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Why do great FX look bad on TV?

Discussion in 'Movies' started by mike_bianchi, May 4, 2004.

  1. mike_bianchi

    mike_bianchi Extra

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    Any cinematographers or other experts know the answer to this? Has anyone else even noticed?

    Why is it that effects that look absolutely marvelous on the big screen look like such obvous mat or cgi shots on DVD/TV?

    I noticed it first, around the dawn of widely-accepted DVD, in Air Force One. Current films do it to - I just noticed it again tonight watching LOTR: Fellowship.

    With Gandalf on the tower and the camara has a bird's eye view down in to the caverns of Isengard, you can clearly tell all the structures at the opening are small models and the activity in the caverns is CGI. But on the big screen, I thought it looked perfectly fabulous.

    What gives?

    Is it a result of the extra frames in the 3:2 pulldown?
    Is it the television lines of resolution?
    Is it the top-down drawing of the lines instad of actual frame-by-frame motion picture display?
    Combination?
    Something else?

    Just curious, if anyone knows...
     
  2. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    It's probably a matter of perspective, proportion and scale.
     
  3. Lou Sytsma

    Lou Sytsma Producer

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    Odd - it's the other way for me. SFX that look dodgy on the big screen look better at home. In general I find that SFX look much better when I view them at home on smaller displays.
     
  4. BretWeaver

    BretWeaver Stunt Coordinator

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    It probably has to deal with the fact that your television and DVD player have a better video quality than the bigscreen. Plus I dont know about you but the first time I see a movie I tend not to notice the little things that will later bother me because I'm normaly engaged in the story along with the sounds, kind of a missdirection.
     
  5. David Forbes

    David Forbes Supporting Actor

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    Huh? First of all, movies don't have "video quality" at all because they're on film. Second, 35mm film has vastly more resolution than any home video format (and yes, that includes HDTV), though film-based HD can look awfully close to film when shown on a front-projection system than can squeeze every last drop out of the resolution.

    Not sure what you were trying to say here. Sure, film can have scratches and gate judder, etc., but that has nothing whatsoever to do with the perceived quality of the SFX.
     
  6. Dennis Pagoulatos

    Dennis Pagoulatos Supporting Actor

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    maybe you're sitting too close at the theater. [​IMG]
     
  7. chris winters

    chris winters Second Unit

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    There are probably a few things going on here.

    Film does in fact have a much larger resolution then even the best current DVDs. A CG shot for film is typically rendered at somthing like 2048x1024. DVDs I believe are usually less then 1000, and video is typically 720x486. Film will show more details, matte lines, etc...This will generally make it less forgiving then dvd when it comes to effects shots. Of course a frame rendered for film at 2k, and then rezzed down to video for dvd still shows more then an origionally frame rendered for video from the get go at 720x486.

    Film will however, have a tendancy to forgive some imperfections that video can exagerate. Color shifting, and black levels, contrast issues, will all get "smoothed" over on film. This can help integrate the effects elements better. Also film is typically "timed" to color correct the whole frame, also helping unify all the elements.

    The film experience, in the theater, will help disguise many imperfections. Watching the story for the first time, getting blasted by amazing surround sound, seeing it on a larger then life screen, and being in a public environment all help you overlook effects problems.

    I find DVD to generally help more then hinder effects shots. The resolution issue is the largest factor here, as well as crushed blacks, on your typical video presentaion. Blemishes vanish and contrast issues are less noticable. One of the worst offenders for making an effects element look fake is a lack of consistent black levels when compositing. A great example of this is the baby zillas in the remake of godzilla. Matching the blacks, or dark shadow areas, of a CG render to the plate or background is very important, and they have to be pretty spot on. If they are not perfect, it may show up after transfer to film, or after the film goes to video. Different presentaions may reveal these. Also color space issues are different for film and video. Video may show clamped areas in the darks or highlights, that film forgave and thus werent noticable before.

    All factors invovled, however, I think DVDs usually help more then hinder the look of effects.
     
  8. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    The CGI in air force one was a joke in the theater too- the plane splashdown at the end got laughs when i saw it.
     
  9. Dennis Pagoulatos

    Dennis Pagoulatos Supporting Actor

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    Chris: I think CG shots are rendered at closer to 4000 lines horizontal to try and approximate film resolution (which is in the 4K range). Somebody with experience or knowledge feel free to chime in here...

    -Dennis
     
  10. Mattias Stridsman

    Mattias Stridsman Stunt Coordinator

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    Dennis, to my knowledge most effects are rendered at 2K, which is 2048x1556 pixels.

    4K is 4096x3112 pixels, four times as many pixels as 2K, and not often used because of bandwidth/storage problems.
     
  11. chris winters

    chris winters Second Unit

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    my bad, 2046x1556 is generally correct for 2k. I miss typed earlier.
     
  12. BretWeaver

    BretWeaver Stunt Coordinator

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    Yes, I understand that film has a higher resolution than a DVD... but when you take something from a 100' screen and put it onto a 65" screen, even if you are losing some video quality it will look better. And more my point was about the psychological factor of the theater experience and seeing a movie for the first time. Normally we are much more forgiving on the first viewing.

    Its kinda like playing a video game on your computer, a larger monitor will look like garbage given the same resolution... in my experience I enjoy the picture quality of DVD and HDTV to theater because there are no scratches, jitter, or cigarette burns. But hey, thats just like... my opinion man [​IMG]
     

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