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Apocalypto


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#1 Matt Goldberg

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Posted 04 December 2006 - 11:56 AM

It comes out Dec. 8 (at least in the Midwest U.S.), but from what I've heard there have been some advanced screenings. Anyone seen it yet? Just curious to hear first impressions-- story, graphic content, cinematography, etc.
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#2 Francesco Bonomo

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Posted 04 December 2006 - 02:45 PM

Matt, I haven't seen it yet, but there's a pretty good review at Variety.com. I didn't read it all, I'd rather see the movie knowing as little as possible about the story, but they say it's a remarkable film and that it's "he best-looking big-budget film yet shot digitally; one can't tell it wasn't shot on film.".
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#3 freddie bonfanti

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Posted 04 December 2006 - 03:00 PM

i can base my judgement on the trailer ive seen and yes, the imagery was very pleasing. however, some shots give away the fact that it was shot digitally, especially the one with the panther and some close ups of the little (freaky) girl. having said that im sure things may be different in a theater and i hope the review is right.
i believe that a part from scrupolous cinematographers and other folks involved in filmaking, the majority of the people who go and watch well done HD films never notice the difference with celluloid.

Edited by freddie bonfanti, 04 December 2006 - 03:01 PM.

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#4 Matt Goldberg

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Posted 04 December 2006 - 10:25 PM

Thanks for the link, Francesco.

From the movies I saw this year shot on the Genesis camera (Superman, Flyboys, and Click), I honestly couldn't tell much of a difference both on DVD and in the theater when it came to distinguishing Genesis from 35mm film. When I saw Flyboys in the theater (don't remember screen size), it seemed cleaner and pastel-- but I think that was probably from compositing work and look-driven DI. Compare that to Miami Vice (shot mostly on the Viper), and those are obviously different looks. Most of the time, though, I hate to draw conclusions just from grain, DOF, rez and color fidelity when it comes digital vs. film, as so much of a movie's look can be manipulated in post.

I saw the Apocalypto trailer last week in the theater, and tried to catch anything that stood out that told me 'this is video', and couldn't tell the difference. Less for some of the scenes in Flyboys and Superman (mainly VFX shots), as of today I think that the Genesis replicates a 35mm film-look very well.

As for non-technical aspects of the film, it will be fascinating to track the financial performance of this film, considering all the variables it has to work with-- Gibson's current reputability, ultra-gore, and just the imaginative idea behind it.
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#5 Jason Debus

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 11:23 AM

There's a good article from the LA Times talking about the challenges of shooting digital in the jungle as well as the 'Mel' factor:

Waiting for the end to come on 'Apocalypto'

Consider this oft-repeated account from the crew on location in Veracruz, Mexico, this spring: Makeup and wardrobe departments arrived at 1 a.m. to outfit more than 1,000 extras with elaborate wigs, prosthetic ears, scars and body paint for the eye-popping Mayan City sequence. Eight hours later, when the entire cast and crew were ready for the first scheduled shot, Gibson was MIA. When the director rolled onto set around noon he opted out of the planned schedule and instead shot running scenes with two lead actors until the sun went down.
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#6 Max Jacoby

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 11:39 AM

Interesting article.

But if I were a cinematographer I would not admit the following:

'Neither the director nor the director of photography could tell what was shot on film versus tape, the cinematographer recalls.'
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#7 freddie bonfanti

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 11:50 AM

definitely not...i agree with that, Max. (sometimes we agree ;-))
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#8 Rupe Whiteman

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 12:01 PM

- check out apple.com/trailers to have a look at the trailer... as well as many others...

Rupe Whiteman UK
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#9 Francesco Bonomo

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 12:14 PM

But if I were a cinematographer I would not admit the following:

'Neither the director nor the director of photography could tell what was shot on film versus tape, the cinematographer recalls.'


I've never worked on a HD production or shot with the Genesis yet (and I guess it'll take a long time before we even see one on set here in Italy), but why would a cinematographer never have to "admit" that? If Dean Semler actually said that (I don't think there's an exact quote anywhere in the article, though), why should it be an issue anyway?
I'm not arguing with you guys, just curious, I guess..I think there's nothing to lose in having better tools at our disposal, including digital acquisition systems (again, I've only worked with film, so I lack experience in the digital realm).
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#10 Max Jacoby

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 12:20 PM

I actually think it's a cinematographer's job to be able to see the difference between film and HD. It's certainly very obvious to me.
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#11 Francesco Bonomo

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 12:30 PM

I actually think it's a cinematographer's job to be able to see the difference between film and HD. It's certainly very obvious to me.


Max, maybe I misread the article, but isn't that the whole point of that quote in the article, i.e. the quality of the genesis footage being as good as if it was shot on film? If someone like Semler said something like that, couldn't it actually be true? Shouldn't we give the guy the benefit of the doubt?
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#12 freddie bonfanti

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 12:50 PM

Francesco,

i am sure that the footage they looked at was surprising and very film like. what we are trying to say is that normally most of the people will never spot a noticeable difference between the two formats, but certainly a cinematographer or who is involved in filmaking and has a special and very scrupolous way to look at a picture would do.
i personally notice a digital image mostly when theres camera movement and i tend to notice it on the skintones. for istance, have a look at the trailer of "flags of our fathers", shot in anamorphic, and you will see what i mean. the difference is quite big with the resolution of Apocalypto.
I was very disappointed by the latest Genesis features, above all "Superman", but i hope things will improve.
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#13 Dan Goulder

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 01:04 PM

'Neither the director nor the director of photography could tell what was shot on film versus tape, the cinematographer recalls.'


