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Varicam for feature?


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#1 Chuck Hartsell

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 03:41 PM

I wonder if some of you would comment on whether you think the Varicam would or would not be a good choice, and why, for shooting a feature to eventually be transferred to a 35 film print. Thanks.
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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 07:49 PM

I wonder if some of you would comment on whether you think the Varicam would or would not be a good choice, and why, for shooting a feature to eventually be transferred to a 35 film print. Thanks.


Personally, I'm not a fan of the Varicam extended definition picture. In side by side comparisons I've seen with 1080I, it resembles a side by side comparison of 16mm vs. 35mm. I might consider using it as a tool for speed changes, similar to the way one brings in an Arri or Panastar for that special circumstance, but for principle photography, I wouldn't personally do it.
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#3 Mitch Gross

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 10:32 PM

Everyone has their own opinions on such things. Having just finished (yesterday) my third feature on the Varicam, I can tell you that I like it very much. The colorimetry as well as the camera's deeper color space over the F900 lends it a very pleasing, filmlike image to my taste. I also find it significantly far more DP friendly a camera compared to the F900, with an exception for the new F900R.
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#4 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 12:34 AM

I did a Varicam Feature this year with the Pro35. Its a good camera... but in hindsight I wish I had gone with the Viper and shot less cameras. Viper I feel is a superior camera. None the less if you can't afford a viper, Varicam is great camera and slow motion is its greatest feature. The one thing that I don't like its cine gamma which of course you can turn off. I just don't like that clipping hard edge look. But Panasonic markets it in a way that it was made for film outs. You can manipulated gamma curves in post and next time i will opt to use that route. The Varicam due to its resolution is not great for anamorphic prints... so 2:35. I believe you end up with the vertical resolution at 540 lines projected back on a wide screen. Something like that. Not sure on the exact number. But you will really notice it on the big screen. It would probably look like crap, never got the chance to run test tho... I wouldn't recommend shooting Pro35 if your looking for a high contrast image either.

Edited by Chayse Irvin, 20 September 2006 - 12:37 AM.

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#5 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 07:50 AM

If you are going to film out to 35mm, I'd only go F900. I just think if you have a choice, might as well choose the one with better resolution. I'll take resolution over color sampling when filming out. You should arrange a screening for comparison.
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#6 Thomas James

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 08:27 PM

First of all the 720p Panasonic Varicam is not extended definition but full blown fast action high definition that rivals 1080p. If you are shooting action films you can shoot in 720p at 60 frames per second and convert to 24p for film out. Then you can distribute in HD-DVD in full 720p60 quality for that awesome high frame rate progressive capture something that 1080p24 is incapable of doing. However if you are doing a slow motion drama maybe the 1080p24 format would be the better choice for finer detail.
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#7 Bruce Greene

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Posted 21 September 2006 - 01:37 AM

From tests that I've done, I find it very hard to see a difference in picture detail between the f-900 and the varicam. It would seem like 1080>720 but there's more to it than that. On a full color motion picture shot at 1/48th second shutter speed it will be very hard to see a difference between the two cameras that would be more visable on a black and white resolution chart.


So it's my opinion that the difference in picture detail is trivial, you should test to see if you agree.
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#8 jan von krogh

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Posted 24 September 2006 - 12:05 PM

If you are going to film out to 35mm, I'd only go F900. I just think if you have a choice, might as well choose the one with better resolution. I'll take resolution over color sampling when filming out. You should arrange a screening for comparison.


i have to agree with eric here.

if you can record uncompressed (which is recommendable for 35mm filmrecording and theatrical release), the 1920x1080 compared to 1280x1080 are simply put 2MP vs 1MP... simply half the resolution.

colorsampling is at 10bit when uncompressed or HDCAM SR and at 8bit when HDCAM or DVCPRO HD. so the better colorresolution is a myth - i can clearly say that as i also own and run a colorcorrection here and can clearly say, that hdcam and dvcpro hd 100 are both not tooo good when it comes to colorgrading.

It has a reason that so many a-budget produce on 1080p (superman, flyboys, sin city, once upon a time in mexico, star wars, collateral, miami vice, apocalypto and so on...) and so few on 720p (i honestly dont know a single a-budget produced on 720p).

