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Old July 19th, 2008, 08:49 PM   #1
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Mixing Telecine film with HDV

Wow... what an interesting trip this last 6 mos or so has been. I've been involved with still photography most of my life, from 35mm up to large format, and did all my own color printing.

I got involved with video in the early days when the first consumer cameras were stripped down versions of bigger pro cameras. Then....

Life intervened.... But, I more or less continued to dabble in film photography (still) along they way. Now I am back into my truncated "video phase", having acquired a Sony Z-1 and learning (on a steep curve) all about DV production, sound acquisition, editing etc. WOW, what a ride - incredibly fun and the folks here (Dan, Ty, Steve to name a few) have been incredibly instructive.

But (I know this may offend some) the film photographer in me has been fitful during this return to the "video phase" of my life. I should share with the non-film types that film quality had come so far in the late 90's as to make you wanna jump with joy. I remember distinctly when I had some 4x5 Fuji Velvia (a product largely credited with the demise of Kodachrome) I had had processed ensconced in the enlarger.... the pic was one taken along the CA coast...about 1/8 mile across a little inlet near Monterey which I had filmed there was was a parked car, facing the camera .... I noticed on the easel that I could actually see the license plate of that car... colors anyway.... So I amped up the magnification.... and was shocked that the image held up enough to show me that there were at least numbers on it (I could not read them, but they were not lost in grain (or for the solely digital guys, noise).) Grain is disappearing in film more and more in higher sensitivies. (250 ASA today rivals 50 ASA only 20 years ago)

But, I digress.

As I got more and more into the technical side of High Def production, and reading about RED etc.... I asked myself... where is film in all of this? The more I read (and I smile at the great yellow father's (Eastman Kodak) attempts to excoriate digital in favor of film along this trail) I had to admit that film still has a definite technological edge ... shadow detail, highlight rendering, etc.... SO. What to do?

Then I discovered Super 16's existence. And learned about telecine intermediate to digital for NLE processing.... and the ability to do digital to film output if necessary....

The film photographer inside is resting better... me? I am more confused than ever.

Mixing Super 16mm carefully used where it matters, and mixing it with a raw native digital workflow seems to be the best of all worlds at the moment..... especially with film cameras being relatively inexpensive. Yes the media is $$$$ as compared to digital, but judiciously used, not bad and the results can be well worth it I think.

Ok, rant/diatribe/soul cleansing over.

I want to hear from folks who have some/a tad/any exposure to all this transitional stuff with film mixing with DV and HDV (HDV mainly since film still holds about and 2 to 1 edge over HDV).

Am I all wet, is the film photographer inside best told to go back to 4x5 stills? Or am I onto something here? I think I am.

I also know this is a digital forum... but hey, film now, especially Super 16, ALL ends up telecined into digital video at some point.

I am all ears guys....

Chris Swanberg

ps. In another thread I can detail aspects of this journey if anyone wants to hear them.

Last edited by Chris Swanberg; July 19th, 2008 at 10:46 PM.
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Old July 19th, 2008, 09:28 PM   #2
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We share something of a similar path. My start was on my dad's old Anscomat rangefinder. Went through an AE1, T70, EOS10s, Nikon F4s, and was looking at moving to large format before I got out.

I remember the early days of still digital. All the film guys laughed and said digital was nice but had not chance against film. As digital got to 3 and 5 megapixes, the naysayers got more quiet. And when digital got to 8 megapixels, the film guys all but receded into the woodwork.

Cameras like the Dalsa, the Genesis, RED, and others are pushing the edges, and beginning to do the same in digital cinema those early still cameras did.

The new movie films from Fuji, and the new Kodak Vision3 stocks are amazing from all accounts. Film holds the edge still, and every time digital gets close, film opens the gap again. At least for now. But it's a losing battle.

If you like shooting film, go for it! I'd love to try it some time. But share you work with us!

(Oh and I remember the Fuji v Kodak war. What a crazy time!)
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Old July 19th, 2008, 10:42 PM   #3
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Thanks for chiming in.

Two things come to mind.... resolution does not equal image quality in and of itself. Blocked/blown out highlights and muddy to non-existent shadow detail separate the men from the boys along this path at the moment. Film still wins on that score.

Yet.... if a telecine device can retain the film advantages that means a digital sensor CAN capture that detail, no? When will that sensor find its way behind a camera lens at an affordable price?

One thing the digital vs film - digital naysayers point out is that their film cameras haven't changed in years - only the media...film has gotten better and better - so they stay cutting edge with older equipment, as opposed to buying expensive digital cameras every few years. While perhaps overblown to a degree, there IS some truth in all that.

My initial question remains... does the mixing of film and HDV make sense and if so, as I believe, how long is this likely to remain true?
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Old July 19th, 2008, 11:24 PM   #4
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Well its certainly possible, and in fact, my production partner in Houston is completing a doc he started in super 16 with his Canon XLh1 (Shooting with a mini-35). I've seen the footage and it cuts together well,

Theres a couple of interesting shots where you see a white car that was shot in both Super 16, and HDV - and you REALLY see the difference in the latitude in the highlights. (Its a doc on sports cars) So yes, it works as a workflow, it has its place.

Is it right for your workflow on a given project? Only you can say.
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Old July 19th, 2008, 11:56 PM   #5
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Agreed here. But, I think the SDI out is a huge step in the right direction. A 1.5gbps signal at 4:2:2 is probably good enough for nearly all uses except maybe 35mm visual effects and the like. Certainly good enough for broadcast. And a bit of futureproofing. As recorders proliferate that can use the SDI, prices will drop, and we'll be able to get around this 4:2:0, or small megabit encoding problem.

Solid state recording is also a nice way of futureproofing. Solid State doesn't care what codec is used to write to it. And the reliance on proprietary decks is gone as well. This is the path I've taken my productions on at work, and I think it's the best course currently available.


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Originally Posted by Chris Swanberg View Post

One thing the digital vs film - digital naysayers point out is that their film cameras haven't changed in years - only the media...film has gotten better and better - so they stay cutting edge with older equipment, as opposed to buying expensive digital cameras every few years. While perhaps overblown to a degree, there IS some truth in all that.
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