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Why did George Lucas use digital in Star Wars Ep.2


Guest Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

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Guest Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

In using the cinealta, it cost more that using film. It didn?t have a depth of field, so didn?t look as special. It didn?t have the resolution, like film does, and considering it was shown on iMax cinemas, I find it strange that they did that, being that it had enough problems fitting a standard cinema screen.

 

So, why did he use film?

 

There is a device called "Mini35". This gives digital a depth of field. Although I?m not sure he will be using it for Ep. 3.

 

Is there an explanation for all this, or is George'y Porgey just being a doughnut...

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There is a device called "Mini35". This gives digital a depth of field. Although I?m not sure he will be using it for Ep. 3.

 

Is there an explanation for all this, or is George'y Porgey just being a doughnut...

As far as I know they are not using the Pro35 adaptor.

 

And for Georgie shooting HD, well his Star Wars is an animation movie anyway as far as I'm concerned, so shooting film doesn't make much sense. On top of that he just likes to indulge his technology fetish...

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"In using the cinealta, it cost more that using film."

Wrong(if you believe rick McCallum) or impossible to prove define.

 

"It didn?t have a depth of field, so didn?t look as special."

Since most of it was bluescreen the added depth of field was an definate advantage.

 

"It didn?t have the resolution, like film does,"

HD transferred to film has same resolution as film in the local cinema.

 

"and considering it was shown on iMax cinemas, I find it strange that they did that, being that it had enough problems fitting a standard cinema screen."

What problems do you refer to?

 

"So, why did he use film?"

You mean why didn't he use film? He is a very experienced producer dirtector who can orchestrate a in house digital production to deliver the control and production value he desires.

There are many more quotes as to why he continues to shoot digital. Check the web.

 

"There is a device called "Mini35". This gives digital a depth of field. Although I?m not sure he will be using it for Ep. 3."

 

No he didn't use this for Ep 3. Why would he? To reduce depth of field at the expense of shooting through a spining groudglass and a couple of stops of light loss?

 

"Is there an explanation for all this, or is George'y Porgey just being a doughnut..."

 

More to the point, is their an explanation for your assertions? You shooting from the hip?

 

 

Mike Brennan

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"And for Georgie shooting HD, well his Star Wars is an animation movie anyway as far as I'm concerned, so shooting film doesn't make much sense."

 

Yes shooting a largely bluescreeen movie makes no sense, though with 98% of shots containing real life elements I personally wouldn't refer to it as an animation movie

 

"On top of that he just likes to indulge his technology fetish..."

 

Whatever drives him, the audience love his movies!

 

Bravo Lucas

 

 

Mike Brennan

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Hi,

 

I'd have thought a pretty solid reason to do it is that it's a huge effects movie and it would all have been scanned anyway, costing a fortune and a stage of quality.

 

However it seems we have to politicise everything!

 

Phil

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"It didn?t have the resolution, like film does,"

HD transferred to film has same resolution as film in the local cinema.

Yeah right...

 

Yes shooting a largely bluescreeen movie makes no sense, though with 98% of shots containing real life elements I personally wouldn't refer to it as an animation movie.

 

The funny thing about Episode 2 was that the live action elements, shot on HDCAM were softer than the CGI elements, which were obvioulsy done uncompressed. That made for a very interesting viewing experience. I remember one dop saying about the movie that he liked the way it looked, except the stuff with the actors... :D

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Mike Brennan wrote:

 

HD transferred to film has same resolution as film in the local cinema.

 

I don't buy that arguement. I saw Episode 2 in both 35mm and in IMAX. In all cases, I felt much of the CGI (e.g., Yoda, Jar Jar) looked distractingly sharper than the live action, so that difference certainly made it through the "system" in release prints. Can't say I appreciated the aliasing and compression artifacts on a huge screen either. Over on the http://www.film-tech.com Film Handlers Forum, there are quite a few projectionists who saw it the same way.

 

Most can see the difference between 2K and 4K in release prints, or you wouldn't be seeing growing use of 4K for films like "Stuart Little 2" and "Spiderman 2". So higher resolution does end up on the screen.

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Apparently early on in prep, Lucas had to be talked OUT of using Digital Betacam at some point by Sony for Episode 1, then he ended up using some 60i HDCAM for some scenes as a test and said it intercut fine with the 35mm anamorphic footage (scanned at something like 1.5K I'm told). He basically wanted to shoot a feature digitally no matter what because he believes that's the way movies of the future will be made and he wants to be the first.

 

So it was no surprise that he jumped to shoot Episode 2 digitally once the CineAlta came out. He basically talked Sony into building a 24P HD camera.

