Digital Video to Film - I’ve said it before and ill say it again at

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

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Old October 22nd, 2005, 08:33 PM   #1
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Digital Video to Film - I’ve said it before and ill say it again

You’ll have to excuse me whilst I get up on my high horse.

OK. – Im up,

I am really really annoyed with films like “the anniversary party”, and “28 days later”, “open water” etc, claiming that “They are shot on DV” - with the undertone that

A) anyone can do it and
B) its affordable.

The problem is these first two things are infact true. However, what they don’t mention is the fact they have all been transferred to some intermediate format like digital betacam, rendering no more quality loss. And then they have all been pushed thru some High end Digital Intermediate ie flame, and graded to look like film.

But even this is not the problem. Fair enough I can go and hire a flame for a day and spend a couple of grand doing a quick pass with my film.

What they fail to mention, cashing in on the “We liked the look of Digital”, and the cliché “we needed a small camera to fit into tight places”. Is the fact that these films are all transferred to 35mm film.

Which makes them look like 35mm film-albeit bad film.

Now anyone who objects to this argument, and I’m sure there will be heaps of you who own an XL2 and want to believe your going to get that look, who are biased.

Do a simple test. Rent the Anniversary party and check out the behind the scenes section, Anatomy of a scene. You’ll see short clips of the offline footage that looks nothing like the finished product.

Now the color correcting is fair enough of you to say that the effect is. But I believe it is the fact the online stuff had been transferred to film, picking up the inherent film look, that is really a lot more than progressive. Its got the grain, the frame rate, everything.

Now if you still object to this argument, then let me ask you this.

If the film looked so filmic in the first place then why would they bother transferring it to 35mm film, then telecine it back to video for DVD release.

Now I know im ranting and raving, and I have seen some fantastic film looking stuff from this site that hasn’t been transferred to film and look exceptional. What I do object to is that the DOP. Director, Marketing companies are like –“yeah that was shot on DV”. But really they should say” Well, it was shot on a DV camera, but the real filmlook came from transferring it to film and back again, because then it was….film!”

Now im sure I have posted about this before but I didn’t get a significantly good enough reply to warrant agreement.

If you object Do the test, and you tell me that the offline footage doesn’t look like “Days of our Lives”.

In closing your honors,

Yes I think it can be done with DV,
But 35mm transfer goes about 95% of the way.

Thanks for listening.
Ben Gurvich.

Ps- If anyone of note wants to agree with me (Charles Papert) it would look good for my case.
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Old October 22nd, 2005, 09:49 PM   #2
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Ah Ben, that was a valiant pitch and earnest appeal, but I am afraid to say that I must weigh in on the other side.

Each of the films you mentioned had slightly different versions of why they were shot on DV. I've heard or read articles on each but wouldn't want to summarize here for fear of misquoting. At the time these films were made, there was a definite "flavor of the month/year" cache to shooting on DV going on in the industry which has cooled a little bit since. I don't really focus on marketing hype too much in general, so I won't go on about all that.

Suffice to say that all films shot on DV have a certain quality to them, some specifically raw and some quite clean; as the cameras progress, the possibility of a DV-originated theatrical presentation that will be mistaken for film-originated becomes a greater and greater reality. With the advent of affordable HD camcorders in their various flavors, the resolution hurdle is broached.

I have indeed seen the behind-the-scenes of "Anniversary Party", and it does look flat. As I recall, the cameras in use did not have a 24p mode, so there obviously would not be a film-like motion signature. Shooting a middle-of-the-road exposure and controlling contrast in a video "negative" that will be sent to filmout is a good plan because it allows for more options in the filmout and color correction process. There is a certain amount of skill involved in shooting this way, because it's not a "what you see is what you get" situation when you look at the monitor, in fact it's more similar to shooting film in that you have to know what will happen to the image every step of the way to end up with the look you want in the final medium, 35mm for projection. Once all of that work is done to make the best looking film negative you can, it does make a bit of sense to telecine back from this source rather than from the tape master since you already have it, but let's not use that against the filmmakers--they didn't push it to film in order to achieve a better looking video version, they did it to be able to show it in the theaters!

My contention, and I think we agree on this Ben, is that technologically speaking it is becoming easier and easier to make images from these little cameras that can be mistaken for film-originated; and as many have voiced their opinions on this site and others, it's not even about competing with film any more as it is making great looking digital images, period.

Ben, I think in retrospect that we are agreeing rather than disagreeing on most of this, wouldn't you--uh--agree? As far as whether DV must be transferred to 35mm to achieve a "filmic" image--I personally think that the resulting grain and texture may add something to certain footage, but that it is possible to shoot footage on a 24p DV camera that can be viewed on a good SD monitor that looks filmlike enough to fool just about anybody.

When I viewed the test material that I shot with the HD100 and the Mini35 on a 42" EDTV plasma, I was shocked at how much it reminded me of the images I'm used to seeing in the telecine bay--it had an amazingly film-like straight out of the camera. I'm eager to see what the filmout that was done in NY of this footage looks like projected, and certainly it would be interesting to see what that material would look like if it was telecined back to HDV, but only academically at this point.
Charles Papert
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Old October 22nd, 2005, 09:57 PM   #3
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Well, I read your post twice, and all I can get out of it is that you object to the terms! You did say anyone could do it, and you said it was affordable! But, you must have not really agreed with the terms, especially “affordable?!?!”

