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post #91 of 94 Old 07-02-2006, 06:19 PM
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I'm in the camp of reproducing the original material. If the best available source material is grainy, so be it.

In some cases grain is emphasized for artistic effect. In most cases it is accepted as intrinsic to the film process, but NOT particularly desirable. Note that in recent years film emulsions with less visible grain have been developed. In cinema, and in still photography, large formats are often used for higher quality reproduction with minimal grain.

There are many who contend that 35mm motion picture film has exceptionally high resolution and certainly more than the 1920x1080 HDTV standard. Perhaps this is true of the camera negative, but I doubt very much that it's true of the normal cinema. Note that the exposed film dimensions for a normal 1.85 aspect ratio film are 20.96mm by 11.33mm. Its area is only 27 percent of the area of normal 35mm still cameras (24mm by 36mm).

Having looked at several demonstrations of film clips on HD DVD and on Blu-ray, my sense is that the new discs and players can do a great job of reproducing film grain. (For instance 'Pirates of the Caribbean' on BD.) However, my sense is that there's not really that much more INFORMATION on the film than was shown on a high quality DVD. On the other hand, computer animated films on HD discs (such as 'Chicken Little') do show significantly more information than a DVD.

Upgrading my system to more clearly see film grain (or all the detail in animated films) is not a high priority for me at this time.
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post #92 of 94 Old 08-14-2006, 07:18 PM
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Originally Posted by R Johnson
I'm in the camp of reproducing the original material. If the best available source material is grainy, so be it.

In some cases grain is emphasized for artistic effect. In most cases it is accepted as intrinsic to the film process, but NOT particularly desirable. Note that in recent years film emulsions with less visible grain have been developed. In cinema, and in still photography, large formats are often used for higher quality reproduction with minimal grain.

There are many who contend that 35mm motion picture film has exceptionally high resolution and certainly more than the 1920x1080 HDTV standard. Perhaps this is true of the camera negative, but I doubt very much that it's true of the normal cinema. Note that the exposed film dimensions for a normal 1.85 aspect ratio film are 20.96mm by 11.33mm. Its area is only 27 percent of the area of normal 35mm still cameras (24mm by 36mm).

Having looked at several demonstrations of film clips on HD DVD and on Blu-ray, my sense is that the new discs and players can do a great job of reproducing film grain. (For instance 'Pirates of the Caribbean' on BD.) However, my sense is that there's not really that much more INFORMATION on the film than was shown on a high quality DVD. On the other hand, computer animated films on HD discs (such as 'Chicken Little') do show significantly more information than a DVD.

Upgrading my system to more clearly see film grain (or all the detail in animated films) is not a high priority for me at this time.
I want to preface this post by letting you know that I joined the forum, just this minute, in order to respond to you. I work in the film industry- in fact I am sitting here killing time while my Avid digitizes dailies footage. I am qualified to tell you that you are mistaken about the fidelity of HD. I'm sure that you will be upset, or offended by this, and I am sure that you will tell yourself (and maybe you'll loudly tell everyone else) that I am a huge jerk for coming in here and acting high and mighty. I don't care.

DVD has been a blessing to us all- the consumers of art, and the producers of it. I don't need to elaborate on that point. But it has also hurt us. The enormous leap in quality from VHS to DVD, and now to HD home video formats, has created a growing class of folks like you: people who prefer the presentation in their homes to the presentation in their local theaters. I can't tell you how many times I hear "It looks so much better at home on my TV" or "Isn't film dying because digital technology has finally caught up to it?" In fact, I myself *often* prefer to watch movies at home on my non-calibrated (old) 4:3 27" TV rather than in the theater, because DVD's surpass what I see at the local megaplex. They really do. How is this possible? Bad projection. That's it, that's all there is to it. I often come out of a film at the theater feeling totally disgusted by the projection. More than anything else, the intensity of the bulb's brightness is what is responsible for delivering the true potential of projected film- assuming that you've got focus! And far more often than not, the bulb is so dim that the projected image is horribly, horribly compromised. The saddest thing in the world to me is hearing people rave about how much better theatrical DLP looks than "regular" film projection. It's ridiculous that the standards of projection have sunk so low.

