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The HD apologist's take on Miami Vice


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#1 Arni Heimir

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Posted 09 August 2006 - 06:03 PM

I believe that as of today, all High def photography in cinema is an experiment. For Miami Vice, I think the HD work was a failure. It didn't serve the story. Nor had any reason for it. It wasn't like it was shot for 1.35 million. One percent of the film's (sic) actual budget. I am amazed why it cost so much. Because I didn't see that money on the screen.

For me the use of popular music was awkward and same goes for the overall sound design. The gun battle in the third act sounded like it was all pulled from location sound. The frequent silences stirred laughter in the audience.

For the actual hd discourse. I prefered from the F900 over the Viper. I feel that film would have actually benefitted in this case.

What I did enjoy was the cartoonish violence. Arms blown off and Close ups of bullet wounds in the head. The trailer explosion was poor and seemd like rear projection in some cases. Where did all the money go? If I were a sony shareholder. I'd demand an immediate audit. :)

I good example for high def was in Mission impossible 3. Although not a good movie they used high def moderately. The Shangai areal shots looked good, wheras it didn't in this film.

I found what Paul Cameron shot in "Collateral" with the f900 looked supered in its own right. I wish Mann would have burried the hatched and had him do this one (with the panavised f900). With respect to Bebe, he should stick to lavish period pictures. Something this "urban contemporary" should have been made with unknowns, by an unknown and with a single percent of the budget they used on this one. I believe if the script of this film would have been just produced by Mann with a rookie mtv music video director at the helm, it would have been an experiment with promising potentials.

"Heat" remains Mann's master piece.

Árni Heimir
Iceland

Edited by arnih, 09 August 2006 - 06:07 PM.

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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 09 August 2006 - 07:32 PM

I believe that as of today, all High def photography in cinema is an experiment. For Miami Vice, I think the HD work was a failure. It didn't serve the story. Nor had any reason for it. It wasn't like it was shot for 1.35 million. One percent of the film's (sic) actual budget. I am amazed why it cost so much. Because I didn't see that money on the screen.

For me the use of popular music was awkward and same goes for the overall sound design. The gun battle in the third act sounded like it was all pulled from location sound. The frequent silences stirred laughter in the audience.

For the actual hd discourse. I prefered from the F900 over the Viper. I feel that film would have actually benefitted in this case.

What I did enjoy was the cartoonish violence. Arms blown off and Close ups of bullet wounds in the head. The trailer explosion was poor and seemd like rear projection in some cases. Where did all the money go? If I were a sony shareholder. I'd demand an immediate audit. :)

I good example for high def was in Mission impossible 3. Although not a good movie they used high def moderately. The Shangai areal shots looked good, wheras it didn't in this film.

I found what Paul Cameron shot in "Collateral" with the f900 looked supered in its own right. I wish Mann would have burried the hatched and had him do this one (with the panavised f900). With respect to Bebe, he should stick to lavish period pictures. Something this "urban contemporary" should have been made with unknowns, by an unknown and with a single percent of the budget they used on this one. I believe if the script of this film would have been just produced by Mann with a rookie mtv music video director at the helm, it would have been an experiment with promising potentials.

"Heat" remains Mann's master piece.

Árni Heimir
Iceland



I'm not arguing, I'm just curious as to what the basis of the disagreement with HD is? The camera is a just a box with a hole in it which records an image to "something." In this case, it was an electronic device which saved the image information. I'm not clear on why anyone would argue against (or for, for that matter) a specific technology. Isn't this a bit like suggesting that a DP would have been better off shooting with 5218 instead of 5279? Just as any other DP would choose one stock over another because of the "look," we might assume that Mann chose this HD format because that's how he wanted VICE to look. No? Maybe it had nothing at all to do with cost savings.

It may be a valid question you have, but I have never heard anyone complain in the same way about one film stock over another.

I guess I'm just wondering in general if people have valid issues with HD or if it is just bias due to "love" of film?

Just wondering.... :unsure:

Edited by bjdzyak, 09 August 2006 - 07:33 PM.