 

Considering though that almost any wide shot in Episode 2 was a composite effect, leaving the CineAlta footage mainly for smaller interiors and close-ups, and very few wide shots, the resolution limitations were not so obvious. I personally thought that the final film did not look significantly worse than the D.I. done for Episode 1. In fact, from an aesthetic standpoint, skipping the technical problems of HDCAM, I prefer the photography of Episode 2 (richer lighting, better color design). I still think that Episode 2 is one of the better-looking HDCAM-to-35mm features made, although I preferred the digitally projected version. Even the IMAX version was a better film-out than the initial 35mm release print version.

 

Not that there isn't room for improvement all around in terms of resolution and color space. Hopefully using the HDCAM-SR recorder will help on Episode 3.

 

I have such mixed feelings about the quality of HD. Will probably be shooting my eighth (?) CineAlta feature in a month or so -- lost track... When things are going well, I think it looks great, especially when seen on an HD monitor (not that 35mm-to-HD doesn't look fantastic on an HD monitor...)

 

But compared to 35mm, when the goal is a 35mm release print, it's hard to dispel the feeling that 24P HDCAM transferred to film looks like 35mm IF you put it through an "ugly filter", you know, that one that adds this layer of "gunk" -- softening, noise artifacts, chroma problems, etc. -- unless you get everything perfect in the photography and the post, which just isn't going to happen on a typical feature, especially not mine. In other words, you can't help feeling like it's a notch below good 35mm images. But then, I get disappointed with my own work in 35mm... it's so hard to get everything right.

 

This is one reason why I don't even worry about trying to achieve a film look when shooting 24P HDCAM; the system and format delivers a certain look -- and it can be a nice look -- and hopefully that look is correct for the project. It's just not exactly the look of 35mm color negative.

 

As for the depth of field problem, I don't understand why so many people bring this up. The depth of field of a 2/3" CCD camera shooting at T/2.8 is like the look of shooting 35mm at T/5.6. Is that the end of the world??? What, deep focus is verbotten in filmmaking from now on? Shallow focus is the only accepted look for movies to have? Much of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was shot at T/11, especially outdoors. In fact, most of Douglas Slocombe's photography is deep focus. And Super-16 has a similar depth of field to HD, so does that make Super-16 unacceptable too?

 

I just finished shooting a 35mm anamorphic feature and there were days where I'd have killed for some more depth of field! Sure, the deeper focus of a 2/3" CCD can occasionally be a problem, especially when you are forced to use shorter focal lengths, but too little depth of field in 35mm shooting can also lead to problems. So having a format will a little more depth of field can be helpful sometimes and a problem other times. It's a wash.

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Hi,

 

The whole depth of field/resolution/lens lengths thing.

 

It seems to me to be a combination issue. You're a low budget production so you originate hi-def in the hope to filmout later if you get the cash. You can't afford decent sets so you end up in non-ideal locations which you want to hide in the focus falloff, which you can't. You can't get back far enough because you're on a location which isn't big enough so you can't crunch it in a long lens. You don't have the equipment or time to light the way video demands to be lit.

 

All this stuff depends entirely on circumstances. I don't see how it's ever possible to say "HD is no good at all" or "35 is already obsolete," it's so situationally dependent. And Star Wars is a model for very little HD production.

 

Phil

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There is a visible difference in resolution between HD and 35mm on screen Mike.

Your statements only imply that you can't see that difference, not that

there is no difference. If there are people that see it, then there is a difference,

and any further discussion about it is pointless.

 

But what bothered me in episode two was not the resolution, but the actuall

look of the image. It felt like video. Sort of shalow, and two dimensional.

I am not obsessed with resolution, i can enjoy 16mm film as much as 35mm film,

but I can't really enjoy video images. And it's not that I am not used to them.

You see them all the time on TV. They just feel cold to me, they don't suck me into the story, they don't hypnotize me.

 

And now my opinion about the original question:

 

Why not? He could have used whatever he likes. Would you ask

the same question for Mozzart? Why did he compose turkish martch for

a piano? It is his choice.

 

And now my opinion on this:

 

"Whatever drives him, the audience love his movies!

Bravo Lucas"

 

Do you honestly find the masses to be the best judge of true art?

You must admit that wide audience can be bought pretty cheaply. In fact,

they will sometimes reject qualitty films dealing with philosophical issues for

a silly action film where everybody ends killed by a minigun, and the hero

gets the girl.

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Apparently early on in prep, Lucas had to be talked OUT of using Digital Betacam at some point by Sony for Episode 1, then he ended up using some 60i HDCAM for some scenes as a test and said it intercut fine with the 35mm anamorphic footage (scanned at something like 1.5K I'm told). He basically wanted to shoot a feature digitally no matter what because he believes that's the way movies of the future will be made and he wants to be the first.

