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The TOTEM Poll: Totally Off Topic, Everything Media
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Old May 24th, 2002, 01:18 AM   #106
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These long threads DO take all kinds of turns, don't they? Seems to have polarized people into two distinct camps regarding the continued viability of film. My only interest is that this move to a primarily digital presentation system is done so with eyes open.

This debate reminds me of the destruction of the original Penn Station in NYC(!) In the interest of progress, it was decided that the station be demolished (I can't offhand remember what stands in it's place). Architects and preservationists tried everything they could to save the historic and ornate building, but without success. As the demolition went on, they discovered that under years of grime, expensive materials such as pink marble were used, and this was actually a beautiful building, and would have been worth saving. But by then it was too late. So much of the building had been destroyed that it was impossible to go back and restore. New York is now much more concerned with saving its architectural history, having learned this lesson.

It just seems premature to bury film. Digital is new and promises much, but does not yet offer all.

Mostly content to lurk, and glean info from those more involved with DV, this thread finally moved me to contribute. Understanding ALL available technologies allow filmmakers to be aware of what tools are available to them as artists. My contention is that the best tool for the job isn't always the latest and flashiest one.

Photography did not replace the art of painting. And when color film became available, it didn't stop people from shooting in black & white. There has to be a reason for continuing these seemingly quaint and archaic mediums. Some have mentioned 'art,' which is something that feeds the soul, technology notwithstanding. If the discussion is ultimately about art, then the apparent glee in wanting to deny some artists their favored canvas just seems unnecessarily myopic.

Let's not forsake understanding how we got here before moving on, and make sure we don't lose anything along the way.
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Old May 24th, 2002, 07:07 AM   #107
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Phew! First of all; if I have written anything (in the heat of argument) that was stepping on someones toes, I apologize. I hope we can respect each others opinions.


if high speed printing is the most common way to produce prints for theatrical projection shouldn't there be a sign on the door saying "High Speed Prints Shown Here" so I can stay out and save my money? I know; it would probably result in ten screen in the entire universe showing regular prints (and Hollywood will go bancrupt in an instant).


I have no complaint against (most) cameras. Only prints. Jitter/weave is a minimal problem when transfering original negative. Very few transfer machines can transfer the negative once gone through negative cutting. Otherwise this would be the ideal way of doing it. Without a doubt I believe you are doing the most out of film projection technology. However; I think that technology is weak because it is too easy to ruin a projection. I'm all for 4k and 8k. Until we have those DLP's I'd like to watch 2k (and it's only a matter of taste). Hope I get to catch one of your screenings some day. Hope you don't project any high speed prints (?). :-)

All Star Wars prints are made in the US. Don't know which lab. I don't go to movies only in Sweden. I go to movies all over the world. It's nice to hear that film can never get scratched and never get dirty. So let's assume the world is full of idiots. Why not invent a FOOLproof system? Why rely on the fact that film looks great handled by ten people in this universe. Those ten guys wont have time to show all the people of in five continents a great projection. Come on; if you can't subtitle movies without scratching why bother with film at all? If Hollywood is going to recoup they will have to subtitle. There is something like 5% or less of the worlds population speaking English. The technology is very, very fragile...

Peter Koller,

Lucas was not watching blue spaces. He was using the Quake engine (yes the game) to produce virtual sets for live keying on the footage. Brilliant concept. I recommend the Special Edition version of A.I. It demonstrates a really advanced 3D tracking system for producing a completely digital set of Rouge City. All in real time.

Hillary (again),

I'm not saying that ALL film projection looks bad. I think 99% of all projection do. As I see it Joe makes a living out of trying to bring that figure down to maybe 98%. And thats good. With DLP we can perhaps bring the human failure rate down to 50%.
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Old May 24th, 2002, 08:19 AM   #108
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The Future of Film Media as Art

This reply is primarily in response to Hillary's recent post and relates to the art aspect of film media in the future.

