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Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Apr 28, 2012.
It doesn't exactly look like black and white...
The insulting part of these faux-presentation deals is that the tickets cost just as much, if not more than shows run in proper (hopefully) DCP on the main projector - $12 at the theaters in Georgia.
By contrast, the Fox in Atlanta played Citizen Kane from a beautiful 35mm print with a $8 ticket price last summer. For that matter, the Fieldstone in Hiawassee (GA) had Casablanca in 35mm for their grand opening. Flawless projection and it was free admission.
I live in the Cincinnati, OH area. We have some reasonably-new theaters with digital projectors that are no more than two years old. During the past year, I've been to screenings that are downright awful. They've been uniformly dim and, sometimes, out-of-focus. There's nobody in the building seemingly who can or will rectify these problems. Ironically, I've been visiting my mother in Barboursville, WV and attended a film the other day at the local mall where both the digital sound and picture were impeccably-presented. It really comes down to the theater owners and whether or not they care about the quality of the projection in their auditoriums.
On another note, I love the fact that older films are being screened again thanks to digital projection. I hate that it usually costs more to see them than new films and often they are simply shown off of a Blu-Ray. The local theater in Florence, KY does that quite frequently. It used to be worse. They used to just project DVDs.
Not only doesn't it look like black and white, is it in the correct aspect ratio?
The reason I asked is that I went to see "Casablanca" when it was rereleased theatrically for it's 50th anniversary and it played with all the other first-run movies in a multiplex. The screen was masked to a 16:9 screen and top and bottom were lopped off. The nadir of this screening (probably at every screening of the movie during this season, 5 times a day, for two weeks) was the scene where Ingrid Bergman pulls a gun on Bogie -- only the gun had disappeared below the masking.
It may or may not have happened, but I wonder if the audience at this recent screening saw that gun?
That image to me looks like when you get the RGB cables plugged into the wrong connections.
This whole thing sounds to me like there needs to be a THX like program set up to over see quality digital presentation. Hell THX should do it. Maybe a THX certified theater will mean something again.
We have a film critic in the UK called Mark Kermode. He'll be well known to everyone here from this side of the pond - in the US you'll maybe know him for his made-for-Channel 4/BBC documentaries that crop up on disc releases of a number of films, including The Exorcist and The Shawshank Redemption. MK has also written BFI Classics books on these two titles.
He has a video blog at the BBC - some videos can be accessed from anywhere, whilst others or UK only. He regularly comments on the state of cinemas in general and digital projection in particular. Here's the most recent one on the topic (I think you can view this in the States). I'll post links to others if I can find them.
Well film could be bad news, I remember seeing Troy, & every reel change was a massive change in colour (& sitting through that film was painful enough!), plus scratches & prints that are too green/magenta/blue, film labs never threw bad prints away if they could help it, they could always be slipped into a bulk order. The trouble is, digital projection has gone hand in hand with making all the projectionists redundant. I've read lots of cinema projection horror stories online. Only last week someone was complaining that the new film, The Avengers was shown in 'scope with all the tops of head/faces cut off! And a story you hear more & more, is complaining to the manager & being told there's nothing he/she can do, it's all automated, the guy that knows a bit about it is not here...the projection booth is locked & they can't find the key!
That's it exactly. There's no reason film presentations should be as dim as they have been in many theaters in recent years, where managers erroneously think that by dimming the bulb they'll stretch out its life. But digital projection, in theory can be even brighter, because there's no flicker from the shutter to worry about. It's what makes so many digital 3D screenings so frustrating, because there's no reason they can't compensate for the reduction in light making it through the 3D glasses.
SONY’S 4K DIGITAL CINEMA PROJECTOR RUINS THE CLASSIC BLACK AND WHITE LOOK OF CASABLANCA
By Kevin Miller with contributions from Jim Doolittle Display Color Specialist, fellow professional video calibrator, and member of The American Society of Personal Cinema Architects, and John Bishop of Bishop Audio Services and founder of The American Society of Personal Cinema Architects.
On Thursday April 26th, Casablanca was shown across the country at select theaters using Digital Cinema grade projectors. I was very excited to catch this event at our local Island 16 theater in Holtsville, New York, which is outfitted with Sony’s latest 4K SXRD Digital Cinema projector, which is basically a very large 4K resolution LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) projector. I was expecting a true 4K resolution presentation via a server as my understanding is this film and many others have been archived in the new 4K format. Unfortunately, the source was a 1080p DishNetwork satellite broadcast distributed by Fathom Events.
Dating back to the 1930s and 1940s, the color temperature for projected black and white film with projectors using Carbon Arc lamps was between 5000 and 5500K. With the introduction of the Xenon Arc lamp, replacing the Carbon Arc lamp, the color temperature inched up to somewhere between 5400 and 5600K, which applied for both color and black and white film presentations. In the 1960s when the screens became larger dichroic-coated reflectors and heat filters were added to the light path resulting in another color temperature increase between 5400 and 6000K. To have an accurate black and white presentation, any digital projector should be calibrated to a color temperature of 5400 to 5600K.
