The RIGHT way to scan a large-format film...

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by DaViD Boulet, Jan 30, 2006.

  1. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    http://www.audiovideoproducer.com/ar...e.jsp?id=37063

    As pre-recorded HD media gets nearer and nearer...don't settle for "old fashioned" large-format film-digital transfers using gear not optimized for hi-res/fidelity scanning of these great masterworks of film.

    Ben-Hur, Sound of Music, Hello Dolly and many other films deserve to be properly scanned to 4K using gear that can capture the most possible detail. Of course, there will always be more detail in the real film print, but we should get all that we can have in the digital capture and not settle for less. Large-format films scanned on traditional equipment often look inferior to 35mm scans even at DVD's low-res level, which is a crime against all that is holy in cinephile land.

    Additionally, regardless of the scanning equipment, 1920 x 1080P "direct" transfers require filtering for aliasing in both axis which can greatly reduce their effective resolution and detail. By scanning at a much higher 4K resolution, and then using sophisticated downconversion algorithms, more apparent detail can be preserved in the 1080P HD master. 4K is *THE* way to properly scan large-format films. Anything less is less than these films, and their fans, deserve.

    Go and see some large-format films projected in hi-resolution 70mm. Learn how much detail film can really capture. You'll be amazed that many of these films recorded a half a century ago have more detail, sharpness, and clarity than many modern IMAX productions. Demand that the studios do these films justice when they're ready to sell you "definitive Hi-def" versions to add to your movie collections.
     
  2. Mark Lucas

    Mark Lucas Second Unit

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    Seeing as 4K scanning is becoming a standard for 35mm why should it be a standard for 70mm? Shouldn't 70mm demand like 6K and beyond?


    Isn't this more because those films were scanned using OLD equipment rather than "traditional" current state of the art gear? Is there any 70mm film that is properly presented on dvd? Last time I checked they all suck, except maybe Ben Hur, but then there's people that say that's no good too.
     
  3. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Mark,

    more is always better. [​IMG]

    But 4K is hardly "the norm" even for 35mm scans. It's being used now for high-profile digital restorations (the new Wizard of Oz DVD, Bambi) but not necessarily for the average film-digital transfer even when preparing for HD.

    As far as inferior equipment goes, it turns out that scanning large-format films on (good) gear optimized for 35mm scans actually produces an image that looks softer and less detailed than if the technician had scaned a lower-res 35mm print. That's one of the reasons that Ben-Hur looks "fuzzy" even on the newly restored DVD.

    Gear that is optimized to provide full-quality for large-format film scans is uncommon and expensive. Often studios are required to turn-over such high-res 4K scanning of large-format films to third-party technicians without the ability to oversee the process (which can make for $$ mistakes if they are discovered after-the-fact). Hopefully these issues will change over time as demand for high-quality HD presentations of large-format films increases.

    But just accepted the status-quo for these films for HD presentations won't make that happen. Hence my post.

    p.s. I'm not aware of any large-format film with a DVD presentation derived from a "proper" high-res 4K scan. Can anyone share an example?
     
  4. Mark Lucas

    Mark Lucas Second Unit

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    I'm not sure what you mean by "optimized for 35mm". The equipment at telecine facilities that can handle 35mm and 70mm formats at 4k should already be optimized. They have really picky technicians constantly calibrating them for a reason. [​IMG]

    I think part of the reason Ben Hur may look fuzzy is because of filtering or maybe the elements just look like that now. It's also standard def which is pretty lousy when it comes to displaying ultra widescreen films. I'm willing to bet no one will have any complaints about the HD version, whenever we may see it.
     
  5. DeeF

    DeeF Screenwriter

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    Check out the new disk of Ryan's Daughter (if you can stand the movie). It's quite amazing, the best DVD picture I own (out of 2400). The details are literally as good as high-def.
     
  6. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Dee!

    Thanks for the heads up on that DVD title. I've never seen the film so I can't know how I'll react in advance...


    Hey Mark,

    I'm not the expert in this area by any stretch...but my comments about gear that's inteneded for 35mm being used for large-format and producing less-than-optimal results comes from conversations with a film restorationist. Apparently, the equipment that's designed to properly handle large-format films is not commonplace, and even "4k" scanners set up for 35mm aren't (necessarily) up to the task.

