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Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by David Von Pein, Nov 15, 2002.
Grain is the essense of "film". Brush strokes is the essense of painting. Take them away and the soul is gone as well IMHO.
Because they either don't care or understand the difference between watching a dvd that's filmlike in appearance versus a dvd that has all grain removed from it, therefore, losing the appearance of watching film.
First off, I have split off this discussion from the Sunset Boulevard thread so that we can discuss this subject matter without hijacking that thread.
Secondly, Ron needs to answer your inquiries about his preferences regarding film grain.
Thirdly, there are people who understand film grain, but prefer seeing dvd presentations without any grain or very little of it.
Below are a couple of threads that have previously discussed film grain:
99% of the time, when there is film grain, it's supposed to be there. Period.
...but it's not entirely awful to have properly done digital video restoration like the kind from LDI and Criterion. They don't do thoughtless stuff like what Artisan did with High Noon and The Quiet Man. (which were likely automatically DVNR'd)
Several points re: film grain...
Film grain is good.
Initally it takes a reasonably trained eye to discern film grain from video noise, especially on smaller display surfaces.
Video noise is most generally seen in darker areas of transfer.
On modern films, the grain structure of the taking and replicating stocks is so fine that it normally cannot be seen except in a theatre with high quality lenses or when a high speed stock is used.
A knowledgable DP will know precisely what affect film grain is going to have on his/her final product, AND what the various duping steps are going to do to the product.
Also, dependent upon the intermediate stocks used AND upon the generational elements used, film grain can be and often is all over the place in terms of what it looks like and how it controls the preceived image.
A few examples:
Chaplin knew precisely what grain would do to the image he presented on a screen. Hence, we when view an extremely miniaturized version of his work today on DVD of, for example, The Circus or City Lights, we are seeing "analogue artifacts" within and as a part of that image, which Chaplin did not mean us to see. I'm speaking here of wires and things of that sort.
Chaplin knew that those artifacts would be lost in the grain structure (still fine grained) of the release prints which had been derived from a dupe negative, in turn derived from a lavender derived from the original negative.
When David Sheapard and Pat Cousans of Image worked with the Chaplin preservation elements to create the current transfers, they used lavenders (or possibly fine grain masters). These elements did not cover the artifacts.
When 2001 was initially printed in 1967-8, the floating pen appeared to be floating.
Now, thanks to (because of) higher resolution printing stocks and intermediates, we can see the circular piece of glass on which it is mounted.
It is the silver halide (grain) particles, which catch and preserve the light which makes it way through the lens creating the original exposure.
The size, granularity, texture of those grain particles give a film a unique and individual look dependent upon the era in which it was created.
The overall look of the film and the way that the grain is represented as black or gray or the varying shades in between is based solely upon that initial exposure plus the way that the grain stucture is then represented in the printing process.
If one begins to lose generations, or if the wrong elements are used...
or if all we are left with is a print, rather than a fine grain or lavender, or if all that remains is a dupe negative, we begin to lose the grain structure of the original and begin to see different grain (BAD grain) begin to grow, contast (gamma) begin to lose its middle tones of gray and go black or white, with a resultant image which is no longer representative of the desire (art) of the filmmakers.
Which is why, within certain parameters, that I can accept a film like Roman Holiday, which is no longer representative of the look of the original, get yields a very positive experience. In certain ways, the same situation exists with Sunset Blvd., but with certain variations. Which is why these two releases, while not perfect, and while neither is representative of the original, are at least pretty.
Therefore, in answering the question of whether film grain is good or bad, the answer is yes.
This is my view:
Older movies had film grain in their original theatrical showings. I agree that if you prefer to keep things as true to source as possible, the film grain should be on the dvd.
However, let's just pretend that everything had always been shot in digital. Then nobody would want film grain in the dvd transfer. Furthermore, I can say with fair certainty that if digital was the older technology most people would hate analog when it came out because of the film grain. Let's face it, would you purchase a still camera that had film grain?
Had our classic film heritage been captured on digital, the majority of it would no longer exist.
This is not a matter of opinion, but rather, fact as based upon precisely how film elements have been handled over the years.
The condition of digital elements would, however, be much worse.
There is no difference between a still camera and a motion picture camera as far as exposures are concerned, with the single exception that, via persistance of vision, moition picture grain appears to be much finer, as its position continously changes within the frame.
If one considers the modern "digital" still camera, what you have in place of grain as a capuring medium, is the surface of the CCD or other chip and its own inherent grain or pixel pattern, which is far more course than film grain until one reaches a density of over twenty megapixels, which is by comparison, the resolution of a 35mm still or VistaVision motion picture frame.
I hate grain. Give me my digital clarity a la Pixar/Dreamworks animation, NxNW, AOTC
Speaking of Mr. Harris' comments about the wires visible in The Circus and City Lights...
When LDI was restoring North By Northwest for the DVD, they made the wires visible on the crashing airplane. They had to digitally erase the wires since they became visible after cleanup.
RE AOTC: Why would there be "natural film grain" on a movie that wasn't filmed on film?
Well, certainly if you want clarity and sharpness of image it is a "bad thing." I mean, as film stocks have improved, grain has reduced. The examples given of film-makers have been more instances of film grain being taken into account when filming as opposed to using inherent grain in the design process.
Now, Voyager is a DVD where the film grain has been removed, or minimized. And you can see the pancake makeup on the actors faces -- it's too clean a picture.
I myself like film grain, because it adds a texture to the picture that is pleasurable.
But I think most people are reacting to something other than "grain" when they call a picture grainy.
DVDs are standard resolution. There are choppy edges, dancing backgrounds, and faces that change color in the middle of a shot. My plasma has the additional problem of "false contouring," which really is pointed on a poor DVD.
Some transfers seem to come from prints from several generations down, and they look contrasty and blocky, and often show banding of gradiaded areas. It is an effect that Mr. Harris once called (if I may paraphrase) "son of King Kong -- all teeth and eyes" -- in other words, very little detail, because the blacks and whites are too solid. In order to see details, and different levels of gray, there must be some areas of lower contrast, and these tend to look "grainy" on our monitors, particularly in dark scenes.
On my plasma, all High Definition sources (from my cable) look amazingly good, much better than the DVD of the same piece (Forrest Gump is a good example). The high definition transfer doesn't remove the grain, but it does improve the edges without enhancement, and the banding and blockiness of background areas.
I was always under the impression that different film stocks had different grain characteristics, and that the chioce of which film stock to use reflected an artistic intention. This would be like painter's preference towards water colors or oil based paints.
With this mind set, why would the film grain being accurately reproduced on the DVD be bad? Wouldn't that be just like saying a transfer of Schindler's List is bad because it is black and white? (aside from the ocassional use of color in that film, of course)
But then, what about when the intent is to create as realistic a picture as possible (like the events are happening right in front of you), and the decission of film stock reflects a "lesser of evils" choice on the part of the film makers?
In this case my preference would that they don't try and remove the film grain, even if the noise and grain reduction techniques didn't have their on set of side effects. Why should the people doing the tranfer and compression try and second guess these decissions that have already been made. I don't think you can ever go wrong with transfering from the source to DVD with the end result being as close to the source as possible.
This is one of those cases where the artist (DP or director)'s original intent should be followed religiously, I think.
Eyes Wide Shut would be an entirely different-looking film without the ethereal, timeless quality imparted by its grainy appearance. The result was something Kubrick and his team fully intended to achieve, and this is something the DVD authors have to take into account. By the same token, a grainy look doesn't make much sense for AOTC. The analogy to brush strokes is a good one... you wouldn't run a smoothing filter on a Pointillist painting, would you?