Watched a Movie on 35mm Film Projector Last Night! - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 06-07-2014, 10:32 AM - Thread Starter
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Waiting in the mall last night I decided to walk up to the box office of a certain theater and ask if they had any more film projectors. She said no but one of their other theaters might. Sure enough she called to check and says yeah they have a 35mm or something. I drove a little ways to watch and the whole experience was like going back in time. The theater had the old school seating, speakers, projector. I watched Edge of Tomorrow and when the previews and film started I thought the movie looked soft as if it had a filter and the colors more muted, the picture almost seemed out of focus. Is this because digital is so much sharper and colors more bright? Maybe my eyes have become accustomed to digital which I seem to prefer for sharpness. Whatever the case it was definitely an interesting experience and a fun blast from the past.
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post #2 of 22 Old 06-07-2014, 02:09 PM
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While I prefer a great digital projection to 35mm film, I have had the pleasure of attending screenings at the Warner Bros. screening room, where a professional projectionist showed that there is an art to projecting film. The image was stable on both occasions and right up there with a good digital projection on most every count. However, a great digital projector, setup properly is nothing 35mm will ever meet.

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post #3 of 22 Old 06-09-2014, 10:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by levy07 View Post

I watched Edge of Tomorrow and when the previews and film started I thought the movie looked soft as if it had a filter and the colors more muted, the picture almost seemed out of focus. Is this because digital is so much sharper and colors more bright? Maybe my eyes have become accustomed to digital which I seem to prefer for sharpness.

Edge of Tomorrow was photographed on 35mm but then scanned digitally. All post-production work was completed on a Digital Intermediate (probably 2k resolution, possibly 4k). Any 35mm theatrical prints would be based on a film-out from the DI.

The print that your theater receives is several generations removed from the original source, which typically makes the image softer and grainier.

The DCP that a digital theater projects, on the other hand, arrives in uncompressed JPEG 2000 format and should be an exact match for the Digital Intermediate, with no generational quality loss.

It's also very possible that your theater may have projected the print out of focus. This is pretty common. Few theaters today employ trained projectionists at all, much less projectionists skilled with 35mm.

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post #4 of 22 Old 06-09-2014, 06:55 PM - Thread Starter
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I was wondering about that. I used to work in a theater and didn't remember them being that soft, almost like having a filter over the image.
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post #5 of 22 Old 06-09-2014, 06:58 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Dbuudo07 View Post

While I prefer a great digital projection to 35mm film, I have had the pleasure of attending screenings at the Warner Bros. screening room, where a professional projectionist showed that there is an art to projecting film. The image was stable on both occasions and right up there with a good digital projection on most every count. However, a great digital projector, setup properly is nothing 35mm will ever meet.

What about the sound, any difference?
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post #6 of 22 Old 06-10-2014, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by levy07 View Post

What about the sound, any difference?

Digital theaters will have a decided edge here. They use uncompressed PCM.

The Dolby, Datasat (formerly DTS) or SDDS tracks attached to 35mm prints are highly compressed, less even than DVD quality.

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post #7 of 22 Old 06-17-2014, 08:13 PM
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Still, I remember all the groaning and complaints around here when the digital switchover began. People swore that film and the look of film was the standard of comparison. Now most people are like levy07, they see a film print and it doesn't compare well with the digital standards they have become accustomed to.

Some of us always liked digital, of course. I haven't looked back since I built my first HTPC and got my first digital projector in 1999. But then I had an analog triple CRT projector and "line doubler" in 1984, and my first projection screen was a queen-sized white bedsheet tacked to my basement wall, and stereo sound from my VHS deck.

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post #8 of 22 Old 06-17-2014, 09:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Gary McCoy View Post
Still, I remember all the groaning and complaints around here when the digital switchover began. People swore that film and the look of film was the standard of comparison.
Well, it was the standard of comparison. Digital didn't always look as good as it does now. Technology evolves.
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post #9 of 22 Old 06-18-2014, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by benes View Post
Yes it does but its *always* looked better than film. I saw one of the first public DLP screenings in 1999 which was only 1024x768 and it already looked better than any film projection I had ever seen. And its only improved since then while film is still the same as it was 100 years ago.

Film sucks. Period. Even 70mm is now superseded by 4K and soon 8K.
No. Just no.

