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Video projection at film festivals [?]


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#1 steve hyde

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Posted 08 December 2005 - 03:14 PM

....I'm in the throes of preproduction for a series of short films (my own student films) and I'm faced with many many choices regarding the final presentation of the work. I'm working in small gauges: super 16 and Super 8 and I have been transferring my test footage to DigiBeta and making off-line edits via Dvcam with plans to conform my edits back to DigiBeta in an on-line. (my projects are self financed)

Realistically, this work will not be finished on film. However, I intend to submit my work to film festivals and naturally I want the presentation to look as good as it can. The posthouses I am working with have not been able to advise me on projecting video formats. I understand that the quality depends on the projection system that the festival is using.

Is there a format or codec that is consistantly reliable accross festivals?

My local festival: Seattle International - accepts submissions in HDcam, DigiBeta and BetaSP. Outside of SIFF I think many festivals can handle BetaSP. Smaller festivals will likely project only DVD.

In one conversation with a director I was told DVD often looks better than uncomressed BetaSP....

in the end I'm left wondering where to invest my money when it comes to preparing a film for video projection.

Please advise.

Thanks in advance,

Steve
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#2 Trevor Greenfield

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Posted 08 December 2005 - 03:24 PM

Hi fellow Northwestian! I was just over in seattle doing my processing and telecine from 16mm.

Personally, what I have found is that a lot of smaller festivals right now get most of their exhibition/judging copies and prefer to exhibit from DVD. Especially new festivals. However, bigger festivals and festivals that have been around for awhile can usually project from a variety of formats, and it may be to your advantage to have mastered on a format higher than DVD for such festivals, anyway. So IMO the best bet is to master to the highest format you can afford and then figure out how much copies will cost you from there to something that the festival can do. Such as mastering to Digibeta and then exhibit with BetaSP.

Usually, you wont need to send your exhibition copy up front, you can send a DVD copy first.
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#3 Michael Collier

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Posted 08 December 2005 - 03:26 PM

Finnish your offline DVCAM edit. Conform back to digi and playout with that. Since the footage goes to Digi in the first place you want your final tape to go through as little generation loss as possible (Digi beta I know, digital, no generation loss, but you do loose quite a bit going to DVCAM or other formats.)

If you do the final conform from the original tapes it will give you the highest quality. Now if a fest doesnt take digibeta, transfer it to the highest quality tape they accept (another conform from original would be good, but probably unpracticle given your budget)

If you are doing an online conform (IE you conform in avid by ingesting footage at full data rate and push out from computer) I would have the post house do a Digibeta, a Beta SP (although you can skip this one, its a dying format) and HDCAM master tape. That way you have your bases covered if one fest doesnt take Digi.

Bottom line, if it starts Digi, it should end Digi with as few transcodings as possible.
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#4 Joshua Provost

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Posted 09 December 2005 - 12:06 PM

DigiBeta is widely accepted, and DVD is gaining wider acceptance. I would have both available in the end. DVD has the advantage of being able to store true 24p, while DigiBeta will always have pulldown.
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#5 steve hyde

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Posted 09 December 2005 - 02:32 PM

Thanks to everyone for your advice. I am going to make some projection tests and consult with the film festival staff. I'll report back with any interesting findings....

Cheers,

Steve
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#6 Matt Sandstrom

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Posted 19 December 2005 - 08:33 AM

any ideas whether hdv is making it into this realm at all? hdcam is only marginally better and much more expensive both for the filmmaker and the festival. mastering to hdv is well within reach for all indie filmmakers whether from a film d.i., hdv, some other hd format, sd video or whatever. i'm not super fond of hdv as an acquisition format due to the compression, but for exhibition it's near perfect, don't you think?

/matt
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#7 Sidney King

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Posted 19 December 2005 - 01:10 PM

Hi Steve,

well, i've been to over a dozen festivals since the spring with my feature (some projecting digitally, some off the print), and believe me projection is a big problem. Newer/smaller festivals especially are often very limited in their exhibition format options; you'll even have trouble with digiBeta, usually only the bigger/richer festivals can accomodate that due to the deck rental cost (i've seen quite a few festivals whose only exhibition formats are 35, maybe 16, DV, BetaSP, & DVD).

And even the "bigger" festivals that do have higher-end projection capabilties often only have it in limited venues, so you still may end up getting booked in a small venue projecting off DVD with a low-end LCD projector while the higher-profile film gets played in the Big House. That's just the harsh reality.