I believe there is actually one scene in Episode 1 that was shot in Digibeta. Liam Neason talking to Skywalker's mom at night outside. Can't say I recal what it looked like, just remember reading about it.

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So, why did he use film?

Is there an explanation for all this, or is George'y Porgey just being a doughnut...

I think the explanation is that he and his crew likes to push the envelope. They are pushing the medium, exploring the boundries. I think he would have even convinced the studio to shoot the whole thing with a CannonXL1s if he could (!). I'm sure they did not save millions of dollars by not shooting on film, or by not renting Panavision cameras etc. Just think of the harddisk space they needed and the modifications they needed to do. I am not a "true" fan of the saga. But I admire his vision and soul of innovation. BTW did anyone see the film in digital projection?

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That scene with Liam Neeson and the boy out on the balconey at night was shot in 60i HDCAM using the HDW700. Sort of fuzzy with crushed blacks.

 

I think any problems getting pulled into the story has little to do with HD being used. After all, huge swatches of the movie weren't HD photography at all, but 2K CGI. It has everything to do with the quality of the script, directing, acting, etc. People can get sucked into something shot in low-rez interlaced-scan DV like "The Celebration" after all. Many people are hooked on soap operas shot in video.

 

Honestly, I don't think that Episode 1, shot in film, is any more visually compelling or involving than Episode 2, shot in HD. Both have large sections of the movie involving actors shot against bluescreen pasted into CGI backgrounds and whether the foreground element was shot in 35mm or HD made little difference in terms of depth of field, etc. Both films tend to look more like a computer game than the real world.

 

This isn't to say that HDCAM doesn't have some real difficiencies but it's a stretch to say that it somehow ruined the look of Episode 2 when Episode 1 looks similar.

 

I will say that good 35mm anamorphic photography tends to have a certain three-dimensional depth which can sometimes get flattened when a D.I. is used; Super-35 blow-ups, HDCAM, Super-16 blow-ups tend to have that flatter feeling too, partially due to the combination of greater depth of field combined with lower resolution, so the detail isn't quite there. The ultimate is something like 65mm, etc. However, not every movie has to have a three-dimensional quality -- sometimes a certain flatness and two-dimensional quality can be very artistic and graphic.

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Yes, they both had an equally mushy, flat look. But Ep. 2 did suffer from far too many artificial "zooms" since they're so easy to do in a CGI environment.

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I was not speaking in general, i was speaking about my self.

Film just works better for me. (I don't really watch soap operas by the way)

 

The thre dimensionality i am talking about has nothing to do with the deph of field.

It is just that the colors are more "real" , you can almost touch them.

It is like the difference between a professional fashion poster on the wall of

some shop and an ink-jet print from a point and shoot digital camera.

Or perhaps like the difference between a slide projected and an 24-bit image

projected on a cheap LCD projector.

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Guest Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

Well, all I could gather before this discussion was that he was exploring technology. Experimenting, but, experimenting with one of the greatest films ever made??! They have other films for that, like Titanic...

 

I like digital for its convenience. I can plug a Canon XL1s straight into my pc via firewire. But, in my opinion it will take a few more years before digital starts overtaking film.

 

And one thing I HATE about digital cameras, is that little shooting feature called, INTERLACED. Sure, it appears to have a much accurate and faster frame rate, but, weren?t you disappointed when you picked up your dads video camera and tried replicating Godzilla? It's looks too fast, to realistic, more like watching Eastenders than anything else. It seems to be the default shooting mode now... Progressive looks much better in my opinion.

 

Also, people mentioned about, having a depth of field because most of it was blue screened. Well, take it out of the blue screen room? 35mm has a depth of field whatever the circumstances.

 

Now, I?ll admit I am fairly new to cinematography. (Being 15 years old...) But I know the basics, and If I were George Lucas I would have used film. There?s barely nothing about digital that competes with it, let alone matching it. It's just the convenience.

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Guest Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

Oh and, audiris, I know this isn't really any of my business but were you in Orpington a few days ago? It's just that I saw someone who looks just like you, from your picture.

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Hi,

 

> INTERLACED... more like watching Eastenders

 

Well, it isn't just that. You can do some quite nice things with video cameras if you're very careful; it may be more effort that film, in some ways, to get it to look decent, but it does still have that convenience factor you mentioned.

 

Phil

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Oh and, audiris, I know this isn't really any of my business but were you in Orpington a few days ago? It's just that I saw someone who looks just like you, from your picture.

Where is Orpington? I have been in London for the last 3 months.

