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Old July 20th, 2011, 04:36 PM   #1
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Recreating the look of tube cameras

I'm a big fan of 1970s BBC studio drama. This was generally shot with the EMI 2001 camera. I want to shoot footage today and give it the same look. It doesn't need to be exact, just the general feel.

Clearly, the most authentic results would be obtained using an original 70s studio camera... sadly not possible. I have to go the digital route.

So I've been fiddling around with digitally-shot footage in After Effects, trying to get it to look like 70s tube studio footage. Not much success yet. I tried recreating it "from the ground up", processing the image as the camera would have (separate the three colours and the luminance then re-layer them) but it only got me so far. I can't work out what's missing!

The problem may be to do with how the separate channels are blended. Here Wikipedia describes what the EMI 2001 did, but not how the blending was done. Can anyone guess (or does anyone know) the equations that were used?

I'd also appreciate people's views on the characteristics of footage shot on a high-quality tube camera. How would you describe it? (Please give helpful adjectives!) I used to think "desaturated", but that's not right because some tube footage has very vivid colour.

Here are some stills from the 1970s. This is the look I'm after:
Blake's 7
Blake's 7 again
Unknown program
Survivors
The Guardians (multiple images)

How to recreate images like that?

I can do programming if that's a better way to go than After Effects. In either case I will make the resulting processor public so that anyone can use it (depending on how successful my efforts are!).
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Old July 20th, 2011, 05:09 PM   #2
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Re: Recreating the look of tube cameras

Do you have an example of where you are at with the process now? Also, what camera and settings are you using to get the look?
Seems like you need either a dslr or af00/fs100 or similar to get the correct DOF. My 7D has been "dumbed down" to make it easier to grade with regular video cameras resulting in a desaturated look compared to stock but plenty of color left to look proper.

To my eye, the lighting and relatively shallow dof stand out more than the color. Yes it has a look but not anything that can't be reproduced.
I think it kinda like asking "why doesn't my dslr look like that feature film I just saw?"
It's not just the camera that creates the look. Lighting is a huge part of the equation. In your example pics, the lighting seems pretty harsh and theres a really strong backlight or overhead light. The backgrounds are lit up b pretty bright as well. After lighting similarly, some grading might be all that's necessary. The outdoor "Survivors" looks like it came right off my 7D.

If you do work out a solution that can be applied to any footage, I'd love to see it. Just think there's more to it on the shooting end.
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Old July 20th, 2011, 05:54 PM   #3
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Re: Recreating the look of tube cameras

In the 1970s, British television would have used hard lighting using Fresnel spots in the studios, which would be large part of the look.

The EMI 2001 had a camera control unit EMI 2001 Camera Control Unit, which had to be lined up everyday using test charts, after that a vision engineer would've matched the cameras by eye EMI 2001 operational control and colour balance panels*.
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Old July 20th, 2011, 07:08 PM   #4
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Re: Recreating the look of tube cameras

"Survivors" was shot not with 2001's, but with Bosch KCR40's, as was a great deal of BBC location drama of the period. Googling has turned up this: http://www.smecc.org/video/BoschKCR40.pdf . I don't think any of it was ever shot with EMI2001s/studio, it was all location based and film or KCR40s.

For depth of field, the tubes were 1" - but the zoom lenses of the period tended to be somewhat smaller max aperture than may be the norm now, and would be unlikely to be used wide open anyway. (They would be unacceptably soft.) Hence, dof typically roughly comparable to 2/3" cameras today - so far greater than any of the DSLR etc cameras.

Probably the biggest difference with modern cameras would be the absence of any sort of "knee" function, so if a highlight started to overexpose - that's it, it would go pure white. That was something DISLIKED at the time, seen as very "un-filmlike". A lot of the characteristics aren't really possible to do in post, they'd be the result of a tube characteristic, and due to the way the light and tube reacted together. (Comet-tailing as an example.) Even if you could simulate a comet-tail effect in post, the original light overload wouldn't be available in the recorded signal.

Other characteristics are such as lag in the lowlights, and a distinctive noise pattern. If you really want to try re-creating a look, a reasonable first step may be to try reducing the chroma sharpness from what most modern cameras give, and maybe also adding some LF chroma noise. They seem to have a sort of colour "painted-in" look to them.
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Old July 20th, 2011, 07:31 PM   #5
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Re: Recreating the look of tube cameras

Thanks for replying, Robert.