On the other hand, i agree that the 27 varicam is more ergonomic than the old 900. But the 750 and its brother the 900r are not less ergnomic.

The main advantage of varicam, 60p can only be used for slowmotions when releasing for cinema/projection, and there you can also shot 60i 1920x540 with 1080 cams.

OTOH - there are cool 16mm movies and boring 35mm films, so the image quality isnĀ“t all, as we all know. but you _will_ have only half the resoultion when using varicam.
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#9 Thomas James

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 02:05 AM

If you are shooting an action movie for HD-DVD or Blu-Ray Disc release the extra 60p temporal resolution of the Panasonic Varicam would be an advantage over the low temporal resolution of 24p. The Panasonic Varicam is the digital equivalent of the Showscan format.
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#10 Guy Jackson

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 11:36 PM

I own a Varicam H model and did a film out before(from an F) ,
I love my camera and bought it instead of an F900, it is a matter of taste and feel ?
My rule is: for TV release : defiantly Varicam ,that 1080 sharpness will make it look like video again.
Projection release: go with F900/3,viper,Red or? film.
Like I said: it?s an individual thing
For me a Varicam is super 16?
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#11 Michael Nash

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Posted 18 November 2006 - 06:48 PM

For me a Varicam is super 16?


I agree...

I love the color and look one can get with the Varicam, but resolution always looks like Super16mm on both HD and SD/DVD (never seen a blowup from Varicam). 1080P can look close to 35mm resolution in filmout and downconvert, but Sony's color is different from Panasonic's. I won't say better or worse (especially since both can be modified), but Sony always appears a little more saturated and electronic, while Panasonic looks more film-like (totally subjective on my part).

I wouldn't crop a 720P image to 2.35:1 unless you could really live with the softness. For 1.85:1 or 16:9 it can look pretty good though.
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#12 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 18 November 2006 - 10:35 PM

I worked on a movie a few years ago that cropped to 2.35 from the Varicam. I've only seen the trailer online, so I can't say how it turned out. Check it out here: http://www.soldierof...et/trailer.html
I'm not sure if it's on DVD or not, but it might be worth checking out for reference.
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#13 Adam Paul

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 08:44 PM

Personally, I'm not a fan of the Varicam extended definition picture. In side by side comparisons I've seen with 1080I, it resembles a side by side comparison of 16mm vs. 35mm.

Was 1080i the 16mm? Because 720p has more temporal resolution than 1080i and also looks sharper, not to mention interlaced is useless for anything but news!

I did a Varicam Feature this year with the Pro35. Its a good camera... but in hindsight I wish I had gone with the Viper and shot less cameras. The Varicam due to its resolution is not great for anamorphic prints... so 2:35. I believe you end up with the vertical resolution at 540 lines projected back on a wide screen. Something like that. Not sure on the exact number. But you will really notice it on the big screen. It would probably look like crap, never got the chance to run test tho... I wouldn't recommend shooting Pro35 if your looking for a high contrast image either.


I wouldn't crop a 720P image to 2.35:1 unless you could really live with the softness. For 1.85:1 or 16:9 it can look pretty good though.


What about shooting real anamorphic? There are new 1.33x anamorphics on the market right? That would get you real 2.35:1 instead of cropping the Varicam. It would give you an equivalent of 1702x720. Not bad at all. Theoretically it?s more than George Lucas got cropping the F900 for Star Wars where he ended up with 1440x612.

Edited by Adam Paul, 29 November 2006 - 08:46 PM.

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#14 Adam Paul

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 05:49 AM

I worked on a movie a few years ago that cropped to 2.35 from the Varicam. I've only seen the trailer online, so I can't say how it turned out. Check it out here: http://www.soldierof...et/trailer.html
I'm not sure if it's on DVD or not, but it might be worth checking out for reference.


Just saw Soldier of God on DVD. The cinematography is very good and the images are just gorgeous. Very good color and tonal range. This is the 1st feature I see that was shot with the Varicam. I like the colors way better than the F900 for what I have seen in this movie, although it's noticeably softer. Not really a bad thing at all, at least not for DVD. But I can imagine it must have looked really soft on the big screen. Probably too soft. Maybe they used some sort of filtration to soften the image?
You said you worked on it. Do you have any ideas of what kind of budget they had to work with? It looks really good and it doesn't really feel like a low budget film.