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HD, DV, 35mm all have depth of field so I don't know what you are talking about. 35mm, because it has a larger target area, uses longer focal lengths and thus tends to have less deep focus for the same f-stop used on the lens. A 2/3" imager like on an HD camera is close to the size of a Super-16 frame, slightly smaller, and thus uses similar focal lengths and has similar depth of field characteristics -- i.e. more depth of field for the same f-stop on the lens. To counteract this, you shoot at wider apertures.

 

In other words, the depth of field for a 2/3" CCD HD camcorder will look similar to something shot in 35mm if you open up the iris by 2 1/2 stops. So I don't know what you mean by "35mm always has depth of field". What do you mean, when 35mm can be shot at f/1.4 (shallow focus) to f/16 or higher (deep focus) as can any camera, digital or film, with a lens on it. Any camera with a lens on it has depth of field!

 

On average, you'll just have a more shallow focus with 35mm compared to HD, but like I said, one can easily replicate the look of 35mm being shot at, let's say, f/4 or f/5.6, which is a moderate amount of depth of field. With an HD prime lens that opens to f/1.6 or so, one can get a shallower focus if needed.

 

I must assume that you are using the term depth of field in some non-standard manner. Maybe you mean simply "depth", a vaguer term that suggests a certain dimensionality. Depth of field refers to the distance in front of and behind the point being focused on that looks acceptably in-focus.

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Guest Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

Audiris,

 

Well, I work in a camera shop in Orpington, in the Bromley Borough. I remember someone coming in not that long ago, with a canon SLR and a dirty great lens, asking about buying a short zoom 28-80 lens.

Just looked a little like you that?s all.

 

Anyway,

 

The interlaced thing. Yeh, I have a MiniDV consumer standard video camera and I am always experimenting with things trying to make it look more like film. So far I have just reduced the shutter speed and deinterlaced the footage, and I also use manual focus, (AF = CRAP, only referring to the AF in my camera that is)

Wouldn't it be nice if all cameras gave you the option of using progressive aswell as interlaced... Then again, I'm a member of some film club and most of them prefer interlaced, then again about the best they can do is edit a home holiday movie, soo.. That tells us something.

 

Oh and, I saw earlier on in the post someone mentioned about believing some guy who said about how using digital instead of film cost more in Star Wars Ep. 2.

Well, my answer. Funnily enough, I do. If he's going to publish his book world wide and paint his name all over it, I pretty sure he will get his facts straight.

 

And another thing, if Star Wars was shot mostly on blue screen, then, anything real doesn't have a depth of focus, and everything else does. Now, I?m being really picky here, but, it's kinda like putting an animated character in a real life shot. (Well, it doesn't stand out quite like that but you get what I?m saying)

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Guest Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

I am no expert on this one, but looking at digital footage and pictures and listening to what others say, digital has no depth of field, unless you get a Mini35 device, which basically projects the image from one CCD into another.

 

http://www.mini35.com states that depth of field doesn't exist, it is impossible to get one.

And even when looking at digital pictures, they look somewhat, flat.

 

I know what you are saying, and I find it kinda of strange aswell. Although I haven?t looked into the science of it, I?m just getting into that part.

 

And bare in mind, it's not just me on this topic that?s saying about the depth of field.

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There is always deph of field, it is just deeper in smaller senors/film formats.

(making look everything more flat)

 

But consider that a video image opened to f/2.8 will have less deph of field

than 35mm film at f/16

 

And i think your words are not quite right. Less deph of field, or shalow deph of field means that less objects are in focus and more are blured. More deph of field

means that more things are in focus. So for your way of thinking, less deph of field is better (you got it backwards)

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http://www.mini35.com states that depth of field doesn't exist, it is impossible to get one.

That's just ridiculous, and completely untrue. David's post is right on the money.

If there was no depth of field then you would never need to focus. Nothing would ever be out of focus. Is this true with your camera? No, it's not. All the Pro35 and Mini35 do are add depth of field. They do not create it out of thin air.

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Wait until you see footage from the Genesis Filip, better yet if you were looking at it and didn't know it was from the Genesis. I think you would be hard pressed to tell.

 

Really the debate about Lucas comes out of the blatantly and over inflated statements Lucas makes about shooting HD, especially HDCAM. I think its fine that's the way he wants to go, and that's the canvass he wants to use. But to listen to him, he'll say I don't understand why Hollywood still shoots most of its movies on film. There is clearly a reason why.

 

And he is not being completely straight foreward in his post procces of HD. Very few films have the budget to import the whole film into a 2K RGB realm, then interpolate, rotoscope, and CGI the entire film. Few people really know the entire process that Ep 2 had to go through, to end up with the final product we saw on screen.

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