    Maybe RAH and others in-the-know can chime in at some point and help clarify/correct me on this point.




    That's just the myth I'm trying to topple.

    Regarding Ben-Hur...it seems that the soft picture is more the result of non-optimal scanning than of subsequent electronic processing or problematic film elements (Hello Dolly is overly-soft as well, as are many, many other large-format films on DVD that boast digital transfers from the 65mm source). Hopefully the HD version of Ben-Hur will look stunning and prove me wrong...or WB will do a proper 4K transfer on large-format-optimized equipment if need be to give us the 1080P HD disc of our dreams.

    Think of it this way...despite DVD's low 720 x 480 resolution, do HD movies like revenge of the Sith look clear and sharp and detailed? Then so should large-format films...because the camera negative and film prints have the same striking clarity and detail (more so). These films produce jaw-dropping clarity when magified on 50 foot screens. They ought to look crisper and more naturally detailed than standard 35mm film-digital transfers on DVD, yet most often the reverse is the case.
     
  7. Rob_Walton

    Rob_Walton Second Unit

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    This is apparently something Lowry Digital discovered when they recently started scanning older Bond movies at 4k and then downconverting and authoring to DVD. They were surprised by how much of the detail was preserved in the final picture, and by how much they must have been losing by simply going for an "HD scan" of the negatives.
     
  8. Mark Lucas

    Mark Lucas Second Unit

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    Probably because most of the 70mm film transfers discussed were done on suboptimal equipment or during the last days of laserdisc or are just old. The current transfer of Lawrence of Arabia would probably fit in that category. Maybe if it was transferred using the same equipment and care today as say The Fifth Element then maybe it would look as spectacular as it should be, even on low res dvd.

    Also, I'm not sure the image quality difference between 35mm and 70mm can be clearly distinguished on standard definition. Even if you took away all the ugly filtering that plagues most releases there's only so much detail you can cram into 480i, and then you put compression on top of that. This is with using top notch equipment and the best of elements.
     
  9. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    The 5th element was a 35mm scan done on gear optimized for 35mm (one reason why it looks sharper than Ben-Hur). And that *older* scan of Lawrence of Arabia looks BETTER in terms of clarity and resolution than the NEW large-format scan of Ben-Hur...maybe RAH can shed more light but I suspect that Sony used a scanner tweaked to get the most out of the large-format negative/print when they did the (1080P?) HD transfer for LOA.


    See Dee's comments as to how well DVD can show the differences of higher-resolution sources when properly transfered to digital. Oddly enough, even when the final resolution is a paltry 720 x 480, upstream improvements often come through. Of course, a 1080P image or native 4K image would have looked sharper still...but surprisingly high-res/fidelity 4k transfers can look better than direct-1080P transfers EVEN when down-resed to DVD.




    Rob,

    Thanks for sharing that.

    I knew that before Lowry figured it out. The reason is that the same principle applies to digital audio. Capturing an analog signal at 24/192 and then downconverting to 16/44.1 using mathematical models to preserve greater apparent resolution sounds better than "straight" 16/44.1 A/D which requires analog filters which can affect audible frequencies.

    Same is true for 4K versus 2K "video" A/D. 2K video (1080P) A/D may be good for final rendering, but requires filtering during direct a/d conversion that affects visible frequencies. Astonishingly, having more data points to start with...like with 4K...yeilds visible benefits even when downconverting to DVD resolution.

    In essence, a 24/192 A/D auido signal, when downconverted, can provide FULL 16/44.1 resolution on CD...whereas "direct" 16/44.1 A/D signals can never acheive full 16/44.1 resolution.

    Same is true for video...to get "full" 1920 x 1080 resolution you have to start with a digital conversion that pushes analog filtering beyond that level...and then downconvert using proper algorithms and you'll see how good 1920 x 1080 pixels can really look...and some of those benefits are still visible even when subsequently downconverting to DVD.


    Principle to remember:
    The higher-resolution your initial digital A/D capture, the better your image will look even when downconverted to lower-resolution for final mastering.