It should be noted that they were watching a film out, of which one byproduct of that process inevitably imparts a film look to the footage. So, they were basically comparing a hybrid of film and digital with straight film. I still find it surprising that they couldn't tell the difference, and wonder if they were being literal or diplomatic with their response.
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#14 Max Jacoby

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 01:09 PM

Max, maybe I misread the article, but isn't that the whole point of that quote in the article, i.e. the quality of the genesis footage being as good as if it was shot on film? If someone like Semler said something like that, couldn't it actually be true? Shouldn't we give the guy the benefit of the doubt?

I have seen Genesis footage myself and while it was getting closer to film than other digital cameras (mainly due to the 35mm sized chip), I could still see a difference. Like Freddie says, you can see it in the way it captures motion and in the skintones which do not look as nice as those on film.

To be fair I don't know what comparison they saw, but the film very likely went through a DI, so in a way it didn't look its best, depending on who did the DI.
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#15 Francesco Bonomo

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 01:22 PM

Freddie, I can usually tell the difference between digital footage and film on the screen, I'm not that blind or unexperienced. I have nothing against digital acquisition systems (having not tried or tested them yet) but I'm not a "film is dead" kind of guy.

I'm just saying that I don't think we should rely on our own point of views to criticize a cinematographer who found some genesis footage to be indistinguishable from film. As I said before, I've never tested the Genesis and I haven't seen any Genesis-shot movie, so my experience is limited. Anyway, I think that if Demler said that, it just means that the quality of the Genesis footage he shot was very good for his standards. Maybe you or Max would think the quality of that footage is poor and not even close to the quality of the film footage, I guess we'll never know that.

Looks like Demler could have (1) lost that ability or (2) shot very good stuff. As I said, I'd give the guy the benefit of the doubt and go for (2).
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#16 freddie bonfanti

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 02:47 PM


Freddie, I can usually tell the difference between digital footage and film on the screen, I'm not that blind or unexperienced.


i didnt mean that, i just gave you my opinion and some examples of why I THINK the two format still differ a lot. i am a huge fan of HD but i still see the limitations.


Maybe you or Max would think the quality of that footage is poor and not even close to the quality of the film footage, I guess we'll never know that.


as i said on the post, I HOPE the genesis will prove to be a good choice in terms of digital filmaking. i never thought it was poor, what i thought was very strange was the fact that a professional cinematographer said that he could not see a difference between the Genesis footage and film footage. my judgement does not come from experience, but from watching recent Genesis features which to be honest looked quite bad, like "Superman". "Flyboys" was better, still some skintone problems (very orangy at times), but definitely not like film.
in the end, Francesco, i think that all the mediums have their pros and cons, its just a matter of taste and an artistic or logical choice of a cinematographer. there is no right or wrong.

all the best
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#17 Francesco Bonomo

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 03:02 PM

i think that all the mediums have their pros and cons, its just a matter of taste and an artistic or logical choice of a cinematographer. there is no right or wrong.


I guess we all agree on that...take care, compare! :D
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#18 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 03:26 PM

Celluloid tastes better than my Hard Drive
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#19 Matt Goldberg

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 04:38 PM

as i said on the post, I HOPE the genesis will prove to be a good choice in terms of digital filmaking. i never thought it was poor, what i thought was very strange was the fact that a professional cinematographer said that he could not see a difference between the Genesis footage and film footage. my judgement does not come from experience, but from watching recent Genesis features which to be honest looked quite bad, like "Superman". "Flyboys" was better, still some skintone problems (very orangy at times), but definitely not like film.
in the end, Francesco, i think that all the mediums have their pros and cons, its just a matter of taste and an artistic or logical choice of a cinematographer. there is no right or wrong.

all the best


Well said. But as can be seen from either people's own third-person accounts or direct use with Genesis, the Genesis/film differences are much debated and considered. On my own side, without ever using the camera and interpreting current Genesis films to celluloid films, I'm satisfied with the Genesis' internal processing and gamma curves deployed to achieve desired results. Nonetheless, I still take into account the way both acquisition formats are structured-- simply said, one is via celluloid and the other as video signal. These are the main differences when comparing both formats of acquisition-- it's just that Genesis uses video technology to render a film-like image, that often is appreciated and the main aesthetic excuse of using it as an alternative to film.

On the flip side, I felt that Superman Returns wouldn't have been the same film if shot on 35, 65 or 16 mm film. I can appreciate if it was also used a maneuvre to handle the visual effects easier as 4:4:4 HD RGB files rather than 2k or 4k rasters, but ultimately, it provided a 'cleaner' and pasteller look, which may or may not have been significantly attributed to impactful DI. To think if they shot Superman Returns on film, it is certainly very possible to consider that it would have looked very different.
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#20 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 08 December 2006 - 12:36 PM

I just saw Gibson on Leno last night, and at the end of his segment they showed a clip from the film. Now, a clip shown on a TV talk show isn't much to go by, but the look of the clip they showed REALLY looked like it was video. It looked really flat, jerky like a home movie and highlights weren't picked up very well at all.

Again though, a clip like this isn't much to go by. I'll probably see it next week and give a final observation.
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