I brought in my Minolta CS200 chroma meter to take some screen shots to determine if the theater had calibrated the projector to a black and white color temperature or left at the DCI specification for color film presentation. I was only able to get one measurement off of the screen at the very opening of the film as the narrative began. It was a medium bright scene at the beginning of the film that measured x=323, y=344. The x and y coordinates are closer to the DCI (Digital Cinema Initiative) specifications (x=.314,y=.351) even though the content was delivered in the Rec 709 HDTV format, which means that the projector was setup to a different reference than the content was delivered in.
To my trained eye the picture in the Holtsville, New York Theater where I saw the film did not seem to be anywhere near the Digital Cinema specification of a minimum of 14 Footlamberts of peak light output. Black level was also way too high, which indicates to me the projector was not setup correctly at all. The real deal breaker was the lack of white field uniformity, which was atrocious. In most of the scenes, the image was minus green on the left half of the screen which gave a magenta cast to that side of the screen, and distinctly green on the right half of the screen, which gave everything on that side of the screen a green hue. These color shifts were so distracting that if it weren’t for the fact that I love Casablanca as a movie, and wanted to see it again, I would have left the theater in disgust.
John Bishop of Bishop Audio Services in New England and Jim Doolittle, a fellow calibrator based in Boston also saw the movie in a theater outside of Boston. The screen shots below taken from the presentation they both experienced show the magenta and green color shift, which was dramatically worse than the one I experienced. The discoloration was also in a much larger portion of the overall screen area than the one I observed. The theater they went to also used a Sony 4K projector, but the projectionist told John Bishop that it had been calibrated for a peak light output of 18fTL. at the center of the screen, which was definitely not the case with the projector in the theater I was in.
The Blu-ray version of this film looks far superior in my home theater on a calibrated Samsung SP-A900B 1-chip DLP (Digital Light Processing) projector projected onto a Stewart Filmscreen Vistascope screen with StudioTek 100 material. When calibrated to D65 for color, the Samsung automatically derives a black and white setting, which is roughly 5400 to 5600 Kelvin in the Movie 2 picture mode, a nice side benefit to calibration. The fact of the matter is that Digital Cinema grade DLP projectors at half the resolution (1920 x 1080) deliver far more accurate and engaging pictures with none of the white field uniformity issues we saw on the Sony LCoS projector.
Mainly because of its White Field Uniformity problems, LCoS or SXRD display technology introduces color uniformity problems in color films, and these color uniformity issues are exacerbated when reproducing black and white content. We all agree that the Sony SXRD display technology for Digital Cinema theatrical presentations is woefully inadequate for the job, and will not do justice to any film presentation, and is particularly poor with black and white reproduction.
If this is the future of Digital Cinema projection in theaters, then theatrical presentations will no longer be capable of delivering the film director’s artistic vision accurately. We need to lobby Hollywood and the DCI to set standards for Digital Cinema presentations that will prevent the use of sub-standard visually inaccurate displays from destroying our film heritage.
And a link:
Greetings fellow cineastes,
The Boston Globe article from this time last year touched a nerve similar to our Casablanca issue. Standards are one thing, practices are another, and only if we the people who frequent cinema complain and call them out when they're damaging the goods could we hope for a change. The link below is a reference to the Globe article from our trade book CEPro.
Light level problems were the main observation in the Globe piece, which is why I asked Kevin if he checked the lens through the port hole. It was probably the 3D lens still in place. I commented on the issue in CEPro when no one else did. These issues are not well understood in our world I suspect, and the outrage isn't generated. Perhaps because we are all well aware of sub standard performance in cinema exhibition. We know about 8fL poorly focused, bad geometry theaters. But at least we used to bitch about it! Now with digital projection the problems can be big, like low light levels, or more ominously they can be subtle like poor flat field uniformity, wrong color space/gamut, or black level set up etc.
Now if you'd really like a scare, check out the engadget summary of the Globe article issue and the 'press releases' from a Sony tech and a Sony exec;
Justification and protestations aside; the 'official' Sony position is that the 3d lens is capable (implying this to be an acceptable standard practice) of being used for 2D presentations! Therefore get over it? In 3D a prism converged imaged derived from two 1080p sections of the 4k chip is a reasonable compromise because each eye sees them separately, there is no convergence error on the screen to the observer. But take off the glasses and what do you get during a 2D projection. A single image made up of two converged sections of the chip...imperfect at best, and it's poorer than conventional 2k as a result. Come on; if you covered one of the lenses the picture would be a sharper, so just turn up the lamp right? Wrong, they're obviously not able to perform this trick on a 50' screen (the polarizers cut the light level in half, and the image container use cuts it in half again). But 50' & up is where 4K marketing is positioned, in the best 300+ seat rooms of the multiplex.
I wonder if they run a digtial sign above said rooms announcing tonight's 2D presentation will be at 25% resolution and light output (because Sony said we could leave the dual path lens on).
