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Michael LaVoie

Boyhood

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Just saw Boyhood in a theater. If ever there was proof that film is a more stable medium for storytelling, here it is. Shot over the course of 12 years, you would never even realize it. The look is so consistent. There's only one scene that stands out as looking slightly out of place but the rest of this nearly 3 hour film is surprisingly tight in it's look given it was shot over a decade.

 

In 12 years we've seen how many digital formats and codecs come and go? I don't believe there's anyway you could have done something like this with digital and not have it look like a Whitmans Sampler of resolutions and LUT's.

 

That said, while it's shockingly stable in it's look, if this film had been shot in 3 months with different actors of different ages playing the boy, this would have been the dullest Linklater film I'd ever seen. And I'm a huge fan of his work. I wish that the Before trilogy got half the attention that this film seems to be getting. He's done much, much better films in the past..

 

I think most of the hype is precisely because it was done with the same actors and everyone got 12 years older during the production. Otherwise, meh. But that's just my opinion. Obviously it's resonating with a lot of people so who am I to judge. And maybe this film will challenge the notion that we have to be really quick with the story and there's got to be tons of action and suspense. At nearly 3 hours, it's definitely pushing boundaries when it comes to appeasing the A.D.D. generation.

Edited by Michael LaVoie
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I really enjoyed watching this movie. This film was a time capsule in many ways.

Regarding the cinematography, it was a delight to see the various film stocks onscreen at different points of the main characters' life. You get to see the visual evolution of KODAK film stock/charactertistic curves in one movie. The softer edge and punchy contrast of the VISION 1 line.

I noticed that some of the scenes around Ages 7-11, that were outdoor neighboorhood walk & talk scenes were underexposed by about 2 stops in shaded areas, it made the grain more pronounced, giving it the appearance of old film. I was happy to see the contrast of what looked like KODAK 5246 250D onscreen once more. The Ages 12-14 years had that bland VISION 2 look to them. The VISION 3 became obvious, as well as the lenses switching to PANAVISION PRIMO. The snappy-sharp combination of KODAK VISION3 5219 had a 'modern' feel, especially the night scenes in Austin,TX.

 

Watching this film gave me the same feeling as going through my vinyl LP and cassette tape collections, remembering where I was in those times.

 

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I couldn't tell when the stocks changed. The last few years certainly looked different than the first few but, without looking up the Vision timeline, I wouldn't care to guess what was used for each year. (Granted, I saw it digitally, which makes everything look bland.)

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What does seeing it digitally have to do with anything? You do realize 99 % of us will see it digitally and how does digital projection makes everything look bland? If anything, it's a godsend, perfectly stable, sharp image, not that crappy, unstable, blurry 35 mm projection (which has been gone for years anyway, so I don't get what you're talking about here). I saw one decent 35 mm projection in like hundreds of them.

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You still don't really answer my question. Unless you saw the movie in a movie theater, projected on a terrible digital projector (if there's such a thing since there are certain standards to be met), I still don't get your remark.

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What does seeing it digitally have to do with anything? You do realize 99 % of us will see it digitally and how does digital projection makes everything look bland? If anything, it's a godsend, perfectly stable, sharp image, not that crappy, unstable, blurry 35 mm projection (which has been gone for years anyway, so I don't get what you're talking about here). I saw one decent 35 mm projection in like hundreds of them.

There is something to be said for digital projectors that are setup correctly, but there's no need to disparage 35mm projection either. If the majority of your viewing experiences with 35mm were as bad as you say, I'm sorry you spent money at such a subpar theater. I remember seeing Tree of Life and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy on 35mm at a good theater, and the dimensionality of those images still sticks in my mind.

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Not getting into an arguement over this, but I haven't seen a blurry shaky 35mm film projection for some time. It become even less likely with block releases although that didn't prevent the projector being out of focus on the odd occasion. You're more likely to have problems with old prints, something that's more likely on the art house circuit or if the cinema hadn't modernized it's projectors.

 

Is digital projection perfect? No, I miss the deep rich blacks that film prints used give on the titles and I sense that some of projectors aren't always 100% correctly set up.