35mm anamorphic films use the entire 22mm by 19mm frame, and 1.85:1 "flat" films don't use that much less. Still, the difference is enough that some directors prefer anamorphic for the extra "resolution". Certainly the difference between 'scope and Super 35 is even greater. But even 2-perf methods like those used by Leone offer "resolution" that is far, far superior to HD (and equivalent to a matted 2.39 Super 35 image.) Today's best telecine machines still aren't capturing all of the detail present in 35mm film- even at resolutions like 6k. There is much more "INFORMATION" (to use your word) present on the negative, and on the prints, than you can see at 1080p at home. Unfortunately, these days many films are color graded during this digital intermediate phase- the 2k or 4k telecined scans are manipulated in a computer, then "filmed" back out to 35mm for the theatrical prints. So when you are seeing a movie projected in theater you are often already seeing an HD video version that has been transferred to film. These theatrical prints do not rival the quality of a print struck from the original camera negative. The net result of this is that our perception of what 35mm has to offer when projected is further degraded.

What's happening in this thread is that people are confusing real film grain (which can be projected onto HUGE screens in the theater and never look "GRAINY OMG") with film deterioration or damage. There is a difference. I am also 100% certain that most of the "grain" that people complain about when they are looking at HD is video noise. I recently finished a job where every single day, Technicolor would telecine our dailes and deliver an SD downconvert for us to digitize and cut in the Avid, and an HD downconvert (1080p) for us to screen on an HD CRT monitor. We also looked at projected film dailes in private screening rooms. The film looked about 1000 times better than the HD video. Remember that this was film that had been shot and developed the day before. There was no chance for it to age. It was pristine. The HD looked "grainy" and many untrained eyes would have assumed that this "grain" started at the source. It didn't- it was digital noise.

I really hope that this argument goes away when all of the kinks have been ironed out of home HD technology. It will always be appropriate to try to restore and clean up aged, damaged film. But to want to see a picture that has had all of its original grain digitally smoothed out is absolutely insane. I will agree with you that the jump from 480 to 1080 doesn't isn't very compelling at this point. Maybe that will change as they get the hang of it. Maybe not- 1080 could be a 'tweener resolution. I'm not convinced this generation of video technology, or the next, will ever be able to reproduce the effect of a properly projected piece of film. The dynamic range isn't even close, nor is the detail. In fact, the image reflected off the theater screen doesn't compare to what you can see when you look at the negative itself on a lightbox. You are also correct when you say that most of the time filmmakers do not wish to emphasize the grain. However, grain is what makes film look so radically different from video. Very, very few professional filmmakers prefer video. As I said, it can not capture or reproduce anything close to what film can.
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post #93 of 94 Old 08-15-2006, 03:10 AM
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Originally Posted by ethanbhenerey
I In fact, I myself *often* prefer to watch movies at home on my non-calibrated (old) 4:3 27" TV rather than in the theater, because DVD's surpass what I see at the local megaplex. They really do. How is this possible? Bad projection. That's it, that's all there is to it.
No, that is not all there is to it.
There are several other issues at work (for DVD and HD sources):
- How large is the picture relative to the viewer? (Often larger in the cinema, higher magnification factor -> problems better visible)
- Home cinema can have far better contrast than cinemas (when using CRTs or high contrast DLP or SXRD)
- Home cinema sources are mastered from lower generation elements than normal release prints (which are made from >= 3th generation material), usually first or second generation. Big advantage.
- For many new films the HD and the release print come from the same digital master and the HD is direct digital while the release print has >= 2 more analogue copying stages added. That degrades quality.
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35mm anamorphic films use the entire 22mm by 19mm frame, and 1.85:1 "flat" films don't use that much less. Still, the difference is enough that some directors prefer anamorphic for the extra "resolution". Certainly the difference between 'scope and Super 35 is even greater. But even 2-perf methods like those used by Leone offer "resolution" that is far, far superior to HD (and equivalent to a matted 2.39 Super 35 image.) Today's best telecine machines still aren't capturing all of the detail present in 35mm film- even at resolutions like 6k.
That is very debatable. And it refers exclusively to the original camera negative and nothing else, especially not any regular prints. You can scan at 20K and claim there is detail missing at the edge of grain clusters. There is almost infinite detail in grain but it's irrelevant to actual visible picture information when watching the film. 4K is more than enough to capture 35mm detail that can make it to a print from this negative.
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There is much more "INFORMATION" (to use your word) present on the negative, and on the prints, than you can see at 1080p at home.
Which prints? Assuming the best prints possible you are right. There is more spatial information and color depth and the color gamut is bigger as well. The difference to 2K 'data' using the new color standard for digital cinema is not big, though, and 4K data is more than adequate to capture the content of a 35mm negative.
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Unfortunately, these days many films are color graded during this digital intermediate phase- the 2k or 4k telecined scans are manipulated in a computer, then "filmed" back out to 35mm for the theatrical prints. So when you are seeing a movie projected in theater you are often already seeing an HD video version that has been transferred to film.
A digital intermediate is neither HD nor video unless it was made using HD formats (some are). In general a digital intermediate is digital film, data.
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These theatrical prints do not rival the quality of a print struck from the original camera negative. The net result of this is that our perception of what 35mm has to offer when projected is further degraded.
On many cases I would agree. But not on principle. A print made from a negative from a 4K data source must not look worse than a direct print from the negative.
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I recently finished a job where every single day, Technicolor would telecine our dailes and deliver an SD downconvert for us to digitize and cut in the Avid, and an HD downconvert (1080p) for us to screen on an HD CRT monitor. We also looked at projected film dailes in private screening rooms. The film looked about 1000 times better than the HD video.
What are you comparing here? HD on a CRT monitor versus 35mm projection? HD on a 2K DLP versus 35mm projection? How exactly looked the film better?
I have seen my share of prints from the camera negative, regular prints, 2K DLP screenings, 70mm screenings, 4K SXRD, home cinema presentations upto 1080p on DLP, SXRD, CRT, LCD.
I agree that beating a top print from the camera negative with a digital projection or a print that had a digital stage in between is at the border of technical feasability. Current digital projectors are not good enough yet. The problem is not the digital data if done properly. It's the rendering of the source. And many digital data masters are done badly to begin with. When digital is involved there is potential for greatness but in reality it's often the opposite, digital screws the quality up and the DI should have been thrown in the garbage can (e.g. redone from scratch).
But as > 99% of all screenings are not with prints form the camera negtive the actual situation is not so clear cut and shortcomings from the digital route and the analogue route add up in various ways to the final product. And as realities are the best looking version I can access is usually indeed the 1080p HD watched on a CRT projector or 1080p high contrast SXRD and not some print. It is cleaner, has less noise/grain, far better contrast, better stability, good color (not identical to top print though) and good sharpness/detail. Watched on typical home cinema screens (upto 2-4m) the shortcomings (compression, color subsampling, 8 bit) are minor.
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But to want to see a picture that has had all of its original grain digitally smoothed out is absolutely insane. I will agree with you that the jump from 480 to 1080 doesn't isn't very compelling at this point. Maybe that will change as they get the hang of it. .
That jump is very compelling in my experience. 1080i is 1080p anyway after inverse telecine which is possible for all properly done film based content. Well done 1080p looks great and film like on a good 1080p projector. DVD never does due to lack of resolution and digital processing can't help it.
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post #94 of 94 Old 08-26-2006, 05:10 PM
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ethanbhenerey: Far from being upset or offended, I'm flattered that you found my comments of enough interest to join the forum in order to respond.

