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It's 2021 and digital capture still looks like sh


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it. But wait, don't send me hate mail just yet! I wanted to get your attention. No, digital cameras generally do not look like shit. If they did, then nobody would shoot with them. So relax. But, for a lot of situations, film is still the mature choice, and I'm not just talking about subjective metrics. Here, I'm going to prove it.

Have a look at this commercial for Michelin:

There's nothing (terribly) wrong with it, really. Apart from the fact that nobody corrected the barrel distortion in post (WTF is post for, anyway?). Oh, and the fact that nobody seems to know how to fix the light source problem. It's very distracting. Have a look at the tail lights of the vehicles at 0:07 and 1:17.

This is just the way it is for the moment, but I wonder if anyone has solved this problem? I am aware that you can massively underexpose RAW files, far more than you think you can. But, you need the light to do it. And you need a camera that shoots RAW.

I've seen all kinds of projects, high end, low end, commercial, narrative, ARRI shoots, Red shoots, what have you. They all fail. The only kind of film that fails this situation is CineStill, which is Vision3 with the Remjet removed, and packaged in 135 cassettes.

Perhaps one day, digital cameras will solve this problem. I do look forward to that day, although part of me doesn't want digital to dominate 100%. But, technology progresses.

So, DPs of the Internet: what say you? 

Edited by Karim D. Ghantous
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Seriously? Aren’t you tired of the old ‘film vs digital’ debate yet?

I get the feeling Stuart, that fact-based responses by experienced cinematographers like yourself and Satsuki are somehow not welcome in this thread.    Well, points for self belief I gues

It's irritating because it's been essentially the same argument over and over since at least 2008. Nothing new is ever said. No-one ever changes their mind. A complete waste of bandwidth. At leas

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We're closer to digital figuring out how to solve ugly RGB clipping than we are to film becoming convenient and affordable.

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I love film, but this example is nicely shot. The two things that still bug me about digital are clipped highlights and rolling shutter, and I do think I see a little of both in your example.

For a more apples-to-simulated-apples approach, maybe take a look at "Knives Out," where the filmmakers went out of their way to get a film look from a digital camera. I think they got really close.

On the plus side, digital is often better than film for low light situations. And Red now has a semi-affordable camera with a global shutter.

So as soon as they get those highlights figured out, digital will be in pretty good shape!

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film cameras are rolling shutter ..  07 is just a refection of a filter .. the same would happen on film .. very old argument that holds no water these days ..Karim with respect .. are you actually a DP ?  do you use Digital cameras professionally  ..

Edited by Robin R Probyn
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2 hours ago, Max Field said:

We're closer to digital figuring out how to solve ugly RGB clipping than we are to film becoming convenient and affordable.

I think so. Has anyone tried HDRX for this kind of situation? Does it work?

 

1 hour ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

Seriously? Aren’t you tired of the old ‘film vs digital’ debate yet?

How would you solve this problem? I'd like to know. You can't do two passes on uncontrolled, moving subjects, and you can't always shoot film. Perhaps a transparent LCD in front of the lens that takes live input from the sensor?

 

12 minutes ago, Chance Shirley said:

I love film, but this example is nicely shot. The two things that still bug me about digital are clipped highlights and rolling shutter, and I do think I see a little of both in your example.

For a more apples-to-simulated-apples approach, maybe take a look at "Knives Out," where the filmmakers went out of their way to get a film look from a digital camera. I think they got really close.

On the plus side, digital is often better than film for low light situations. And Red now has a semi-affordable camera with a global shutter.

So as soon as they get those highlights figured out, digital will be in pretty good shape!

I think you're right for the most part. Rolling shutter is solved. And there are LUTs that actually look good. Red's DSMC3 system could be very, very interesting when it's released.

Personally I'm not a huge fan of the way this commercial was shot, but that has nothing to do with the camera. I just don't think it has enough commercial-ness in it. It's not terrible, but it's not what I expect. That digital zoom shot, if you noticed it, stuck out too much. And sometimes I felt like I was watching a car commercial (I know, you can't have tyres without cars!).

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5 hours ago, Max Field said:

We're closer to digital figuring out how to solve ugly RGB clipping

We might be there already. But that's not the issue, I think. I think the challenge for digital are the few stops in the highlights before clipping. You can see that clearly with a human face cross lit (especially with a hard light). 

To be more precise though the issue is not digital per se. It is cmos sensors in particular. Every new one just looks the same as the old ones with only more resolution. The old Sony F35 is still, to my eyes, the most beautiful digital image. Old CCD technology. I think if research were carried in that direction (whether more advanced CCD or an entirely new technology), the debate would have been over my now and digital would have surpassed film in image quality. I really suspect that companies placing all their bets on continuous cmos development will get us stuck for a while on the same quality of image. Resolution and dynamic range will continue to improve. But that will be it.  