I think you agree that they can be shot on DV, though easy would never be a term that could be applied to the process. If you think someone is trying to deceive naïve youngsters into thinking they can make the next Star Wars, I would not agree. Naïve is one thing, stupid is another. Even then they would get some good experience!

Can you take a movie that is well shot, well directed, has an interesting story, and marketable, etc., and then sell it to a distributor to be transferred, modified and sold---YES! Or you can invest your own money, but if it is bad to begin with, it will be bad all the way through!

So, are you objecting the “terms,” or are you just frustrated that you can’t do it? I don’t understand?!? I know I can’t do it, but I applaud those who try and or get it done!

Chapter one, line one. The BH.
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Old October 22nd, 2005, 11:00 PM   #4
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Thanks your both for your post-haste posts!

Firstly Charles.

As you said, we are basically saying the same thing.
I whole heartedly agree that progressive footage shot well can fool anyone - as I myself have been pleasantly fooled many times.

And I love it, like many people here because it means there is a chance that we can do that.

And it is weird to go from trying to light like film to lighting flat for a process such as Magic Bullet.

However I still standby my comment of the offline footage.

I don’t think however, this would have had an impact on the sales of the film as the story is what sells it.

I look forward to seeing some HD100 footage as I have seen none yet, mostly this is due to not having the latest players installed which I am currently doing on this Sunday afternoon.

Cheers mate.

And Mike.

I know what your saying about story. We all know it...sometimes we ignore it, but story is King.

I think what you are saying about the terms is basically correct. As someone that is starting to learn more and more about the entire process, I feel almost like a union rep for the nubees? that don’t know and can be misinformed.

But alas this is not my problem, I have to get off my ass and make my own damn film!
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Old October 23rd, 2005, 08:28 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Ben Gurvich
But alas this is not my problem, I have to get off my ass and make my own damn film!
Yes, only you, and of course 99.9% of the rest of us on this forum. I hope that you have others in your area you can get with and sort of feed off of, and work with. Many of us who would love to get involved in some way and DO something are all by ourselves. I’m too old to get started, in anything pro, but would love to help others and learn.

You sound young, intelligent, articulate and enthusiastic, and therefore I see a lot of potential to overcome some of the current obstacles. Hang in there!

Many, or most may, disagree with the following predictions, and may very well be correct, but this is what I see in the future:

First: We have a generation, or generations now, who spend far more time watching videos and TV, than going to the movies. Many of the movies they do watch are viewed at home in a setting that very much degrades the movie experience. While a movie shot expertly in 35mm will still look better on DVD than one shot in DV, 99% of those viewing them will not see the difference. If they get lost in the plot, acting, etc. they will never see the difference, content will always be King. The only exception to this, are those who seem to care only about special effects. If the movie has enough explosions, carnage, death and destruction who cares about a plot?!?! Just look at Star Wars III, or War of The Worlds. I guess that FX is content though isn’t it!?!?

Second: I have said here before, that I think within five years or so, we will have digital video cameras that are so much more advanced that the “film look” will simply be built in. I don’t mean just great 24p or whatever, but easy DOF, perfectly dialed-in color, and everything else. They will be so easy to use, most anyone will be able to do it, and on-board storage will hold your entire movie, 4:4:4 or whatever if you want, and no more tape drives at all. The only thing that will not come in the box is a good story, good actors and artistic knowledge to get good camera angles and editing, etc... We will see an explosion of movies available, most of which will be pure trash, but even they will have an audience because of the new ease of distribution on the net and elsewhere, and a very diverse audience! To each his own! And, there will be no need to do a digital to 35mm transfer, because all the theaters will be digital!!! If your movie is really good, take to the theater on a new billion gig Ipod, and plug it in! Maybe we will have small independent theaters that will show nothing else? How about a “Bring your own movie night!!!!!” Free admission with a manditory $10.00 popcorn purchase. After all, that is where all of the theater money is made. If you knew the amount theaters actually get to keep out of the $10.00 ticket price on a newly released movie, you would laugh. It's pennies on the dollar.

Personally I would rather see 100 Great movies made a year, not 50,000 and you have to pick through them like the proverbial needle in the haystack to find one worth watching, but it “ain’t-a-gonna-happen!” I also prefer to go to the theater to see a movie, but hum, maybe part of that is my love of popcorn.

Hang in there mate, it is all coming right to you. Just get that script ready, the next Rocky???

Best of luck----Mike
Chapter one, line one. The BH.
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Old October 24th, 2005, 06:47 PM   #6
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Mike, Thanks for the kind words.

It has made me feel quite refreshed, as i am now thinking about the big picture, literally.

Im very glad I stumbled on these forums some two years ago. I have learnt so much and love being able to discuss ideas and technology with like minded people like yourself.

I think everyone feels to old sometimes. Im 25 next week, but there's always someone younger who has achieved the dream that can make you feel your past it.

Look at Rodriguez, he made it at 23.

But it shouldnt be about making IT, it should be about making Something.
However, this is how we all feel at times, and why not, its fun to dream.

Forgive me whilst i wake up and go and cut something on my works old Mac.

Ben Gurvich
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