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HD and UHD ( 2K+ ) Digital Cinema
Various topics: HD, UHD (2K / 4K) Digital Cinema acquisition to distribution.


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Old December 28th, 2008, 10:49 AM   #1
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2/3" and 1080--not good enough?

For those who are breathlessly reading specs on new or announced cameras and debating whether they can possibly compromise their vision with such pedestrian formats such as 2/3" imagers or 1080 acquisition, I suggest you go see "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button". I'm not much a fan of the film overall, but the visuals are absolutely worth it. Claudio Miranda's lighting and the overall look was for me an uncompromised cinematic experience--yet having been shot on the Viper, it's saddled by those "lowly" specs.

I don't want to get too preachy but in my opinion, the obsession with shallow depth of field and ever-increasing resolution is leading a lot of people down the wrong path. Beautiful lighting and composition will make any camera look good, but even the most advanced camera can't automatically conjure up either. Cinematography is a lifelong study, and while it's easier than ever to access tools that can recreate a high-end look without the Hollywood pricetag, the tools are only as good as the talent who wields them.

Bravo Claudio!
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Old December 29th, 2008, 04:45 AM   #2
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Given that the vast majority of work will only ever be seen on a TV set in someones living room I cannot understand the obsession with ever increasing resolution. The human eye can't even take advantages of 1080p on anything other than the largest screen. Then there is viewing distance to take into account as well. Given the optimum viewing distances for 1080, why on earth would anyone want to have to sit any closer for even higher resolutions?

My understanding is that 1080 high def was created to enable home viewing to obtain a similar viewing distance/screen size as the cinema. The ability to watch larger screens from a closer distance without seeing individual pixels. 1080 has achieved this already. As people who have seen 1080 projected on a really good 4k projector at places like NAB will attest, what exactly does even more resolution get you? 99.9% of people are not shooting for theatrical display or distribution.

Instead I would much rather see a concerted effort to increase framerates to obtain 1080p/50/60 and to totally ditch the legacy 720 format. There is far too much mess at the moment. If someone is shooting stock footage for example, do they shoot 720/24p? 720/25p? 720/60p? 720/30p? 720/50p? 1080/24p? 1080/25p? 1080/50i? 1080/60i? 1080/30p?

With digital cinema I would like to see 24p ditched. AFAIAC it has no place any more. It is an awkward rate and finnicky to handle. If US TV's could be unlocked to handle other frequencies like everybody else in the world then people could use 25p instead, which really has no difference in look to all but the most bearded of people. 25p would make sense because when 1080/50p comes along that footage could be used to create a 50i, a 50p, and a 25p version of footage. Great for people shooting stock footage since it would make things go a lot further. Same for 60p. So for stock footage people would only have to choose between 50p and 60p and interlaced or film style versions could be derived very easily without issues.

The situation is currently totally ridiculous and it needs sorting out. The obsession with resolution just seems to be diverting the powers that be from sorting out the real issues IMHO.
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Old December 30th, 2008, 03:33 AM   #3
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Simon, I couldn't agree more. For example, one of the arguments that garners huge debate surrounds the resolution from the little Canon cams when footage is acquired via the camera HDMI interface, or vs HDV to tape. Yes there's a difference, but on a typical HD screen, who cares? There's a ton of hype and questionable information being circulated all over the place and I honestly feel for folks who only 4 years ago were faced with pretty much one choice at the lower end of things...DV. We spend a lot of time looking at HD output from a variety of cameras ranging from $800 to $25 000 and one thing I do see though is even at 1080p, there's still lots of room for improvement to get to true 1920x1080 resolution. The Nyquist theorem would suggest that you do need to "oversample" at resolutions significantly higher than 1920x1080 to arrive at an image that would down-convert with better results. So I guess that's an argument for 2K, 4K etc. even if your product is not destined for film/projection.

We had Ryan Keller, a director working in Toronto visit our offices over Christmas. He brought with him a DVD of four clips shot with the Second City comedy group, which subsequently aired on Bravo. They were shot with the HVX200, our adapter, and more importantly, excellent lighting, camera movement, sound, acting etc. etc. The very simple thing that struck me about one of the pieces is that they actually lit properly for video and then crushed the blacks in post to get nice clean images free of the usual HVX200 noise. In other words, there was nothing there to distract even a non-technical viewer and I couldn't help but getting sucked right into the comedy. In my mind, that's as it should be.