Though film cannot yet be buried, I think it has suffered a mortal wound and its days are numbered. In considering a variety of art forms that have survived the progress of technology, those which have remained with us do so without the need for technology to appreciate them. Let me explain. Painting has survived the advent of photography. True. But a painting does not require the use of technology to be enjoyed. It stands on its own. Think about any archaic medium that still exists as an art form and it survives becaue it can be appreciated without the intervention of technology. Once technology becomes a necessary intermediary, an art form's survivability becomes unlikely. Consider the Edison phonograph. We are still making recordings but I don't know of anyone who is still recording on cylinders, not even as an art form. In order to appreciate such a medium, people would need a record player that plays cylinders. The same is true with film. In order to preserve film as an art medium, people will have to continue using film projectors and, in the future, fewer and fewer manufacturers are going to continue making replacements for "old analog" projectors. More likely, classic film material will be transferred to newer media, in which case the art being preserved is the story and production value, but not the medium itself. I think film is on its way out entirely, even as an art form.

George Lucas evidently believes this is so and has chosen to lead rather than follow.

My concluding thought is that our technology-dependent art will enjoy a greater future if we focus on content rather than medium.
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Old May 24th, 2002, 09:14 AM   #109
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I agree that film as a medium's days are numbered, I've never debated that fact. My stance all along has been that as it IS replaced, the audience shouldn't be shortchanged compared to what has been offered in the past.

As the amount of film production and lab work decreases, the medium will probably price itself out of existence. Since THIS art form is predicated on a return of the initial investment, I feel certain about that fate.

When photography became more commonplace, it displaced many portrait painters whose specialty was miniatures. There were fears that landscape painters, etc., would be out of work. As photography presented a more faithful rendition of reality (even color photographs were made in the 1850's by Rev. Levi Hill, and color photographic materials were available for general use from the Lumieres beginning in 1905), painting became more abstract, and provided options unavailable by photography at the time.

Your analogy using the Edison cylinders is missing one vital point: as recording technology improved (acoustic to electronic, optical to magnetic) the listener gained more presence, dynamic range and volume. The pro-film people are just pointing out that right now, the DLP technology has SHORTCHANGED the audience a picture as sharp as the format it is poised to replace. We're just calling for a realistic evaluation and push for the bar to be raised higher on digital projection so we're not losing, as the VistaVision logo said, "Motion Picture High Fidelity."

BTW, on rare occasion, I listen to Edison cylinders on my older sister's phonograph. While I enjoy my CD's more, I marvel at the ability that we can still play back and hear that sound from a century ago. Conversely, have you ever tried to play any video back from the Quasar "Time Machine" from a quarter of a century ago?

I am also concerned about the long-term archival nature of eletronic media, as has been intimated above. I recall reading in an issue of American Cinematographer that recording engineers using DAT have encountered difficulty retrieving the data after a period of time. As a standard practice, analog backups are being made of the original DAT tracks. Don't you agree that we should be cautious before putting all of our eggs into the digital basket?

And regarding "old analog" projectors, while we have spare parts for our Simplex E-7 projectors, the vast majority (if not all) of parts could be fabricated by machine shops. I even read that someone once replaced the fiber gear by carving a replacement out of wood! Meanwhile, my first-generation laserdisc player sits in the basement, totally unrepairable, because parts are unavailable. No matter, I jsut bought a new one.

When Eastmancolor came into fashion in the 1950's, MGM decided to transfer their original Technicolor 3-strip negatives to the NEW kodak neg, because they could save $$$ in storage costs. The old negs were junked, and before long, they realized how unstable the Eastman negs really were. History is rife with people being perceived the the marvels of new technology, and results from such over-enthusiasm have ranged from mild to tragic (can anyone say, "Titanic?").

I really don't care how the art is presented in the future. I just want to caution that when we burn the bridges behind us, there's nothing we need on the other side of the river anymore.
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Old May 24th, 2002, 11:49 AM   #110
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Just saw Episode II digitally projected, and I don't think it looked at good as film. This was the first time I've seen digital projection on a big screen. The close ups of people looked great, but in the wide shot scenes, I could see the jagged artifacts on the highlighted areas, and the pixel texture.

I DID like the fact that there wasn't any film "jitter". It gave it a very "solid" feel.

I guess it's something we'll get used to. If the movie industry had originally been invented in the digital format, and were just now being shot on film, people would be complaining about the grain and the jitter.
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Old May 24th, 2002, 11:51 AM   #111
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My solution to subtitling madness:

Get a DTS Subtitling Machine! This projects subtitles directly against the actual projected movie, and syncs up with the DTS timecode that is already there. It's perfect because you don't have to permanently destroy prints by burning subtitles in and you can also use a print from anywhere else in the world, just as long as it has DTS timecode.


