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Techniques for Independent Production
The challenges of creating Digital Cinema and other narrative forms.


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Old October 15th, 2003, 07:27 PM   #61
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First of all, a show on film does not need to be reframed and/or refocused for every single show. If the projectionist is not competant enough to thread the film in frame each and every single time, he/she should not be in the projection booth. Same goes with focus. Unless you have a bad lens, there should be no need to refocus each show. Why would it go out of focus? The best 35mm projectors (Kinoton E series) are electronically controlled, and even the lesser projectors such as Simplex, Century, and Christie are not vunerable to this if maintained properly. Any theater using the manager to run the booth deserves the bad presentation quality they get. They should have a projectionist. I personally lock the framing knobs of the projector so that the projectionist is FORCED to thread in frame. Also, a frame of film has 4 sprocket holes. If it is misspliced by one sprocket, it will be 25% out of frame, not 10%.

I personally ran My Big Fat Greek Wedding for about a thousand shows on a set of Simplex projectors. The print left without a mark on it. It played BETTER than it did when we had it on its first day. No scratches, no dirt, no extra weave or jump. It is not the nature of film to be damaged. It is only incompetant operators and poorly maintained equipment that can damage film during its run... nothing else. A bad presentation is purely the fault of the theater showing it. I imagine the question will be asked: "How can it be better that when it was brand new?". Simple... shipping dust. There is always a bit of dust and dirt on a film from shipping when it is brand new.
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Old October 16th, 2003, 12:15 AM   #62
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Ted, no offense taken. What I don't know about projection is a lot more than what I do know. It was 20 years ago on equipment that was old even then.

What you're describing is exactly how it should be. A competent, union projectionist in a well-maintained booth can present a print flawlessly for a long run. But that's just not reality in many theaters across the country.

When I said that I'd gladly give up resolution, I spoke too soon and too blindly. My sincere hope is that theaters don't just jump all over the first technology that makes financial sense right now, but that the standards that develop will be every bit as compelling as the best film based projection.

As to the Texas Intruments' DLP technology, it will need to improve resolution before it will be really impressive. The fact that it is based on Digital Micromirror Devices inherently leads to the pixels being very distinct and separated. DLP's top resolution of 1280x1024 isn't quite enough to overcome the limitations of the device.

JVC's D-ILA Digital Cinema projectors on the other hand, based on CMOS LCD type devices, seem to be much more organic. The pixels tend to smoothly transition from one to the next. And at resolutions now topping 2048x1536, I don't see any reason why this should not be acceptable to even the most discerning audience.

Thankfully, it seems that the theater conversion to digital will drag on for at least a few more years, and in that intervening time, Moore's law will trudge forward as it does for all things digital, and we'll have double the resolution at half the price by the time theater owners are ready to step on board en masse.
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Old October 16th, 2003, 12:27 AM   #63
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<<<--
Thankfully, it seems that the theater conversion to digital will drag on for at least a few more years, and in that intervening time, Moore's law will trudge forward as it does for all things digital, and we'll have double the resolution at half the price by the time theater owners are ready to step on board en masse. -->>>

The official position from DCI right now seems to be a 2K interim solution with a 4K system as the final (well, for the time being) solution. Now that they've all kind of agreed what the specs for certifiable systems should be I feel like we'll start seeing more of them popping up.

FWIW, I go a a film school where we watch almost all of our movies on crappy LCD projectors that would be better suited to conference room PowerPoint presentations. It's kind of a drag.
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Old October 16th, 2003, 01:02 AM   #64
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Scott, the projectionists don't have to be union to be good, but they should be well compensated and valued. Unfortunately those days are long past... but not everywhere.

As far as digital cinema is concerned, the biggest issue is the question of who is going to pay for it all. A single digital cinema projector costs upward of $120,000. A regular film projector, lamphouse, and platter system costs around 1/4 of that. Not to mention that digital cinema needs bigger (thus more expensive) xenon bulbs. Also, the bigger the bulb, the shorter the warranty and the fewer hours it is able to last. The bulbs will need to be changed out more often, thus the cost of running digital cinema is more than film cinema. Theaters won't bring in much more business switching to digital cinema... certainly not enough to pay for the hardware upgrade. Studios will save a TON of money on print shipping costs, print manufacturing and the like. So really it is only the studios who see any real monetary benefit, but they don't want to buy everyone a digital projector.

Digital cinema WILL happen and be commonplace eventually, but not for a long time. Theater owners are incredibly cheap people. There are very few exceptions, unfortunately.