>Do you have an example of where you are at with the process now? Also, what camera and settings are you using to get the look?
My only camera is a camcorder, and it is away with a friend at the moment. My AFX project has been developed using the most generic modern image I could find: a digital still. I realise it would be better to use actual footage but that isn't possible at the moment. If you like, I can post "before" and "after" pictures showing what my AFX project does to the image.

>you need either a dslr or af00/fs100 or similar to get the correct DOF.
Are you referring to the Canon FS100 or the Sony NEX-FS100?

>My 7D has been "dumbed down" to make it easier to grade with regular video cameras resulting in a desaturated look
What do you mean by "dumbed down"?

>To my eye, the lighting and relatively shallow dof stand out more than the color.
Can shallow depth of field be achieved using special lenses with a camera like the 7D?

>Yes it has a look but not anything that can't be reproduced.
Well I hope you're right!

>Lighting is a huge part of the equation. In your example pics, the lighting seems pretty harsh and theres a really strong backlight or overhead light.
Yes, studio stuff in those days relied on heavy overhead lighting because the cameras, IIUC, required lots of light to avoid graininess.

>The outdoor "Survivors" looks like it came right off my 7D.
I'd love to see some footage taken with your 7D!
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Old July 20th, 2011, 07:51 PM   #6
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Re: Recreating the look of tube cameras

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Heath View Post
"Survivors" was shot not with 2001's, but with Bosch KCR40's
Yes, I know Survivors was not made with the EMI 2001. However, to my untrained eye the look of Survivors is similar enough to the look of Doctor Who and Blake's 7 for me to use it as a reference point along with the other shows. I have no "loyalty" to any specific camera, merely to the period in general!

Quote:
For depth of field, the tubes were 1" - but the zoom lenses of the period tended to be somewhat smaller max aperture than may be the norm now, and would be unlikely to be used wide open anyway. (They would be unacceptably soft.) Hence, dof typically roughly comparable to 2/3" cameras today - so far greater than any of the DSLR etc cameras.
1970s tube cameras had a wider DOF than modern DSLR cameras?

Quote:
Probably the biggest difference with modern cameras would be the absence of any sort of "knee" function, so if a highlight started to overexpose - that's it, it would go pure white.
That sounds like something that could be faked with post-production image processing. Just find a pixel that's above a certain brightness level (or the average brightness level for the shot) and change it to pure white. What do you think about that?

Quote:
A lot of the characteristics aren't really possible to do in post, they'd be the result of a tube characteristic, and due to the way the light and tube reacted together.
I know that one should be realistic about this, but aren't you being unduly pessimistic? Why can't the interaction between light and tube be recreated with a computer program that analyses the image, apes the tubes' limitations, and outputs an altered image? Is it because pixel-by-pixel analysis "misses the point", so to speak?

Quote:
(Comet-tailing as an example.)
Yes, comet tailing is an artefact I'm very fond of, and I've investigated separately how to emulate it. It's certainly not something that can be automated but apparently very convincing results can be obtained using Trapcode Particular and AFX's Echo effect.

Quote:
Even if you could simulate a comet-tail effect in post, the original light overload wouldn't be available in the recorded signal.
I'm not sure I understand you correctly. Are you saying that a computer program wouldn't know where to do a comet trail because a modern camera wouldn't overload? (I think this could be got around using brightness analysis, or by doing the comet trails by hand.)

Quote:
Other characteristics are such as lag in the lowlights, and a distinctive noise pattern.
What do you mean by "lag" in the lowlights?

The noise pattern is problematic. I'm not sure how to approach this. I will have to analyse noise in period footage and see what I can do. You say it is distinctive... how would you describe it?

Quote:
If you really want to try re-creating a look, a reasonable first step may be to try reducing the chroma sharpness from what most modern cameras give, and maybe also adding some LF chroma noise. They seem to have a sort of colour "painted-in" look to them.
I am not au fait with these terms. By "reducing the chroma sharpness" do you mean desaturating the colours?

What do you mean by "LF chroma noise"?

I don't mean to be rude; I'm learning all this stuff as I go!
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Old July 20th, 2011, 08:57 PM   #7
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Re: Recreating the look of tube cameras

>you need either a dslr or af00/fs100 or similar to get the correct DOF.
Sony NEX-FS100

>My 7D has been "dumbed down" to make it easier to grade with regular video cameras resulting in a desaturated look
What do you mean by "dumbed down"?