In my opinion our beef cannot be with the technology...I'm sure when the Sony is setup properly and the uniformity issue is mitigated via LUT tweaking the result can meet the DCi standard whether or not it ends up being as good as a properly set up 2k DLP . The fact that LCoS requires these steps and that it may be necessary to adjust it frequently to maintain the standard is not our problem. Free markets will tell the next chapter as to the market share of whatever technologies come to pass. But if standards are not met and maintained then we risk losing an art form. People will realize that bigger isn't always better, we sure did in our Casablanca viewing...which we ended up walking out on it was so bad.
Bigger must be better too, or they won't leave their 80" at home to come see Casablanca or Spiderman on the big screen for that matter.
However D-Cinema is funded, the theater owners hopefully will come to realize that quality can sell (and that's what tricked them into buying the first 4k system that came along), but poor quality can stifle sales regardless of pixel count. Maybe since so many theaters are on a Virtual Print Fee (per per show) style of financing they can now add a clause; 'We'll pay for every show that meets spec'
That's my rant.
Personal Cinema Architect
I've just been discussing this issue and am coming away greatly concerned, especially with the forthcoming distribution of Lawrence of Arabia in digital.
What I'm told is that the problem with the Sony 4k hardware is not that it's poorly designed or produced, but rather, while it can be set up for high end performance, that the chips tend to drift, and must be kept up.
The problem is that I don't see theater chains keeping people on staff who are either capable, willing or have the time to tweak this equipment to make it work.
I don't want to send the message out that the Sony 4k gear is problematic. It isn't. It just requires time and effort to keep it proper.
Mr. Harris, what do you mean by "the chips tend to drift"? I saw The Godfather in a local Cinemark theater in March with what I was told was a state of the art 4K digital projector (I do not think it was a Sony). I thought it looked beautiful, but I am not sure if I would notice some of the more subtle problems some people raise with projection. I did think that there seemed to be less detail in some of the exterior scenes (like the wedding) than the interior scenes. I wondered if that might have been due to the way they were originally shot.
Thanks for pointing this out. The Kevin Miller article made it sound like digital projection is incapable of quality presentation, and black & white presentation in particular. That would be, of course, nonsense, as plenty of people with digital projectors in their home that are far less expensive and sophisticated can attest.
There seems to be two problems inherent in situations like the Casablanca screening: 1) An inability or unwillingness to prep the hardware for the specific needs of the material being presented; and 2) the garbage-in-garbage-out principle when it comes to inadequate source material. No matter how well prepped the hardware, 1080i Fathom Events-sourced material will never result in a quality presentation, because 1080i was never designed for a 40 foot screen.
But as I and others can attest, films projected digitally from a quality 2K or 4K DCP projected from local storage via properly prepped and calibrated Sony 4K projectors can be nothing short of stunning, especially if you're used to dim and out of focus film presentations (as opposed to everything film can be).
I saw Casblanca's Encore on the 26th at a Cinemark theater with, I assume because there was a big sign on the door of the theater, XD projection. I had been in there another time and I forgot which brand they use, but I do know their projectors are not Sony 4K and are very bright.
In Casablanca, I noticed no color shifts as shown in the article, looked like glorious B&W to me, but I did notice in some scenes that should have been "black black" the blacks were kind of "pale" or not as contrasty as the rest of the frame, and now that I think of it, it was always in the upper left of the screen. I also noticed in one or two shots with Bogart on the left side talking to someone else, I noticed a "gradation" problem in the blacks of his hair. I've seen this same effect watching TCM on Direct TV, rough pixely edges in gradations. This one was a black pixely mass in the center of his head of hair moving around like his head was pressed against glass and portions were flattened out and would change as he moved (sorry my lack of vocabulary prevents me from describing more clearly). This was actually the only complaint I would have watching the Fathom event showing. I've seen only the Fathom Events showing of The Exorcist and The Bodyguard prior to this (in a non-XD theaters at the same Cinemark) and The Exorcist was fantastic. The Bodyguard had some low light scenes that looked bad, but I couldn't tell if they were that way originally or a digital problem. Since I didn't see pixels but grainy like artifacts, I assume it was from the original movie film.
The 4k data files look precisely as they should, as WB did a terrific job.
What I've come to realize is that we need something akin to TAP, which I had the pleasure of using for several projects.
There needs to be an entity, or group that can service theaters, properly set up hardware, and if necessary check to make certain that hardware and theaters are properly matched. I believe that Sony as parameters and guidelines for their projection equipment, but if those guidelines are not followed, or if a garbage image is fed through the system...
Sony's SXRD technology is prone to color shift over time if they are not well maintained, and continually calibrated. DLP, by comparison is less prone to these drifts, particularly uniformity issues, but benefits from continual recalibration just the same.
I enjoyed reading you post I have been a projectionist for a long time I stared out at the age 13 in my parents movie house in Milwaukee .
it a matter of economics why pay a projectionist $25to $30 per hour when you can pay some 15 year old kid $8.00 per hour .
Digital projection is great if you know what your doing the bad thing is you go the see a movie at some Megaplex and you have a 24 year old manager the has no clue about projection and a bunch of kid running the show .
Roger Ebert has posted a link to this thread on Facebook.