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Is HD really that much better?


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#1 Carlos_Martinez

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Posted 28 May 2007 - 11:33 PM

Hey guys just searched the forums for threads regarding this but couldnt really find what i was looking for


but yeah here goes


is HD that much better? Ive seen HD filmsf (not hi-end stuff) but prosumer level cameras and well it looks just about the same to me. I know im not a tech guy or anything but this is just me.

The only thing ive noticed is more of a hyper reality then DV cameras since everything has more pixels and more is seen the faults of the people turn into big. I remember hearing that a news station had to get rid of their top of the line HD cameras because of this.
as well as their super accurate need for focusing.

Any who this is just my opinion but i think this race for SUPER HI-REZ image is getting taken out of proportion.

is the trade off beneficial ?


any thoughts?
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#2 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 28 May 2007 - 11:45 PM

Hey guys just searched the forums for threads regarding this but couldnt really find what i was looking for
but yeah here goes
is HD that much better? Ive seen HD filmsf (not hi-end stuff) but prosumer level cameras and well it looks just about the same to me. I know im not a tech guy or anything but this is just me.

The only thing ive noticed is more of a hyper reality then DV cameras since everything has more pixels and more is seen the faults of the people turn into big. I remember hearing that a news station had to get rid of their top of the line HD cameras because of this.
as well as their super accurate need for focusing.

Any who this is just my opinion but i think this race for SUPER HI-REZ image is getting taken out of proportion.

is the trade off beneficial ?
any thoughts?



I think that you generally get what you pay for, hi end HD solutions get more sophisto because they actually do the things they claim, prosumer and especially consumer cameras have a fairly wide range of marketing (i.e. Bulls**t) attached.

I was at a friends the other day helping setup a 4-core mac for editing DvcProHD and HDV and I was looking at a bunch of sony hdv footage and it did not really look much different than most DV I have seen, sorry ;) . It is widely known that a small sensor (1/4" or even smaller in many consumer cameras!) cannot resolve anything near the chip's photosite resolution because of the MTF of the optical system (lens and prism block) will not resolve it, this is basic physics and optics. So there is a optical "filter" limiting resolution at the very front end of the system, all additional resolution is sort of "made up" in the ccd sampling and electronics. People buy "HD" consumer cam's because it's a new thing and consumer electronics and computer manufacturers need to sell people on "new-better" to move boxes out the door and that's about it.

-Rob-
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#3 Carlos_Martinez

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Posted 28 May 2007 - 11:55 PM

i figured as much. I cant wait till i actually start working on film. One day maybe soon after I graduate from my Digital Film Video production BFA lol.
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#4 Richard Boddington

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Posted 29 May 2007 - 12:06 AM

Forget HD, it's junk.

Buy a K3 off ebay and starting shooting film TODAY!

R,
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#5 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 29 May 2007 - 12:25 AM

Well, true HD is far from "junk." For "film" students interested in cutting their teeth and exploring the use of a camera in creating a narrative (presumably in a short form project), any camera will do. At that level, it is less about the overall technical quality and more about learning how to work through the process.

As someone works up to wanting to create more serious projects that could potentially go to festivals or be a calling card, ideally they'd want a higher quality camera. As so many others before have done, a budding Director should seek out the help and collaboration with an experienced DP/Cameraman/Videographer who hopefully owns his/her own equipment. If that Camera person owns something like a Sony HDCAM or Panasonic Varicam, then it shouldn't be dismissed so quickly as the images are more than adequate for such a project. Particularly at the "learning" stage of someone's career, having the flexibility and "instant feedback" can be invaluable. If time and budget allow for filmstock, then of course someone should make every attempt to use that, but professional HD is a valid alternative.
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#6 Julia Gers

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Posted 29 May 2007 - 12:22 PM

I don't know as much (or really much at all for that matter) about HD as some of the people who've already replied to this. I think HD is better for bigger screens. I don't know about big screen tvs, though, as I don't have a big screen or HDTV. But I bet it's better for big screens like movie screens. I'm not sure about this, but I think HD either gets rid or ads more grainyness for movies on the big screen. I heard that somewhere, but can't remember which it is.
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 May 2007 - 12:58 PM

HD just means "high-definition" as in "higher in resolution than standard definition video". Generally this has meant 1920 x 1080 pixels per frame at the highest (unless you want to consider those experimental "Ultra-HD" cameras). HD was designed to replace SD for bigger TV screens with more detailed images. 1920 x 1080 is a little over 2 megapixels per frame. In comparison, standard-def NTSC is 720 x 480 pixels per frame.

