HDTV versus film question

Discussion in 'Beginners, General Questions' started by AnthonyP, Jun 4, 2004.

  1. AnthonyP

    AnthonyP Stunt Coordinator

    Jul 11, 2003
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    Not sure where to ask this so apologies if this isn't the best place. I tried a Google search, one here, and looking through the primer but couldn't find what I was looking for.

    What quality difference is there between the best HDTV can offer and film?
  2. Frank Zimkas

    Frank Zimkas Supporting Actor

    Mar 10, 2002
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    Good question, not sure if anyone can quantify the differences though. Film is displayed in a completely different manner than a television/HDTV signal. There are no lines of resolution with film, no pixels to count. Television on the other hand does have pixels, the more the better.
  3. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

    May 10, 1999
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    There are a couple of 'quantifiable' things.


    HDTV will give you 8-bit Y-Pr-Pb at 4:2:2 chroma sampling (I think... it might be 4:1:1.) This means that within the chroma pallette defined by the Y-Pr-Pb logic, you've got 8 bits of luminance, and half-resolution color.

    Film, on the other hand, will give you 14-16 bits/channel of cyan/magenta/yellow subtractive color space, with no 'synthization' of color information - in essence, 4:4:4 color space.

    Incidentally, the CMY subtractive space is considerably larger than the Y-Pr-Pb color space, yielding a much larger color gamut.

    So film has a larger color gamut at much higher color resolution and dynamic range.


    As for actual resolution (as in pixel counts,) most HD recorders do not actually work at 1920x1080, but 1440x1080. This is a technical and artificial limitation that will eventually go away, but reflect:

    An ideal 1920x1080 progressive frame (say, 24fps) at best, will have 1920x1080 luminance pixels (2.07Mpixels). For the two chroma channels, it will have 1.03Mpixels for Pr and 1.03Mpixels for Pb.

    Film can easily stand being scanned at 4096 pixels/line. For a 1.77:1 (hdtv) frame size, that translates to 4096x2304 pixels, or a 9.44Mpixel/frame. And that frame has 9.44Mpixels/per color channel - so compare 28.31Mpixels versus 4.15Mpixels.

    I've heard it said that one can go above a 4k scan and still get useful information. I don't know how high, but I've heard some engineers at Kodak imply 6kpixels/line.

    HDTV advantages

    On the other hand, HD has some things going for it. Properly handled, it does not have any of the interframe bob and weave that one gets in most multiplex projection gates. Nor does the average highschool popcorn maker handle the prints with greasy fingers and not clean the projector between showings, nor does the platter system go mad and scratch the ---- out of the print.

    But which would you rather see projected onto an 80' wide screen?

    Leo Kerr
  4. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

    Aug 19, 2002
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    It really depends.

    This has also been discussed here in the past, and on other forums, some searches will net you info I'm sure.

    Film presentations will vary in quality very widely, because film wears, and different generations of prints will have different levels of quality, etc etc. Film is often not done to it's full potential. But film done right, with a well-handled print, a closer generation, etc, will look way better than DVD,and still also way better than hi-def. The grain resolution is much higher potentially than HD, however, for many reasons what you see in most theaters never approaches that potential.

    Home displays are much the same way. You can have a little entry LCD projector, or you can have tens of thousands invested in heavy video processing and a CRT projector stack, and the difference will be staggering. Better home setups can beat poorly done film, but if you compare comparable setups of each, film will win every time.

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