Preferences for "No Grain" DVDs?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by TheLongshot, Mar 20, 2003.

  1. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    http://www.moviepoopshoot.com/elsewhere/index.html

    Jeffery Wells, in his column today, is talking about the DVD of "In A Lonely Place". In there, he goes on to say that he prefers the look of "Sunset Boulevard", which was released in the same year but on the DVD they removed the film grain, even if "Lonely" may be the more "correct" way to do it.

    I wonder how many people feel the same way, and whether or not it is right to feel that way?

    Jason
     
  2. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    There is no wrong way to "feel."

    However, if one wishes to view a film on DVD in as accurate a representation as possible, as compared to the original filmstock, then artificially removing grain is bad.

    This gets compilcated on many older films where the amount of grain is variable, depending on the elements viewed. One would hope that those in charge of restoring a print for DVD will take steps to reproduce the film as it originally appeared.

    -Scott
     
  3. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    I’ll have to admit that I was not familiar with Mr. Wells, so I did not know what to expect when I began to read his article. If this is a typical of his style (obviously to entertain), I would not place any real import to any of his critical views.

    For me grain in film is as much a part of the film as is texture in a painting (e.g. Van Gogh, Mondrian, or Renior)

    True, some directors and cinematographers have made films or scenes within films that have more grain than I would prefer (for that film), but that does not mean that I am correct.

    As for the DVD under discussion, Sunset Boulevard, although I have not seen the DVD, I am quite familiar with the film and I can not imagine seeing this with no grain. Even Wells states that he prefers grain on the silver screen, just not on DVD. Why he thinks that it is correct in one viewing format and not another is not addressed anywhere in his article.
     
  4. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    I think this is a difficult issue, mainly because video (especially compressed on DVD) and film ARE different media. I'm certainly sympathetic to the notion that grain should be left alone when it's present in the original master. The problem as I understand it is that DVD compression in particular has a difficult time with grain, which if retained can frequently result in a sparkly appearance full of video noise that accentuates the grain far more than would be the case if you were watching a film-based version. Hitting an exact representation of a film medium in a video medium seems to be damned difficult, if not impossible, and you may need to make a Hobson's choice in mastering between too much and not enough grain. Not to say that it can't be done, because it can, at least with some masters, but there are plenty of things where the grain presents a serious problem. Now, is this something that, given enough attention and bitrate during the transfer and compression process, you could conquer? I don't know. Can some of the technical folks that sometimes here post on this issue?
     
  5. Brent Hutto

    Brent Hutto Supporting Actor

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    How about something like North by Northwest? There's no discernable grain on the DVD (at least that I can see on my direct-view TV) but I've been lead to believe that was also true of the VistaVision prints that were made at the time of its original release.

    I like the look of that movie but it looks very different indeed from something like Rear Window. The combination of burnished, saturated colors and the smoothness of the image is quite striking. I've not seen another DVD with quite that look, although I suppose you could get something similar through digital wizardry even though VistaVision is no longer with us.
     
  6. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

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  7. DeeF

    DeeF Screenwriter

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    Mark Zimmer,

    This is exactly the problem, and you've expressed it very eloquently.

    What is the future of these movies, anyway? Isn't the future of "Sunset Boulevard" almost exclusively on home video formats? If not DVD as we currently know it, perhaps a DVD of the future, with higher resolution, etc.

    Should we restore older films for theatrical release? Or restore them for home video? knowing full well that these two restoration methods are pretty mutually exclusive.

    Another problem: it's quite difficult to see background details in a DVD presentation of a movie without some kind of edge enhancement. The resolution is just not there yet. And yet, when a movie is enhanced to bring out details, sometimes it brings out details which were meant to be disguised by grain, like actor's makeup and set wires and other items like that. You can clearly see Gene Kelly's makeup flaws in Singin' in the Rain, and you can see the wires holding up the flying carpet in Thief of Bagdad.

    Presumably, in the near future, some of these anomolies of DVDs will be corrected -- there will be enough resolution without resorting to digital enhancement. But I still think it's a different medium, and a movie like North by Northwest, which may or may not look the same as in the theater, is a good compromise for a video presentation of a theatrical source.
     
