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Super 16mm Resolution


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Whats the resolution of Super 16mm vs the best HD Camera? Done afew google searchs with no luck.

 

Film doesn't have pixel resolution -- it can be scanned at different pixel resolutions though. Generally "2K" (2048 pixels across) is considered adequate to capture all the grain and detail off of a Super-16 negative (since 16mm is half the width physically of 35mm, scanning it at 2K is the same as scanning 35mm at 4K.)

 

1920 x 1080 pixel progressive-scan HD could be considered "1.9K" although it is not (usually) uncompressed RGB data like a 2K scan of film. And a HDCAM camcorder actually records 1440 pixels across, not 1920.

 

Film has grain though, and Super-16 in particular has larger grains than 35mm shown at the same screen size, and grain is a limiting factor in enlarging an image and not having it look enlarged.

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Film doesn't have pixel resolution -- it can be scanned at different pixel resolutions though. Generally "2K" (2048 pixels acros) is considered adequate to capture all the grain and detail off of a Super-16 negative (since 16mm is half the width physically of 35mm, scanning it at 2K is the same as scanning 35mm at 4K.)

 

1920 x 1080 pixel progressive-scan HD could be considered "1.9K" although it is not (usually) uncompressed RGB data like a 2K scan of film. And a HDCAM camcorder actually records 1440 pixels across, not 1920.

 

Film has grain though, and Super-16 in particular has larger grains than 35mm shown at the same screen size, and grain is a limiting factor in enlarging an image and not having it look enlarged.

 

 

thank you for taking the time to anwser my question. doing some research on the pros and cons of shooting on Super 16mm Vs. HD for a future short film and resolution is a main factor. One of the things that was brought to my attension is the actual lens on these cameras and how they absord and distribute light. I assume that Arri has superb lens versus any HD lens and I am not sure if the gate as anything to do with it as well. Once again thank you.

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There are great lenses made for HD cameras (and a lot of crappy ones made for 16mm cameras...)

 

From a non-scientific standpoint, HD seems to be between Super-16 and 35mm in terms of practical resolution, but with much less grain than Super-16, which allows it to be blown-up more in some ways.

 

Both Super-16 and HD can crap-out, detail-wise, in wide shots on the big theatrical screen, but Super-16 is a little worse for that effect. But otherwise, you can roughly think of HD as grainless, sharp Super-16 with worse exposure latitude and color...

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Goldcrest in New York reports that they get much more information out of their ArriScanner at 3k then they do 2k with Super-16. So I would say that 3k is more accurate for the format. DI posting and the newer film stocks have really reinvigorated the format.

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That's interesting to hear Mitch, because I've - intuitively, not scientifically, I'll confess - felt there was more there than 2K was getting; also I think S16 needs oversampling if that's what it is more than 35mm does - tit has to 'work harder' so to speak..

 

Curious about the ArriScanner I must say...

 

-Sam

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I like Super-16 as much as the next guy, but you look at 1080P HD images cropped to only 800 lines and output to 35mm anamorphic (and even blown-up to IMAX) -- like "Superman Returns" -- and you know that Super-16 would not hold up to that degree of enlargement. So there is a theoretical discussion, like when people looking at charts tell you that Super-8 Kodachrome is better than HD resolution, and then there's the practical matter of what can actually be accomplished and how it will look on the big screen.

 

A good comparison (although it's Super-16 transferred to HDCAM-SR I believe) between Super-16 and HD is the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth", which was shot in HD on the Sony 950 for the main lecture, and Super-16 for some of the farm scenes and shots of Al Gore driving around and in his hotel, etc. The Super-16 looks beautiful, especially the farm shots, but is also somewhat softer (despite some obvious post sharpening) and definitely more grainy.

 

To me, the two formats (HD and Super-16) look SO different that the choice has to be a matter of which look you prefer and which is more suitable for the project rather than abstract discussions on which has more resolution.

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To me, the two formats (HD and Super-16) look SO different that the choice has to be a matter of which look you prefer and which is more suitable for the project rather than abstract discussions on which has more resolution.

