The Ten Commandments: does this look as bad as I think it does?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Mitchell Kaufman, Feb 17, 2002.

  1. Mitchell Kaufman

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    On my old 35-inch direct-view it was pretty impressive. Now that I'm projecting it at around 100 inches with a DLP FP I note the following:
    1. The colors are deeply saturated, but almost overly so, like a cartoon.
    2. The colors are spectacular in a garish sort of way (yes, I know about C. B.), but on this transfer they generally look a bit "off."
    3. The contrast is overly pumped up, causing the white highlights to be blown out.
    4. There is way too much DVNR, causing pulsating of details.
    5. The picture is generally very soft--another by-product of digital noise reduction? (Compare to the trailers.) This using a 16:9 display, BTW.[/list=1] I know it's an old movie, but on a big display it's sometimes almost unwatchable. "Crude" is the best word I can use to describe it.



      Anyone else care to weigh in?



      MK
     
  2. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    That's Technicolor for you.

    Technicolor is THE best color process...when you've seen so much of Eastman and other veggie dye prints, Tech will look weird to you.

    It looks like a cartoon because most cartoons were shot on Technicolor cameras!
     
  3. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    Gee, I've always thought it looked really good on my big screen.... I agree with the comment about not being used to Technicolor...STILL the best color process ever invented.
     
  4. Joseph Goodman

    Joseph Goodman Stunt Coordinator

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    ..except that "The Ten Commandments" was an Eastmancolor film.
     
  5. Bob_L

    Bob_L Supporting Actor

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    To my taste, the issue here is the particular visual style that was chosen for the film.

    On the whole, this is a typical CB DeMille effort: obvious, overblown and poorly acted. There may not be another legendary director in the history of film who made so many out and out lousy movies as CB. Including The Ten Commandments. (Which is still not to deny its many remarkable production qualities.)

    That said, in addition to the sheer scale of some of the scenes -- which is a stunning achievement for which DeMille DOES deserve credit -- the other remarkable aspect of this film for me is that each scene looks like those often dreadful illustrations that were tipped into so many Bible editions (and Bible Stories for Children volumes) when I was a kid. Garish color, stiff character positioning, costumes so tidy that they looked liked they just came back from the Egyptian Wilderness dry-cleaners.

    The art direction and photography of The Ten Commandments PRECISELY captures the kitsch quality of those illustrations. And that, I suspect, is what you're seeing at work here, NOT the particular film stock or processing that was used.
     
  6. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

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  7. Mitchell Kaufman

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    O.K., guys...lemme get back in this.

    Technicolor I know. I've been enjoying and admiring three-strip Technicolor since the laser days: Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, GWTW, The Band Wagon, The Wizard of Oz, Singin' in the Rain, Leave Her to Heaven, Cover Girl (how about a DVD of that?). Duel in the Sun, Show Boat ('51), and so on and so forth.

    I would suppose Technicolor did the processing of the Eastmancolor stock--they're listed in the credits; perhaps black-and-white separations were also made and/or used in the production of the DVD transfer. (Maybe Mr. Harris knows and could elucidate.)

    Anyway, I think I know the movie fairly well and I'm familiar with Technicolor films in general. My problem is with this particular disc transfer.

    I don't want to make a federal case out of this; I posted originally because I just watched it for the first time on a relatively big screen, using a DLP projector (the Plus Piano) which produces exceedingly natural and realistic colors (and has been tweaked to a fare-thee-well), and was struck by the qualities of the disc which I mentioned. There may be nothing at all wrong with the initial source material or transfer, but it looks to me like something got screwed up in the process of bringing it to disc.

    For one thing, I've never seen a VistaVision film--which are known for their sharpness and detail--look so soft.

    MK
     
  8. Jeff Koch

    Jeff Koch Stunt Coordinator

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    I use this disc to show people what Technicolor used to look like. "The Ten Commandments" 1956 version was printed in imbibition (IB) Technicolor, absolutely breathtaking. I've seen original 1956 prints and the dvd is a pretty damn close approximation. There is no other process that can beat it. Take a look at "Duel In The Sun" if you want to see another spectacular example of glorious Technicolor.
    Disney was synonymous with Technicolor. Whenever there was a new Disney film I knew it would look spectacular. Unfortunately the process was discontinued in 1974 with Godfather II being the last film printed in the old process. In recent years the process made a comeback but the dyes (due to EPA regulations) and film stocks have changed. The results are very good but not quite what they used to be. It's getting more and more difficult to see Technicolor except in museums or at film exhibitions such as the American Cinematique here in Los Angeles. I once saw a nitrate IB Technicolor print of "The Wizard Of Oz" which was one of the most astounding film experiences I've ever had.
    Getting back to "The Ten Commandments", the one thing I strongly object to is the over use of Digital Video Noise Reduction (DVNR). This disc is full of it and it's incredibly distracting. I can live with a little edge enhancement but DVNR is so distracting that it can ruin the viewing experience. Ease up on the use of DVNR please!
    Jeff
     
  9. GerardoHP

    GerardoHP Supporting Actor

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    Jeff, you said
     
  10. Jeff Koch

    Jeff Koch Stunt Coordinator

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    DVNR is a system that can reduce film grain, remove blemishes and positive/negative dirt. It shouldn't look like anything when used correctly but unfortunately there are cases when the settings are up too high and the system mistakes certain images for dirt or scratches. In "The Ten Commandments" look for shimmering/shining objects such as jewelery or finely detailed images. When set too high, DVNR can cause the "eating away at the image effect." Objects with extremely fine detail that should be rock steady appear to take on a flickering, twinkling, pulsating effect. Sometimes the effect is visible on main titles depending on the size of the titles. Some of the small lettering can appear to be eroding. The smaller the image, the more noticeable the effect can be. This problem shouldn't be confused with aliasing which is another matter.
    Jeff
     
  11. Bob_L

    Bob_L Supporting Actor

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    Apropo IB Technicolor:

    It was extraordinary for the saturation of the color. But NOT ONLY for the saturation of the color.

    About 20 years ago I had the pleasure ... no ... make that, orgasmic bliss of seeing a pristine IB print of "The Adventures of Robin Hood" with Errol Flynn.

    I still have burned into my memory and retinal cortex a single low-angle-up shot of the Merry Men and their pursuers riding toward the camera and through a little puddle of water. When the horses' hooves hit that water and the sunlight shown through it, the impact was unbelievable. The intensity of the light and the apparent transparency of the water was breathtaking.

    Just a throwaway shot? You bet. But IB Technicolor made it a life-enhancing experience.
     
  12. Lannie Lorence

    Lannie Lorence Stunt Coordinator

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    Mitchell, about the contrast being blown out, do you see the same amount of detail in a direct view set? I have a Plus Piano as well, and I have the contrast pumped a little more than it should just to get some more brightness out of it. It works fine for most movies, but others that use the upper limits of white in the transfer will blow out and I have to back off a bit on the contrast. Try it if you haven't already.
     
  13. Mitchell Kaufman

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