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I have to say that I never experienced any of this stuff that people say about 35mm film projection. It always looked completely amazing and fantastic. There was something special about seeing a film print in the cinema.

 

My experiences of digital projection on the other hand have been very mixed. On one occasion the entire movie was somehow shown cropped really badly. I can't even understand how they managed to do it but they did. This was in a large multiplex and my bad experiences have generally been in chain cinemas.

 

On the arthouse circuit everything always looked great. Once or twice there were scratched prints in places, I can't even remember the occasions as it was such a minor thing.

 

Oddly I'm finding the quality of digital projection seems to be declining as new technology arrives too. The 4K projection I have seen has been really quite poor and is in stark contrast to the 4K TV displays I have seen that looked fantastic. Digital projection in cinemas seemed to be of a much higher quality back when it first arrived and people were playing out from mini dv, betacam and digibeta!

 

Outside of cinemas the situation is far, far, far worse. Projection is often from a powerpoint style projector which is fair enough given the conext but it is almost universally set up really, really, really, badly. The aim seems to be merely to get it basically in focus and mostly on the screen. It's almost a cert that there will be really bad keystoning problems. On occasion I've politely pointed it out and offered to fix it if they like, but the organisers have declined, terrified at the idea of anyone changing the controls. I think the thing is that in the days of film projection, people would find someone who could operate a projector or they would learn how to operate it themselves and make a concerted effort to do so whereas now everyone expects to be able to operate the projector without any experience or having read the manual, and they are largely right. They can mess about a bit and sort of get pictures mostly on the screen that are in focus, they aren't sure quite why it worked or how they did it but...

 

Freya

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Not getting into an arguement over this, but I haven't seen a blurry shaky 35mm film projection for some time. It become even less likely with block releases although that didn't prevent the projector being out of focus on the odd occasion. You're more likely to have problems with old prints, something that's more likely on the art house circuit or if the cinema hadn't modernized it's projectors.

 

Is digital projection perfect? No, I miss the deep rich blacks that film prints used give on the titles and I sense that some of projectors aren't always 100% correctly set up.

Haven't seen Boyhood yet, sounds interesting.

I feel that 35mm projection in recent years has suffered mainly because it was done by inexperienced projectionists. One of the last I saw was Warhorse, which was shown out of focus across 50% of the screen. Anamorphic not set up correctly, and the operator who was also selling popcorn didn't notice or care. In theory digital projection has a better chance of being done correctly by these 'part-time' projectionists, although as Freya says it depends on how good the system is. And she points out that showings outside the cinema can be abysmal.

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Haven't seen Boyhood yet, sounds interesting.

I feel that 35mm projection in recent years has suffered mainly because it was done by inexperienced projectionists. One of the last I saw was Warhorse, which was shown out of focus across 50% of the screen. Anamorphic not set up correctly, and the operator who was also selling popcorn didn't notice or care. In theory digital projection has a better chance of being done correctly by these 'part-time' projectionists, although as Freya says it depends on how good the system is. And she points out that showings outside the cinema can be abysmal.

I agree. In the US, the projectionist union in the east has been hanging on by a thread for a long time and most major multiplexes outside of NYC don't use union operators. The projectionists at your average theater in the american suburbs for the past decade were high school kids who don't give a #@ck what the image looked like half the time and why should they? They're being paid minimum wage for a job that union guys got $35 an hour to do. I was a projectionist in high school from 92-94 but being an aspiring DP, I was really meticulous about everything looking perfect. Not easy when you're operating 10 screens at once.

 

It was all prints. I learned everything about it and it was skilled work that I was happy to do as a kid but it did make me very jaded for years after when I went to the theater and saw how little most projectionists care about the job and how awful the presentations looked most of the time.

 

So I welcomed the transition to digital projection with open arms. It's nice to know that no one can really screw it up anymore especially given how overpriced the tickets are. I still see dead bulbs every now and then but no more of the bad aperture bands causing displaced focus across the screen, mis-spliced reels, scratched prints, anamorphic lenses that were not aligned right and horrible shutter issues causing flickering etc.