This post may have been edited by Chris Hurd without my knowledge.
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Old May 24th, 2002, 01:02 PM   #112
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I just heard an interview with George Lucas where he said, "...after a few weeks film gets scratchy and dirty."

I'm sorry Joe, but even the "big guys" don't have much respect for your work. Love your web site BTW. Now I have dreams of being a projectionist...

In General:
I've rarely been bothered with film projection. I love technology but I think some people get caught up in it and lose sight of the art behind ANY type of filmmaking.

I especially find it amusing when directors go back and try and make their films BETTER (after their films are huge successes). I didn't need to see the inside of the mothership in Close Encounters, especially at the cost of some great scenes of Roy Neary throwing things through his window. Greedo fires first? I haven't even bothered to go see ET (digitally taking out the guns in the agents hands?).

The most interesting projection experience I had was when watching, "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" where the projectionist had not adjusted something properly (forgive me I have no idea what it was) and you could see the extra spaces above the actors. Boom mics would dip down in frame every once in a while, and go between John Candy and Steve Martin. It made for an interesting viewing.

Like I was saying before, EP2 seemed to lake the beauty that shooting in the "real world" gives you. It's so full of digital effects that it didn't look well shot to me. Lighting was flat and unexciting.

I would much rather see Jean-Pierre Jeunet direct a film with HD than George. But thanks for pushing the technology George.

Interesting Review:
In Harry's review of EP2 he talks about digital filmmaking with Robert Rodriguez.


Good stuff. A assumed that the pixilated scenes I saw (and mentioned above) might have been a product of scaling. George is prone to taking an actor's head from one take and putting it on the body of another take.
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Old May 24th, 2002, 02:00 PM   #113
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"George is prone to taking an actor's head from one take and putting it on the body of another take."

I like that approach. It's like "Film Editing Mark 2". Sergei Eisenstein would have gone crazy about the possibilities of that.

I think the CG and lighting of Episode II has nothing to do with HD. HD does not have to look like that. It's Lucas taste up on that screen. Before we know it we will have something more along the lines of Blade Runner done in HD. Check out George Michaels "Freeek" video. I think the CG looked fantastic in that one.
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Old May 24th, 2002, 03:18 PM   #114
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Agreed, George showed that he cared very little for any artistic lighting in EP2. I realize it has very little to do with HD.

Another funny thing. On NPR a news piece they talked about EP2 and how with digital filmmaking the cameras are lighter and smaller, allowing for more versatility in shooting, smaller crew and faster set ups. I guess they didn't see any pictures of the HD cam that was used in EP2. It's just as large if not larger than most 35mm cams. As well they didn't mention the 10'x10' "video village" that was tethered to the cameras.

I think they confused the making of "Personal Velocity" with EP2. Again this is a product of the previously mentioned under-educated press over PR'd press.

I'm not knocking HD and I'm certainly not a ludite. I've bought and used almost every major miniDV camera out there. I am finally happy (incredibly happy) with my set up now, but of course that's using 35mm lenses attached to a pricey adapter on a mid level camera. The gear that attaches to my XL1 is 5 times the cost of the camera itself.

Okay, I'm probably going way off topic...
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Old May 24th, 2002, 05:52 PM   #115
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Martin, NO, not all Star Wars prints are being made in the US. I have personally handled prints from the US as well as Canada. I have spoken to Australian projectionists who verified their prints were struck at Atlab and the report I got from Lucasfilm was that many negatives were struck and set out around the world because they ordered some insane amount like 115,000 copies! There is no way one US lab could have cranked all of those out in the week's time they were alotted.

"It's nice to hear that film can never get scratched and never get dirty." No Martin, I never said film can not get scratched and dirty, I said film ran by real professionals does not get that way. This is you turning words around on people again and is NOT appreciated. And yes there are a LOT more than ten people in the universe who can handle film properly.