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#3 Arni Heimir

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Posted 09 August 2006 - 07:59 PM

I'm not arguing, I'm just curious as to what the basis of the disagreement with HD is? The camera is a just a box with a hole in it which records an image to "something." In this case, it was an electronic device which saved the image information. I'm not clear on why anyone would argue against (or for, for that matter) a specific technology. Isn't this a bit like suggesting that a DP would have been better off shooting with 5218 instead of 5279? Just as any other DP would choose one stock over another because of the "look," we might assume that Mann chose this HD format because that's how he wanted VICE to look. No? Maybe it had nothing at all to do with cost savings.

It may be a valid question you have, but I have never heard anyone complain in the same way about one film stock over another.

I guess I'm just wondering in general if people have valid issues with HD or if it is just bias due to "love" of film?

Just wondering.... :unsure:


I think that Mann just didn't formulate this film as well as his previous work. I agree that the 5218 has become the defacto film stock.

Its hard to explain. I am sure Mann wanted HD over film probably still to this day will stand by that.
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#4 808_Bass

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Posted 09 August 2006 - 09:44 PM

more on vice (miami that is).....

http://www.smh.com.a...4802960657.html
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#5 Matt Pacini

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 11:51 AM

...I'm not clear on why anyone would argue against (or for, for that matter) a specific technology. ...


Well, I could agree with your position if in fact HD had been considered "just another technology".
But we've been beat over the head with the propaganda the last few years, that HD is A FILM KILLER, and so many taking the position that it's somehow better, when in fact, it simply doesn't look as good as film, as many who use it are claiming that it does.
Read some of Robert Rodriguez' insane comments about HD vs film, to get a good idea of what I'm referring to.
So that's behind a lot of the visceral reactions you get when big budget films choose HD over film, because it just looks bad most of the time.
And as far as calling it "an experiment", I think at this point, there's no mystery about what HD looks like, it's fairly well established and predictable.

MP
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 11:57 AM

And as far as calling it "an experiment", I think at this point, there's no mystery about what HD looks like, it's fairly well established and predictable.


I think we're all curious what it looks like with a lot of money thrown behind the movie in shooting and post, as opposed to the typical TV show or indie feature shooting 24P HD.

I'm curious as the what "Zodiac" is going to look like on the big screen, compared to David Fincher's other movies. I think the only two Viper-shot movies I've seen in theaters was "Collateral" and "Miami Vice", and both were recorded in HD Stream mode with lots of on-set processing by Mann & Co. -- so it will be interesting to see something shot in Film Stream mode in 10-bit Log going to uncompressed hard drives. Plus I'm curious to see how Fincher's penchant for soft underexposed light works with the Viper. On "Panic Room", the D.I. people told me that they had to do lots of grain reduction because of how all the film was underexposed on that movie.
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#7 Jonathan Benny

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 12:32 PM

It may be a valid question you have, but I have never heard anyone complain in the same way about one film stock over another.


I feel that we do hear complaints when it comes to different filmstocks particularly when it comes to stocks being discontinued in favor of another that might not have "that look" and definitely when it comes to different formats (super 16 vs 35 etc.) Many people were up in arms over the prospect of 45 being replaced by 01 for example. Or there have been many passionate arguments against the idea of a techniscope revival because of issues related to image quality.

The problem comes, I feel, when people shoot on HD saying "it looks 'as good' as film". In the same way as one might shoot super 16 saying "it looks 'as good' as 35". Its a problem because in our desire to maintain a certain integrity in the artform, it is important that we are able to acknowledge and differentiate between the qualities of formats - even though many down the pipeline can't tell the difference (or don't care).

Ultimately it doesn't matter if we chose to shoot on dv, hd, s16 or anamorphic. If it works for the story, then great. But we must be honest and acknowledge what each format really looks like in terms of basic technical quality. Acknowledging the basic technical quality of any format allows us to move forward and build on it for whatever project we are using it for.

AJB
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#8 Giles Sherwood

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 12:49 PM

And as far as calling it "an experiment", I think at this point, there's no mystery about what HD looks like, it's fairly well established and predictable.