Festivals are still a lot of fun and worth the effort, but brace yourself for some sobering screening conditions unless you have a print (and even then the projection conditions can be spotty). I've barely seen or heard anything related to HDV projection, i think it's still a ways off.

but some festivals are making strides, i just heard that the Indianapolis Int. will have as one of its venues a Landmark theater equipped with the new Sony 4K projectors. but again, even then it doesn't mean you'll get booked in that particular theater...
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#8 Freya Black

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Posted 19 December 2005 - 07:05 PM

I have to agree, it may well depend on the kind of film you make and the festivals related to that but nearly all the ones I have come across use Beta SP as their main projection format. Some places project DVD too and a few will do mini dv.

I guess Beta SP has the advantage of being uncompressed and full colour space as well as there being decks that can do both NTSC/PAL. Digibeta is just too expensive at the moment. It may find it's way into festivals once it is an out of date format I suspect.

I also agree with Mattias that HDV would be a great format for festival projection as in theory there is no PAL/NTSC issue (tho in practice this might be a lie, can european cams play american tapes?) It's high resolution and it has a higher bandwidth than DVD, by about double or something but I expect we are more likely to see projection from blueray or HD-DVD.

Of course, if you are attending the festival, you could always bring your own camera for playout! :)

love

Freya
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#9 steve hyde

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 12:25 AM

....yeah, maybe HDV is the way to go. I really don't know having no experience working in that format. Hopefully other will chime in. I'm really surprised that video projection is not more of a hot topic with grand strides being made to improve projecting technology.

I have seen some decent BetaSP projections and I don't hear viewers complaining about how it looks.

I have also seen MiniDV back projected HUGE with one of these things:

http://www.sanyo.com...m?productID=632

It looked pretty jaggy to me, but I bet it looks decent when projected at a realistic scale.

On a slightly different topic - the guys that transfer my film (FSFT) told me HDcam downconverted to DigiBeta looks worse than a standard straight to Digibeta transfer. I imagine more artifacts would be seen in a HDcam to BetaSP downconversion.

Steve
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#10 Matt Sandstrom

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 12:02 PM

On a slightly different topic - the guys that transfer my film (FSFT) told me HDcam downconverted to DigiBeta looks worse than a standard straight to Digibeta transfer.

that's probably because hd capable scanners always scan in hd and downconvert on the fly if you're going to digibeta. so the signal takes about the exact same path but with an extra loss of a generation. i'm sure hd downconverted to sd looks better than a last generation sd scan ("rank").

/matt

Edited by mattias, 20 December 2005 - 12:03 PM.

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#11 Max Jacoby

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 12:36 PM

Many of the bigger festivals will only accept 35mm prints.

I certainly would not want my film to be videoprojected, since there are several print available.
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#12 Sidney King

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 01:21 PM

Many of the bigger festivals will only accept 35mm prints.

I certainly would not want my film to be videoprojected, since there are several print available.


hi audris-
i'm not aware of a single north american festival (major or otherwise) that only accepts 35 for exhibition; are you thinking of foreign festivals? which ones did you have in mind?
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 01:55 PM

I know that Sundance and Toronto have DLP-Cinema projection from HD as an option (usually 60i/1080 HDCAM tapes.)

Trouble is that many of the smaller festivals have SD video projection, and the quality is all over the place, usually awful to merely intolerable. There's no way to color-correct an image for all possible bad viewing conditions, nor should you because it becomes like a cat chasing its tail. You need to assume optimal viewing conditions when timing a print or color-correcting a video, and then try and make sure the project is screened as well as possible.
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#14 Max Jacoby

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 02:21 PM

'Foreign' depends on where you're from, doesn't it?

Venice was all 35mm. Other festivals that I have been to in Europe did not have videoprojection either.
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#15 steve hyde

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 04:45 PM

....well all the "big" North AMerican festivals video project (for better or worse!!) Better, since most indies can't afford to print without a distribution deal so if they didn't allow video projection it would be more of a rich-kids club than it already is - and for worse, obviously, since there isn't a projection standard that producers can rely on.

I imagine some projectors work better with BetaSP, while other work better with DigiBeta or HDcam. It has to be a matter of what resolution the projector can handle. I would guess distortion might occur when using a tape format that is not optimized for a particular projector. I have not found any information confirming this.

I will see if I can find some information out at SMPTE.

Steve
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#16 Matthew Greene

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Posted 21 December 2005 - 01:16 AM

Unfortunately the major variables of how good your image looks up on the screen isn't in your control. How they set up the projectors and how they have the various decks hooked up is going to make the most difference. The best you can do is to master your video to SMPTE standards (100IRE for video, 7.5IRE for pedestal, NTSC color space) and do the color correction on a properly calibrated video display.

The proper luminosity on a projected image (theatre specs) is 16Fl (@100IRE) whereas in NTSC standards it's 35Fl (@100IRE), it would serve to know what standard the projection is going to be adjusted to but it might not be consistent from festival to festival. I'd find out what's more common and color correct on a monitor at that standard.