Early digital projection in theaters largely looked like garbage with terribly pixelated imagery at seating distances in the first 2/3 of the theater.

The quality of digital projection has gone up enormously since then, while the quality of 35mm projection has gone dramatically down (since the people employed by theaters today have no idea to do it properly). The quality of a 35mm print you'll see projected today will look nowhere near as good as the quality of a 35mm print projected in a good theater with a trained projectionist during the peak days of the format.

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post #10 of 22 Old 06-18-2014, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by benes View Post
I don't care how "trained" a projectionist is there is no magic he can perform on a 4th generation print that barely has more resolution and contrast than a DVD.
It's rather apparent that you've never seen a high quality film print projected by people who know how to do it properly. I have. Specifically, I attended a side by side comparison at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences some years. It was easy to see that digital hadn't quite caught up yet. I doubt you've seen such a comparison.
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post #11 of 22 Old 06-18-2014, 03:45 PM
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Originally Posted by benes View Post
I don't care how "trained" a projectionist is there is no magic he can perform on a 4th generation print that barely has more resolution and contrast than a DVD.
Sorry, this is just factually wrong. A clean 35mm print on a properly calibrated and maintained projector has better contrast and resolution than 2k Digital Cinema, and to compare it to DVD is a joke. 4K D-Cinema gets you pretty close. No digital system yet can hold a candle to 5-perf 70mm or 15-perf IMAX film.

That said - since virtually all movies now go through a 2K Digital Intermediate, and since we don't live in a world of perfectly clean film prints and perfectly maintained projectors, I will concede that for most movie-goers, most of the time, Digital Cinema provides a better presentation than did film projection.
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post #12 of 22 Old 06-18-2014, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by benes View Post
99.99% of the audience has never seen these "high quality" prints.
Doesn't change the facts of the comparison.
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post #13 of 22 Old 06-19-2014, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by benes View Post
I don't care how "trained" a projectionist is there is no magic he can perform on a 4th generation print that barely has more resolution and contrast than a DVD.

I don't know why people find this so hard to accept. Digital is and always has been better than film just like your iPhone is and always has been better than a rotary dial.
Early digital projection barely had more resolution or contrast than a DVD. How do DVDs look when you blow them up to project on a 50-foot screen? That's what early digital projection was like.

I will concede that digital projection is currently better than 35mm projection. Given great advances in digital and the sad state of 35mm at present (poor quality prints produced only as an afterthought, poorly maintained projectors in most theaters, a complete lack of trained projectionists who know how to handle it), digital projection is usually far better than 35mm.

That's today. To say that digital "always has been better than film" is just factually inaccurate to the actual history of both formats.

It's kind of like saying that Blu-ray discs have always looked amazing, while conveniently ignoring that the first wave of discs in 2006 were almost universally terrible, and it took the format a year to shape up and get its act together.

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post #14 of 22 Old 06-21-2014, 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by benes View Post
Oh really? Anything to back this up other than more hot air? I see you are one of those people still living under the laughable delusion that film prints are 4k. Most of the time even the original negative isn't approaching that resolution. By the time it gets to your local theater you'll be lucky if it even approaches 720p.

Here is some real data to actually back up what I am saying:

http://www.etconsult.com/papers/Tech...Resolution.pdf

Here is the important part:

It should be noted that this data is widely discredi
ted by the film communi
ty – the numbers that
resulted from looking at test patterns did not m
easure up to the resolution that is widely believed
to exist on film. On the other hand, none of the
discrediting parties has published any test results
that show better performance. Politics cloud the science.
Here is a link to the original ITU-R document that the ETC Consultant paper refers to: http://www.motionfx.gr/files/35mm_re...on_english.pdf

If you read through carefully, you'll see they agree with Kodak that the effective imaging resolution of the negative is ~2100 lines of resolution per picture height, and that of the IP and answer print is ~1400 lines of resolution - considerably more than the 1080 lines of 2K D-Cinema. The measured value on the release print averaged 1000 lines, and as the ETC consultants pointed out the perceived resolution on playback of the release print comes in more at the ~700 range.

I live in Los Angeles, and although I am not an industry insider as such I am fortunate in that back when 35mm was the standard release format, the high profile venues here were typically given EK show prints, and they had absolutely stunning image quality. I am in total agreement with you that the typical release print, at the typical multiplex, left a lot to be desired, and that the situation has improved with the advent of D-Cinema. My only quarrel is with the assertion that film is inherently a worse medium than digital, when the numbers above and my personal viewing experience indicate otherwise.