I used Mr. Bloom's recommended settings ...I believe it is
Sharpness all the way down, Contrast all the way down, and Saturation down 2 notches

>To my eye, the lighting and relatively shallow dof stand out more than the color.
Can shallow depth of field be achieved using special lenses with a camera like the 7D?

Seems there is some confusion on the terminology with a few posters here...
DSLRs excel at shallow DOF meaning with a low f-stop number, there is a very narrow field that remains in focus, all else is blurred. No special lenses needed...I can get really nice bokeh even with my 100-400 at f5.6. I recently did 4 days of shooting with my 70-200 f4 at f4 with a variable ND to control light and it yielded the result I was referring to in comparison to the outdoor example you showed.

>The outdoor "Survivors" looks like it came right off my 7D.
I'd love to see some footage taken with your 7D!

My reel is on my website as well as vimeo...7D stuff starts around 1:30 and 2:01 (has a very different feel from my XF300) and has been graded so it's a little different. I'll post a raw example when I'm back at my edit station. Keep in mind there is a difference in look also with me shooting 30p.
25fps looks different...were the tube cameras interlaced?

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Old July 21st, 2011, 03:36 AM   #8
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Re: Recreating the look of tube cameras

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Heath View Post
For depth of field, the tubes were 1" - but the zoom lenses of the period tended to be somewhat smaller max aperture than may be the norm now, and would be unlikely to be used wide open anyway. (They would be unacceptably soft.) Hence, dof typically roughly comparable to 2/3" cameras today - so far greater than any of the DSLR etc cameras.
I think they were f2.2, but they'd usually stopped down on a production.

Came across this training video of the EMI 2001

‪EMI 2001 Broadcast Camera Training Video (BBC) Part 2‬‏ - YouTube

The big advantage of the camera was the compact design compared to studio cameras with the zoom lens stuck on the front. They continued to be used into the 1980s on Eastenders.

Yes, those curved gammas were seen to be a disadvantage to the video engineers at the time.
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Old July 21st, 2011, 05:28 AM   #9
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Re: Recreating the look of tube cameras

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seymour Clufley View Post
Yes, I know Survivors was not made with the EMI 2001. However, to my untrained eye the look of Survivors is similar enough to the look of Doctor Who and Blake's 7 for me to use it as a reference point along with the other shows. I have no "loyalty" to any specific camera, merely to the period in general!
The point I was thinking of is that it was being wondered if "the look" had much to do with the 4-tube system of the EMI2001 - the KCR40 was 3-tube, so I think the answer is mostly "no". I've noticed that "Tenko" is just being repeated in the UK at the moment (the Yesterday channel), I don't know if you've seen that? Most episodes are a mixture of KCR40s for exteriors, EMI2001s for interiors, but the "look" is very similar.
Quote:
1970s tube cameras had a wider DOF than modern DSLR cameras?
To a first approximation, the linear dimensions of a full frame 35mm camera are about 2.5-3 times greater than a 1" plumbicon tube, which corresponds to something like about 3 stops.Following on from what Brian said, they would ideally have been used at around f2.8, which would correspond to about f8 with full frame 35mm for depth of field purposes.
Quote:
I know that one should be realistic about this, but aren't you being unduly pessimistic? Why can't the interaction between light and tube be recreated with a computer program that analyses the image, apes the tubes' limitations, and outputs an altered image? Is it because pixel-by-pixel analysis "misses the point", so to speak?
It's because in an image the modern camera has made certain irrevocable decisions, so you've lost some information that is really needed to do what you propose. It's because a tube camera would react very differently to "just about white" than "very much brighter than white". All your programme will know is that a given pixel is now "white" - not what it was in the original scene.
Quote:
Yes, comet tailing is an artefact I'm very fond of, .........
You must excuse me, but it would be funny to go back in time to the engineers of the day with that comment. :-)

But one way you may be able to get round this is to deliberately start off with a grossly underexposed image, such that all the usable detail is (say) within the lowest 25% of the range, then increase the gain, clipping off everything above 25%. At the same time, you then have the information between 25 and 100% to process to simulate the "tube look". (So only levels of (say) 75-100% would comet tail.) It would also increase the noise - but that may not matter given what you're trying to do.
Quote:
What do you mean by "lag" in the lowlights?
An image in the shadows may leave a sort of trail with movement to a far greater extent than a brightly lit object.
Quote:
I am not au fait with these terms. By "reducing the chroma sharpness" do you mean desaturating the colours?