Obviously, if the festival is taking HD entries I'd do my best to provide them with an HD dub, if they only take SD keep in mind that it's true that an HDCAM master downsampled to SD will appear softer in SD than a native SD transfer because SD needs more edge enhancement than HD (HD's edge enhancement is very fine and disappears when down sampled) so attention needs to be placed on downconversion (specifically color space which is different for HD & SD and edge enhancement). Its always best to Up or Downsample using external hardware (high end eg. Terranex, Alchemist) than the HDCAM deck's built in scaler.

When it comes to mastering pick the best format you can master on and make dubs in the best format the festival will take. I shy away from DVD although quality is (variably) good it's a more unreliable screening format, you never know if their player is going to be 100% compatible with your disc, although there are less issues now than in the past. It's also a highly compressed format.

Quality-wise if your master was analog, just convert to the best digital format they can play (or that you can afford), you're better off with Digibeta. If your master was on DV or DVCAM then you're better off with DV or DVCAM dubs. When it comes to digital formats, you're always better off keeping it native to your master format, whatever that may be since you don't go through additional conversions, compression or sampling.

HDV and HD-DVD/Blue Ray DVD are really good formats for theatrical projection, I'm sure most of the festival circuit will adopt them within the next year or so.

Edited by Matthew Greene, 21 December 2005 - 01:19 AM.

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#17 Sidney King

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Posted 21 December 2005 - 01:44 AM

Point taken, Max! Apologies for my inadvertent North American-centrism. I haven't been to any European festivals but I hope that will change soon...

Speaking of projection situations at festivals, here's a quick story (cautionary tale?) of what different priorities festival programmers may have than filmmakers and how that can affect the screening conditions of your film: I attended a screening of the crowd-pleaser "Seducing Dr. Lewis" at a festival this spring. The theater quickly filled up and there was a line out the door. The festival director then changed the venue on the spot to the theater next door, which had twice the seating capacity (I think something like 500 vs. 250).

Of course they had the print on the platter ready to go, but the venue they moved it to had ONLY digital projection (even though it was a bigger venue). So after herding everyone out, they ended up screening it on what I assume was the submission DVD. VERY long throw, it really looked horrible, which was a shame b/c it was obviously a beautifully-shot film with the 35mm print just sitting on the platter one door down.

After the screening, I tactfully complained to the festival director, and said in that situation it was most respectful to the filmmakers to screen the print (I don't think the filmmakers were in attendance to object themselves). She stood firm, said she had audience demand to deal with, knew it was a crowd-pleasing movie, etc...She pointed out that peopled laughed and cried and cheered all the same, visually weak presentation notwithstanding.

So, even when you do everything "right," you never know what can happen to your film in a festival setting like that.
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#18 Josh Silfen

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Posted 28 April 2006 - 10:10 AM

I just saw a film I shot at Tribeca, projected in HDcam, and was surprised to see significant motion artifacts. We shot Super16, did our post digitally in HDcam SR - 24P, and converted to HDcam - 60i for festival projection. Any shot that had a lot of camera movement exhibited very stuttery motion. Is this a normal consequence of the 24P to 60i conversion, or did something go wrong somewhere else along the line. I have seen other films at festivals projected digitally and do not ever remember noticing this kind of problem. But, if this is normally the case, why do festivals only project 60i and not 24P?
-Josh Silfen

Edited by Josh Silfen, 28 April 2006 - 10:12 AM.

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#19 Dan Goulder

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Posted 28 April 2006 - 11:02 AM

I just saw a film I shot at Tribeca, projected in HDcam, and was surprised to see significant motion artifacts.
-Josh Silfen

When in post, did you get to view the footage in full HDCAM SR 4:4:4, and was the monitor you used showing the footage at 24p, or was the monitor itself operating in 60i? Have you been able to verify that the motion artifacts were definitely introduced in the transfer to HDCAM 60i? (Regardless, congrats on getting your work into the Tribeca Festival.)
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#20 Josh Silfen

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Posted 28 April 2006 - 11:46 AM

When in post, did you get to view the footage in full HDCAM SR 4:4:4, and was the monitor you used showing the footage at 24p, or was the monitor itself operating in 60i? Have you been able to verify that the motion artifacts were definitely introduced in the transfer to HDCAM 60i?


We were viewing the footage in full SR 4:4:4, and I never noticed anything, but then again it was a small monitor as opposed to a large movie screen.

I'm not positive that the artifacts were introduced during the conversion to 60i, just guessing, but I'm wondering if that is a common side-effect of that process or if this is an abnormal case.
-Josh Silfen
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