A final note (and I am aware that an anecdote is not data, but it's a good story): Wally Pfister was asked at CinemaCon this year about his continued allegiance to 35mm film. He related that on Transcendence he shot on 35mm and did a photochemical finish for the 35mm release prints. He also did a 4K Digital Intermediate and 4K DCP for distribution. He was intimately involved with the color timing on both. When everything was finished, he was relieved to find that he and his cinematographer were very pleased with the 4K DCP; but when they screened the 35mm answer print they both agreed that the 35mm print still looked better than the 4K DCP.

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post #15 of 22 Old 06-23-2014, 11:01 AM
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I remember going to see Attack of the Clones in digital projection in 2002. At the time, it's wide distribution in digital was trumpeted as a showpiece for what the future of cinema would look like.

It looked like crap. On a large screen with seats in the middle of the auditorium, pixel structure was painfully evident and distracting throughout. The 35mm prints of the movie (even though they were film-outs from the DI) looked much better. The digital projectors at the time just didn't have the resolution to hold up on the big screen.

I really have no disagreement that digital projection is currently better than 35mm, but your continued insistence that it has always been better than 35mm is just plain false, and you really need to stop spreading that lie.

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post #16 of 22 Old 06-23-2014, 05:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by benes View Post
I also saw both movies digitally at the AMC Burbank in 1999 (1K at the time) and the Sony Metreon in 2002 (2K most likely) respectively. To start with I wasn't silly enough to sit in the front row. Pro-tip: the best seating in any theater is usually just past the halfway point. But I was blown away by how much better each one looked. I saw so much more detail it was like watching them for the first time.
Pro-tip: Reading is fundamental.

"On a large screen with seats in the middle of the auditorium,"

Not front row. Middle of the auditorium. M-I-D-D-L-E.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/middle?s=t

middle
mid·dle
[mid-l]
adjective
1. equally distant from the extremes or outer limits; central: the middle point of a line; the middle singer in a trio.


As for the rest, you and I just have very different standards, and we'll leave it at that.

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post #17 of 22 Old 06-23-2014, 07:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by benes View Post
If it can't give a quality experience to more than 0.001% of the audience it is absolutely an inferior medium. This thread is about the normal movie-going experience not about negatives, answer prints, and Hollywood screening rooms.

Imagine if Blu-rays were only sold at 1080p to Hollywood insiders while the rest of the world unknowingly got 720p. Which one do you think we would judge the format by?
As long as we're trotting out ripple effect factors beyond measurable resolution, contrast, pixel numbers, etc., to judge which medium was or is superior in providing a better quality movie-going experience for an audience, I'll side with the medium used to produce THE WIZARD OF OZ, TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, THE GODFATHER, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, WEST SIDE STORY, etc. over the medium used to produce THE PHANTOM MENACE, ATTACK OF THE CLONES and just about any other digital-based product you got.

Just My Humble Opinion, of course.
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post #18 of 22 Old 06-23-2014, 08:42 PM
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Originally Posted by benes View Post
Sorry I forgot I was talking to the guy who has photographic recall of every movie he's ever seen and also apparently has super vision. Even on the 1K projection the pixels weren't visible until I went right up to the screen.

99% of digital cinemas are still only showing 2K movies so I don't know what you think has changed since 2002. In fact they are almost exactly the same resolution as a blu-ray.

And just for the record you ARE the same guy who couldn't recognize obvious upconverted Blu-ray transfers right?
Are you really still holding a grudge over a stupid argument from seven years ago? Did I hurt your feelings that badly? Geez, would you like a hug or something?

Just for the record, no, you are misremembering the details of that argument - just as you are misremembering what early 1k digital projection looked like on a 50-foot theater screen.

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Last edited by Josh Z; 06-26-2014 at 10:38 AM.
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post #19 of 22 Old 06-26-2014, 06:17 AM
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Ahem, getting back to the topic of the thread: 35mm distribution prints are still commonly available, they have not yet been surpassed by Digital Cinema as the most common option for distribution.