Cinematography to me represents a wonderful challenge, and as Charles has indicated, is infinitely complex in it's nuance. Perhaps the reason we all get caught up in technical details is that a high level of "mastery" is attainable to anyone, whereas that same mastery of the form of visual media, will never be. The fact that the most downloaded clip on our website (with 45 000 thread views) was shot using an HV20, by a talented young film-maker says something about how the technology is rapidly democratizing the industry. For us, it's a very exciting place to be as we continue to be exposed on a daily basis to the raw talent out there.

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Old December 30th, 2008, 06:51 AM   #4
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Here Here Simon.

I've seen technology demo's of 2K and 4K films along side 1080P video and the biggest differentiator is always the composition and lighting. In real world situations I struggle to see the difference between 4K and 2K. Sure in demo's where your un reasonably close to the screen I can see the difference, but that's not how movies and TV are watched.

I've recently seen quite a few IMAX movies and went to the cinema for the first time in ages just the other day. I found the motion quite objectionable and that's from someone that currently shoots most things at 25P!

There are still very few TV's and monitors that really do justice to 1080 images, let alone anything with higher resolution. As Simon says we should now consolidate and really concentrate on getting the best from the standards we have. I too believe 50P to be the future. Don't forget that with any kind of motion resolution also becomes a function of frame rate.
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Old December 30th, 2008, 05:56 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis Wood View Post
... even at 1080p, there's still lots of room for improvement to get to true 1920x1080 resolution. The Nyquist theorem would suggest that you do need to "oversample" at resolutions significantly higher than 1920x1080 to arrive at an image that would down-convert with better results. So I guess that's an argument for 2K, 4K etc. even if your product is not destined for film/projection.
Well said. The Thomson Viper captures 24Mp (3 1920x4320 chips without interpolation) to get 1920x1080 w/4:4:4 color. The output is very beautiful: http://www.rubbermonkey.co.nz/images_detail/candles.jpg
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Old December 31st, 2008, 05:07 PM   #6
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I agree, especially on this pathological obsession over shallow DOF. Those unwieldy, ungainly 35mm adapters are awful in my book. They make the image weak from what I've seen.
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Old December 31st, 2008, 05:32 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Ali Husain View Post
The Thomson Viper captures 24Mp (3 1920x4320 chips without interpolation) to get 1920x1080 w/4:4:4 color.
Presumably that's not 24mp but 8mp - ie 3 ccds one for each colour.

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Old December 31st, 2008, 07:13 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Steve Phillipps View Post
Presumably that's not 24mp but 8mp - ie 3 ccds one for each colour.

Steve
Thompson Grass Valley say 3 x 9.2 Mega Pixel CCDs, but presumably they don't use all the pixels. They seem to combine different numbers of vertical sub pixels to give you the option of 1080p, 720p or Scope.

I think the main point being made was the use of 2/3" sensors rather than the 35mm sized sensors
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Old December 31st, 2008, 08:43 PM   #9
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I have been one of those looking for that perfect 35mm rig. The new scarlets are something I'm looking forward to seeing. And I have had my current FX1 camera mounted with 35mm rig waiting for the film to use it. But in each of my last four outings, I have opted of the standard shooting arrangement because of the simplicity, the nice image, and the realization that most shooting situations are enhanced by the the bare camera's capability. I have to agree that we sometime overemphasize that aspect.
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Old December 31st, 2008, 11:11 PM   #10
 
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12 years ago, I recall a group of gearheads, on this very website, bemoaning the unfilmlike look of DV video and proclaiming that DV will never be as artistic as film. Fast forward to today, where HD and HDV is now driving the resolution race. Artiste's are actually dumbing down footage with gaussian blur filters in order to achieve that ever elusive "film look".

Viper based films like "The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat)" set the bar.

I submit for your consideration that after there are no living generations of "film" shooters and audiences, contemporary video will be the "look dujour". Everything is relative. People are able to comprehend only that for which they are used to.
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Old January 1st, 2009, 01:09 AM   #11
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12 years ago, I recall a group of gearheads, on this very website, bemoaning...
Sorry -- could not have been here. We've only been around as a forum for seven years.