 

The quality of the projectors and bulbs can vary from theater to theater but it's much, much more consistently good then it was when it was all prints and they looked awful most of the time cause no one cared.

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It's all cool to talk about quality 35 mm projection, but I've been to other theaters that showed 35 mm (which was a while ago, and not in the US) and it just doesn't compare to digital projection (at least from what I've experienced). I'm guessing film projection depends on so many factors to actually look good whereas digital is just much simpler, and it IS more stable by far. Plus, the digital copy is not going to wear off as time goes by.

 

The ONLY good 35 mm projection I saw was one of the lasts before my theater switched to all digital in its 12 movie theaters, it was The Hangover Part II, it wasn't as sharp as digital, clearly, but it did have a different quality to it.

 

Film projection should be the same everywhere and not "Oh I saw a good projection someplace".

 

 

@Freya: are you comparing 4K digital projection on a massive screen to 4K TVs? I saw only one film projected in 4K: Skyfall, and there was indeed a big difference, but of course, it's going to look less spectacular on a gigantic screen.

Edited by Manu Delpech

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What does seeing it digitally have to do with anything? You do realize 99 % of us will see it digitally and how does digital projection makes everything look bland? If anything, it's a godsend, perfectly stable, sharp image, not that crappy, unstable, blurry 35 mm projection (which has been gone for years anyway, so I don't get what you're talking about here). I saw one decent 35 mm projection in like hundreds of them.

Are you a moron mate? Quite clearly you are if your pathetic comments are anything to go by. It's not supposed to be 'perfectly stable and sharp'. Film is supposed to have a opaque grainy look and flicker as it goes through a projector at 24fps. You probably favor autotune on records (sorry MP3s) too as it's absolutley 'perfect'. I'll stay at home and watch shitty 4k thanks. Everything I've ever seen that was shot on film and scanned at 4k looked shite. I got my money back too. Film looks better and digital looks poop. End of story. And no I won't answer any of your questions either cause you clearly do not care about film and you are not a film maker. And for the record film has not been 'gone for years', which is a very odd comment to make - I sae 'Interstellar' projected in 70mm IMAX two weeks ago.

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I don't think film projection is "supposed" to be flickery, jittery, dirty, scratchy, and grainy, even if it sometimes is.

 

But for the most part, I think the average cinema presentation in the multiplexes has been improved by digital projection. I can't tell you how depressed I was when I saw two of my movies, "Akeelah and the Bee" (35mm anamorphic / photochemical post) and "Jennifer's Body" (Super-35 / D.I.) in movie theaters using film prints. The release print they sent to New Orleans, where I caught "Akeelah and the Bee" while on location for a shoot, had a purple cast and the theater could not focus scope evenly across the screen to save their lives. And having sat through the D.I. for "Jennifer's Body" in 2K projection, it looked much better than the later 35mm prints. The blu-ray looks better than the 35mm prints did.

 

Digital projection is steady, clean, sharp across the field usually (no scope projector lenses for 2.40) and looks just as good on Day 20 as it did on Day 1. Before, I used to rush to see movies on the opening weekend because by the next weekend, the 35mm prints were usually beat-up.

 

Generally the only thing I miss about 35mm print projection is the black levels, which were deep and rich. THAT is a loss, to be sure, and it partly explains this whole "bland" thing that some people complain about.

 

To me, 70mm and even more so, IMAX print projection, are the best of both worlds, steadier, sharper, less grainy, no scope projector lenses for 2.40, with great blacks. But otherwise, unless I go to somewhere with great print projection like the American Cinematheque, I'd rather see it digitally projected. But for old 70mm movies, I'd rather see a 70mm print if possible.

 

As far as "Boyhood" goes, I think the D.I. and the digital projection made the differences in stocks more pronounced, not less so. The only thing that distracted me was that some of the earlier scenes had some noise problems in the whites, making me wonder if all the scanning was done at once or if some earlier sections had been transferred on a Spirit or something in the past and not rescanned again for the final D.I. For some reason, the earlier scenes looked like an earlier D.I. but maybe that's entirely due to the stocks and how they were exposed. It did show you how good Vision-3 is -- I had assumed that last desert scene was shot on an Alexa, it looked so clean and sharp.