 

Very nicely put David - I think people look for definitive technical answers because they're insecure about the choice they have to make and want some process or "law" to make it for them.

 

Technical issues are important up to a certain degree (eg I wouldn't use Super 8 for an Imax blow up!) - but once you're in the ballpark of what you need - a number of alternatives will all do it well technically - it's a matter of thinking more abstractly and artisitically (and perhaps even going out on a limb) from there.

 

Scot

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Agreed but good optical blowups from S16 can look as sharp to me as 1080p originated transfers to 35mm.

 

Maybe the S16 > DI's are still compromised at the present ? I really think so.

 

Blocks scale up better than grains no question there. But is that - to borrow from Walter Benjamin - a triumph of artifice or a fact of nature ? :D

 

-Sam

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I like Super-16 as much as the next guy, but you look at 1080P HD images cropped to only 800 lines and output to 35mm anamorphic (and even blown-up to IMAX) -- like "Superman Returns" -- and you know that Super-16 would not hold up to that degree of enlargement.

 

 

I can't say that I fully agree here. I've seen some fairly beautiful stuff blown up from Super-16 to anamorphic 35mm and even to IMAX (footage aboard a space shuttle) and it can look downright incredible. The problem with most side-by-side comparisons between HD of various flavors and film of various flavors is that they are often weighted towards one or the other. The truest test that I know of was conducted by Disney last year, shooting all sorts of formats and posting in a vast variety of ways. It took months and cost about half a million bucks, and they won't share the info because it cost them so much and is for internal use only (and I think they could only get access to certain products if they kept the results private).

 

"The Devil Wears Prada" comes out next week in 35 anamorphic. Let's see if anyone can spot the shots where an a-minima was used, cropping Super-16 to 2.40.

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Disney last year, shooting all sorts of formats and posting in a vast variety of ways. It took months and cost about half a million bucks, and they won't share the info because it cost them so much and is for internal use only (and I think they could only get access to certain products if they kept the results private).

It will be interesting to see what formats and workflows Disney's bean counters authorize for different projects in the future - obviously they spent their half million expecting to see an economic benefit down the road.

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"The Devil Wears Prada" comes out next week in 35 anamorphic.

 

Actually it was shot in 3-perf Super-35.

 

I know that Super-16 has a lot of image quality potential, but the practical reality is that the image is far grainier than HD-to-35mm, and that it doesn't handle being cropped to 2.35 as well -- digital images have greater ability to be resized and reformated with less visible loss from the original. I'm not saying that Super-16 doesn't look good or that HD looks "better" because that's subjective, only that most of us are not going to be able to spend millions to squeeze the ultimate quality out of Super-16.

 

A more common scenario of what Super-16-to-35mm looks like technically would be something like "Hustle and Flow" -- well-shot by a technically-accomplished DP on a limited budget. Ignoring any mistakes, you get a sense of what these high-speed stocks typically look like when blown-up to 35mm. Yes, you could reduce grain in Super-16 by shooting on slower film, but then you're not really making a fair comparison in terms of typical light levels for a production that might be considering HD.

 

We all have talked about how Super-16 looks better than ever -- it's true -- but where is the Super-16 feature in the theater that looks as sharp, fine-grained & clean as some of the HD features released in theaters? I think the grain of Super-16 has to be factored into the look of a project meant for the big screen, because it's definitely a presense. Detail-wise, I know Super-16 is similar to HD but I've seen far more HD features on the big screen where I've noticed "wow, you can see every thread in that jacket or crease in that leather chair or wrinkle in that face..." than I've had that thought while watching Super-16 features in the theater, even though I've seen adequately sharp Super-16 work. So I would say that from a practical reality, for fine-detailed images on the big screen, HD has a slight edge. Maybe the grain in Super-16 is just masking some of that detail, I don't know.

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Hey David, I guess it's just agree to disagree then. I certainly see the image value of well-shot HD, but I still find Super-16 and its grain less of an issue and more, well, filmic.

