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Gregg MacPherson

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FIlm is not video with grain added. And video is not film with grain removed. Rather each mediates an optical image, but in different ways - one by means of a random sampling pattern and the other by means of regular sampling pattern.

 

Adding grain to a video mediated image doesn't make it look any more like a film mediated image. Grain is just noise and noise is statistically neutral (otherwise it wouldn't be noise), which means it doesn't have any ability to alter an image. One "sees through" the noise. One sees (if with greater difficulty) whatever is there before the grain was added. It's quite a peculiar skill we have in this regard.

 

That said, adding grain can have desirable results. While it doesn't make the video look any more like film it can make it look like something else that might be considered desirable. And if one wants to echo certain attributes of film grain, a good idea is to modulate the amount or size of the noise/grain as a function of the variation in exposure/density.

 

C

Edited by Carl Looper

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The effect is dimensional -- they scan film at different exposure levels and then tonally map that over the image so that the shadows get the grain of underexposed areas and the highlights get the grain of the overexposed areas, etc. rather than have one grain level laid over the whole image like the other grain processes work.

 

Thank you for consistently providing the most up-to-date information in the field, Mr. Mullen. It seems like quite a bit of work when one could just shoot film, but if this is what the industry is doing now, I'm actually kind of glad because it represents a return to deliberate texture.

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I've been watching Vinyl and really liking it. Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger on concept, Scorsese directing the 2 hour pilot, I already had a good, fully alert, receptive feeling when I hit play.

 

I like the way they make a montage of music, performance and the character narrative. It feels simple, gutsy, expresses the ideas about era very well.

 

I really liked the photography. It's a shame it can't just be shot on film. Scorsese and Jagger probably have enough heft to to that if they really wanted to. I thought the extreme slo-mos were very well used and gave quite a realistic sense, intercut, of the abstracted fractured states under the infuence. Which did also successfully express the distorted, fractured quality in the collective social micro-cosm, fusing the high/drunk and the straight (sober).

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It's quite a numbing thing that comes up repeatedly as film is replaced by digital and people loose the ability to discern between these two.

 

This analogy may seem wierd, but it normally is the first one I think of...

 

If you had a choice between your wife and a cybernetic copy of your wife, where you could not tell the difference, which one would you choose? Now, if your real wife was identified, which one would you choose.

 

I think film is analagous to the real wife, but the other thing is already taking her place.

 

Digital is a simulation of what we expect from a piece of film, after about 100 years of being cultured to see film. An actual frame of film is a record of an impact event, photons drape themselves over tiny pieces of "silver", loaded with more data than we are currently interested in looking at. A "frame" of digital is a simulation of that. At the sensor, photons are simply counted, then some algorythms simulate something close to our experience of film.

 

There isn't really a common platform defining what we must see or experience, though we are ecouraged to do so. We are all different and each of us has potential for both normalised and elevated levels of seeing. On film, there was redundant data, whether we saw it or not. I suppose we could be excused for not being aware enough to notice.

 

All that a sensor does is count photons. With colour filters, count photons within colour boundaries. What you see post that is a simulation. It paraphrases film, or something shifted a little from that according to cultural expectation.

 

So, bottom line, real wife or cybernetic / plastic wife?

Edited by Gregg MacPherson

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You can't really say plastic wife because according to your analogy they can't be told apart. I think the most telling part of your analogy is that you put a very heavy weight on the emotional investment of film, equating it to a wife or loved one. Because you come from that place you are much more likely to pick the real thing, where as I, not knowing your wife (I have never shot on film outside of stills nor do I expect I ever will at this stage in the game) would likely be much more interested in the simulated version that is indistinguishable from the real one since I can get it to do more for me and in more interesting ways since its just a simulation.

 

People talk about the fall off of highlights in film and the motion blur, I look really hard but I just don't see any kind of dramatic difference between the two except for the natural grain structure, which can be replicated digitally. It seems like its more of an ephemeral quality than something that can be measured. To my point of view having come up in a digital age and working with video and digital assets (never film) I have always striven for a film look, even when I was making my first movies on 3/4" tape decks with an old Ikegami ENG. I like the look of film, I like the feel of 24fps, I love the texture of grain and I love colors and tonality of film, but I also love having it all done digitally. So I am totally guilty of being an ignoramus when it comes to the art of shooting film, but I have seen and grown up looking at film.