    Spread the word!!! [​IMG]
     
  10. Mark Lucas

    Mark Lucas Second Unit

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    Probably on dvd but I bet the HD transfer of Ben Hur blows away the ancient transfer of Lawrence. We probably won't be able to make a comparison though as I don't think Sony will put the current transfer of LOA on Blu-ray. They have used it for demoing purposes though with mixed results.
     
  11. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Mark, I've had insider information indicate that the source of the Ben-Hur softness was in the film-digital transfer and *not* (predominantly) from subsequent mastering. WB didn't want to spend the $$ on a state-of-the-art high-fidelity digital transfer for the large-format film and so the went with a compromised solution to scan it on in-house gear that produced (known) inferior results.

    Ok?

    [​IMG]

    p.s. if my source was wrong, I'll be the first to jump for joy when a razor-sharp 1080P image hits the screen...
     
  12. Mark Lucas

    Mark Lucas Second Unit

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    I still think the Ben Hur transfer would beat Lawrence's to the ground. It was after all done on newer if unoptimized gear. [​IMG]

    You also have to consider that any film with a 2.5+ AR is difficult to present on video, even HD.
     
  13. Nils Luehrmann

    Nils Luehrmann Producer

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    Excellent idea for a thread David!

    Michel_Hafner and TedD are both very knowledgeable regarding 4K scanning, I'll PM them about this thread.

    TedD has made some excellent observations and comments about the problems with some of the recent high profile DVDs which were made from 65mm source material relating to how they were digitally captured:
     
  14. JackKay

    JackKay Second Unit

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    4k ALL THE WAY!

    p.s. Go Seahawks!
     
  15. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Nils,

    as usual you contribute much to a thread that even the thread starter (me) was too lazy to put together. Excellent links.

    Mark,

    read those comments to get a better understanding of the particulars with that title.


    True, but in a constant-width scenario, that should make the "smaller" image look that much sharper. Only blowing up the image in a constant-height system would reveal a softening effect from the decreased vertical resolution.

    BTW, the older B.H. DVD from 35mm sources is sharper than the newer 65mm transfer.
     
  16. Mark Lucas

    Mark Lucas Second Unit

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    You're basing that on the dvd though. The HD version could be a revelation.

    Anyway, what were we talking about it. Oh yeah, 4K is great. 70mm is dead. Bring on HD.
     
  17. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    i expect 4k scanning will be the second generation upsell.
    most of the studios will dump whatever (now outdated) hd transfers they have stockpiled onto their Hi Def releases (especially Sony which has been banking them away for a while now) and when the time comes to release another version of it with the golden, can't miss, 're-mastered' blurb, they'll be getting 4k transfers and reviewers and customers will then be oohing and ahhing about how much improved the remastered version is- even though just 5 years earlier they were oohing and ahhing over how much more impressive the first HD release was over the old DVD.

    around 2011, i'm guessing, 4K scanning will be cheap and ubiquitous enough that we will all be looking forward to re-releases of our favorites, because -doggone it- thats the way the program works.
     
  18. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Very likely.

    But keep in mind I'm really only pushing for 4K mastering for large format movies as an "accept no less" position for HT enthusiasts. While 4K mastering would likely improve any HD presentation of any film, it's most important for large-format films which contain vastly greater information than can be captured in a conventional 2K scan.

    So while I'll be quite happy to buy the Blu-ray of the 5th Element that Sony has lined up and ready to go, I wouldn't purchase a BD copy of Lawrence of Arabia until it's properly transfered a-new at 4K using optimal scanning eqiupment.
     
  19. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    well as the guy from Lowery (maybe even Lowery himself) said in regards to the Bond material-
    the detail migrates down- even if its just 35 mm.

    and its going to be needed to be exploited for as much as possible to make it ultimately financially viable for studios like Fox to go back for something like Oklahoma! which they were hesitant for quite a while to re-visit even on sd dvd.
    when does anyone foresee the incentive for that studio to drop big bucks on a title like that for a format that (hate to keep harping on this but...) is primarily aimed at an installed base of young gamers?

    the more common 4k becomes, the sooner you'll see it used for the films that really need it.
     
  20. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Paul,

    excellent points.

    [​IMG]
     

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