What do you mean by "LF chroma noise"?
No, it's reducing the detail in the colour information, whilst preserving detail in luminance. The effect then becomes analogous to a childs colouring book. A detailed black-white drawing, with colour roughly painted over the top. With PAL coding, the signal bandwidth (corresponding to resolution of vertical lines)was of the order of 5.5MHz, but that applied to luminance only. The colouring information had a bandwidth of typically more like 1.3MHz max, or maybe only a quarter. And the PAL effect in the vertical direction was to trade off vertical chroma detail for chroma fidelity, so the same applied to horizontal lines. It can get away with it as it takes advantage of the physiology of the eye, which is far more sensitive to changes in brightness than colour.

LF="low frequency", so noise affecting the colour bits of the picture more than luminance, and being "splodgy" rather than fine dots.
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Old July 21st, 2011, 06:01 PM   #10
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Re: Recreating the look of tube cameras

Wow this is getting technical! Cool to read all this stuff even though half of it goes way over my head! In any case, below is a short sample of the 7D with the PB settings. Canon 70-200 f4 lens probably around 120mm at f6.4 shooting 1080 30p shutter set to 1/60 and iso at 100.
not sure if this helps as a starting point but it's a much flatter picture than the stock settings.
I havent shot much indoor lit stuff with the 7D but if I get the chance, I'll try to duplicate the lighting from the stills and see how that looks!

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Old July 22nd, 2011, 01:44 AM   #11
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Re: Recreating the look of tube cameras

The another point is that the EMI 2001 is interlace and that has a different look to 25p or 30p,
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Old July 22nd, 2011, 09:07 AM   #12
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Re: Recreating the look of tube cameras

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Drysdale
the EMI 2001 is interlace and that has a different look to 25p or 30p
Would it be possible to shoot at 25p then fake the interlacing in post?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Turchick View Post
I havent shot much indoor lit stuff with the 7D but if I get the chance, I'll try to duplicate the lighting from the stills and see how that looks!
That would be incredibly useful for me, as it would show how modern cameras handle overhead lighting in terms of end results. I'd be very grateful indeed! Footage shot with overhead lighting, and with a similar depth of field to the old tube cameras, would enable me to compare like with like when writing my processing program.

Here are some A/B comparisons I've just made with my program. The first two were taken with a digital still camera, the third with a Canon XL2, and the fourth you'll recognise.

http://img600.imageshack.us/img600/7262/unled1nh.png

http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/143/unled2km.png

http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/148/unled3fq.png

http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/29/unled4vk.png
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Old July 22nd, 2011, 10:35 AM   #13
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Re: Recreating the look of tube cameras

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Would it be possible to shoot at 25p then fake the interlacing in post?
Definately not. 25p has film type "jerky motion", the cameras you're trying to emulate have the smooth motion that goes with true interlace. You can simulate "film look" motion from interlace - but not the other way around.
Quote:
Footage shot with overhead lighting, and with a similar depth of field to the old tube cameras, would enable me to compare like with like when writing my processing program.
But at the same aperture, something like a 7D will have a far shallower depth of field than such as a 2001, so I don't really see what this would prove? To make a sensible comparison, you'd have to be about three stops closed on such as a large sensor camera compared to what a 2001 would have been at - typically f8 or smaller.

If you can't afford a 2/3" camera, then for dof purposes a 1/2" like an EX would be a far better starting point than a DSLR or a FS100.
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Old July 22nd, 2011, 11:40 AM   #14
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Re: Recreating the look of tube cameras

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Heath
like an EX
Do you mean Sony's PMW-EX range? It appears they are all 2/3 except for one which is 1/2. Do you think 2/3 would be closer to the EMI-2001?

Quote:
25p has film type "jerky motion", the cameras you're trying to emulate have the smooth motion that goes with true interlace. You can simulate "film look" motion from interlace - but not the other way around.
I notice the EX range don't do 25i. They do 50i, though. Could that be used, simply ignoring every second frame?
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Old July 22nd, 2011, 01:00 PM   #15
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Re: Recreating the look of tube cameras

The Sony EX 1 & 3 are 1/2" sensor cameras, An alternative might be to use a Panasonic AF100, which has 50i and you might be able to set up a pretty straight gamma curve using the camera's menus or at least not have the knee.

50i is the standard method of referring to 25 fps interlace as used by PAL. Some people say 25i, but it's the same thing.
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