Regarding more of Martin's comments, once the subtitling is completed if the first projectionist is doing his job, he will have properly cleaned that print and from that point on the subtitling will not be an issue. However, most of the time that is not the case outside of the US. This is not because of a lack of caring, but because of the expense of exporting products from the US, where the best film cleaning solutions are manufactured, is very high and not everyone can afford it.

Remember Martin, no one here is saying that DLP should not become the norm and reference standard for theaters. We are saying that it is not ready yet, as in now, as in today. It needs to be higher resolution before the switch is made, and I believe you will find this to be the case in the end.

Justin Chin, that Lucas comment is more of his bs he is pushing to make his leadership with DLP appear to be stronger. "...after a few weeks film gets scratchy and dirty." That is a blanket statement that film HAS TO get that way. No it does not. If he had not shot his latest space epic on video and didn't have a LOT of money invested into DLP, he would not be saying that. Last year I sent his projectionist at the "Stag Theater" on the Lucasfilm Skywalker Ranch an online cleaning machine, some cleaning pads and cleaning solution as a demo and he took his print of Episode I that had been ran under Lucas care exactly 80 times and ran it through my demo items. The report was that the digital sound error rate dropped 2 full points after only one pass. After passing it through the cleaning system a couple of times, the report was that the picture on screen "sparkled" and "looked just like new again"...FACT!
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Old May 24th, 2002, 06:03 PM   #116
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why does DLP have to be a higher resultion. (note: it should get better in the future as the technology progresses) but why does it have to be a bigger res just to be ready for a theatrical turnover? I though it "looked" great. weither or not its "not up
to films par" I think its looked cleaner than film "IMO".

dont have any technologicall facts to add...just an inquiry..
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Old May 24th, 2002, 06:09 PM   #117
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It's not just resolution, but contrast as well. DLP just does not look as good as film projected properly yet. Episode II was shot on video and video always looks better projected on a video projector than on a film projector. The reverse is also true (and remember that 99.9999999999999999% of all movies are shot on film). Perhaps you haven't noticed that almost all of the DLP programming has been computer generated animated movies. There is a reason for that! Yes it does look incredibly good for what it is, but you must understand that with the costs associated with switching to DLP from film, if we switch now we will be stuck with this standard for a VERY LONG TIME! DLP units can not simply be "upgraded" as technology progresses. It's been several years and STILL the theatrical industry has not yet switched to "red readers" to be able to play cyan dye tracks properly yet. This is a $600 expense for the theaters. Do you think they are going to go out and blow $150,000? Do you think they will spend that kind of money for LOWER quality? Hell no. Sorry, but working in the industry I know how things work.

Once DLP reaches the full contrast range and resolution of 70mm film, I will completely abandon film full force and go 100% DLP (or whatever the format will be called). You can count on that. Until that point, DLP is in my opinion just not good enough yet.
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Old July 13th, 2002, 06:00 PM   #118
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I made it a point to see Episode 2 in a new digital theater in New York. The movie looked good. BUT... it did not look any better than the last STAR TREK movie. I was not impressed. I thought I would be in awe. NOT!

I think the move to digital is more for what the filmmaker could accomplish via effects rather than to impress the audience with better sound and image quality.

Plus... the movie sucked.
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Old July 14th, 2002, 11:17 PM   #119
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I asked my wife what she thought about the look of Ep2 when we saw it. She said it looked great. I told her it was shot on video and she said "Really, I never would have known." She pretty much sums up the point of 95% of movie goers wouldn't know the difference, or even give a rats, between DLP, Film or any other medium. They are just there to be enterained.

I did notice some compression artifacts and a bit of movement in some of the darker backgrounds but it was still pretty good.
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Old July 14th, 2002, 11:40 PM   #120
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I finally got around to seeing the movie last week digitally projected (probably wouldn't have bothered if not for technical curiousity, which is a sad fact considering how much my teenage years from '77 to '83 revolved around that world!).

I was sitting fairly close to the screen but not radically so, still I found the clearly visible aliasing and pixels to be distracting. I think this would have been the case even if I had been watching a film-originated feature. And I wasn't thrilled with the compression artifacts etc. that others have pointed out.

Pretty much underwhelmed by the current state of the technology. I think by the time the next (and final, thankfully) installment appears, we will be substantially further along from a technical standpoint. Especially in the acquisition end.
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