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3 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

😆 🤣 😂

So you think it isn't  .. and your the film camera  guy ..  ooopps you did it again .. 

Edited by Robin R Probyn
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Is it time for another film vs digital debate? Wow, they come around so quickly, don't they?

Karim, setting aside the clickbait title of the thread, and the fact that your complaint about barrel distortion has nothing to do with the format the clip was shot on, you're talking about an old and well-known issue with digital cameras. You're using a fairly mediocre looking clip to illustrate this argument, and one where we have no idea what camera system was used. Both shots in that video show ugly clipping of an overexposed rear light, which could easily be mitigated by stopping down the aperture and then raising the ambient light levels of the shot to compensate. Controlling contrast ratios is something we do all the time with both film and video. Ugly artifacts from the extremes of exposure are not confined to digital video, as anyone who has ever tried to lift up a heavily underexposed shadow area on film will tell you. Both film and digital have their achilles heels, and constantly comparing them, then complaining that X is not Y really serves no purpose.

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14 hours ago, Karim D. Ghantous said:

How would you solve this problem?

Frankly, this is not a camera problem. This is a conflict between your taste as a viewer and the cinematographer’s taste.

Modern high sensitivity digital cameras allow us to expose brighter at lower light levels. As a consequence of exposing brighter, practicals and light sources like car tail lights will clip. Highlights on color negative film are not infinite either, they will also burn out if given enough exposure.

That’s an exposure choice, which depends on taste and judgement. One could just as easily not raise the ISO and expose to keep that highlight detail. But then that would require the DP to actually light the scene with large units to have shadow and midtone detail, like you do with film...

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15 hours ago, Raymond Zananiri said:

To be more precise though the issue is not digital per se. It is cmos sensors in particular. Every new one just looks the same as the old ones with only more resolution. The old Sony F35 is still, to my eyes, the most beautiful digital image. Old CCD technology. I think if research were carried in that direction (whether more advanced CCD or an entirely new technology), the debate would have been over my now and digital would have surpassed film in image quality. I really suspect that companies placing all their bets on continuous cmos development will get us stuck for a while on the same quality of image. Resolution and dynamic range will continue to improve. But that will be it.  

Interesting comment. I mean, CCDs can give nicer images out-of-camera, but all you need is a LUT, and your CMOS image now looks pretty much the same. But, that's not a technology thing, it's an aesthetic thing. I am also led to believe that some CCDs have global shutters, although I'm not sure.

I don't know if you ever followed the Leica M9 vs M 240 debate? It's true that the M9 had nicer colour OOC, not to mention a more natural sharpness, but you could wrangle the colour from the M 240 to look pretty much the same. The M 240 also had more DR, which may have contributed to the 'thinner' OOC look. But on a tech level, the CCD vs CMOS debate is very interesting.

 

10 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

You're using a fairly mediocre looking clip to illustrate this argument, and one where we have no idea what camera system was used.

The camera used here was probably something like a GH5. But they all behave like this - so far. You'd think someone would have solved this problem by now. I guess I'll have to come up with my own high level solution, and if I do before someone else does, I'll post it on this site.

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31 minutes ago, Karim D. Ghantous said:

Interesting comment. I mean, CCDs can give nicer images out-of-camera, but all you need is a LUT, and your CMOS image now looks pretty much the same. But, that's not a technology thing, it's an aesthetic thing. I am also led to believe that some CCDs have global shutters, although I'm not sure.

I don't know if you ever followed the Leica M9 vs M 240 debate? It's true that the M9 had nicer colour OOC, not to mention a more natural sharpness, but you could wrangle the colour from the M 240 to look pretty much the same. The M 240 also had more DR, which may have contributed to the 'thinner' OOC look. But on a tech level, the CCD vs CMOS debate is very interesting.

 

The camera used here was probably something like a GH5. But they all behave like this - so far. You'd think someone would have solved this problem by now. I guess I'll have to come up with my own high level solution, and if I do before someone else does, I'll post it on this site.

Out of curiosity regarding the RGB clipping - how would one fix it? From my understanding the white clipping stems from all RGBG photo sites being fully saturated (full, unable to interpret more incoming data) and therefore interpreting it as white light.

Surely the only way to fix it would be to increase the physical size of said photo site (something camera manufacturers are doing the opposite of). 

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In reality most of this ad would have never been possible to achieve on the budget this one has if it was shot on film. 

People are quick to romanticize film, but the reality is film shoots and the look of film also relies on ‘film’ budgets in lighting and gripping to support it. Spend the same on a digital shoot and you can get a lot more bang for your buck. 

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7 hours ago, Karim D. Ghantous said:

You'd think someone would have solved this problem by now. 

They have. It’s called exposing for highlights.

