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Victor Khong

KNOWING director Alex Proyas on RED camera

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"An Arricam ST NEVER has a bad boot, never drops frames and shoots footage far beyond 4K" - quote for truth.

 

RED can have a bad boot, it can drop frames, and it can just do outright weird poop. The work flow is still pretty tedious and wonky.

 

 

"People tout grainless images as a superior quality to digital cinema capture. That's fine until you realize that knowledgeable post people are adding grain back to digital images to get rid of plastic-y skin tones so commonly found in digitally captured images- even from Red cameras. Film is also immune to IR contamination in the image compared to digital cinema cameras like Red where the effects of Infared contamination are well documented and something to be avoided

Film acquisition is a mature process, people are comfortable with the technology, there are lots of techniques to manipulate the image in the optical realm and the digital realm - the process works. On the digital cinema side the process is less mature - more open to a kind of 'roll your own' approach afforded by software based workflow. There are as many pitfalls over here as there are ways to roll a workflow."

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His point is the apparent contradiction, perhaps?

 

I still don't understand what you are trying to do. Benjamin Button was shot on Arriflex 435, as well as digital but the main was the Arriflex. I am still learning cinematography so I sometimes look at film from a viewers point. When I look at it from an artistic point, you just can't defeat film. It can be manipulated in different ways, the potential is endless.

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Why? ;)

 

Hopefully one of these days the chip companies are going to figure out that filmmakers want to see results, not read hype. The sooner they learn this, the sooner I'll start taking them seriously. That's just me though.

 

As an aside, the aggressive marketing of less-than-optimal digital movie cameras (not RED, think back earlier) gave me a bad taste in my mouth that still lingers to this day. I've never really hated digital, per se, I just got very very angry at the wild claims and the personal attacks on film from media that CLEARLY wasn't up to par. Ultimately such a strategy, when you are working with people that actually are educated craftsmen who are passionate about what they do, the hype from the DSLR world just doesn't cut it anymore.

 

exactly!!

 

I always feel that if something needs this kind of manipulation is because the originator feels insecure about it.

 

In the great words of Flava Flave.......Don't believe the hype!

Edited by Serge Teulon

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I still don't understand what you are trying to do. Benjamin Button was shot on Arriflex 435, as well as digital but the main was the Arriflex.

 

That's incorrect -- the main camera was a Viper, a F23 was also used, and there's some 35mm film, mainly in the world travels sequence shot by Tarsem with Brad Pitt. But the main camera was a Viper.

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Historically yes, but as it is used now by many it also means a digital master element compiled from various sources and the source for various versions of the film derived from it. In that sense it's still intermediate.

 

Hi,

 

Many term are used incorrectly, telecine being another.

 

Stephen

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I stand corrected David. My question still stands though, why use technology which is dodgy rather then film that has been around decades and full proof safe to work with. A highly creative process and collaborations between artists. Why give an actor 20 million and sacrifice film. Stepping stone for illogical thinking.

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I stand corrected David. My question still stands though, why use technology which is dodgy rather then film that has been around decades and full proof safe to work with. A highly creative process and collaborations between artists. Why give an actor 20 million and sacrifice film. Stepping stone for illogical thinking.

 

The creative process between artists is not dependent on using film, so you're mixing up technical issues and artistic ones.

 

You're also making assumptions that everyone agrees that film is a superior visual medium over digital. People who have a different view will come to different conclusions. This is the basic problem here, we can't all agree on the fundamentals for making decisions, so our decisions will be different.

 

Plus every project has its own unique challenges and some tools will be better suited than others. I love 35mm anamorphic but I'm not going to recommend it on every project.

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why use technology which is dodgy rather then film that has been around decades and full proof safe to work with.

 

I'm curious to know if your opinion on Ben Button has changed since you discovered it was shot digitally?

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I'm curious to know if your opinion on Ben Button has changed since you discovered it was shot digitally?

 

 

No it has not changed because it was not all shot digitally. I am still learning to read film from a technical view as a cinematographer. I still prefer film and especially 35mm anamorphic when it comes to cinema. I am not against digital. I believe digital is best suited for documentaries, music videos, news, independent features and sports. However, film should be for cinema. No place for digital in cinema.

 

Not at the moment anyway.

Edited by Joseph Arch

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With all due respect Joseph, I don't believe you know what you're talking about. You won't believe me now but, to prove my point, bookmark this topic and make a note in your calendar to come back here in 5 years time. Reread this topic and pay special attention to your posts. You'll see what I mean then.