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Hey Shawn,

It's an analogy intended to show the limits of what we see. Beyond that, we intuitively know things. Even with the one sense, through the eye, we see much more than we are imediately conscious of. But our mind digests all this extra information, and commonly we become conscious of it later, or at least assimilate something from it into our conscious functioning. So, do we deed to discern between the imediate conscious seeing and our later, broader, experience where more information has joined the party towards the sum fact of our experience?

 

 

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"photons drape themselves over tiny pieces of "silver" ".. yes all very poetic and we should bake our own bread,collect berries and wear clogs.. :)

 

But seriously,in the early days of digital ,yes it was very obvious the differences and film was clearly "nicer" and had a better DR etc.. but those days are over.. Im not a young hipster with a RED and a check shirt.. I shot film on Aatons and SR,s.. but I,d rather shoot LOG, 24p onto an SxS card these days.. even with a USER LUT burnt in,you can get a look as good as film or better..

 

I would go with the robotic wife for sure.. it can be unplugged right ?

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An image mediated by video, is no more a simulated image (or no less a real image) than that mediated by film.

 

They are just different ways of mediating an image.

 

Those images we call a "simulation" are those which are computer generated (amongst others). But even computer generated images are images. They differ only in terms of their origin within a theoretical concept of the image (geometrically or mathematically formalised), as distinct from an emperically (sensory) derived image (film, video, ultrasound etc). In computer generated images one doesn't need a sensor (such as a camera) to create an image. Some aspects of painting involve theoretical concepts of an image.

 

For example, in the following preparation for a painting, Da Vinci will use a theoretical conception of the way in which a lens works to create a perspective projection of the set in which the figures, otherwise sensory derived, will play their role. Both sensory perception and theoretical conceptions of such perception will play a role here.

 

 

davinci_drawing.jpg

 

 

C

Edited by Carl Looper

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I cant wait to see the finished art work.. the same guy would makes the post software right.. this guy knows his stuff..

 

Lets assume this isn't an attempt at humour (even if it is).

 

The work as given is the "finished" work in the sense that no more work was done on it. Or one can say it is otherwise unfinished, and always will be, since the artist has been dead for many centuries. The artist lived during the late 1400s, during a period called the Renaissance. In other words, centuries before the advent of anything we'd normally call software. However the concepts available to Da Vinci (as much as many other artists of the time) would eventually find elaboration in computer generated graphics - in the idea that one could theorise perception as much as directly exploit it. It will be Descartes in the early 1600s who will formalise a translation of geometry into mathematics, and establish the means by which computer generated graphics could be later implemented.

 

C

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I can't see that pic (drawing by Da Vinci) for some reason. Is there another way to get there. Perhaps name the drawing or something.

Edited by Gregg MacPherson

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I can't see that pic (drawing by Da Vinci) for some reason. Is there another way to get there. Perhaps name the drawing or something.

https://www.loc.gov/today/pr/images/davinci_drawing.jpg

 

EDIT: And we have gone SERIOUSLY off topic. All I said is Vinyl looked great what ever it was shot on :P

Edited by Shawn Sagady

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According to Sony and Panavsion is was F55 ,supplied by panavision with Primo lenses.. there is also an article is Sony CineAlta magazine issue 4 with the DP about how they tried alot of formats from the original super 16mm the dp wanted to use .. he says that it was Scorsese who picked the F55 look Slog3.cine and "Live Grain" .. for the pilot anyway..

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Lets assume this isn't an attempt at humour (even if it is).

 

The work as given is the "finished" work in the sense that no more work was done on it. Or one can say it is otherwise unfinished, and always will be, since the artist has been dead for many centuries. The artist lived during the late 1400s, during a period called the Renaissance. In other words, centuries before the advent of anything we'd normally call software. However the concepts available to Da Vinci (as much as many other artists of the time) would eventually find elaboration in computer generated graphics - in the idea that one could theorise perception as much as directly exploit it. It will be Descartes in the early 1600s who will formalise a translation of geometry into mathematics, and establish the means by which computer generated graphics could be later implemented.

 

C

Well no wonder did didnt finish it.. spending all his time on the post software and hanging out in Renaissance hotels.. ! maybe with a young Bill Gates I would wager.. who is this Des Cartes guy..