4-perf 35mm film, on the other hand, though it doesn't have pixels, could be thought of as being approximately a 4000 x 3000 pixel camera (the vertical figure depends on the aspect ratio), and 4000 x 3000 is 12 megapixels per frame -- a lot higher than HD.

Or if you just want to look at the horizontal pixel resolution, 35mm is approx. 4K (some say higher) and HD is around 1.9K (or lower on some cameras, maybe 1.4K or 1.2K or even .9K). You could round 1.9K up to 2K and think of it as having half the horizontal resolution in terms of pixels (like I said, film doesn't have pixels, so it's not necessarily the most accurate way of comparing the two).

HD doesn't have grain, which helps it hold up on a large screen despite having less resolution than 35mm. Plus a lot of 35mm these days does through a 2K D.I. which brings the resolution down closer to HD. But HD can sometimes have noise, which can look like grain and be distracting on the big screen.

But 35mm color negative photography has other advantages, like a much wider dynamic range for exposure, especially compared to the lower-end HD cameras. The compressed and color-subsampled HD formats used by most of the midrange and lower HD cameras means the colors don't have the same depth.
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#8 John Sprung

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Posted 29 May 2007 - 01:11 PM

is HD that much better? Ive seen HD filmsf (not hi-end stuff) but prosumer level cameras and well it looks just about the same to me.

A lot depends on what you're using to display HD. There's much more resolution in the 1080p data on tape than you can see on a CRT, even an HD CRT. You have to map the data one to one to the pixels of a chip projector -- like DLP or DILA -- to know what you really have.


-- J.S.
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#9 Daniel Smith

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Posted 29 May 2007 - 01:15 PM

I personally never used to appreciate how much difference the resolution can make to ones viewing experience. But it really is, totally different. I've seen several short films shot on HDV, and they've got a totally different look to them.

Although, if I was to favour certain features over others, colour sub-sampling and progressive scan would come first over HD.
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#10 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 29 May 2007 - 09:44 PM

Better than what? It's no better or worse, it's different. DV is SIGNIFICANTLY cheaped than thue HD (4:4:4 pulldown) and produces an image decient enough to have been used to make a few successful feature length movies, HDV (4:2:0 pulldown) is a comsumer version of HD that is no were near as sharp as true HD but is viable however the optics in some mini DV cameras are better than most HDV. Digibeta and DVpro50 are pro level DV formats and the quality is EXCELLENT. Super 8mm film is the consumer film format, cheap but can only go so far due to the size of the frame although some feature documentaries (I'm thinking of live concert footage shot onstage off the top of my head) have been made with pro S8 cameras. 16mm has been used for low budget features, documentaries and student films but again the images can be very grainy at times especially when blown up to 35mm for projection in a commercial theater. A veriant of 16mm is super 16 which used the entire availible film surface to create a larger image and is exclusively used to blow the frame up to 35mm to reduce the grain and increase sharpness while saving money on film stock, BUT the image will still not be as clear as 35mm. 35mm film is the standard for professional productions but even here there is 35mm techniscope which is a uses half the standard 35mm frame to produce a cinemascope image at a reduced cost in filmstock BUT, again at the cost of image quality. It too must be printed to a standard 35mm anamorphic image to be projected. Academy standard 35mm which is generally masked and projected at a widescreen aspect ratio which is not as wide as scope so there is a reduction in grain. Super 35mm which is used again as non projectable format to be reduced to scope 35mm to acchieve a better image or blown up to 65mm for IMAX projection. Amamorphic 35mm which compresses the image's width optically to allow total use of the 35mm frame and by using an amamorphic projection lens a scope image is produced at the highest level of image quality availble in 35mm, but it is ALSO the most expensive 35mm format to produce, save one, the "Lazy 8" VistaVision cameras and projectors which lays the film on it's side and has an 8 perf frame (hence forth the lazy 8 moniker) which is now used exclusively for VFX but fast becoming obsolete. At one time during the 50s it was a commercial projectable format but it had reliability and cost problems so it never really caught on and is now religated to the realm of special effects due to reduced grain. Then there is 65 (70)mm which is used for IMAX or for VFX shots to reduce grain but the cameras are heavy and bulky which limits movement and it is astronomically expensive. EVERY SINGLE ONE of these formats have been used professionally so they are ALL good enough to be considered professional formats, there is no "better" it's what you can afford, the look you're going for, the needs of your post production chain, the curcumstanses under which you will be shooting, the type distribution you intend to secure, the size of your crew and of course your own personal prefferences. What's better is what gets the job done the way you you want it done and that's the truth. B)

