Digital Cinema on 35mm: And you thought Super35 was bad.....

Jeff Kleist

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I'm sure Scott H will come to this thread like flies to honey, him having actually operated said cameras, but anyhoo...

I've seen AOTC now in both a normal, mediocre multiplex and a state of the art THX certified theater.

In both cases

1-MASSIVE amounts of CCD noise in at least half the shots in the film. "Grain" so bad it makes Super35 look tame

2-Video noise, especially in the picnic scene. VERY distracting

3-Overall extreme picture softness (of the live action elements)

I do NOT know if DLP projection remedies this, but I'm going to guess not, as most of these flaws appear to be based on the original source tape

SOLUTION:

1-Restrict digital films to digital cinema(if this eliminates problem)

2-Build anamorphic lenses if shooting for 2.35:1. Blowing the picture up from 1.78:1 CAN'T be helping

3- Higher resolution cameras are needed before they give this another go.

4- People need to learn how to light for video again. It's obvious that lighting for film didn't work here to eliminate the noise. This is seriously the worst grain I have seen since Harry Potter (OK, I've never seen anything less than 40 years old match the beehive of the opening of Potter)
 

SvenS

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As someone who viewed the digital version I can say NONE of the problems you experience were present! The clarity was the best by far I have ever seen on a big screen. The colors were extremely vibrant and there was no digital artifcating such as jitters or pixilization. The only negative I saw in the digital version is the black level was to light, but if they are able to correct the black level then Digital is near perfect in my book and make film a much less desireable chose to me.
 

RobertR

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I saw the film at the best commercial theater in Los Angeles (the Village in Westwood). I saw what might be described as video noise in only one dark scene. The rest of the film looked very good (color saturation, black levels, etc.). The print was essentially pristine. Resolution was good, but not up to the standards of the best 35 mm film, due IMO to the limitations of the source (I know from experience that this theater does not limit the resolution of film). The extreme use of CGI was, of course, a different issue.
 

Terrell

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I agree with Robert. I saw it on film, in an extremely good theater, and I only saw grain in one of the darker scenes. Everything else looked great. I couldn't tell much of a difference. I wish I could see it digitally. But there are no digital theaters in Georgia. Hopefully they will have one by Episode III. Lucas has threatened releasing Episode III to only theaters with digital. Quite frankly, that's a bluff to get more digital projection in theaters by 2005. There's no way he's gonna spend 140 million of his own money, only to cut his own throat and release it in a mere 100 theaters.
 

Nick Sievers

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Has Lucas stated yet as to whether or not he will be shooting Digitally for Episode III?

I can't comment on DLP because we don't have any over here but even my brother who knows nothing about Film/DLP was saying he definitely noticed that the picture was looking 'fuzzy' in a lot of scenes.
 

Jeff Kleist

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I'm positive Lucas will shoot digital.

The only issue I can see with anamorphic lenses on the camera is that you do need extra light, and with light being a problem already...........

Maybe you also weren't looking for the noise, or didn't know what to look for. I've trained myself to spot these things since i got interested in video production about 10 years ago, and I've shot a lot of stuff with video cameras, so I'm probably more hyper sensative to it.

A THX cert theater maintained by good projectionists (which this is) should have optimal presentation. It just does not cut it when transferred to 35mm

I hold my opinion on DLP till I see it on DLP
 

Jack Briggs

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I meant to say, by the way, that Mr. Ebert suggests one should see the work in a digital presentation.

If this is not shot on film, what does one call the final product? "Digital cinema?"

Semantics!
 

Bruce Hedtke

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Well, if a film is shot digitally, it *should* be shown in a DLP-capable theater. Of course, that isn't really possible right now since there are so few DLP theaters operating.

As for AOTC, the film, to my eyes looked about the same as any other film. There were some moments when the fine detail was blurred but alot of the motion artifacts were not present. So, while it isn't a perfect marriage, I think that coupling a digital format with 35mm film still renders a very pleasing and watchable print.

Bruce
 

Peter Kline

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I also saw the ATOC at a local multiplex in film format. The film had some chemical blotches (so much for THX certification) and suffered from softness and muddiness. The "outdoor" scenes were very contrasty and the indoor ones very dark in many cases. There was a softness to the whole thing (lens problem in theatre?) and the color palette was saturated but not particuarly pretty. I would be interested to know if the film had a "video" or "film" look in DLP projection.
 

Leo Kerr

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DLP projection will not 'solve' the chroma-noise in the dark scenes. There is something truly ugly in how video cameras handle low-light, and there is absolutely no way around it - except to shoot film. I was disappointed about how the Cinalta camera handled the dynamic range, and I was disappointed at how the sets were lit, assuming that someone actually looked at the pictures and might have done something about how it handled the dynamic range!
Actually, there is potentially a way that the cameras can handle the low-light better. At NAB this year, Thompson (of the Phillips family) was introducing their version of the digital cinema camera, which, as I recall, has roughly 3000x2000 pixel sensors at 14bits/color channel, and a dynamic range several stops wider than current HD cameras. Granted, it doesn't record to video tape (hard drive array about the size of a small tower case holds 20 minutes.)
Ah, well.. at least with a Star Wars film, 85% of the film is fake anyway, so there isn't too much live-action video crud...
By the by, Friday night I got to see 1280x720x60p HD projected off of DVC-Pro-HD tape, via a 3500 lumen video projector, onto a screen roughly 35' wide. Looked pretty nice, too.
But then when we shot the tape, I lit it for video, too.
Leo Kerr
[email protected]
 

Dalton

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As someone who viewed the digital version I can say NONE of the problems you experience were present! The clarity was the best by far I have ever seen on a big screen. The colors were extremely vibrant and there was no digital artifcating such as jitters or pixilization. The only negative I saw in the digital version is the black level was to light, but if they are able to correct the black level then Digital is near perfect in my book and make film a much less desireable chose to me.
I agree 100% with everything Svens posted. The DLP was damn near perfect aside from the black level(which didn't really bother me that much). The picture was breathtaking. As someone who goes to the theater at least 5-6 times a month, the DLP presentation of AOTC was the best picture i have ever seen on the big screen.
 