Twelve years ago we were barely a handful of pages called the XL1 Watchdog, and we most definitely were not "bemoaning the unfilmlike look of DV video" nor were we proclaiming "that DV will never be as artistic as film." But I can think of a couple of other sites from those days that you might have confused us with.
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Old January 1st, 2009, 02:25 AM   #12
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"Fast Runner" was not shot on the Viper. I believe it was shot 480i NTSC, like on a Digital Betacam or something. I remember articles at the time about the conversion from 60i to 24P for the film-out.
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Old January 1st, 2009, 07:43 AM   #13
 
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Chris..

ahhh, my timing is off, indeed. But, yeah, verily, it was on this very site when in its infancy. In fact, my first post, lo those many years ago, was concerning this very topic. As I recall, while owner and moderator, extra-ordinaire, you were not one of those film-snobs. No doubt, film is a beautiful medium. But, digital has its own form of beauty and can co-exist along-side film. The contemporary gripe, IMHO, is with CG, which I find cartoonish and unrealistic, even in such good examples as "Spiderman". The bottom line is well said by Charles, above..."...Beautiful lighting and composition will make any camera look good, but even the most advanced camera can't automatically conjure up either". On the other hand, noir classics like Battlestar Galactica make excessive use of digital characteristics...high contrast, blown highlights, etc, but, set the standard for artistic use of the "digital look".

David..

Indeed! A quick check revealed the following:
Atanarjuat was shot on wide screen (16:9) digital betacam (NTSC), transferred to 35mm film through a 'smooth motion' process with true film resolution at Digital Film Group, Vancouver. The film's visual strategy was designed to heighten the audience's sense of being there, despite the exotic locale. Even state-of-the-art digital cameras can take you places a film camera could never go. The goal of Atanarjuat is to make the viewer feel inside the action, looking out, rather than outside looking in. This lets people forget how far away they really are, and to identify with the story and characters as if they were just like us.

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Old January 13th, 2009, 05:43 PM   #14
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I'm a DV wannabe, so don't take this as being written by someone who knows what they're saying. :)

I've just stumbled across Charles's post, but have been having similar thoughts. Only mine were prompted by learning that Crank 2: High Voltage was shot with an XH-A1.

I'm looking forward to seeing this film, not only because I've got the IQ of a 14 year old boy, but also to see how it's been shot. My guess is that the film makers felt that XH-A1 produced sufficiently good image quality, and they felt that the benefits (lower cost, ability to film with multiple cameras and from otherwise inaccessible locations) outweighed the opinions of a few film geeks.

The film look strikes me as being an attempt to replicate the quirks of an obsolete technology because that's what we associate as being better, but not necessarily having an objectively higher image quality. It's like musicians talking about analogue warmth being preferable to a digital recording.

I love shallow depths of field and a nice bokeh, but is it really necessary? Pulling focus to shift attention from one actor to another is surely a cliché by now. Does the audience really notice, or are things shot to impress peers?

My point is that we should be looking at the new tools available, and seeing what we can do with them. To paraphrase the old punk saying: Here's three shots, now make a movie.
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Old January 14th, 2009, 05:01 AM   #15
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Film is far from an obsolete technology, it still offers advantages that the digital cameras a struggle to match eg dynamic range. I know of one science fiction series that uses Super 16 for its slow motion green screen shots because film has a larger colour space than the DVPRO HD used on the Varicam.

Art isn't objective, its subjective it's full of artifice and artists and even film makers make use of the characteristics of each meduim. Just because acrylic paint came out doesn't make oil paints or watercolours obsolete.

Video formats have to date become obsolete extremely quickly and have archival problems in the longer term. For large screen theatrical productions HDV cameras like XH-A1 the don't really hold up to film or the higher end HD cameras. However, for lower budget films that are mostly aiming at the DVD market or perhaps the art house cinemas they can allow productions that wouldn't otherwise happen or they have an aesthetic quality that suits the story and how it being told.

"Lawrence of Arabia" would be an entirely different film if shot on HDV as against 65mm because the weakness of the 1/3" cameras is that they're OK for the closer shots, but they begin to fall apart on the wide shots rather like 16mm or even Super 16 (although less so) do when blown up to 35mm. To really judge a format you have to project it onto a 25 ft to 40ft screen, then the flaws really jump out at you.

There is a movement towards digital formats to replace film, largely I suspect on TV productions in the shorter term, which are under increasing budget pressures. However, they won't be using HDV cameras, but the 2/3" cameras under discussion here, plus the 35mm sized sensor. The HDV codec has problems as it goes through the post production/ transmission chain, so TV producers tend to only use it on productions or shots which require the use of smaller cameras.
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