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 29 May 2007 - 09:47 PM.

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#11 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 29 May 2007 - 10:34 PM

Imagine you have a round table discussion, and all four of your participants will be on one side of table. How many cameras do you use to cover the event in HD as opposed to SD? More importantly, the spacing MUST be altered if one wants to get individual close-ups in 16 x 9.

Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, but it just means that one has to use a new set of rules when it comes to spacing your scene out. I've always tried to do reaction shots or shots of an audience observing an event when possible, but I've always had the luxury of a close up of just one person just in case other aspects of the scene needed to be avoided.

Imagine on that round table discussion that you don't have enough space between your four participants to do singles, but you can get gorgeous two shots. Only now you discover that one person in the middle just does not know how to comport themselves in a group setting but you cannot stop videotaping for at least several more minutes because it is a live event! Now what do you do? You wish you had standard def aspect ratio so you could easily go in on a one shot whenever possible, that's what.

16 x 9 is a great boone to those who work on decently budgeted projects because it should mean there is more to do to make the extended frame look good. But for lower budgeted, bare bones projects, I see 16 X 9 as more of a disaster because competently filling the entire frame takes money or more than a bare bones crew. Of course there will be times when the extra space will be a benefit, but the point the low budget filmmaker at times will be relying on being lucky rather than being good when it comes to filling out the extra width.
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 May 2007 - 11:47 PM

Come on, 1.78 (16x9) is not that widescreen. You can shoot a close-up in 16x9 that does not have the other person sitting next to them in frame, just as you can in a 1.85 movie. Or at worst, you see a piece of the other person's shoulder on the edge of frame. We're not talking about 2.35 here...

And who says good composition has anything to do with filling the frame??? Sometimes the opposite is true. I think saying that widescreen 1.78 is disasterous for low-budget people is ridiculous -- low-budget feature movies have been shooting in 1.85 since the 1950's! It's been fifty years since widescreen replaced 1.37 Academy for movies and somehow the low-budget filmmakers have managed to cope. And no, it's not due to "luck" -- that's nonsensical. I shoot a guy sitting in a chair in 16x9 and if it works compositionally, I got lucky??? That's completely random -- I could just as well make the nonsensical argument that if you're lucky, a composition occasionally works in 4x3, but most of the time, it will be easier to compose in 16x9. It makes no sense to claim that vertical space is somehow cheaper to fill than horizontal space. By that logic, low-budget filmmakers should really be using a vertical aspect ratio to save money.

The trouble is that you are assuming that the widescreen composition always sees more horizontally than the 4x3 composition, when it's also possible that the widescreen composition is just seeing less vertically and shares the same horizontal view. So your 16x9 close-up isn't always seeing more off to the sides, it sometimes may be tighter and seeing less of the shirt or hat, etc.

This is merely about getting experience with composing in different aspect ratios so you'll be comfortable.

There is no right or wrong aspect ratio -- for every type of shot where you think 4x3 works the best, I can name a shot where 16x9 works the best, or 2.35 even, and it has nothing to do with budget, just that some subjects work on a more horizontal plane than others, or are more vertical than others. But even then, sometime the most interesting composition is to put something square or round in a long rectangular frame, offset to one side.
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#13 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 02:08 AM

I don't think you really addressed my points David.

