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Dune : Alexa LF to 35mm to DI


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Hello Everyone,

I'm going to watch Dune tomorrow (the trailer looks fantastic) and I came upon this article in THR that says that Greg Fraser shot the film on the Alexa LF (Arriraw 4.5K) and then printed it onto 35mm and rescanned it to a 4K DI.

Edit: here's the link to the article (forgot to include): https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/dune-cinematographer-denis-villeneuve-movie-1235011592/
 

Quote

 

Fraser shot Dune on the Alexa LF, ARRI’s large-format digital camera, but Villeneuve then transferred the image onto 35 mm film which was then scanned back into digital.

“So the image you see on screen has been through an emulsion…it’s a beautiful melding of digital and analog,” noted Fraser. “Where Denis is super smart is in being open to the idea that you can easily combine digital and analog and sometimes you can use that to get a result you have never seen before.”

 

 

My impression of Digitally captured images printed onto film and then scanned back has so far been unimpressive and generally seems like an unnecessarily complicated process. I mean why not just shoot on 35mm film directly? Especially with a 165 million dollar budget?

Now if someone as highly regarded as Fraser is doing it, there must be good reason. Anyone knows why?

Thanks,
Gautam

Edited by Gautam Valluri
Forgot to include link
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On 9/15/2021 at 2:34 PM, Gautam Valluri said:

Hello Everyone,

I'm going to watch Dune tomorrow (the trailer looks fantastic) and I came upon this article in THR that says that Greg Fraser shot the film on the Alexa LF (Arriraw 4.5K) and then printed it onto 35mm and rescanned it to a 4K DI.

Edit: here's the link to the article (forgot to include): https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/dune-cinematographer-denis-villeneuve-movie-1235011592/
 

 

My impression of Digitally captured images printed onto film and then scanned back has so far been unimpressive and generally seems like an unnecessarily complicated process. I mean why not just shoot on 35mm film directly? Especially with a 165 million dollar budget?

Now if someone as highly regarded as Fraser is doing it, there must be good reason. Anyone knows why?

Thanks,
Gautam

The mind truly boggles......I didn't like the 'flavour' of the newer Blade Runner at all.....Deakins and his Arri Alexa love just didn't get the 'flavour' of the original, in my opinion as old enough to remember seeing the original, notwithstanding the epic sets and lighting and whatever you care to mention done before the camera 'rolled'

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@Gautam ValluriHave you seen Guava Island and the S2 finale of Atlanta? The filmouts are very impressive there and look unlike anything you can get by simply adding grain in post. 

As for Dune, I was astounded to read that because I've seen the two trailers in Pro Res quality and it just doesn't feel like a filmout at all. So either they didn't have it ready for the trailers or they printed on some kind of print stock which yields little results apparently. I remember reading David Sandberg saying they tried it on Shazam but the benefits were not there (so undoubtedly, they must have tried on print stock).

 You really need to print to actual camera stock. 

Edited by Manu Delpech
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Interesting. Knowing Greig, it'll look spectacular regardless, but when we now have flim emulation software as exceptional as "Filmbox" - which can make properly exposed digital, almost indistinguishable from real, scanned celuloid. It seems unnecessary to go to the extra expenses/trouble.

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On 9/20/2021 at 7:07 PM, Manu Delpech said:

@Gautam ValluriHave you seen Guava Island and the S2 finale of Atlanta? The filmouts are very impressive there and look unlike anything you can get by simply adding grain in post. 

As for Dune, I was astounded to read that because I've seen the two trailers in Pro Res quality and it just doesn't feel like a filmout at all. So either they didn't have it ready for the trailers or they printed on some kind of print stock which yields little results apparently. I remember reading David Sandberg saying they tried it on Shazam but the benefits were not there (so undoubtedly, they must have tried on print stock).

 You really need to print to actual camera stock. 

I think it's highly possible (and reasonable) that they'd separate the grades for the trailers (which will mostly be seen online) from the filmout used for the DCP - which actually has enough bitrate to show the grain structure, without it being compressed into mush.