But that isn't really true, if you think about it. Miami Vice and Collateral caused such a big stink because they looked so radically different, going beyond even the typical "weaknesses" of HD use.
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#9 Max Jacoby

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 02:41 PM

Where did all the money go?

Ask Colin Farell...
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#10 Michael Collier

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 03:02 PM

I think if you read the American Cinematography issue thats out now (and you know something about HD shooting) it will probably get you steamed up. I was ranting for a while to friends about how retarded their aproach was. And in the article, it becomes very apparent (although they swear up and down they didn't) that mann chose HD for its 'cool' factor. They describe in length how they could only go one stop over for highlights (where with film they would do 2-4 stops, big difference there) or they would 'embrace' deep focus, which to me made the screen more jumbled and confused.

Everything they said they were going for, in my opinion they created almost the opposite effect. And when you read the article you get this sense that everything that didn't work was a product of them wrestling with the format. I am a fan of HD, I have shot several HD movies. Its not the technology, its using it in a poorly-planned manner that bothers me. (also I hate Manns obsession with night scenes that aren't dark. no shutter and gain +6db. If you want to see everything, shoot at magic hour. If an hour isn't enough come up to alaska. we have between 5-8 magic hours daily.)

It was said earlier that Manns best film was Heat. I really liked that movie. I think its a case of a director who hit the peak of his career right out the gate, and then has been on a downward slide ever since. Some directors get better over time, some get worse.
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#11 Tomas Koolhaas

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 03:26 PM

Hi,
Arguing whether he should have shot on film or HD is senseless, thats like saying carravaggio's art would have been better in watercolor, (not that I am likening Miami vice to carravaggio's work in terms of quality!!!).
I will agree that I thought collateral looked 100 times better than miami vice, the noise/grain on collateral (in the cinema) was very noticable in certain HD night shots, but I fealt within acceptable limits, whereas the noise in 'Vice' was way too much for my taste, and varied alot from scene to scene and even from shot to shot within a scene.
What I think was wierd was that they turned the gain up too much (in my opinion) just to get detail in the night sky in a few shots, surely they (with the massive budget they had) could have shot the whole film without the gain up and just added those skies in post digitally and saved the film from being so noisy. The point is that the look of 'Vice' is not indicative of the usual HD film, and threfore is not a fair comparison to say "it looked bad, he should have used film instead". I've seen many movies on 35 that looked terrible but no-one ever said "they should have used HD instead". Basically they just were experimenting with pushing the gain/noise on HD, and for me and apparently most people who saw the film the experiment proved the old wisdom (which I have heard since film school days) of not going over +6db gain if you want to project on the big screen (unless you have lots of money for grain/noise reduction etc.. in post). Which funny enough is what Paul Cameron said on collateral after doing tests, But Bebe came in and did new tests and figured the could go "at least to +12 Db" (from article in AC).
Cheers.

Edited by Tomas Koolhaas, 16 August 2006 - 03:30 PM.

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#12 Michael Collier

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 04:43 PM

I wasn't trying to say they should have used film, just that they mucked up the use of HD. They didn't play to its strengths. Lighting to a decent stop to avoid +6 (or even +3) isn't hard. I do it everyday in my day job. The last time I had to gain up was in a large room with no chance to set lights (it was a funeral for a national guard member, so it would be inconsiderate, and it was in barrow, alaska so I really couldn't have packed the lights in the C130, given the weight restrictions the millitary put on us.)

Even still for a small screen played over analog (and some digital) transmission, I will not gain up unless its a physical impossibility, and I can count on one hand the number of times I have used it in the last 2 years. With that it amazes me that they feel they can treat HD like film. There is no room to 'push' exposure, there is no room to crop some cams, but not others. It was foolish to try and mix a viper and an F900 (or was it 950?) on one you get native HD resolution in 2.35, on the other you are cropping some resolution to go from 16:9 to 2.35.

