Film Grain

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Matt Stieg, Feb 5, 2005.

  1. Matt Stieg

    Matt Stieg Stunt Coordinator

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    Unless I'm mistaken, isn't film grain SUPPOSED to be present, particularly on older black and white films? So why is it so many DVD reviewers complain about it and treat it like it's some sort of transfer anomaly. A case in point, I've seen a review or two of Hitchcock's Suspicion complaining about the grain, but I think it looks fantastic; just the right amount of grain to look like film, not some digital image. On the other hand, I used to love the transfer of North by Northwest when I first got into DVD, but looking at it now it feels flat and phony.
     
  2. Tony Kwong

    Tony Kwong Supporting Actor

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    There should be fime grain on everything that was shot on film. Grain is beautiful!
     
  3. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

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    Well the grain in film is pretty much what captures the picture so I would say it is paramount in the prosess....I have to admit however that an excessive amount of grain does have a way of getting on my nerves after awhile, but I mean it has to be a lot! For example look at the opening sequence in An American Werewolf In London, on the 2002 DVD the grain is such that the landscapes seem to gurgle and jump...it settles down for the rest of the film but I really noticed it on the opening shots of that transfer.
     
  4. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    Well, most reviewers on Internet don't know anything about what film is supposed to look like. And, yes, they do blame transfers repeatedly for replicating perfectly the way the film looked. I think California Split is a recent example where the transfer was blamed for the excessive grain - but that's the way the film was shot, that was the look Altman and his cameraman wanted, and that's the way the transfer presented the film - it was a great transfer.

    These young'uns doing the reviewing should be required to take some film classes. I know how sensitive they are here, so let me say once again, I'm not talking so much about this site as others, where they really are reprehensible in allowing such reviews to stand. Of course, the reviewers on those sites aren't really reviewers, are they.
     
  5. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    Kevin, the excessive grain you are speaking of is because the shots in question are opticals. There will always be much more grain in opticals because they are generations away from the original photography.
     
  6. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

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    Seems like they went quite a few generations away for just a simple cross fade/titles segment, but you are probably right as this grain is also in the LD & LIVE DVD transfers....both from the same video transfer I think.

    There are other films out there that have even more grain yet don't bother me as much, such as the BU DVD of Shock Waves, this had insane grain in it but it didn't bother me as much just from a viewers perspective & since it was from an existing print and not from the supposedly lost negatives I could give BU a lot of slack as it still looks pretty good for such an old print (the director's personal copy I believe).
     
  7. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

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    Yes. Optical titles and optical fades are very common things. As simple as you might believe fades and titles to be now in the age of computer-assisted filmmaking, the use of opticals was a necessity.

    DJ
     
  8. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

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    No, I understand the ware & tear that the elements go through in an optical printer and the like (I was reading about this at age 9 in Starlog & Fantastic Films in 1978), it's just that I have seen much better optical work in other films (even cheaper films actually) of the period and even older. Landis must have been on a budget as far as optical houses went because this was shoddy work IMO.
     
  9. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    A slightly grainy piece of film can appear even grainer on DVD if compression isn't handled well (low-bitrate). And different players and monitors can often 'exacerbate' the movement of the grain and pixelation. On my old Panasonic RV-20, Blue Underground's, Dead and Buried looked way too grainy in places, but on my new DV-757ai it looked much sharper, less grainy, etc. Strange, but true.

    To be honest, I don't find highly grainy images aesthetically pleasing, but I accept them if the print or DVD transfer is good/great, overall. If the film is 80 years old (The Last Laugh) I am just glad the film is not lost - and the Eureka R2 is a superb transfer for a film that old. But when films like WestWorld or Five Easy Pieces look like mosquitos have invaded, you have to wonder what prints MGM and Columbia were using! Give us new transfers!

    I haven't seen the American Werewolf transfer, but Landis did find the cleanliness and sharpness of Animal House too slick! So who knows?
     
  10. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    More grain can also appear with certain film stocks over the years - and especially if the cameraman was shooting in low light and pushing the film. This was very prevalent in the seventies.
     
  11. GlennH

    GlennH Cinematographer

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    A light amount of grain appropriate to the original film look is expected and encouraged to capture all the detail. But I really don't like some DVDs with excessive grain. Hitchcock's The Trouble With Harry comes to mind. It may be an accurate reflection of the film, but the heavy grain is just too distracting for me.

    Mr. Robert Harris has talked about film grain here and elsewhere, such as this article at thedigitalbits.com.
     
  12. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    To be accurate, then, you should say you don't like the look of the film rather than the transfer. No DVD should ever be faulted for being too close to the look of film.
     
  13. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    If you were to see an original IB Tech print of The Trouble with Harry you'd see very little of the grain you're seeing on the DVD. They are using an older intergeg, if I'm remembering correctly, which again, is generations away from the camera negative.
     
  14. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    I believe that movies should look like a fine-grain positive made right off the camera negative.

    So, the closest the image can get to that look, the better. When it's not possible, at least make film grain look natural and unfiltered. For example, I can't stand how Buena Vista filters most of their newer DVD's to the point where everything looks "plastic" when it shouldn't. On the other hand, the last year or two of DVD's from Fox and Warners have that beautiful film grain texture.
     
  15. John Sparks

    John Sparks Screenwriter

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    When I had my 65" RPTV professionally calibrated, my DVD's now look like film. They don't have that plastic look that PatrickMacart says some DVD's have. [​IMG]
     
  16. Joe Karlosi

    Joe Karlosi Producer

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    Sorry, I prefer my DVD films to look "non- grainy". I don't know if that's what we're discussing exactly when it comes to this issue of "film grain", but I like the movie to look "smooth" or "sharp and like velvet".
     
  17. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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    The new Special Edition DVD of Raging Bull is a very good example for me. The image exhibits more grain than the previous transfer, which makes it a MORE accurate rendition of the film than the previous DVD.

    I can say this because I had the pleasure of seeing a brand new print of Raging Bull at the cinema last year, and I was taken aback by how different the film had looked projected than how I had seen it on VHS and DVD. I am very pleased that the MGM DVD transfer retains this characteristic of the film. Which I suspect was produced by using relatively slow B&W stocks and pushing the film.

    I must also add that Raging Bull is a film that plays very differently in a cinema than on a TV. However the new DVD means if one has access to a projector they actually will be able to create a very close viewing experience to seeing it projected on film. The original DVD on the other hand was hopeless. Not to mention it was cropped by about 10% on the left hand side.
     
  18. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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    To a large extent doesn't the amount of grain that you see depend on how close you are to the screen in a cinema? Whenever I've sat close to the screen I've seen tons of grain but when sitting much further back you see none. So who is to say what is right. On a TV screen you would surely not expect to see much grain because the TV screen is so much smaller that a cinema screen.
     
  19. Joe Karlosi

    Joe Karlosi Producer

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    Right. You should never be able to detect grain in an image unless you go up close to a screen. If you feel like you're watching a picture through a slight sandstorm when watching a film from a respectable distance, there's a problem IMO.
     
  20. Tony Kwong

    Tony Kwong Supporting Actor

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    I'm one of those assholes who run 35mm film at home. Grain does not bother me at all. It looks fantastic. But when viewing most DVDs they look like crap. Compression make grain look awful. That's why we get all these filtered DVDs that losses so much detail.

    BTW I see grain most of the time, unless it's shot on video.
     

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