I've started doing the same on my own meagre projects, for exactly that reason.

Edited by Mark Kenfield
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Yeah the Pro Res trailers just have the usual Alexa LF noise like grain. Honestly, no software is ever going to make it look nearly indistinguishable. 

Filmout is as close as it gets but it will always look different if you actually capture it on film. A lot of people won't be able to see the difference though.

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11 hours ago, Mark Kenfield said:

Interesting. Knowing Greig, it'll look spectacular regardless, but when we now have flim emulation software as exceptional as "Filmbox" - which can make properly exposed digital, almost indistinguishable from real, scanned celuloid. It seems unnecessary to go to the extra expenses/trouble.

You know, if you have the budget and support, wouldn't you want to try something new? I mean how many can say they used literally celluloid to treat their final print? What treat that would be.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

More info from ICG Mag:

https://issuu.com/icgmagazine/docs/october2021/32

 

"There was one new step added to postproduction, an innovation that first occurred to Fraser while shooting Vice. “I thought that after the DI, we could spin the final out to film before scanning neg back in,” he says. “The idea was to see if that got us back some of the intrinsic beauty of film, specifically its contrast range and how it exposes highlights. We discovered that it also served to take the digital edge off the bright sun highlights.”

Cole and Fraser had tried the approach before on a music video. “We found shooting to a digital negative that has the exposure level of 1 ASA, like a dupe stock and with the smallest possible amount of grain, was very similar to what true 15-perf, originated-on film looked like when you put them up on IMAX screens,” the colorist reveals. “It wasn’t about grain per se, but all the aspects that one might describe as film artifacts: interlayer halation, the nonlinearity of density across the frame and even allowing some dust to come through. The weave, blur, and slight density breathing of film – the latter is something we had tried emulating digitally – were organic qualities that in the past we did everything possible to mitigate against, but here we were trying to bring them to the fore since they don’t exist in digital. They added a sense of life, especially in the 1:1.43 aspect ratio, and that includes the many VFX shots, which, while they were the best I’ve ever seen, still benefited from this.”

Posting Dune at FotoKem – a film lab still prospering in the digital era – was key to working out those methodologies. “We’d take it as far along in the DI as possible, then scan out to film and match it back,” Cole adds. “The negative was not a printing stock. It was a nonprintable digital negative, optimized for this specific process, and used as a data storage device. Scanning it back in afterward used scientific procedural processes to bring the image back into ARRI’s Log-C world. I had to employ the same lookup tables used for the creative DI. This also accounts for all the film quirks, and matches that procedurally; and I’d do a trim pass after that, just for a final polish, the last two percent.”"

 

I guess this explains why it doesn't feel like a filmout to me though I only saw the trailers in Pro Res quality. They really went for a specific look. By the way, they tested 35mm film (too grainy they say 😄 and a problem since they had a bunch of IMAX formatted footage planned) and 65mm film that apparently had issues with the grit and sand. Villeneuve thought film was too nostalgic too? What a bummer.

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sounds very interesting...and to me...whatever keeps the film stocks available to buy for nobody's like me in 16mm format is to be applauded and pursued as art is art is art.....

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  • 3 weeks later...

Gorgeous work as expected, saw it on HBO Max and obviously, compression and all, but whatever they did with the filmout is extremely subtle, it just doesn't feel like on.

I'm excited to see if it sticks out (it should) much more on the UHD Blu Ray. The texture though is very pleasant.

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Saw it in a 4K theater last night and it was impressive work. 

However, the sound track was ultra over the top and the subwoofers were blowing everyone's hair around and threatening to deafen the audience;  That was irritating.

I would say it struck me as being neither primarily digital or film;  neither fish nor fowl, but it looked very good.  An interesting look that did not signal one medium over the other...