 

Fairness Disclaimer: I've said/written/done quite a few things that I'm now properly embarrassed about. As the saying goes, 'we do better when we know better'.

 

Evan W.

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There are some people who can work under absolutes ("no place for digital in cinema"), usually people at the top or the bottom -- most of us in the middle have to be more pragmatic and flexible, we can't be too dogmatic.

 

And the truth is, if there really is no place for digital in cinema... then what about all those digital movies released in cinema? They don't actually exist? They aren't real movies? They don't count?

 

We're reaching a point where fewer and fewer movie watchers know whether or not they are watching digital origination, so it starts to become meaningless hair-splitting at some point to divide movies along the film vs. digital line, it becomes the classic "a difference that makes no difference is no difference."

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No it has not changed because it was not all shot digitally.

 

true, it wasn't...about 4 minutes of the 166 minute run time was shot on film...Those four minutes really made the difference to you , yes?

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What I mean, David, is those formats are trying to run before walking. Those defending them are kicking them from behind. I can tell a difference when HD is used because certain looks it gives off. Some HD is better then other and can actually fool the audience and cinematographer. Fooling people seems to be the aim of the masses at the moment on a format not ready yet.

 

 

I prefer film. I like the genuine thing.

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What I mean, David, is those formats are trying to run before walking. Those defending them are kicking them from behind. I can tell a difference when HD is used because certain looks it gives off. Some HD is better then other and can actually fool the audience and cinematographer. Fooling people seems to be the aim of the masses at the moment on a format not ready yet.

 

 

I prefer film. I like the genuine thing.

 

That's your opinion, and it's not necessarily wrong -- many people would agree with you -- but many people would disagree too. I mean, we're talking about matters of degree now. Sure, I think these issues matter too, but we're living in an age where there are many points of view on the subject. Saying that a format isn't ready yet because it doesn't fool 100% of the people, just 80% let's say, well, that's not being realistic. We obsoleted 3-strip Technicolor for Eastmancolor before Eastmancolor achieved the same quality -- some would say that it never has achieved the same quality. In the real world, these transitions in technology happen for many reasons beyond quality, and in fact, they sometimes happen before the same quality is achieved, prematurely (as with Eastmancolor). That's not a great thing but if you set some goal of 100% perfection in terms of matching quality, the transition will never happen because there are always some differences that someone will pick up on, just as sound people can still hear the difference between analog and digital sound.

 

The only way these digital technologies are going to get better is if they are thrown into the fire, so to speak, and have to perform in real-world situations, not laboratory tests. This accelerates the process. Whether or not RED or any other digital camera is "ready" is not the point because they will be forced to get better being out there in the public eye, being used by everyone. They won't ever get there if they stay on the sidelines being tweaked slowly, as was the Dalsa camera.

 

So for better or worse, the transition happens in front of our eyes, and it isn't necessarily a pretty process, but that's the way things often happen.

 

Now there is no law saying that you have to be one of the first pioneers to struggle with new technologies, you can stick to the tried and true (if you can afford it) and just wait for it to get better. But that's not the same thing as saying that everyone should follow your lead and not use new technologies until they are perfected.

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I do agree with you that technology often changes and will replace most of what we do. I am not against digital. Far from it, I actually like digital when I am working with a DP on small projects. Its cheap and fast. However, when movies are on the table I prefer film because of quality and flexibility. It is true that when technology is used by as many people as possible on the field rather then 20 people in a lab, progress often picks up rapidly because different people find different problems and report them.

 

I would not say no to digital but I would always say yes to film. I like to get my hands dirty to get the feel of film.

 

I am just curious as to when, if ever, digital will pick up 65mm. In future, it could even go beyond that.

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Hi,

Many term are used incorrectly, telecine being another.

Stephen

The DI definition is not set in stone, like the technology it is in flux:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_intermediate:

Although originally used to describe a process that started with film scanning and ended with film recording, digital intermediate is also used to describe color grading and final mastering even when a digital camera is used as the image source and/or when the final movie is not output to film.

 

http://www.surrealroad.com/research/digita...ediate-primer/:

So what is a Digital Intermediate?

At the moment, precise definitions vary, or are subject to strong argument. I would suggest the following definition:

a “digital intermediate” is the process of creating motion picture content using digital means, regardless of the source or destination material.

