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Old August 2nd, 2006, 07:54 AM   #1
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Panasonic's HD not working well in low-light the truth?

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Our source - the Mysterious Dr Phibes - deep within Torchwood HQ - has let slip that shooting has not been going to plan. At all.... “What was originally going to be a dark and brooding series has suddenly gone all bright and glossy.” Why? Well the rather twisted and evil Dr Phibes says they can't get their flashy Panasonic HD cameras to work in low light. “A lot of tape has been junked. Scenes re-shot in full lighting. A certain Russell T. Davies is said to have choked on his Lava Bread and Cockles. Angry e-mails are heading towards lawyers in the Far East....."
http://scifipulse.net/Dr_Who/Torchwood_HIDef.html

just thought you pros would like to comment on that story...
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Old August 2nd, 2006, 08:55 AM   #2
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Hmm... "A lot of tape has been junked."

Makes me wonder what Panasonic HD camera they're talking about. Can't be the HVX200, because it doesn't use tape to record HD. Maybe the VariCam? At any rate, if they're trying to create a "dark and brooding" look, it could be that they're not lighting properly for that kind of effect.

Most all of the famous American film noir movies of the 1940's and 1950's got their signature dark and brooding looks by saturating their sets with light. Generally speaking, the more light you have, the more control you have over the image.
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Old August 2nd, 2006, 11:32 AM   #3
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it sounds like they didn't try to light anything at all =).
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Old August 3rd, 2006, 02:59 AM   #4
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Judging by the budget for a show like that, I'm guessing that they are using Varicams.
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Old August 3rd, 2006, 05:29 AM   #5
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'Dr Who' gets Varicam and 'Last of the Summer Wine' gets the Viper and Digi-primes? http://tinyurl.com/qr9a5

Something definitely amiss in the space time continuum there!
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Old August 3rd, 2006, 07:57 AM   #6
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Yes, that is rather odd! But I suppose there might be more call for things like speed ramping in Dr Who.

The makers of Dr Who are killing their replay value down the line. I'm also not sure if I buy their explanation that the effects and makeup etc will be too hard to do in high def. After all, its sister series Torchwood is being shot 1080 high def. I doubt that show will be effects light!
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Old August 3rd, 2006, 08:17 AM   #7
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Sounds like a problem with a D.P., not a problem with cameras.

Chris is right. If you need to use more light, it just offers more control. It's very possible to get a noir look with elevated levels of light; you create the look with exposure and grading.
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Old August 3rd, 2006, 09:11 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simon Wyndham
After all, its sister series Torchwood is being shot 1080 high def.
According to the original link in the first post, it's Torchwood that the problems have been on. If you're sure it's being shot 1080, then doesn't that mean it's not likely to be Varicam?

Given the Dr Who pedigree, I can't believe it's as simple as a DP who hasn't a clue what he's doing.
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Old August 3rd, 2006, 10:21 AM   #9
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Well, I assume it is 1080. Some of the BBC dramas recently have been using HVX400's. But I suppose it could be Varicam. Although AFAIK the BBC don't really look upon Vari as being full high def. Usually they use F900's and 750's.

There is another thread on DV Doctor about this. Alan Roberts set the cameras up for Torchwood I believe but he said he's under NDA so he can't comment on the problems that have been reported. I'm sure we'll find out soon enough.

As Nate said, sounds like a DP problem rather than a camera one. The idea that the cameras can't handle dark and moody lighting is frankly ridiculous.
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Old August 3rd, 2006, 11:03 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simon Wyndham
Well, I assume it is 1080. Some of the BBC dramas recently have been using HVX400's. But I suppose it could be Varicam. Although AFAIK the BBC don't really look upon Vari as being full high def. Usually they use F900's and 750's.
Was Dr who shot with 750s or was it just Digibeta? A friend worked on a promo for Dr Who which was shot on 35mm but I don't think any of the actual series was.

It could well be HDX400s on Torchwood as the Beeb like the cheap workflow. I think the HDX400 uses the same CCD block as the Varicam, (it's certainly only 1280x720) so whether you can call it true 1080 either is a bit debatable. At least it isn't horizontally subsampled to 960 like the Varicam.
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Old August 3rd, 2006, 11:10 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simon Wyndham
As Nate said, sounds like a DP problem rather than a camera one. The idea that the cameras can't handle dark and moody lighting is frankly ridiculous.
It's certainly very strange, but then again so is the idea that Torchwood have got a DP who can't light a low key scene. And even more strange is the idea that if that is so, then rather than just getting rid of him, and employing somebody who CAN do it, they've had to change the entire look, that entire scenes intended to be low key have had "to be re-shot in full lighting".

And surely problems with a duff DP would show up long before things got so far that "a lot of tape has been junked"? A glance at the set monitor before recording!?!

Maybe it's a problem with alien technology?
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Old August 3rd, 2006, 03:03 PM   #12
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I'm sure Donny would love the opportunity to DP Torchwood:

http://www.onfilm.co.nz/editable/DonnyDuncan.html
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Old August 3rd, 2006, 03:57 PM   #13
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With a budget like that, wouldn't someone do some testing first to see if the right look can be acheived? And, if not, then what could be done about it?

If it were me I would!
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Old August 3rd, 2006, 04:18 PM   #14
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Indeed, the claim "a lot of tape has been junked" seems mighty suspicious to me. They didn't review their first shots? I wonder how valid this whole story really is.
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Old August 3rd, 2006, 04:54 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Sensui
With a budget like that, wouldn't someone do some testing first to see if the right look can be acheived? And, if not, then what could be done about it?
Sounds to me like the sleeper issue with noise. It doesn't look too bad with DVCPro HD as there's no interframe compression however when it hits DVB for broadcast things can become very different. What some might wrongly call 'film grain' starts to get another look altogether.
Watching some programs down here over DVB even scenes shot in full daylight have very noticeble noise in areas where the light falls off into black. Whether or not this footage is from a Panny camera or not I can't really say but it certainly had that Panny look.
However this is something that should be tested first. I know for the latest Superman shoot what happens in the areas of light fall off was something carefully tested. Fortunately the Genesis was found to be OK so light was left to fall off into black. Obviously the DOP had experience with other digital camera where this wasn't the case.
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