The thing most people fail to realize is that the old Hollywood standards of optical special effects, frame-by-frame editing and splicing, and even optical screen credits have all been replaced by digital mastering. For example the "Best Picture" nominees for the 2014 Academy Awards:

America Hustle (2013)
Cinematographic Process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format)
Distribution Prints: 35 mm (anamorphic) and D-Cinema

Captain Phillips (2013)
Cinematographic Process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format)
Distribution Prints: 35 mm (anamorphic) and D-Cinema

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Cinematographic Process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format)
Distribution Prints: 35 mm (anamorphic) and D-Cinema

Gravity (2013)
Cinematographic Process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format)
Distribution Prints: 35 mm (anamorphic) and D-Cinema

Her (2013)
Cinematographic Process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format)
Distribution Prints: 35 mm (spherical) and D-Cinema

Nebraska (2013)
Cinematographic Process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format)
Distribution Prints: 35 mm (? - all B&W) and D-Cinema

Philomena (2013)
Cinematographic Process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format)
Distribution Prints: 35 mm (spherical) and D-Cinema

12 Years a Slave (2013)
Cinematographic Process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format)
Distribution Prints: 35 mm (anamorphic) and D-Cinema

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Cinematographic Process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format)
Distribution Prints: 35 mm (?) and D-Cinema

Things to note:

1) All movies used Digital Intermediates. Source video is captured on a variety of film and video formats, but the intermediate formats are all digital. Indeed, most Hollywood studios have lost the ability to shoot film and use optical processing all the way to distribution. Hollywood has lost more than half the headcount used when film was king, yet produces more movies due to the productivity gains that accompany the digital revolution.

2) All discussions of the resolution and contrast and color depth differences between film and video can cease, all disappear in the digital intermediate format. In fact 2K digital master formats are still twice as common in 2014 as 4K digital masters, even though the 2K masters have one quarter the resolution of the 4K masters.

3) 35mm distribution prints are still more common than D-Cinema, by a margin that gets smaller every year. However every time you convert an analog master (film) into the digital domain, or convert the finished movie from a digital master format to an analog (35mm film) print, the image resolution, contrast, and color depth are compromised, the best way to see any of the movies above is in a digital theater, since they all are mastered digitally.

4) Film is still going away very fast. In fact there is no new production of film cameras or film projectors today, and there has not been for decades. The still common 35mm projectors are being stripped of usable parts and recycled as scrap. Digital is here to stay.

If you dream of adding a 35mm projector or pair of projectors to your Home Theater, now is the time, they are plentiful and cheap. But be realistic: You have no need of such unless you already possess 35mm movie prints, and a new film print will cost more than a used projector.

Or you can pay less than $20 for a Blu-Ray disk, while awaiting the widespread availability of 4K movie media and 4K digital displays.

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post #20 of 22 Old 06-26-2014, 07:21 AM
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Digital projection has changed the commercial theater world in the same way it changed the home theater world. Just a decade ago, if you wanted the best home projection experience, you had to shell out tens of thousands for massive analog projectors like the Sony G-90. Some well-healed members even had two of them - a "stack", they were called - just to bump up the brightness levels. Now, you can exceed that visual experience with a digital projector costing a tenth or less of that formerly princely sum. It's why I'm building a dedicated theater in my new house. Ten years ago I couldn't have begun to afford something like that.
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post #21 of 22 Old 06-26-2014, 10:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary McCoy View Post
Ahem, getting back to the topic of the thread: 35mm distribution prints are still commonly available, they have not yet been surpassed by Digital Cinema as the most common option for distribution.
...(snip)...
3) 35mm distribution prints are still more common than D-Cinema, by a margin that gets smaller every year.
Thanks for your post, it adds some much-needed reality.

One quick note, Digital Cinema distribution has indeed surpassed 35mm (and by a wide margin). 90% of the screens in North America have converted from 35mm to Digital Cinema, and I believe the worldwide count has surpassed 75%. Here in the USA it is becoming common for mainstream blockbusters to release with no 35mm prints available at all. I think the only territory that has more film than digital is India, and even India is changing over fast to digital.
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post #22 of 22 Old 06-26-2014, 10:44 AM
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Correction noted. However I wonder if "converted" is the right word. None of my three favorite local cinemas "converted" to digital. All three retain their original 35mm projectors, and also have two generations of digital projection. The older and lower resolution digital projector shows advertising between movies, the newer and 3D capable projector shows both the main feature and the movie trailers.

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