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advantages of supervised transfer


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#1 Elliot Rudmann

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Posted 06 November 2006 - 09:29 PM

I just finished shooting 1600' of 16mm film for a 5 minute short this past weekend. The director and I are planning to get a supervised transfer at Cinelab in a few days, however, there are some questions I have. What type of specific things do I get control over in the process of manipulating the image and how much is it significantly different (in quality) than trying to do those things in a color correction/image manipulation tools in Final Cut or another program?

I've heard you can manipulate colors, crush blacks, increase/decrease contrast, and things like that, but I'd like to have a better understanding of what I can potentially do before I go there so as not to be unprepared.

There were some scenes we shot outdoors (with Kodak 7201, where it was sometimes cloudy and sometimes sunny, and because of time constraints, we had to continue shooting, despite the lighting inconsistencies (thanks to the wind making clouds cover/reveal the sun at certain points). I know there's no perfect solution that would fix such inconsistencies, but are there things that a lab can do to try to hide/decrease those mis-matches?

I would greatly appreciate any advice/or personal experience you can give on supervised transfers. Thanks!

Elliot
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#2 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 20 December 2006 - 11:59 PM

I would like to hear some advice on this too.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 December 2006 - 12:25 AM

The lab is probably going to process the negative "normal" -- they can't really do anything shot-by-shot to adjust for mismatches.

In the telecine suite, they are probably using a DaVinci color-corrector, so the question is, besides the normal first & secondary color-corrections, how many Power Window events can they handle per shot. Two?

Power Windows allow you to draw a box or circle/oval or isolate one side of the image in order to adjust that area separately (in terms of color, contrast, etc.) from the rest of the image. The edge of that boundary can be softened or hard-edged. The most common use of a Power Window is to create a grad filter effect where you darken or brighten one area of the frame, often used to make the sky darker, for example, or a bright window. You can also change the color of that graded area, for example, to make the sky bluer (you are really adding a blue tint to the area.)

You can also isolate a strong color (blue sky, green grass, red dress, etc.) and then adjust it separately from the rest of the image, like to make that color more or less saturated, or even shift it to a different hue (you could make the green grass purple if you wanted to.)

Just remember that since skin tones naturally have a lot of red in them, it is harder to alter the color of warm-toned objects in the scene without it affecting the skintones, whereas green grass and blue skies are easier to play around with.

When the shot comes up, the colorist will first attempt to balance it in terms of contrast, color balance, and brightness, "normalize it". This would be a good point to tell him (or her) if the shot is supposed to have a certain unbalanced look, for example, that it is supposed to be an underexposed, dim, blue-ish dusk scene, or a golden yellow-orange sunset scene. You tell the colorist if you want more or less overall color saturation (chroma), whether to make the shot brighter or darker overall in levels, and then whether to adjust the contrast, either by making the highlights hotter or the shadows darker, or both.

At this point is when you may need to use the more complicated tools like Power Windows or even luminence /chroma keying (if keying is a feature in this telecine bay) to adjust individual areas of the frame. For example, if you are trying to pull more detail out of an overexposed window, you may use a Power Window matched to the shape of the window, or you may pull a luminence key around the bright window to allow you to then only work on the image area within the window.

You may be only limited to one or two Power Windows per shot, although some telecine set-ups are not limited (except that you spend time doing Power Windows, and that costs money.) So don't go crazy with the Power Windows...

The other important feature is frame storing, where the colorist can store the corrected frame in a buffer so that when you work on the same shot again later (if a cut scene) or a shot that is part of the coverage, the colorist can recall that frame and switch back & forth (or wipe) to judge the new frame to the old one, to match them. So if you think you'll need a reference, remind the colorist to store that frame as a guide (some colorists do it automatically.)

It is also a good idea when you first sit down to recap all the telecine set-up issues like format (16x9 NTSC, 23.98P HD, what tape format, letterboxing, etc.) to make sure you are on the same page.

When doing an extreme look or a strong color bias to the image, it's a good idea to occasionally look away from the monitor or look at a normal image or take an eye break, to keep you from getting used to the strong look, because sometimes you can start to overdo it once you get used to it. A common example is how much blue to add to a moonlit scene -- after staring at blue-lit monitor images from an hour, you start to add too much blue to compensate for your eyes getting used to it, so occasionally call-up a normal frame from the buffer or something as a neutral frame of reference.
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#4 Brian Baker

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Posted 22 December 2006 - 04:15 PM

very well written, educational post.

thank you.
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