PS - Digital cinema projectors DO have moving parts... every single pixel is a mirror that swivels 90 degrees to be "on" or "off". Unless the technology is improved, the possibility for dead pixels onscreen at the cinema is pretty good. And just like now, projection maitenence will not be a priority.
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Old October 16th, 2003, 11:23 AM   #65
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I always thought I would enjoy owning a one screen theatre that was first class in every way. Perfect sound, best picture, etc. But in some ways it would be like running a restaurant and I do that now and hate it.
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Old October 17th, 2003, 08:48 AM   #66
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<<<-- Originally posted by Scott Anderson : I guess this all brings me back around to the original post on the thread. That instructor had it right, but he actually had it completely backward, and for all the wrong reasons. 35mm film IS like a dream. It's a hazy representation of reality. The digital future is perhaps more real than we would like it to be. The images are disturbingly lifelike. In the near future it will actually be harder to shoot digital than film. It will take more work to sell the fantasy. I, for one, hope that the bar IS raised. I think the industry as a whole will be better for it. -->>>

I kind of think the "video look" will eventually go away. It's not the level of detail that's problematic, as far as I can tell. Portrait photographers with view cameras have to deal with even more resolution than current high-end digital. They use the same kind of filtration and lighting tricks that Hollywood has always used to make people look less beastly and it usually seems to work.

It's the way video reacts to light somehow. I'm not exactly Mr. Wizard when it comes to things like optics or sensor arrays, but there's something about the way video sees light that's not as palatable as film. I kind of expect to eventually see cameras with slots for memory cards that will store operator presets that will dictate things like response curves and maybe even eventually virtual filters. Load up a virtual warm black pro-mist filter, mute the colors a little and start clicking through curves until you're happy with what's on the monitor.

Eh, at the rate things are going we'll probably all have setups like that in our cell phones in another decade. ;-)
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Old October 17th, 2003, 08:59 AM   #67
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Quote:
Portrait photographers with view cameras have to deal with even more resolution than current high-end digital.
Very few, if any, portrait photographers use view cameras. A minority use medium format, but the bulk of the wedding and portrait business has gone digital. Softening the look of portraits is nothing new. People like a flattering portrait and harsh wrinkles, crow's feet and blemishes certainly don't contribute to the self image they have of themselves.
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Old October 17th, 2003, 11:41 PM   #68
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<<<-- Originally posted by Jeff Donald : Very few, if any, portrait photographers use view cameras. A minority use medium format, but the bulk of the wedding and portrait business has gone digital. Softening the look of portraits is nothing new. People like a flattering portrait and harsh wrinkles, crow's feet and blemishes certainly don't contribute to the self image they have of themselves. -->>>

Geez, looks like a lot of people over at Photo.net haven't heard that nobody uses view cameras for portraits anymore:

http://www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-...CM&unified_p=1

;-)
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Old October 18th, 2003, 07:07 AM   #69
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Open up your yellow pages and try and find a photographer that does large format portraiture. In Tampa/St.Pete there are none that advertise the service. In your link one of the respondents posted about using a digital back on a LF camera. Many of the respondents wrote about the use of LF in a bygone era. There were masters of it, but they're pretty much all gone now. Like film will be in a few more years.
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Old October 18th, 2003, 07:29 AM   #70
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<<<-- Originally posted by Jeff Donald : Open up your yellow pages and try and find a photographer that does large format portraiture. In Tampa/St.Pete there are none that advertise the service. In your link one of the respondents posted about using a digital back on a LF camera. Many of the respondents wrote about the use of LF in a bygone era. There were masters of it, but they're pretty much all gone now. Like film will be in a few more years. -->>>

You make a good point. Still photo gear is so far ahead of digital video. I went to an exhibit at Moma last spring of Andreas Gursky's work. I guess he uses large format digital backs (haven't been able to find anything specific about his process). I don't know how he addresses the speed issue, but the work was amazing. The prints were ten or twelve feet tall and the amount of minute detail in them was overwhelming. The photos are so huge that you seem to get sucked into the environment they present.

When digital cinema can do that; when it can present detail that transcends 65mm or IMAX, then we'll have an interesting game. Cinema Verite that really sucks you in and transports you someplace will be possible. The kind and amount of production design work necessary for features, as someone pointed out earlier, will undoubledly change the industry.

BTW, has Bryn Allen in Tampa gone digital now? I remember getting medium format proofs from them as a kid.
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