I never said that you had to "fill" a space by actually "filling it", but you have to light it and make sure it matches on some level, or not, but either way, it's usually by design, not just dumb luck. Last time I checked people are more vertical than horizontal, so why take the position that the more horizontal the image, that it doesn't take more money to "fill" "dress" or light that space, of course it does. I'm really surprised at your overall tone and response David.

As you yourself stated, the new thing will be better in some ways, and different in other ways. As I stated, the wider aspect is great at giving people more job opportunities, or are you going to take the position that it takes no extra effort from a lighting, sound or set design point of view to design a 16 x 9 frame versus a 4 x 3 frame.
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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 10:30 AM

It's only a "problem" if you've become too used to only working in 4x3. Or if you have to compose for both 4x3 and 16x9 simultaneously.

It doesn't take more effort to deal with 16x9, just a different effort. You're stuck thinking that all 16x9 shoots will just shoot more horizontal picture than all 4x3 shoots, where sometimes they will just be shooting less height.

You're making a mountain out of a molehill.

Low-budget filmmakers have been working with widescreen for half a century now. After thirty features in widescreen, I can't recall any discussion on how 1.85 was making the shoot less affordable. I've never heard an art director say "if only I could dress this set for 4x3, we could save money!" In fact, on "Big Love", we'd actually run into more problems if we were shooting in 4x3 because of the height of the soundstage ceiling in the backyard set. Sometimes a wider frame is a blessing in not having to spend money on something above or below the actors.

Anyone who shoots 16x9 all the time is going to be equally annoyed at the problems of composing for 4x3 if they aren't used to it.

16x9 is not that wide a picture frame. People have been shooting amatuer snapshots in wider aspect ratios than 4x3 and somehow they manage.
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#15 Jonathan Benny

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 12:45 PM

or are you going to take the position that it takes no extra effort from a lighting, sound or set design point of view to design a 16 x 9 frame versus a 4 x 3 frame.


When it comes to drama, I think it takes just as much effort to light and design for 4x3 as it does for 16x9. I think the major differences come in terms of the opportunities for blocking and composition. But this isn't an "effort" thing as much as an "how do you approach it" thing.

This is not to say that they are not different and that they don't each have their own challenges. Certainly they are different. But I'm sure that Elephant was as challenging to shoot from a compositional/technical standpoint as any similar-type film shot in 1.85. I would suggest that Elephant perhaps even presented set designers etc. with more challenges than they were used to in working on a 1.85 shoot.

I would like to also point out that the 16x9 frame has been a gift to low-budget filmmakers. The fact that low-budget filmmakers have been able to express themselves using a frame closer to 1.85 using their very cheap cameras has had only a positive effect on the understanding of the potential of the cinema language. For a long time the ultra low-budget filmmaker, who had to either use super 8, regular 16 cameras, or cheap video cameras, had to use the 1.33 / 4x3 frame (or they would have to improvise some sort of wide screen solution to achieve a wide-screen result). The fact that 16x9 is pretty much standard now in cheap video cameras has made a lot of new filmmakers and cinematographers very aware of the value of good wide-screen composition. It has made the overall community operate on a more sophisticated level. And I don't think the increased width has made things that much more difficult in terms of lighting/set design etc. on the low budget level.

As films like Elephant illustrate, this is really about a "shape" thing, not a "size" thing. And a film shot in 1.33/1.37/4:3 can be every bit as visually compelling and technically challenging as any one shot on 1.85.

Perhaps in the relm of special effects/major epic shots the differences become more significant.

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#16 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 01:02 PM

It's only a "problem" if you've become too used to only working in 4x3. Or if you have to compose for both 4x3 and 16x9 simultaneously.

It doesn't take more effort to deal with 16x9, just a different effort. You're stuck thinking that all 16x9 shoots will just shoot more horizontal picture than all 4x3 shoots, where sometimes they will just be shooting less height.

You're making a mountain out of a molehill.