 

And you're right that Devil Wears Prada was shot in S-35 (with a tiny bit of S-16). I meant to note that it was being presented in 'Scope but gave the impression that people would be viewing anamorphic photography with cropped S-16. It's cropped S-35 with cropped S-16 instead. Thanks for clairying, and I'd still like to see if anyone can pick out the shots.

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"The Devil Wears Prada" comes out next week in 35 anamorphic. Let's see if anyone can spot the shots where an a-minima was used, cropping Super-16 to 2.40.

 

I've got some painful memories of modifying that A-Minima's groundglass for 2.40....

 

*cringe*

 

And when that camera was stolen... modifying the second A-Minima...

 

*double cringe*

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Hey David, I guess it's just agree to disagree then. I certainly see the image value of well-shot HD, but I still find Super-16 and its grain less of an issue and more, well, filmic.

 

Well, of course it's more filmic -- it's film! I was more just thinking about detail in wide shots. For example, if you got hired to shoot helicopter aerials of Manhatten and they had to be sharp, clear, and detailed, maybe even blown-up to 35mm anamorphic -- and you couldn't choose 35mm -- would you really choose Super-16 over high-end HD and tell your client that HD wouldn't hold up to that level of scrutiny as well as Super-16 would?

 

Sure, tight stuff in either Super-16 or HD generally looks sharp and might cut into 35mm fine. And of course Super-16 would be a better match in terms of color, latitude, etc. -- afterall, it could be the same stock.

 

I'm not saying that I know for sure on any of this stuff, just a gut impression from watching both formats on the big screen over the years. It would be interesting to shoot a comparison test.

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I'd prefer super-16 more than HD in terms of latitude and better color correction in post production which the HD can craps out quickly when you do that. I don't own super-16 but am sure will look for it someday...(coz' am still satisfied with HD).

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Digital capture devices have higher sharpness than film, so will mostly trick you into thinking they have higher resolution than film for the same given resolution. Furthermore digital images always pass through some kind of sharpening, while photochemical film doesn't have that privilege.

 

All this makes subjective evaluation of resolution a misleading one, while read information has to be aquired with measurments.

 

If what you are after is "what looks better on screen", then you SHOULD evaluate by looking at the screen because science doesn't matter there, but if this is a scientific discussion of which format has more resolution in practice then the eye is to easily tricked to be a fair judge.

 

Plus different filmstocks and lenses have different resolving powers. There is no such thing as universal 16mm resolution. It can go from worse than SD to better than HD.

Edited by Filip Plesha
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Plus different filmstocks and lenses have different resolving powers. There is no such thing as universal 16mm resolution.

 

Nor is there such a thing as generic HD...

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I like Super-16 as much as the next guy, but you look at 1080P HD images cropped to only 800 lines and output to 35mm anamorphic (and even blown-up to IMAX) -- like "Superman Returns" -- and you know that Super-16 would not hold up to that degree of enlargement.

 

Yuk, The "Superman Returns" Trailer looks awful to me. Its all soft and plastic looking, A common trait in HD blow ups. I'll take S16 over that any day. I remember sitting through a screening of "Raising Victor Vargas" shot by Tim Orr on the biggest screen in North Carolina. I was convinced throughout the screening I was looking at a film shot on 35mm. It was not till after that Tim Orr told us it was a 16mm blowup.

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Yuk, The "Superman Returns" Trailer looks awful to me. Its all soft and plastic looking, A common trait in HD blow ups. I'll take S16 over that any day.

 

I figured this discussion would fracture into pro-digital and pro-film camps... Some people are going to prefer film no matter what.

 

Certainly there have been some nice Super-16 blow-ups (like "Vera Drake") that are close to a 35mm look, only a little grittier and softer. If you can blow-up Super-16 camera negative directly to a 35mm print, it's almost indistinguishable from something shot in 35mm, but that's not a very viable approach for films needing wider release.

 

But I can't imagine "Superman Returns" being shot in Super-16 and released in IMAX prints either and not looking grainy.

 

My original point is that in theory, in terms of resolution, that HD is basically similar to Super-16 but without the grain. In practice, the lack of grain allows some greater degree of image enlargement without clues that the image is being resized. The results tends to look closer to 35mm on the big screen in terms of perceived detail and sharpness.