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Are you a moron mate? Quite clearly you are if your pathetic comments are anything to go by.

 

And no I won't answer any of your questions either cause you clearly do not care about film and you are not a film maker.

This is a dedicated forum for professionals, students, and enthusiasts, not the comments section of YouTube. Behave accordingly.
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As far as "Boyhood" goes, I think the D.I. and the digital projection made the differences in stocks more pronounced, not less so. The only thing that distracted me was that some of the earlier scenes had some noise problems in the whites, making me wonder if all the scanning was done at once or if some earlier sections had been transferred on a Spirit or something in the past and not rescanned again for the final D.I. For some reason, the earlier scenes looked like an earlier D.I. but maybe that's entirely due to the stocks and how they were exposed. It did show you how good Vision-3 is -- I had assumed that last desert scene was shot on an Alexa, it looked so clean and sharp.

I think it was the pool party scene where he's a teenager that the look jumped out as being really inconsistent with the rest of it. Very contrasty. Otherwise I didn't see the noise issues. I saw it in the theater. I presume it was a digital projector. Perhaps that did contribute to some of the issues you noticed.

 

I guess it would have been way worse if the movie had started out being shot in DV, Then DV with a lens adaptor. Then HDCam and finally a Red. It would have been a mess. haha. At least film provided a somewhat more coherent look over the 12 year production period.

Edited by Michael LaVoie

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Digital projection is steady, clean, sharp across the field usually (no scope projector lenses for 2.40) and looks just as good on Day 20 as it did on Day 1. Before, I used to rush to see movies on the opening weekend because by the next weekend, the 35mm prints were usually beat-up.

 

Generally the only thing I miss about 35mm print projection is the black levels, which were deep and rich. THAT is a loss, to be sure, and it partly explains this whole "bland" thing that some people complain about.

 

To me, 70mm and even more so, IMAX print projection, are the best of both worlds, steadier, sharper, less grainy, no scope projector lenses for 2.40, with great blacks. But otherwise, unless I go to somewhere with great print projection like the American Cinematheque, I'd rather see it digitally projected. But for old 70mm movies, I'd rather see a 70mm print if possible.

 

Was the lack of 'scope projector lenses one of the visual advantages of watching a 35mm anamorphic film blown up to 70mm?

 

In my theater hopping days in the 90s, I remember sometimes seeing a 35mm anamorphic film and a Super-35 2.40:1 film back-to-back and noticing that the anamorphic films were usually sharper and less grainier than the Super-35 films. Digital intermediates flattened that difference to my eye, whether the movies were projected on film or digitally. I think even during the time of DIs and 35mm projection, the DIs made Super-35 2.40:1 films look better than when they were optically converted to 'scope, but they dumbed down anamorphic quality somewhat.

 

I've seen some nice 35mm presentations, but I've also recently seen a few 35mm prints of older films where I wished I was watching a nice DCP instead.

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The quality of the scope lenses varied quite a bit between theaters, so it was a bit of a crapshoot.

 

Yes, a blow-up to 70mm, usually optically through an IP/IN, ensured a pretty decent projection experience (and sound) -- maybe a contact print off of the original 35mm anamorphic negative would still look better with a good projector lens, but how many people could see one of those?

 

By the way, the few 70mm prints of "Howard's End", and earlier, for "Greystoke", were direct blow-ups to print stock from the original Super-35 negative, and looked gorgeous.

 

Anamorphic is a bigger negative area than Super-35 cropped to 2.40, so yes, more detail and definitely less grain even if the anamorphic lenses were not as optically sharp as the spherical lenses used for Super-35, though sharpness-wise, Super-35 could look quite good when compared to anamorphic work shot on the wide-open side. I saw some Super-35 films shot on slower film stocks with good lenses and at a decent stop (meaning a lot of light was needed) back in the 1990's that looked quite good on the big screen.

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