Low-budget filmmakers have been working with widescreen for half a century now. After thirty features in widescreen, I can't recall any discussion on how 1.85 was making the shoot less affordable. I've never heard an art director say "if only I could dress this set for 4x3, we could save money!" In fact, on "Big Love", we'd actually run into more problems if we were shooting in 4x3 because of the height of the soundstage ceiling in the backyard set. Sometimes a wider frame is a blessing in not having to spend money on something above or below the actors.

Anyone who shoots 16x9 all the time is going to be equally annoyed at the problems of composing for 4x3 if they aren't used to it.

16x9 is not that wide a picture frame. People have been shooting amatuer snapshots in wider aspect ratios than 4x3 and somehow they manage.


I am talking about low low budgets here. Most low low budget indie filmmakers might not be able to afford a set like Big Love, and if they did, it would probably just be just for a day. In your situation, the entire set is designed and then the set gets to stay up for a while and is used for multiple episodes.

Maybe I need to better define the type of shoots I am talking about. I'm talking about the type of shoots in which a filmmaker is "hybriding" the set. By hydriding I mean the set already exists as a real location and only certain things on the "set" can be moved or altered. I believe hybrd shoots will not necessarily benefit from 16 x 9 because a wider space when one can't control everything in the space is really just a problem waiting to happen.

You recently shared some photos of a shoot you did in a restaurant. Whenever I have done a shoot in a restaurant, it's been done with the following rules. The filming has to be done after the afternoon rush and completed before the evening customer rush, the restaurants workers have to still do their routines, and no lights can be mounted onto any of the restaurant's facade. With those three huge limitations, a 4 x 3 frame will be much easier to manage than a 16 x 9 frame. Again, it's all about the budget, and the lower the budget, the more limiting the 16 x 9 frame will be in certain situations.

I think the wider 16 x 9 frame does help employ people, and I think that's great.

As for the idea of just doing a closer shot, I don't buy into that concept as being a fall back quick fix solution. The relationship of the neck and the jaw to the bottom of the frame is just as important as the position of the eyes are to the top half of the frame. Going in closer on a 16 x 9 frame as a way to lose some of the empty side space won't be as easy as it might sound if it means the jaw and neck are too close to the bottom of the frame.

If a filmmaker gets to start with an empty space, and build from that, than the 16 x 9 frame is terrific.
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#17 Aaron Medick

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 01:07 PM

I'd agree with David. I have found wider aspect ratios seem to save money in Art Direction. In 4x3 we still have to pan, dolly, etc, so we end up seeing more set since panning in 4x3 will cover the same field of view as a wider aspect ratio. I work from the point of view that the pace needs to be lit no matter the aspect ratio. I would say that you can some times move faster with a wide aspect ratio because you can let lights hit the floor that would be too bright or ugly knowing the light will be out of frame. Just my 2 cents.

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#18 Jonathan Benny

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 02:03 PM

Whenever I have done a shoot in a restaurant, it's been done with the following rules. The filming has to be done after the afternoon rush and completed before the evening customer rush, the restaurants workers have to still do their routines, and no lights can be mounted onto any of the restaurant's facade. With those three huge limitations, a 4 x 3 frame will be much easier to manage than a 16 x 9 frame.


I think at that point, shooting 4x3 and 16x9 present the same number of technical challenges.

I personally would never suggest to a director or producer that they shoot 4x3 because of the challenges you outlined above. There are many films out there, shot on extremely low budgets, probably under the same circumstances you describe above, that shot in 16x9 or 1.85 and did fine. The challenges above don't really get solved by the format choice. Its more about organizing your setups, blocking, compositions around those eniviornmental elements you don't have control over. You'd have to do that equally with 4x3 or 16x9. At least thats what I've experienced.

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#19 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 02:03 PM

I'm sitting in a public library right now, looking around, and see no "budgetary" problems either doing 16x9 or 4x3 shots.

With your repeated promotion of analog beta-SP, having your own time base corrector, and now the 4x3 video format (not to mention Super-8), one cannot help but get the impression, Alessandro, that you're living in some pre-1999 world (and that remark is more of a gentle nudge and a wink -- you're talking to someone nostalgic for 3-strip Technicolor after all...). For most people, digital video and 16x9 TV are becoming more and more the norm, just like most people think of a 1.37 Academy movie as being something of a throwback.