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And yet Scorsese shot film on Silence and chose film over Alexa (except for night scenes) on Wolf Of Wall Street. What bothers me with these grain simulations is that some think it looks like film. I triple dare you to compare say (I did that) a film like The Place Beyond The Pines shot on 2 perf (so smaller negative, but still very good, and thicker grain) to digital, even if adding grain to digital and saying it looks virtually indistinguishable (especially using screengrabs). The nature of film itself, ie it being random in the way it behaves and being an actual chemical reaction means that digital will never, ever be able to replicate the feeling it gives. I hate repeating myself and feel like I always end up doing that, and I guess if some see what they see, it's a fool's errand to try and convince them otherwise but I hate this.

 

Now, I don't understand how some big DPs (even though most of them know the difference and many would choose film over digital any time of the day if they were given the option) and some directors can tell with a straight face "well, we did some comparisons between Alexa, 35 mm, anamorphic, etc, whatever, and we couldn't tell the difference". The live grain thing David talks about sounds very interesting but, yeah, it is an emulation, like Carl's been talking about it, mimicking a feeling, but not it being the real thing, just an approximation that might fool a couple of people when projected on a giant screen because god knows that on that kind of surface, film grain is imo much harder to see (that's why I like seeing films on a smaller screen, so I can get a better feel of the texture), but it is not at all, anywhere close to film.

 

I like the analogy Gregg used, it's exactly it, and I know myself that I have a completely different visceral and emotional reaction to something shot on digital and something shot on film, I'm probably biased and I'm such a technical nut that I know beforehand what it was shot on, but still, that's why films like Carol, Interstellar, The Master, Steve Jobs, etc are shot on film for the emotional impact it has, for that warmth, that warm embrace, the connection is there, I get that for some, that feeling and that connection are not there or are not as important, but that's what it is.

 

 

But even Roger Deakins said to me on his forum that when he saw JC Chandor's All Is Lost (shot on the Alexa), he thought it was film when (imho), it looks nothing like film in any way, so I don't know how, or why, but it's certainly interesting.

 

Anyway, if the tools work for what you want to do, great, but it matters, not to everyone, but to quite a few.

Edited by Manu Delpech

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But its all immaterial .. if you are more concerned about the grain/look of a film being film or digital .. in this day and age.. were even Roger Deakins cant tell.. and that is spoiling the film for you.. its a crap film.. and yes 99.9% of the audience will not know the difference.. but they will know if a film is crap or not.. due to the script and or acting..not pixel peeping.. thats it really..

 

There is so much else to be worried about re the state of modern cinema.. eg endless remakes.. endless comic book films .. the death of mid/low budget films .. 250 million dollar films that are absolute and total crap.. even if they are shot on 70mm gold plated camera,s..

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I'm not more concerned about the grain or look of a film is digital or film because I know. How is that spoiling the film for me? Which movie are we talking about? If it's All Is Lost, it is a good film but whatever. Using the "99.9 % of the audience will not know the difference" is an overused excuse, hey, you know what, let's all shoot digital and not care about it, hey, Chris Nolan, you gotta go Alexa man, you know, because most of the audience has no idea that you shoot on film. Puhleaseeeeeeeeeeeee, many have no idea but subconsciously can tell, or feel it, yes, of course, script, acting, composition, etc, all those things, being shot on film or digital doesn't make something good.

 

You think I don't know that? I love plenty of stuff shot digitally, I love Creed, and I love Room, and I love Straight Outta Compton, and I love plenty of TV shows shot digitally (oh my goodness !), and digital can look great as proven on those examples I gave, I was just talking about a misconception. And keep your worries to yourself, how can you be worried about the state of modern cinema when you get the quality of filmmaking we've had this year. Endless comic book films? Ouch, oh yeah, it's not like Marvel Studios doesn't put out quality film after quality film these days (that is of course if you don't have a total aversion to the superhero genre, and you're not one of those snobby "oh no, ugh, comic book superhero films are killing this industry, they're so silly and unrepresentative of film as an art, bla bla"), the "death" of mid/low budget films? What are we talking about here?

 

Which 250 million dollar films? What are we even talking about here? Where? Transformers? Something else?