But I'm confused when you say that I'm "mistaken about the fidelity of HD." I think I only said that the HD discs seem to reproduce film grain quite well. (And that for me, that characteristic didn't justify a system upgrade.)

I do wonder how my post lead you to conclude that I belong to the "growing class of folks ... who prefer the presentation in their homes to the presentation in their local theaters." Perhaps it's because many AVS Forum members have expressed that point of view. I enjoy both types of presentations. The quality and selection of films available in the home is such that it takes something special to get me to the local theater.

Since 1998 when I bought a DVD player, I've become far more interested in films than ever before. At the end of 2002 I bought an entry level front projection system. Since then, after returning from a movie theater, my feeling has almost always been that a good DVD on my system is "not disappointing." One exception - after seeing "Master and Commander" shown with a 1280x1024 DLP Cinema, it was "I need more pixels." I AM in the group who prefer DLP Cinema presentations.

When watching regular movies in a theater, I certainly notice the grain. I don't find it objectionable, but its visibility implies a limit to the "information" content in motion picture film. I will be very interested to see the HD versions of some of the classic films which were shot on 65/70mm stocks!

Over the air HD video on my modest system clearly appears to have more detail than even the best DVDs. However, I certainly do prefer the "look" of film to video for telling stories. Your statement that "grain is what makes film look so radically different from video" seems an oversimplification.

To make an analogy with still photography: I'd been hoping that moving from DVD to HD discs would be like moving from 35mm to medium format. Changing from NTSC to HDTV video IS like that to my eyes. But I have found the difference for 35mm movies on DVD versus HD DVD or Blu-ray to be far less dramatic. It seems to me that the 35mm film source is the limitation. Heresy in these parts, but that's my opinion.

In summary, all I want from the new HD disc formats is to reproduce the source material as well as possible. It the 35mm film source has grain, so be it. Naturally, I'd prefer to minimize or eliminate video noise and artifacts.

... Back to reading the September issue of 'American Cinematographer' that just arrived today.
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