 

I'm only talking about perceptions of sharpness matching 35mm, not about what looks prettier or nicer or has better latitude or even what looks more filmic -- or even true resolution. You can ask yourself why a big-budget efx movie might consider shooting on HD but not Super-16.

 

Grain is a factor that MUST be dealt with as an issue when shooting in Super-16 and anyone who thinks that with modern stocks the issue has disappeared is fooling themselves. I also have to admit my recent thought were triggered by seeing someone's dailies for a Super-16 feature (shot in 7218) and thinking that it looked like it was being shot in Super-16, if you know what I mean. Somedays I see something shot in Super-16 and think "I want to try that" and other times, I think "I want to avoid that."

 

Both Super-16 and HD can look similar to 35mm in the right conditions. The argument in favor of Super-16 is more that when it craps out, it still looks like film. But when digital craps out, in craps out in very non-film-like ways.

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Yes, technically speaking "Superman Returns" is better off shooting in HD rather than S16. because of its imax release. However, for a film of this scale, and aesthetically speaking, they should have been able to shoot on 70mm or at the least 35mm. Sometimes I wonder if films like this are shot on HD merely to exploit HD.

 

Its like hollywood is the new silicon valley. From boob jobs to HD, they both have the same faux appeal.

 

I am not completely anti-HD. I have shot and seen some great stuff in HD, However I have yet to see it aesthetically hold up on the big screen. And when it comes to shooting epic imax released films like "Superman Returns" in HD, its just getting out of hand. I just hate to see the public come into exceptance of technology that is of lesser quality than its predecessor.

 

Anyways, these are only opinions but I hope sense this is a filmmakers/Artists forum some of you will agree.

 

I would hate to one day walk into a house and see digital screens hanging on the walls instead of paintings and photographs. Even as I write this I am convinced it will happen:(

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Yes, technically speaking "Superman Returns" is better off shooting in HD rather than S16. ... However, for a film of this scale, and aesthetically speaking, they should have been able to shoot on 70mm or at the least 35mm. Sometimes I wonder if films like this are shot on HD merely to exploit HD.

 

...And when it comes to shooting epic imax released films like "Superman Returns" in HD, its just getting out of hand.

 

Brian Singer and Newton Thomas Sigel have stated in articles that they chose the Genesis for its unique aesthetic. They both wanted to shoot 65mm for its sort of "hyper-clean," grainless look, but knew that the format was not practical for the entire production. They both felt that The Genesis created a similar smooth, clean look where the image itself has no visible texture, even though the resolution is acknowledgedly nowhere near that of 65mm.

 

They chose it for the look, not despite it. Same reasons were cited by Michael Mann with Collateral. It's ART folks, and these were artistic choices.

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With "Collateral" I agree. Shooting HD Gave them a technical advantage because of how they wanted to shoot at night with minimal lighting. This is wear HD shines the brightest and would be equivalent to choosing an appropriate stock. However, with "Superman Returns" the aesthetic that the genisis provides, TO ME reduces the production value of the film and turns me off of the film. I probably won't go see it on the big screen, as it is, the preview is annoying because "the look" is distracting. I believe our job as cinematographers is to disguise our work into subconciously helping the story move along and extract emotions from an audience. "Superman Returns" (the trailer) doesn't achieve that for me. Its like a glazed donut with too much glaze.

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Brian Singer and Newton Thomas Sigel have stated in articles that they chose the Genesis for its unique aesthetic. They both wanted to shoot 65mm for its sort of "hyper-clean," grainless look, but knew that the format was not practical for the entire production. They both felt that The Genesis created a similar smooth, clean look where the image itself has no visible texture, even though the resolution is acknowledgedly nowhere near that of 65mm.

 

They chose it for the look, not despite it. Same reasons were cited by Michael Mann with Collateral. It's ART folks, and these were artistic choices.

 

So the look they were going for was - "as close to a digital animation without 3D renderings" - they wanted plastic skin tones and barbie&kenn doll visuals? Art?...

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