Edited by Adam Paul, 19 March 2007 - 05:50 AM.

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#15 Walter Graff

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 07:16 AM

I'm surprised that no one mentioned anything about the art, rather simply the tools. I wish I could say that one is better than the other but I've seen dozens of projects on both, and shot dozens myself on vboth and it was the person behind the camera that made them shine, not the tool. Hence why all the confusion where one says the color is better and one says it is not, and another says one looks sharper and one says not. Technically 1080 will give you an ever so slightly sharper picture but outside of that, the qualities of these cameras are the talent involved with shooting, editing/color grading, and transfer. You could do a great film out on a Varicam, but you'd also have to have a great looking product and the right people doing the film out as far as my experience goes. We did some tests not long ago using two different places (to be unnamed) to see th difference in the film out work quality. We took both to the same theater for projection. It was the same material given to both places, shot on the same camera. And sure enough both pieces had a different quality to them, one being noticeably softer. It was combinations of the people who did the transfer and the equipment they used. I'd say look less into which hammer is better and more into which company offers a better blueprint and talent to make that blueprint come to life for your final product than ask a question about two formats that on the right day will have no difference between them .
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#16 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 01:30 PM

Just saw Soldier of God on DVD. The cinematography is very good and the images are just gorgeous. Very good color and tonal range. This is the 1st feature I see that was shot with the Varicam. I like the colors way better than the F900 for what I have seen in this movie, although it's noticeably softer. Not really a bad thing at all, at least not for DVD. But I can imagine it must have looked really soft on the big screen. Probably too soft. Maybe they used some sort of filtration to soften the image?
You said you worked on it. Do you have any ideas of what kind of budget they had to work with? It looks really good and it doesn't really feel like a low budget film.

Well, I'm glad it doesn't look low budget, but it was. I'm not sure what the budget was, but I would guess that it was under $1,000,000. IMDB says it was 3 million, but I seriously doubt that's true.
As for filtration....if I remember correctly, I think we shot clean, but we did use the Pro35, so that could be what you're seeing.
Thanks for pointing out that it's out on DVD. It's on my Netflix list now.
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#17 Adam Paul

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 04:15 PM

Well, I'm glad it doesn't look low budget, but it was. I'm not sure what the budget was, but I would guess that it was under $1,000,000. IMDB says it was 3 million, but I seriously doubt that's true.
As for filtration....if I remember correctly, I think we shot clean, but we did use the Pro35, so that could be what you're seeing.
Thanks for pointing out that it's out on DVD. It's on my Netflix list now.


Aha, so you used the Pro35? That may be why it looks soft. But for DVD it?s actually very pleasing, very filmic. Did you see it on the big screen? Did it look too soft?
Was the Pro35 used for all the shoot, even for the landscape/panorama shots? How about lenses? Was it shot with Zeiss Super Speeds?
Really nice job.
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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 05:44 PM

I believe "Borat" was shot on the Varicam, with some consumer DV (obviously) mixed in.
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#19 Mitch Gross

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 08:48 PM

I believe "Borat" was shot on the Varicam, with some consumer DV (obviously) mixed in.

Yes, rented from Abel. Perhaps not the most shining example of cinematic technique, but certainly the most popular Varicam feature ever.

There is an excellent concert film entitled "Lighting in a Bottle," which documents a tremendous Blues concert held at Radio City Music Hall a couple of years ago that was shot with I believe eleven Varicams with some additional backstage footage shot on DVX100s. ll put together through Abel and I think the finished product looks pretty great. A terrific concert as well for anyone who enjoys the Blues.
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#20 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 09:00 PM

Aha, so you used the Pro35? That may be why it looks soft. But for DVD it?s actually very pleasing, very filmic. Did you see it on the big screen? Did it look too soft?
Was the Pro35 used for all the shoot, even for the landscape/panorama shots? How about lenses? Was it shot with Zeiss Super Speeds?
Really nice job.

No, I didn't see it on the big screen.
The Pro35 was used throughout as far as I know and we used Super Speeds.
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