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" I triple dare you to compare say (I did that) a film like The Place Beyond The Pines shot on 2 perf (so smaller negative, but still very good, and thicker grain) to digital, even if adding grain to digital and saying it looks virtually indistinguishable (especially using screengrabs). The nature of film itself, ie it being random in the way it behaves and being an actual chemical reaction means that digital will never"

 

You really think people can tell the difference .. they cant .. they are just going to see a movie.. with a good story and well made.. it doesnt matter them at all if its shot on film or Alexa.. who is the snobbish one here.. .. what is your point if you have one.. film is the only way or digital is ok too.. earlier you say you "hated " false grain .. hate is a strong word seems you have a strong opinion..you even triple dared people to question it.. these are strong terms.. then you say digital is fine and there are tons of films you like shot digitally.. whats it to be .. or keep your worries to yourself... seems Roger Deakins is not losing sleep over it.. but what does he know..

Edited by Robin R Probyn

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" I triple dare you to compare say (I did that) a film like The Place Beyond The Pines shot on 2 perf (so smaller negative, but still very good, and thicker grain) to digital, even if adding grain to digital and saying it looks virtually indistinguishable (especially using screengrabs). The nature of film itself, ie it being random in the way it behaves and being an actual chemical reaction means that digital will never"

 

You really think people can tell the difference .. they cant .. they are just going to see a movie.. with a good story and well made.. it doesnt matter them at all if its shot on film or Alexa.. who is the snobbish one here.. .. what is your point if you have one.. film is the only way or digital is ok too.. earlier you say you "hated " false grain .. hate is a strong word seems you have a strong opinion..you even triple dared people to question it.. these are strong terms.. then you say digital is fine and there are tons of films you like shot digitally.. whats it to be .. or keep your worries to yourself... seems Roger Deakins is not losing sleep over it.. but what does he know..

 

While some (if not many) filmmakers might make their films according to certain theories about what some audience can or can't appreciate, there are alternatives to this approach. And it's not at all clear why such alternatives should be considered snobbish. Indeed it seems far far more snobbish to assume audiences can't appreciate alternatives.

 

Much of the research in this area tries to prove there is no difference between A and B, by testing an audience (or someone considered a guru such as Roger Deakins) with some test in which the difference between A and B has been evacuated. Despite the evidence of their own eyes they need some sort of confirmation from a set of strangers, or some nominated guru, locked in a room, that there is no difference between A and B. They then go on to suggest that even though they have completely removed any difference between A and B that we should nevertheless ignore this, and assume it's not possible to create or recreate any difference between A and B.

 

More simply we are asked to treat an audience as deprived guinea pigs, and not only that, entrust those treated in such a way, with decisions that might otherwise be more usefully made by a filmmaker not so debilitated.

 

C

Edited by Carl Looper

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But its all immaterial .. if you are more concerned about the grain/look of a film being film or digital .. in this day and age.. were even Roger Deakins cant tell.. and that is spoiling the film for you.. its a crap film.. and yes 99.9% of the audience will not know the difference.. but they will know if a film is crap or not.. due to the script and or acting..not pixel peeping.. thats it really..

 

There is so much else to be worried about re the state of modern cinema.. eg endless remakes.. endless comic book films .. the death of mid/low budget films .. 250 million dollar films that are absolute and total crap.. even if they are shot on 70mm gold plated camera,s..

 

 

Being concerned about the texture/look of film/video (etc) doesn't mean one is therefore compromising any other aspect of a film: be it the script, the performance, the set design, the costumes, the lighting, the state of cinema, etc.

 

If costume designers are more concerned with costume design than they are the script (etc), that's because they know someone else is looking after the script (etc). It's the costume designer's particular job/passion to be more concerned with the costume design. Are we to suggest they should be any less so?

 

Are we to suggest that anyone on a film should pay any less attention to their particular job or passion on a film?

 

C

Edited by Carl Looper

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Carl nails it once again. It matters, sure, before deciding to shoot film, get the script right, get the cast right, sure, but saying the kind of stuff Robin is implying to a guy like Chris Nolan would probably have him burst out laughing. At least watch the Sundance panel this year (on YT) with Chris Nolan, Colin Trevorrow, Rachel Morrison (DP on Fruitvale Station, Dope, etc) and Alex Ross Perry (Listen Up Philip), then you'll understand why it matters so much to "some" of us.