Mark Pfeiffer

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It had been a week and a half since I saw this as projected film, but I saw AOTC in DLP Saturday. While it didn't have the problem of dirt or scratches, I can't say that I was blown away. At some times edges were too sharp, if you follow, especially when text came on screen. DLP seemed brighter, but I don't know that I noticed more detail in the picture.

Based on one screening, at this point DLP isn't as great as its cracked up to be by some. The picture quality is good but nowhere near spectacular. I also assume that something like AOTC is going to look better this way than a conventional film with little CGI. Conventional film still beats digital, and 70mm prints are far above it.
 

Michael St. Clair

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Yes, the live action imagery (a minority of what you see!) is certainly soft-looking.

If you don't think so, you may not have a good frame of reference. Ebert certainly does, he watches hundreds of movies on film a year, and usually with very good projection.

Yes, there are no anamorphic lenses yet. Plus the cameras don't have effective 1920 line horizontal resolution, it is more like 1440.

As a result, the live action footage is essentially captured at 1440x800.

Within a couple of years or so we'll have cinemascope digital cinema shot at a true 1920x1080p, almost double the resolution of Episode One (which will look quite dated compared to future digital cinema).
 

StevenA

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DLP does not help, because, amongst other things, the source material has such limited resolution. My comments below are from the Ep. II discussion thread...

I can't wait to see Episode III in digital because the technology will only get even better by then.
Maybe by then it will be closer to 35mm resolution. Seeing this blown up on the Grauman's Chinese screen (using DLP), the lack of detail was just what I expected from a relatively (i.e. compared with 35mm or 70mm) low resolution format. It was sharp at times, but sharpness does not equal detail.

AOTC also had a horrible "video-look" IMHO (natuarally, of course, as it was shot on video). The Tatooine scenes revealed it most strikingly, because it was so easy to compare it directly to ANH. I felt like I was watching TROOPS, not SW (an exaggeration of course, but the difference between the AOTC look and the traditional SW look was obvious. Knowing Lucas' habits, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he removed the grain from the OT like Disney did to SNOW WHITE, which would make many people happy I suppose )
 

David Rogers

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Digital, non Digital ... all I know is I'd pay an extra buck or two per ticket if it would GUARANTEE the theater had all equipment in perfect working order. AOTC opening night and the next day (unfortunately, tickets bought ahead of time at the same moment) at a theater with damage on the screen, the print already had projector damage, and their sound processor was short circuiting or something because anytime something tried to use the surround stage it would crackle and drop out.

Really pissed me off.
 

Dan Brecher

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I saw it 35mm on a screen of about 25ft, it looked fine, a little dark in places, but otherwise fine. I subsequently saw it 3 times after that in DLP (screen of about 60ft) and could not agree more that the DLP shines in many ways.

What one has to understand is that, at the time of making the movie, Lucas was trying to secure a deal to get DLP into many, many movie threatres, but obviously, it was a deal that fell through. The point being, EpisodeII was made to look its best in DLP. It was made to be seen in DLP.

I had concerns for a while that it would not hold up so well in 35mm, and in many ways it didn't, but this is not to say every movie shot HD will suffer from such issues.

What I think Lucas will be doing with EpIII (which he is most definately shooting HD) is perhaps a few more tests on film transfers. By 2005 more theatres will hopefully have DLP, but I think this time they will be shooting the movie so it looks solid in both 35mm and DLP, though surely the DLP will still be the winner.

Robert Rodriguez is a big fan of the Sony/Panavision HD Cam. It was Lucas who won him over in fact, when he showed Rodriguez some EpII footage at the ranch over a year ago. Subsequently, Rodriguez is shooting Spy Kids 2 and One Upon a Time in New Mexico (3rd part in the Mariachi series) in HD instead of film.

Rodriguez has spoken out of early teething problems Lucas and Co had on AOTC, which he said were all ironed out by the time he came to use the format on his two films. With Rodriguez using slightly perfected technology of the HD Cam hardware, and the fact he'll have been shooting with the knowledge his films are going into more 35mm theatres than DLP, we'll see how the image quality turns out of those two movies in 35mm upon their relase.

Dan
 

RobertR

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I know is I'd pay an extra buck or two per ticket if it would GUARANTEE the theater had all equipment in perfect working order.
Makes me appreciate the Village theater even more. Theaters in Westwood know how to do film RIGHT, and they CARE about making it so.
 

Edwin-S

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I don't quite get this. If HD video is lower resolution than film, how can DLP actually look better? The test section shot in TPM looked kind of yellowish and seemed a lot softer than the rest of the film. I just cannot see why there is a rush to start using a lower resolution format like HD video instead of film. Doesn't it make more sense to increase the resolution of this type of equipment to more closely match film, before switching over wholesale to it? Most theatres cannot even project in DLP.
 

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