 

See also

http://www.lightillusion.com/zippdf/di-guide.pdf

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This is a hypothetical question that has been spurred by interest and, please correct me if I'm wrong, a question that I don't recollect ever been put across during the many battles of film vs digital...

 

If you were asked to shoot a film that had a storyline which has as much call for it to be shot on digital as it would on film, which format would you choose?

This is of course pending on production giving you carte blanche...

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We obsoleted 3-strip Technicolor for Eastmancolor before Eastmancolor achieved the same quality -- some would say that it never has achieved the same quality. In the real world, these transitions in technology happen for many reasons beyond quality, and in fact, they sometimes happen before the same quality is achieved, prematurely (as with Eastmancolor).

 

Not a particularly good analogy.

 

3-strip technicolor used an enormous, highly specialized camera, (only available for rental from Technicolor) that required a team of camera assistants, (also only available from Technicolor), it had a complex loading procedure involving three different types of B&W film, (which had to be carefully tracked to avoid mixups), the very best sensitivity that could be achieved was an ASA equivalent of about 5(!), routinely requiring massive banks of Brute Arcs (hence the multiple shadows commonly seen on such productions), and an absurdly complex processing and editing chain. Because of the size and weight of the camera, anything but static shots were essentially out of the question.

 

But, for a long time, it was really the only game in town, if you wanted to show good quality colour movies in cinemas, which does tend to explain their relative rarity.

 

Then we had Eastmancolor. True, an entirely new procesing chain was required, (but that was Kodak's problem) and the end results may not have been quite as good, but as far as the cinematography went, just about any old 35mm camera that could run B&W stock would accept the new colour film with no modifications whatsoever. Some new skills were required to address colour balance issues and the like, but generally nothing that could not be absorbed by competent existing crews.

 

All of a sudden, stock costs aside, colour films suddenly became comparable in cost and complexity to black and white. (It's interesting that in the early days, the extra cost of making colour release prints was a major budgetry factor in the decision whether to shoot colour or B&W).

 

Since these days the post-production process is essentially identical for virtually all commercial films shot on film or video, what Eastmancolor-over-Technicolor-sized advantage can be expected from shooting with an electronic camera?

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(cross posted to Red User, with additional thoughts at end)

 

I just returned from my local multiplex where I saw, back-to-back, KNOWING, DUPLICITY and a trailer for PUBLIC ENEMIES in real world conditions. Leaving aside cinematic worth, (please...) all were presented in 35mm anamorphic, all looked "as good as they make 'em" to the casual eye. The devil is in the details, of course.

 

KNOWING - shot on red, mucho lighting and grip, plus (2K or 4k?) mucho cgi VFX. Speaking strictly of principal photography: Looked great, some skin tones in the house set seemed a bit green for my taste. Noise-related defects common to the Red - purple where you don't want it, etc. Nice blacks, no noise there. The light falls off suitably in every shot - some shots seemed to lack full dynamic range compared to what film would be doing, and I am speaking of creepy shadow "whisper people" in the kids' bedroom scene. Day exteriors in 1950s were given a treatment to seem softer, nostalgic-y than same set seem in present day, for contrast. Leaves probably changed color in DI to give Autumn look, that all seemed good. Highlights seemed DIFFERENT, not better or worse in day exteriors. That's where you could tell it wasn't film. (I wonder what the budget for silk leaves was?) Dynamic range in day exteriors seemed a bit less than film, imho. Didn't spot any Rolling Shutter issues with picket fences, etc. Int/ext (looking out) car shots on index bridge coming in to NYC seemed fine, but were probably green screen? Big aerials looked good too. The DPs goal was about two things: Nic Cage's face in medium close up and creating creepy apocalyptic mood. Lots and lots of "hero stands transfixed on edge of battlefield/canyon, etc" composite shots. One plot point is about sunlight, and the key dramatic scene is shot in an open garage door, with full sun hitting the two leads flat and low. It looked good, but maybe a little too blown-out for good skin tones/ depth to register best. I bet the first answer print looked better. CGI reverse shots make the whole movie seem plastic-y, but that's not the fault of the Red.