 

Like Carl says it, some of the implications of this type of thinking (that the audience doesn't know or care (the general audience, I'll give you that one) ) are definitely bothersome. Use the tools how you want to use them, I can't really imagine The Revenant on film (although I kinda wish they could have shot it on 65 mm like they were intending, and Alexa), like I can't imagine Steve Jobs all digital (brilliant use of film as a story device by Alwin Kucher & Danny Boyle), or Breaking Bad on digital, or Lord Of The Rings on digital or whatever. Digital can look gorgeous, but I'm still personally in love, like others, with film at the end of the day because it gives me something digital doesn't, it's not a surprise to me that all my favorite films are shot on film, maybe because I feel more connected to film, and I don't watch a film for it to feel like real life with everything being super sharp and clean, I want that separation, but doesn't mean I don't feel anything when watching something digital, it's just completely different.

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While some (if not many) filmmakers might make their films according to certain theories about what some audience can or can't appreciate, there are alternatives to this approach. And it's not at all clear why such alternatives should be considered snobbish. Indeed it seems far far more snobbish to assume audiences can't appreciate alternatives.

 

Much of the research in this area tries to prove there is no difference between A and B, by testing an audience (or someone considered a guru such as Roger Deakins) with some test in which the difference between A and B has been evacuated. Despite the evidence of their own eyes they need some sort of confirmation from a set of strangers, or some nominated guru, locked in a room, that there is no difference between A and B. They then go on to suggest that even though they have completely removed any difference between A and B that we should nevertheless ignore this, and assume it's not possible to create or recreate any difference between A and B.

 

More simply we are asked to treat an audience as deprived guinea pigs, and not only that, entrust those treated in such a way, with decisions that might otherwise be more usefully made by a filmmaker not so debilitated.

 

C

 

"and you're not one of those snobby "oh no, ugh, comic book superhero films are killing this industry,"

 

 

I was replying to Manu accusing me of being a snob.. for not liking comic book films.. always good to read the posts well ..

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Carl nails it once again. It matters, sure, before deciding to shoot film, get the script right, get the cast right, sure, but saying the kind of stuff Robin is implying to a guy like Chris Nolan would probably have him burst out laughing. At least watch the Sundance panel this year (on YT) with Chris Nolan, Colin Trevorrow, Rachel Morrison (DP on Fruitvale Station, Dope, etc) and Alex Ross Perry (Listen Up Philip), then you'll understand why it matters so much to "some" of us.

 

Like Carl says it, some of the implications of this type of thinking (that the audience doesn't know or care (the general audience, I'll give you that one) ) are definitely bothersome. Use the tools how you want to use them, I can't really imagine The Revenant on film (although I kinda wish they could have shot it on 65 mm like they were intending, and Alexa), like I can't imagine Steve Jobs all digital (brilliant use of film as a story device by Alwin Kucher & Danny Boyle), or Breaking Bad on digital, or Lord Of The Rings on digital or whatever. Digital can look gorgeous, but I'm still personally in love, like others, with film at the end of the day because it gives me something digital doesn't, it's not a surprise to me that all my favorite films are shot on film, maybe because I feel more connected to film, and I don't watch a film for it to feel like real life with everything being super sharp and clean, I want that separation, but doesn't mean I don't feel anything when watching something digital, it's just completely different.

 

 

Sure Im not arguing that film is crap and old fashioned and digital is the only future blah blah.. probably most of the films I like have been shot on film too.. my point was that if you go to see a movie thats shot on digital .. by a competent DP.. if that movie is no good for you because it doesn't look as good as film.. then the movie itself must be crap.. if its a good film you will be taken in for the ride regardless of what its shot on..and that good scripts,and acting is way more important.. and yes I think its going the wrong way with endless tent pole,huge budget remakes and rubbish.. whats up next Batman against Lois Lane .. or Predator V,s Aliens 7.. its dross.. and other "risker " films are not being made .. and Im always right..

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I just shot an interesting interview with Peter Cuneo the former CEO of Marvel. Marvel was in big trouble financially before he came on the scene. He turned the whole franchise around by introducing the "Comic book superhero" movies of today as we know em. They had a very interesting strategy which was to focus on story and character. No leading men or women actors. Keep costs down. (for that genre anyway)

 

That's how we got Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. and Tobey McGuire as Spiderman. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine? I mean, these are not obvious choices at all. So hat's off to Marvel for turning their ship around and making really awesome films that could have been huge trainwrecks. And for putting story and characters first. Give em some credit is all I'm saying.

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