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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


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#1 Dan Goulder

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 01:12 AM

Just caught a new optically-restored print of "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" on the big screen. Man, it still looks great! Super 16mm blown up to 35mm doesn't remotely touch the quality of this 40-year-old Techniscope movie, as some have speculated. Even Capote was more grainy. (Maybe the old Technicolor dye-transfer process is the reason for the difference.) If you've only seen old analogue transfers of this movie on TV, you'd be stunned by the quality of the image in its full theatrical clarity and resolution.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 01:31 AM

Just caught a new optically-restored print of "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" on the big screen. Man, it still looks great! Super 16mm blown up to 35mm doesn't remotely touch the quality of this 40-year-old Techniscope movie, as some have speculated. Even Capote was more grainy. (Maybe the old Technicolor dye-transfer process is the reason for the difference.) If you've only seen old analogue transfers of this movie on TV, you'd be stunned by the quality of the image in its full theatrical clarity and resolution.


Well, it WAS shot on 50 ASA film stock, afterall... even considering all the improvements over time, a 50 ASA stock from the 1960's would be more like a 200 ASA stock today, grain-wise, and when you combine that with the hard contrasty lighting of the day, it's no wonder that the image looks sharper and finer-grained than a modern Super-35 film shot on 500 ASA stocks in soft lighting.

But Super-16 today blown-up to 35mm can look better than what you are implying. I bet if you shot in Super-16 using modern lenses, modern 50D stock, and used really hard, crisp high-contrast lighting, it would make a pretty good blow-up.
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#3 Dan Goulder

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 11:13 AM

Well, it WAS shot on 50 ASA film stock, afterall... even considering all the improvements over time, a 50 ASA stock from the 1960's would be more like a 200 ASA stock today, grain-wise, and when you combine that with the hard contrasty lighting of the day, it's no wonder that the image looks sharper and finer-grained than a modern Super-35 film shot on 500 ASA stocks in soft lighting.

But Super-16 today blown-up to 35mm can look better than what you are implying. I bet if you shot in Super-16 using modern lenses, modern 50D stock, and used really hard, crisp high-contrast lighting, it would make a pretty good blow-up.

Actually, I did want to ask if you know of any recent features that have taken that approach, especially with night shots. Night lighting for low speed daylight film seems to be a lost art. As for the particular movie example I used, if you get a chance to see it projected at a local cinemateque, you'll know from the very first opening shot that you're definitely not looking at a super 16mm blowup. (I say this delicately, with all due respect for your expertise and appreciation for the assistance you've given.)

To be fair, I'll admit that "Monsoon Wedding" was a high quality blowup, so I know it IS possible. That movie may have been shot on lower speed stock. Maybe it would be good to advise anyone planning on a blowup to stay away from high speed stock if it's at all possible within the particular shoot.

Edited by dgoulder, 13 February 2006 - 11:23 AM.

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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 11:39 AM

Until someone shoots a comparison test for the big screen, assuming they can get access to the original negative of "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly", we're sort of in a nebulous area in terms of whether 1960's 50 ASA 35mm 2-perf with 1960's lenses (especially the zoom used) is closer to modern 50 ASA film with modern lenses but in Super-16, versus modern 2-perf 35mm but with faster film.

Certainly there has been measurable improvements in film stocks and lenses in the last few decades, so the only question is how much lower in quality was 1960's 2-perf 35mm.

But my overall belief is that old movies had soft film and soft lenses but sharp lighting and high-contrast printing; whereas the modern look is sharp film and sharp lenses but soft lighting and lower-contrast printing. So old movies can give the illusion of greater sharpness and better grain than they actually had. Unless they were shot on larger negatives, as some old movies were.

I saw a restoration of "Giant" on the big screen at the Cinerama Dome, which was ordinary 4-perf 35mm Eastmancolor, and I was surprised at how soft & grainy it was for the most part. The dye fading over time didn't help because the loss of contrast makes the image look softer and the grain more obvious than how it looked in the 1950's. Same with the restoration of "Rear Window", another ordinary 4-perf 35mm Eastmancolor movie -- compared to the restoration of the 8-perf VistaVision "Vertigo", "Rear Window" was much softer and grainier looking.
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#5 Dan Goulder

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 12:51 PM

Actually, the print I saw was derived from the original camera negative, which was used to strike a new IP. The optical blowup was done through a newer Nikon lens. The sharpness was amazing, well beyond what I would have anticipated. Come to think of it, since this optical restoration was done only a couple of years ago, the original dye-transfer process wouldn't have been used, as I had previously stated. Of course, there are definitely more dropouts than you would see in a modern film, but this shows the still-viable potential of the 2-perf format. (I'm currently working in this format, so I apologize if I get overly defensive about it. Recent screen tests have been very encouraging.)

Edited by dgoulder, 13 February 2006 - 12:53 PM.

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#6 Matt Pacini

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Posted 16 February 2006 - 03:41 PM

I wonder exactly which Nikon lens was used.

MP
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#7 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 16 February 2006 - 04:52 PM

I wonder exactly which Nikon lens was used.

MP


---Obviously an anamorphic printer lens, not a consumer camera or enlarger lens.

---LV
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