Not to say, as Adam Frisch has mention before, that 4x3/1.33 composition isn't occasionally a nice compositional effect -- it shouldn't be discarded as an option. But this notion that you must increase your budgets to handle shooting the world or dramatic scenes in 16x9 is pretty much non-sensical, unless you are working on sets specifically built for good 4x3 compositions, and even then, it's more of an annoyance, hardly a "disaster."

Having composed low-budget movies for many years in widescreen, you're just going to have to take my word for it that it is not the budgetary disaster you are suggesting it will be. There's no need to raise the call of alarm. Kids with no budget are now running around the world shooting things in 16x9 video and hardly breaking a sweat over this issue.

Ever heard of the Golden Rectangle of art? It's around 1.6:1 I believe. Still 35mm cameras shoot 1.5:1. Composing for wider frames than 4x3 has been around for centuries. Everytime I pick up my still camera, I don't think "oh, I could be saving money if only I could frame reality for 4x3!"
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#20 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 06:41 PM

I don't think the still camera analogies relate. I remember a friend of mine telling me how much he loved shooting digital stills at a press conference compared to video because he was able to really move around and get all kinds of different perspectives, and do it really quickly, whereas the video guys were basically stuck in one spot with their cameras on sticks. Nor have I said that still cameras should be 4 x 3, specifically because they are mobile and there is always a frame to be found. Unlike video, just turn the digital still camera vertically if necessary, no harm no foul. Digital still analogies don't apply in this discussion.

I recently shot in an artists "loft" and we framed the artist against a wall that was sort of their practice ground, it was splattered with a beautful array of colors. Basically, there were points on both sides of this wall painting that my framing could not go past.

Here was the situation I was following for this shoot. It was over 90 degrees outside, there was NO air conditioning inside. A window was OPEN and there was street traffic about 100 feet away and because the shoot was on the second floor there miraculously was a slight breeze coming in which actually made the temperature tolerable, as long as no lights were on. The window basically allowed for very soft bounced sunlight to come in. I liked the natural look and decided if I could bounce something to fill the side of the artists face that was furthest from the window, I would have an acceptable shot. Not wanting to heat up the place, I used a battery powered mini frezzi DC HMI, and I bounced it against foam core. It gave just enough bounce to fill in the darker side of the face. This was probably the most effective way to add light without adding any noticeable amount of heat to the room. If I add any more heat, I would get a sweaty face on camera and that would not be what we were going for.

Yes I was shooting on betacam sp but I was actually considering how this shot would look in 16 x 9. At first I said to myself, this shot would look even better in 16 x 9, until we actually started videotaping and the person being interviewed had these beautifully wild arm and hand gestures while they spoke. Hands by the face, then an arm gesture that put their hands in their lap. So I found myself having to pull out almost completely wide so I could get their hand and arm gestures on camera. At that point I realized that if I were shooting in 16 x 9, I would have been exposing the sides of the frame well beyond the artwork on the wall, including my minimalist showcard reflector and the Mini-HMI that was filling the shot. If I had been shooting in 16 x 9 I would have literally had to stop the shoot and try a relight to try and gain more room on the sides of the frame, yet there really wasn't much more to gain on the sides anyways, and putting the mini-HMI any farther away would have rendered it useless.

If I had shot this in 16 x 9 and not stopped to relight, I would have had to crop the arm motions by staying in closer to keep within the background framing that was already established and intractable. The shot would have looked beautiful in 16 x 9, but it would be me, the D.O.P. actually changing the content of what we were actually capturing just so I could have a pretty framing. I would be neutering the guts of the shot just so I could have pretty 16 x 9 image.

If the artist had been less active with less hand gestures, then the shot would have probably been more effective in 16 x 9. But that wasn not the case. Think Da Vinci and the classic drawing of the human body that he made called the Vitruvian Man, and see how huge the arm radius is, that radius does not work well in 16 x 9 unless there is a huge space behind the person to work with, or unless the person is willing to take some valium before the interview.
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