Edited by Frank Wylie
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Issue with grit and sand on 65mm haha tell David Lean no?

ok so aside from that can someone explain how a film out is done……so they shoot digital and the part I can’t get my head round is how they get the digital film onto film stock and then back out

i saw the film yesterday and enjoyed it…..I went on YouTube to get explanations for who’s who first and that helped a great deal…..the acting was great…..casting great…..the landscapes superb……beautiful film to look at notwithstanding the compression I saw it under…the audio was torturing at times I agree but hey…..it is what is it…….it was funny how such a sort of complicated film to follow was given the audio clues to when the hero was like on top of it again…..you know….those female voices in the score when he was ON it again haha after seemingly going to go dowm

Edited by Stephen Perera
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16 hours ago, David Mullen ASC said:

Film recorders transfer digital files onto film stock -- they can be laser recorders or CRT recorders, etc. -- there are different methods.

thanks for the information. What is YOUR opinion of the resulting 'look'? or even the philosophy of doing this?

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best of all is they wanted to shoot 70mm but the felt the sand in the cameras would be an issue.......David Lean back in 1962 didn't do a bad job with Lawrence of Arabia

Edited by Stephen Perera
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Just as impressive was David Lean and Co, down on the beach nearly every day for much of the shoot, with sea spray and blowing sand, for Ryan's Daughter. That must have been tough on both equipment and crew. But what a beautiful result.

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10 hours ago, Jon O'Brien said:

Just as impressive was David Lean and Co, down on the beach nearly every day for much of the shoot, with sea spray and blowing sand, for Ryan's Daughter. That must have been tough on both equipment and crew. But what a beautiful result.

absolutely....excuses based on money no doubt....anyway....I speak as a cinephile, I am not qualified to speak as anything else

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You've got a lot of experience, Stephen. In fact I think you'd be amongst those very well qualified to help me with a question I have, over in lighting. Would you be able to comment on that thread? I need a little advice on lighting for film before turning up at a video rental place in a day or two to get some gear.

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1 hour ago, Jon O'Brien said:

You've got a lot of experience, Stephen. In fact I think you'd be amongst those very well qualified to help me with a question I have, over in lighting. Would you be able to comment on that thread? I need a little advice on lighting for film before turning up at a video rental place in a day or two to get some gear.

done!

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On 10/5/2021 at 3:16 PM, Manu Delpech said:

They really went for a specific look. By the way, they tested 35mm film (too grainy they say 😄 and a problem since they had a bunch of IMAX formatted footage planned) and 65mm film that apparently had issues with the grit and sand.

I remember reading that Brad Bird and Robert Elswitt had to shoot the sandstorm IMAX sequence of Ghost Protocol in Super35 because the 15-perf footage was not registering the sand particles as they intended...

Btw Dune looked amazing in the cinema...I second the score being too insistent, was taking away a bit from my experience. Who's going to tell Hans to cool it a bit in the sound mixes?

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I rather enjoyed the film and am sad they didn't shoot both films together. It's so hard to get back into production and start fresh again, it's way easier to shoot it all at once, but post the 2nd movie later. I wish they had done that in this case. 

I watched it at home because I was concerned about blowing the money. I'm happy I did because it's not really my cup of tea story wise and its pretty blah in that department. The visuals were of course, well done. The world is believable, which is super important. I just didn't care for anyone until the very end, maybe that's why they did what they did? I don't know if it's clever audience manipulation or not, but right at the end things started going well character wise and then it cuts lol 😛 

Still, the material is a dry space opera, so keeping that in mind, they did a great job. I really thought the cinematography was great, spot on in every sense of the word. The grade may be a bit overkill in places, but that's the way modern movies look I guess. At least it's consistent which is all that matters in the long run. I really enjoyed the score, it's overbearing in places, but it worked really well. Honestly, the entire package just barley worked. The visuals saved it, the action scenes, saved it, the great actors, saved it, but just barely. The subject matter is what holds this story back and I think Dennis did a great job, making it work for general audience. I never liked the Lynch version of Dune, it was such a mismatched hodgepodge of rock opera, crazy visual effects that shouldn't have even been attempted at that budget level and a very strange cast, some never used to their fullest. But now at least we have a version that is accessible and I think that's great honestly. 

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