 

DUPLICITY - shot on panavision anamorphic, 2k Digital intermediate, if one is to trust IMDB tech specs ( always a gamble). Comparing clarity of close ups, the anamorphic and Digital Intermediate made Julia's eyelashes and skin tones degraded to the point of looking like some white silk stockings had been applied to the rear element of the portrait primes, which may have also been the case. In pure Hollywood terms, she is an "aging beauty." Her make-up was showing excessively at times. DPs focus - make things look slick and worldly, and make her look as good as possible. Travelogue and beauty shots galore. Tons of BCUs and two shots w Clive Owen. If this is some sort of a baseline to judge the Red against, the Red did well. Better dynamic range from film but the 2K DI didn't do the film many favors in that department. In fact, I'd blame the 2K DI for most of the fuzziness, not the anamorphics or the makeup or the in camera filtration, whatever it was. But I'm guessing.

 

PUBLIC ENEMIES TRAILER

Hard to judge anything, no shot stays on screen very long. Seemed to have less dynamic range than either, but also has an intentional period desaturated gloomy depression look, so it's difficult to make any judgements. No artifacts seen. Muzzle flashes seem like film. Of the three, it seemed to have the least amount of detail/ resolution.

 

For comparison's sake I'd hazard a guess that between these apples and oranges the Red One can compete with Panavision, and is a worthy tool. Both methods were good for the job at hand. PUBLIC ENEMIES may not look as good as one would hope. Certainly MIAMI VICE does not bode well for PE. MV looked awful, imho.

 

 

-- added thoughts after a day:

 

Like the quote in the director's interview cited above, audiences are getting used to small screens, digital resolution and smaller dynamic range, and the general fuzzy look of DIs. Get used to it, it's a sick sad world in some ways. I've seen b+w nitrate films from the 1920s projected in a fireproof projection booth on a big screen, and even with the lenses they were working with then, the stuff looks AMAZING and blows away what we see today in many regards. Certainly nothing shot or projected on safety film in b+w has ever come close. They used to call it the silver screen for a reason. Maybe digital projection will get there, somehow soon - not yet. Maybe digital cinematography will be able to rival Vilmos' work on Godfather 2 soon, but I say not yet. That day may or may not arrive. I maintain it's still an open question, but the trend seems to be in favor of a "yes." Let's hope we get there soon, I'm getting a headache from these murky muted things that resemble video games. KNOWING is a plu-perfectly awful movie but it looks pretty damn good for being shot on a camera that costs less than an SUV. Kudos to the tech team who made all that happen, and an attaboy to the DP as well.

 

All these things are tools to tell stories with - a Pathe', a Mitchell BNCR, an Arri 2C, a Red, a camcorder, a Pixal 2000... tell a good story and make the images work in service of it and audiences will accept it. They accepted cave paintings at one time, and some of them can still move me, if you view them with an audience in near-darkness and add some music and words....

 

(a Pathe, that is in the hands of Billy Bitzer, and a BNCR on Greg Tolands Chapman, and an Arri 2C in Kubrick's hands, and a camcorder wielded by Tom Richmond and a Pixel 2000 in Sadie Benning's bedroom and a Red... where? Still waiting... )

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Just saw it in the theater.

I found it painfully hard to sit through this movie. I thought it was terrible.

RED looks pretty good, some images too contrasty for my taste to the point where some times the actors where blending with the background, no separation. Seems like a certain lack of dynamic range, almost like you always need a back light to separate background and actors, if dealing with night interiors.

I wonder how much they had to spend in post to bring it to this level and how that would compare to shooting film instead.

 

Overall, a good test for the RED.

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Was bored today, so figured I'd catch a matinee showing. It wasn't bad, I think Nic Cage was the real weak link performance wise, but I enjoyed the majority of the film.

 

The footage looked great as well, I was really impressed, being it's the first time I've seen any Red footage given a film out and projected on the big screen. There wasn't any visible grain, as previously stated, and I think the fact that it was printed on Fuji might have helped color wise. The only thing I felt looked unnatural were the autumnal leaves on the trees, obviously tweeked in post. And as always, skintones were a bit muted, but some of that can be attributed to desaturation in post. Otherwise, I was quite pleased with the image quality.

 

But I can see how the sharpness and non-graininess of the Red can definitely appeal to Proyas. Sharp & crisp images is really a part of his style and visual aesthetic as a scifi director. See Dark City & iRobot, for example.