  8. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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    I'm with Jeffrey Wells on this. I love the look of "Sunset Boulevard" and it still looks like film so I don't see the problem. There are numerous modern films which have no discernable grain so it's not as if grain has to be noticeable to qualify as film. There was a trend particularly in the 70s for many films with a modern setting to have a gritty realistic look which were heavy with grain ("The French Connection" comes to mind) and I used to hate that look.
     
  9. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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  10. Brent Hutto

    Brent Hutto Supporting Actor

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    Well, shows what I know. I guess I'm confused by the fact that it's no longer a format projected in theaters (that much is correct, isn't it?) and assumed it was no longer extant.

    Come to think of it, the Pearl Harbor DVD's that were being used everywhere as TV demos last summer did have a beautiful sheen to them. So much attention to surface perfection and so little effort into what lies underneath. Sort of a shame, really.
     
  11. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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  12. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

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  13. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    I want transfers that look like a brand new theatrical print.

    LDI acomplishes or is close. In all case, their grain removal...while not exactly like the desired look.... is done for a good reason. Dye-transfer prints of Singin' In The Rain would have the color quality along with the velvety image. Our digital technology has brought out a little too much in the film, but it's not like video is supposed to be a substitute for real film.

    I think LDI has made their digitally refurbished transfers a great way to see certain movies. For Sunset Blvd, it would be a choice of either a TOO grainy image or a no-grain image. No grain is closer to how the negative would look rather than a multi-generation fine-grain.

    Their 2K restoration process is a LOT better than their previous PAL-rez system. I noticed that Sunset and Singin' In The Rain lack a lot of the digital problems in Citizen Kane.

    I do wish studios would allow departments to restore "non-prime element" films via systems like Alpha-Omega's for Metropolis. While the grain is untouched, the photographic quality and condition is superb.
     
  14. Rain

    Rain Producer

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    I'm another who feels that DVD should be used to accrurately represent films, including visible grain where applicable.

    I've been diappointed by many highly acclaimed titles that have been digitized to the point where they no longer look like film. In future, I'm going to be making more of an effort to avoid buying those sight unseen. [​IMG]

    Unfortunately I am becoming less and less impressed with the Lowry treatment.

    There are some informative comments by film preservationist Robert Harris on this topic here.

    For a lesson in how to use "digital restoration" to repair damage, while still very much maintaining an authentic "film" look, I would refer you to Criterion's gorgeous DVD of The Third Man.
     
  15. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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  16. Jefferson

    Jefferson Supporting Actor

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    I'm fine with some grain.
    Grain means film to me.
    No grain is...just video.
     
  17. DeeF

    DeeF Screenwriter

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    But Mark Zimmer's comments were right on. It isn't about removing grain -- it's about how grain is so difficult to capture properly using a DVD's 480 lines. Something grainy in the theater is going to appear much worse on DVD, because of the lack of resolution, combined with compression artifacts and digital noise -- and little detail. Unfortunately, I think a compromise must always be made, giving the viewer excellent sharp edges, for instance, but lack of real grain. This is what I think was done in Sunset Boulevard.

    If it's a choice between an overly saturated and noisy "To Catch A Thief," and an overly-filtered but smooth, stable "North by Northwest," I'll take the latter.
     
  18. Mark Bendiksen

    Mark Bendiksen Screenwriter

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    I'm kind of torn on this issue, and I think both sides make valid points. That having been said, Sunset Blvd. and North by Northwest both look so pleasing to my eyes that I have to come down on that side of the fence. That might be considered heresy, not to mention downright hypocritical since I consider myself a champion of "director's intent" on issues such as correct aspect ratios. In a way it's similar to my feelings on new sound mixes. Sometimes I think new mixes are a good thing (such as Yellow Submarine) and sometimes I'm not so sure (Jaws and Superman).

    I guess what is boils down to is that I'm just not a terribly consistent person. [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Mark,
    I think many of us are conflicted on these issues! The grain on the recent classics released by Columbia are distracting to me at times.
     
  20. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    isnt this what was done to the fasst and the furious...took out all film grain?
     

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