Film cameras can be easily mixed because in the end the sensor and proccessing would be the same. In video the sensor and proccessor changes so your base image would change slightly. If one camera is more sensative than the other, then you naturally have to push or pull one camera to match the contrast of another. Typically this means pulling up the shadow areas to match. Since they would run a viper as a 2shot and an F900 as a closeup, obviously when you intercut there will be noise issues. Also the tweeking on set is a little disconcerning to me. It sounded like from setup to setup they would adjust the image. The problem this presents is your not looking at the images side by side to see how they intercut. Your tweeking the image to your liking (not so much to match) and then you lock that in with compression (all cameras had some type of compression on set) so matching in post adds even more noise.

If people want to use HD, that is fine. I plan on shooting more HD even as I progress into higher budgets. But when you shoot HD you have to be very mindfull of all the forces at play because an HD movie has much less latitude for correction than a film movie. I resent the idea that 'HD is just as good as film, so we can behave like its film' It can look comperable to film at times, but by no means can you give yourself the freedoms they gave themselves for the movie. And the film I think suffered from it (even in HD it could have looked much much better than it did)
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#13 Arni Heimir

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 05:09 PM

Ask Colin Farell...


Max, I think you are right.

Has anyone out there experienced an entourage worth telling about?
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#14 Tomas Koolhaas

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 06:33 PM

[quote name='Michael Collier' date='Aug 16 2006, 02:43 PM' post='121610']
I wasn't trying to say they should have used film, just that they mucked up the use of HD. They didn't play to its strengths. Lighting to a decent stop to avoid +6 (or even +3) isn't hard. I do it everyday in my day job. The last time I had to gain up was in a large room with no chance to set lights (it was a funeral for a national guard member, so it would be inconsiderate, and it was in barrow, alaska so I really couldn't have packed the lights in the C130, given the weight restrictions the millitary put on us.)

Even still for a small screen played over analog (and some digital) transmission, I will not gain up unless its a physical impossibility, and I can count on one hand the number of times I have used it in the last 2 years. With that it amazes me that they feel they can treat HD like film. There is no room to 'push' exposure, there is no room to crop some cams, but not others. It was foolish to try and mix a viper and an F900 (or was it 950?) on one you get native HD resolution in 2.35, on the other you are cropping some resolution to go from 16:9 to 2.35.


Hi micheal,
Sorry if it sounded like I was insinuating that's what you said, I know you weren't suggesting that he should have used film, I was just making a point because it seemed lots of people are saying that he should have used film because of the way the HD looked in Miami Vice. I agree with you 100% and that was my point, that just because the way they shot HD for Miami Vice doesn't mean that HD should be judged on that performance against film. My point was that 'Vice' was a very unusual example of HD and that they did many things (cropping, using lots of Gain etc..) that most DP's or productions would never do on HD.
As a side note I shot a short with the F900 and the P+S technic adaptor which cuts 1.5/2stops of light so I had to go +6db on the gain just to get a decent exposure (I didn't have many lights) and when I saw it on the big screen it looked very nice, but definately wasn't as clean as the usual HD footage (partly because of the adaptor's ground glass of course) but I thought the texture was beautiful.
Cheers.

Edited by Tomas Koolhaas, 16 August 2006 - 06:33 PM.

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#15 Aaron Farrugia

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 06:46 PM

The gun battle in the third act sounded like it was all pulled from location sound. The frequent silences stirred laughter in the audience.

I feel that film would have actually benefitted in this case.


to me i thought it was refreshing that they wernt shooting digital trying to make it look like film they were shooting digital for digital, there were shots that looked very trashy but to me i felt it went with the style of the film,
as for the sound effects, i thought it was great that they didnt try to beef up the guns and make them sound like cannons, that they went with the real gun sounds
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#16 Greg Lowry

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 06:51 PM

they were shooting digital for digital


"Digital for digital". I think you've coined a new term.
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#17 Michael Most

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 07:50 PM

I think the only two Viper-shot movies I've seen in theaters was "Collateral" and "Miami Vice", and both were recorded in HD Stream mode with lots of on-set processing by Mann & Co. -- so it will be interesting to see something shot in Film Stream mode in 10-bit Log going to uncompressed hard drives.