Both film and digital work best within a certain dynamic range. Often this means that a shot must be lit properly in order to look the way we want it to. Too many people assume that because digital cameras have high iso capability, they don’t need lighting. So they shoot scenes in ways that they would never dream of with film, and then complain that digital doesn’t look as good. The idea that a poorly lit and exposed shot will somehow look great just because it’s shot on film can be debunked by just a few minutes of looking at some of the awful film footage available for all to see on YouTube.

A few years back, there was a semi serious suggestion on this site that we should have an unofficial ban on Film vs Digital discussions. The general feeling was that they contribute absolutely nothing worthwhile and just start pointless arguments. It was true then, it’s even more true now.

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9 hours ago, Karim D. Ghantous said:

I mean, CCDs can give nicer images out-of-camera, but all you need is a LUT, and your CMOS image now looks pretty much the same.

It's not just color Karim. It's the subtle gradation between one tonal value to the next, in the highlights. To my eyes, I see a more "rounded" or dimensional image with the F35. For some reason, cmos sensors tend to bunch nearby tonal values together and the result is a flatter image. Check this clip:

The F35 was produced to replace film and cost $250,000 when it was released. It failed commercially and only a few hundred units were produced. Cmos proved to be a much better choice from the cost point of view. What we need is perhaps an entirely new technology to replace both. 

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8 hours ago, Gabriel Devereux said:

Out of curiosity regarding the RGB clipping - how would one fix it?

I don't know how on a sensor level, but perhaps I do on a high level. I am not in a position to do any experimenting just now, but in the medium term future I will be able to. Unless, of course, someone else beats me to it.

8 hours ago, Matthew Parnell said:

In reality most of this ad would have never been possible to achieve on the budget this one has if it was shot on film. 

True.

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13 minutes ago, Raymond Zananiri said:

It's not just color Karim. It's the subtle gradation between one tonal value to the next, in the highlights. To my eyes, I see a more "rounded" or dimensional image with the F35. For some reason, cmos sensors tend to bunch nearby tonal values together and the result is a flatter image. Check this clip:

The F35 was produced to replace film and cost $250,000 when it was released. It failed commercially and only a few hundred units were produced. Cmos proved to be a much better choice from the cost point of view. What we need is perhaps an entirely new technology to replace both. 

The scene you showed me is not the best way to show off a digital camera! But I did check out two further scenes from this film and I certainly cannot fault the colour and tonality. I looked up the specs and oh boy this camera is huge. I believe that people also liked the F65, which also didn't do that well commercially. 

Maybe both types of sensor will be replaced. I am pretty sure that Sigma is going to give us a new Foveon sensor eventually. It will probably be a CMOS but maybe eliminating the Bayer array is the key. I know little about electronics so I have no idea what could replace CMOS. I bet that Sony will lead the way on that one.

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16 hours ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

Frankly, this is not a camera problem.
That’s an exposure choice, which depends on taste and judgement.

 

4 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

They have. It’s called exposing for highlights.

I get the feeling Stuart, that fact-based responses by experienced cinematographers like yourself and Satsuki are somehow not welcome in this thread. 

 

11 hours ago, Karim D. Ghantous said:

You'd think someone would have solved this problem by now. I guess I'll have to come up with my own high level solution, and if I do before someone else does, I'll post it on this site.

Well, points for self belief I guess.

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On 2/26/2021 at 6:05 AM, Robin R Probyn said:

 07 is just a refection of a filter .. 

I suppose Karim was referring to the clipped highlight on the actual tail light, which turned white-yellow-red, not the red ghosting above it. What's worse, after grading (and "extinguishing" the blown out part), the white area turned slightly cyan. 

 

image.png

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if all the new digital movies look like crap then people should only watch the old movies shot before 2002 or so and completely ignore any newer stuff just because it is shot digitally?

Nowadays I feel that most of the film vs digital arguments are about pure nostalgics vs. practicality and not about the aesthetics or "image quality" (which are just used as excuses to justify the different opinions).

the other thing is that people who have no possibility to shoot their own projects on film (or who THINK they don't have that possibility) are claiming that everyone else should make the same choices they would like to do (to always shoot film whether it is practical for the project or not) and then making up all kind of excuses why film is the only right choice for all the projects out there

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Eh, in my opinion, the only thing digital capture did was to make viable content that would have never been created in the first place. 

Now on Wendesday, I'm gaffing a commercial for a new client and we are shooting on the Pocket 6k.   Does the client have the money to make a spot on film? Probably.  Would they rather find a DP who can shoot it for 1/10th the cost? Of course.  Do they care? No.

Following that, I'm prepping a feature which is 90% digital, and the director specifically asked to shoot 16mm for a specific sequence because it needs to look visually very different.  Could we do it in post? Yes.  Would it cost more? Probably. Do they care? Yes. 

I believe at this point its no longer about cost.  Producers always love to pay on the back end, and hard up front costs (film stock and lab fees) always make producers nervous.  If the  budget will support it, I always fight to shoot on film, because its my preferred medium. 

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