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HD to 35mm Film Quality Loss Compared to 35mm


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#1 K Borowski

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Posted 12 August 2006 - 11:28 AM

Hey everyone, this question was asked on Photo.net, a still photography site I frequent. There've been a couple of helpful answers there, but as the speaker's English doesn't appear too good, and still photographers are notoriously inclined towards digital ;-), I felt it best to post it here so pros who've worked with both could have a chance to answer. . .


Gautam Doshi , aug 12, 2006; 02:56 a.m.
"Hi,
Could someone please guide me as to the quality loss if I were to convert footage shot on a High Definition camera to 35 mm??

I mean how would the quality look if I shot a film on HD Camera and aimed for a theatrical release.

Also, how is the quality and the approx. cost of the best HD camera which is closest to film resolution?

Kindly mail me your replies to scorpius007@gmail.com.

Looking forward to receiving some really informative and educative replies.

Thank You,

Scorpi"



I'd feel unqualified making any further statements as I've never worked with HD or 35mm myself.

Regards,

~Karl Borowski
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 August 2006 - 11:55 AM

Well, quality "loss" compared to what? Screening the HD on a 2K DLP projector? Compared to watching it on a 50" CRT HD screen? You have to compare end display formats for it to be a practical comparison.

Certainly in terms of resolution, 35mm internegative is higher than HD, therefore a laser recorder transfer from HD to 35mm IN isn't really going to lose information, although a subsequent print off of that IN will slightly, and it would be worse if the 35mm IN had to go through further IP/IN steps to make release prints.

There is a transformative effect when HD goes onto 35mm that looks different than when projecting HD digitally. Some people like it (feel it adds a "film look"), others prefer the look of the digital projection as being "purer" to the original.

Sometimes noise problems get worse in the transfer to film because of the way some colors interact with the film layers, noise which might be less obvious in digital projection. Noisy blues is the most common occurence.

If he wants to know what HD-to-35mm looks like on the big screen, he should run out and see "Miami Vice" and "Superman Returns" before they are gone. "Prairie Home Companion" too.

There are many flavors of HD in terms of cameras and recorders. "Prairie Home Companion" was shot on the basic Sony F900 camcorders but running 4:2:2 to separate HDCAM-SR decks, therefore less compression and better color than if using the internal VTR of the cameras. It was also cropped from 16x9 to 2.35 for the film-out to 35mm anamorphic. "Miami Vice" mostly used the Viper, but in HD stream mode instead of film stream mode. "Superman Returns" on the Panavision Genesis, etc.

35mm is higher than HD resolution, so even the high-end HD cameras, by definition, are limited to 1920 x 1080 pixels, but may have superior color or exposure latitude compared to cheaper-to-use HD.

It really comes down to budget; generally if it costs more, it probably is better. Shooting and recording 10-bit 4:4:4 HD to an HDCAM-SR deck or hard-drives will cost more than using a camcorder that records to 8-bit 4:2:2 or 3:1:1 (Varicam or F900). It's hard to talk in the abstract, but odds are that when someone asks such basic questions, they can't afford the highest-end technology anyway.
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