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Guest Stephen Murphy

I also went to see it today. I saw a filmprint and over all i thought the RED handled itself very well; I was pleasantly surprised. I thought the highlight clipping was, for the most part, fine. Shadow noise was also fine. I found the wide shots a little too soft for my taste, even taking into account the transfer to film, and i was surprised to see little if any motion artifacts, which for me is one of the things i find my eye being drawn to straight away in most HD footage. I wasn't crazy about the skintones - they seemed lifeless and dull, but that could have been a creative choice made in the grade, and at times i missed the texture of grain, although i imagine this would have been a bigger issue if id seen a digital print. I'd have liked to have seen a digital print to compare the two but i didnt quite enjoy the movie enough to warrant a second viewing:-) But overall i thought it looked good. Simon Duggan did a lovely job on the night exteriors. Shame so much of the CGI was below par.

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Not a particularly good analogy.

 

3-strip technicolor used an enormous, highly specialized camera, (only available for rental from Technicolor) that required a team of camera assistants, (also only available from Technicolor), it had a complex loading procedure involving three different types of B&W film, (which had to be carefully tracked to avoid mixups), the very best sensitivity that could be achieved was an ASA equivalent of about 5(!), routinely requiring massive banks of Brute Arcs (hence the multiple shadows commonly seen on such productions), and an absurdly complex processing and editing chain. Because of the size and weight of the camera, anything but static shots were essentially out of the question.

 

Technicolor was only ASA 5; urban legend or quarter truth?

Is Eastman Color still only 16T?

 

When 3-strip came out in the mid-30s it was EI 5 or 6. By the time 'Gone With the Wind' was made the speed had doubled.

Since 3-strip was around for a bit over twenty years, the EI 6 only lasted for a quarter of that time.

Plus-X and the dupont equivalent were ASA40/25 (weston32/20). The tungsten speed was only one stop faster than Technicolor's 12D. Admittedly different types of light.

 

When the first 5247 came out in 1949 it was 16T, a 1/3 stop diffference.

By the time 3-strip was discontinued, it and Eastman Color were both 25T.

 

What was "absurdly complex" about the editing chain?

W/Ps delivered to the editor, who splices pieces of them together in some hopefully meaningful arrangement, then sends the cut W/P back to Technicolor for conforming and an A/P.

 

As for camera size, most studio shooting used big blimps until post WWII when Mitchell began manufacturing the BNC again. Very few were manufactured before the war & many of them went to the USSR as part of the lend lease Program. Thus Eisenstein shot <<Ivan Groznii>> on a BNC, while MGM was shooting its B/W movies with their big silver painted blimps, which they were still using into the late 50s; probably until they "sold" their camera department to Panavision.

 

Toland, the AC Kane article mentions the compact size of the BNC.

& location sync cameras were using 96 volt batteries, 8 series connected car batteries on a frame.

 

post-7981-1238269614.jpg

MGM blimp circa 1957

 

Remeber Panaflexes and Arri 35BLs didn't come out until the 70s.

 

Then we had Eastmancolor. True, an entirely new procesing chain was required, (but that was Kodak's problem)...

 

More the lab's problem. MGM went with Anscocolor because it was cheaper and easier to convert their B/W processors to Asco than eastman. fewer extra tanks.

 

All of a sudden, stock costs aside, colour films suddenly became comparable in cost and complexity to black and white. (It's interesting that in the early days, the extra cost of making colour release prints was a major budgetry factor in the decision whether to shoot colour or B&W).

 

You're ignoring Cinecolor and other bipack processes. Camera stock prices would be double, but the prints were only slightly more expensive. With careful art direction Cinecolor could look quite good.

see 'Scared to Death' w/ Bela Lugosi and 'gallant bess'. The late afternoon beach scenes are quite beautiful.

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Technicolor was only ASA 5; urban legend or quarter truth?

Is Eastman Color still only 16T?

 

A book by one of the engineers who developed Eastmancolor in the late 1940's says that the process was equivalent in speed to existing color movie technology of the day, i.e. 3-strip Technicolor -- and Eastmancolor was 16 ASA daylight-balanced when it was released in 1950. Technicolor by then had become a tungsten-balanced system though.

 

3-strip was probably in the range of 5 ASA when it was released in the mid 1930's but it doubled in speed at the time of "Gone with the Wind" and had increased in speed even more by the time it was obsoleted in 1955.

 

My only point in bringing up Technicolor was that some would say that it was a superior color process replaced by an inferior color process, that it was a case of convenience and cost savings outweighing any aesthetic concerns, that changes in the industry are not always improvements, or sometimes they only later rise to the quality level of what was lost. The switch to digital camera technology is not being driven primarily by image quality concerns, and the transition from film may happen before true parity is achieved. That may sound depressing, but it's just the way things often work.

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