extended latitude isn't as much of an advantage as it would be when shooting in daylight.

Bottom line is that for many DP's, how a face is rendered tonally, texturally and emotionally is a high priority, as it should be. This is not something that can be quantified numerically, it's pure feel and subjectivity. And most still feel that film is superior in this regard.
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Old March 31st, 2010, 11:56 AM   #24
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Yes Charles once again i cant argue, but as has been said film has improved a lot and digital can only improve as well,watching a 70/80/s tv series being shown on a channel here at present shows how film has improved,in those days outdoor shots were done with 16m film and the indoor ones with tube video cameras,the difference is very noticable with the indoor parts being cleaner and a lot sharper also better colour IMO,i know in the cinema world 35mm
is another league.
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Old March 31st, 2010, 12:05 PM   #25
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Martyn:

Most of what you were seeing with that classic BBC look was a function of the telecine being used. As the pickups improved over the years and with the introduction of the flying spot scanner, the look of film for television improved significantly. So ironically, it was the video technology used to transfer film that made the video look better!

If you look at some of the early Super16 features that were made in those days, especially ones that have been transferred to HD in modern days, I think you'd see a very different looking image than in the old-school telecines.
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Old March 31st, 2010, 05:41 PM   #26
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If you run those old film inserts through a modern telecine it's surprising how good they are.
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Old April 1st, 2010, 03:22 AM   #27
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the video on the programns is vastly superior though.And telecine from old 35mm is better, and i have yet to see any good standard 16 mm transfer,i used it briefly 30 years ago and despite paying for top quality transfers the quality is not in HDV class.
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Old April 1st, 2010, 03:49 AM   #28
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Often shot with EMI 2001 cameras. Interesting in that they had 4 tubes - a luminance channel as well the 3 colours. These cameras were used well into the 1980s on "Eastenders".

The film on these shows is the old telecine transfer using a TV contrast print. For about the last 20 years they've done the transfer using the negative. Yes, there is a jar between the two media, however, any superiority often depended on the story being told and who the film cameraman* was. You could have some great location work and then cut to some very visually bland studio scenes. The film chain has improved immensely in the last 30 years, although in raw resolution terms standard 16mm is probably pretty similar to HDV.

It would've been better to keep to one medium or the other. However, telecines have improved immensely from that period, so they never really got the best out of the film. They also used a lot of edge enhancement on the video during that period.

*This being the BBC term for a DP at the time.
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Old April 1st, 2010, 11:14 AM   #29
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Martyn--I would suggest that you may have seen examples 16mm-originated modern television shows and not been aware of it. For at least the past 10 years, it hasn't been easy to spot (due to grain reduction, improved stocks and transfer technology). It's been a few years since I worked on any but back in the day, I did "Scrubs"and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and I recall that "Sex in the City" was shot on Super16. In the feature realm, "The Hurt Locker" is a recent credit and there have been quite a few along the way that have been a surprise to me when I learn about them ("Leaving Las Vegas" for one).
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Old April 1st, 2010, 11:40 AM   #30
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Charles i know super 16 is far better than standard 16 which i have yet to see make good transfer, if there are any i would like to see.
Bryan have a look at all creatures great and small on freeview 12, telecine must have been pretty bad if it is the sole reason for the vastly superior video filmed sections.Onother point recent programns showing peter sellers 16mm would have surely been telecined as good as possible.
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