There was a screening a few months ago of a picture called "Silence Becomes You" that was shot on Vipers in, I believe, Lithuania, by British producers. Much more of a conventional image, and it was done through a Filmstream path on S.two's, same as Zodiac. Very rich look, although I personally didn't like some of the color correction choices, especially regarding fleshtones. But it did look quite good overall, with little to none of the problems seen in Michael's pictures. Actually, I thought you were at that screening (it was a pretty packed house at the Pacific in Hollywood), but it might have been while you were in New Mexico or Louisiana.
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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 08:01 PM

Yes, I missed that screening.

I've noticed from visiting other boards that the people raising the biggest fuss over "Miami Vice" aren't film snobs, but video shooters who feel that they know more about how to make HD "look good" and feel affronted from some reason that Mann and Co., with all of their money, didn't try and make HD "look good."

It's interesting because when someone shoots films and abuses it to bring out its inherent grain structure or enhance other film artifacts, it's called art, but when someone does it to HD, it's called a mistake.

Saying you should never boost HD by +6db is like saying you should never push film by two stops, or never use a heavy diffusion filter for that matter. It's a very limited way of looking at technology that is supposed to be in the service of creativity. As cinematographers, we're supposed to be making movies, not selling video technology.

And lighting night exteriors up more is not the same thing as shooting in very low light-levels and boosting the gain to capture as much ambient information as possible. It's two different looks.
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#19 Tomas Koolhaas

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Posted 17 August 2006 - 01:32 AM

Yes, I missed that screening.

I've noticed from visiting other boards that the people raising the biggest fuss over "Miami Vice" aren't film snobs, but video shooters who feel that they know more about how to make HD "look good" and feel affronted from some reason that Mann and Co., with all of their money, didn't try and make HD "look good."

It's interesting because when someone shoots films and abuses it to bring out its inherent grain structure or enhance other film artifacts, it's called art, but when someone does it to HD, it's called a mistake.

Saying you should never boost HD by +6db is like saying you should never push film by two stops, or never use a heavy diffusion filter for that matter. It's a very limited way of looking at technology that is supposed to be in the service of creativity. As cinematographers, we're supposed to be making movies, not selling video technology.

And lighting night exteriors up more is not the same thing as shooting in very low light-levels and boosting the gain to capture as much ambient information as possible. It's two different looks.


Hi,
I never said that Miami Vice's look was a "Mistake" I believe 100% that they intended it to look that way (they tested everything all the way to film-out), and I didn't say anyone should never use more than +6db, I just meant that for my personal taste, from what I have seen projected I think +12db and above is too noisy for my taste, that's all, there's no right or wrong about it. I also understand the difference between lighting a night scene more and using high gain to capture ambient light levels, however my point was that from the article I read Bebe didn't use existing light to light the actors or the scenes, just to get detail in the night sky, so I was wondering if using less gain and adding the detail in the sky in post would have made for a less noisy picture and still achieved pretty much the same thing.
Having said all this I like the fact that Mann went this experimental and dont think he should be criticised for it, I strongly believe there is no "Correct" way of doing anything in cinematography, as I said I just fealt watching the film in the cinema that the noise was a bit too much and detracted from my overall enjoyment of the film. But I still enjoyed the film (which is rare for an 'Action' film of this type) and thought there were some great shots in it. As a side note, I do things all the time that are not reckomended or "Incorrect", one of the last few times I shot HD I used +6Db gain (on an F900) with the P+S technik Pro-35 adptor and cookeS4's, people thaught I was nuts!! because I added noise using the gain and "grain" from the adaptor and softness from the S4's (as oppossed to a sharper Zeiss lens), but the results were by far the best of any HD project I have ever shot, and very beautiful, even projected on the big screen.
Cheers.
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#20 Michael Most

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Posted 17 August 2006 - 01:28 PM

It's interesting because when someone shoots films and abuses it to bring out its inherent grain structure or enhance other film artifacts, it's called art, but when someone does it to HD, it's called a mistake.


Excellent point.

Man On Fire, Three Kings, Domino, Traffic, even Amelie. Think of the comments that would have resulted if any of these pictures had been shot electronically, and not just posted that way.
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