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Peter Jackson interview...


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#1 Jim Jannard

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 12:18 AM

?Ready for takeoff? from New-Zealand magazine ?ONFILM? (May 2007)
In making the WWI-set short that has just screened at NAB, you obviously took the opportunity to put the HD 4K RED camera through its paces ? what?s your verdict at this stage of its development?
That literally came out of nowhere. I?d been curious about the RED 4K camera for a while, and had pre-ordered five of them, just in case it turned out to be all that was promised. I figured five is the minimum number you?d need for a feature, including a second unit. I had a look at some early tests in LA a while ago and they looked great, but their prototype cameras had never been out of the lab.
I liked what they were doing ? making a digital camera of the utmost quality, and making it affordable for indie filmmakers. It also looks like film ? it has a very attractive quality to the image ? none of the ?digital? look I?ve seen with some other HD cameras.
I gave them an open invitation that if they ever wanted to field test the camera in a ?real world? situation. I?d be happy to help. I was also keen to put the film through a full professional post-production pipeline, just to ensure we could use the data all the way through to release.
Of course, two weeks before NAB, Jim Jannard ? the founder of RED ? calls and says, ?Can we come down and shoot something for NAB?! I asked him what exactly. And he said that we could do anything we wanted. With so little time, I immediately thought ?Milford ? Queenstown .. Jet Boats?, but then I thought, ?Stuff it ? let?s make a real movie.?
The First World War is something of a hobby for me, and we participate in a few NZ airshows, where we fly WW1 aircraft, and have uniforms, tanks and artillery for the ?ground theatre? aspect of the airshows. The RED jet, with two prototype cameras on board, was in the air and heading our way and we had 48 hours to figure something out. I decided to grab all this WW1 gear and make a 10 minute war movie. Caro Cunningham went into overdrive and pulled a great crew out of thin air. Dan Hennah had 48 hours to create a battlefield with trenches, etc, I had 48 hours to write a little script, and we suddenly found ourselves shooting ? for only two days. We then had to edit, do sound design, push the film through Park Road Post for colour timing, digital finishing at 4K and a sound mix. We had about five days to do that before the finished result was hand carried to NAB for screening.
I should say I have no financial involvement with RED, and received no payment. I?m sure other companies are developing similar products ? in a hurry! But I will say the image quality was excellent. And these were prototype cameras. The real thing will have several stops more latitude, variable frame rates and shutter angles which we didn?t have available to us. If you shoot at 4K, but want a ?film look?, then you finish at 2K and add some grain. It?s easy. It looks like film. However, if you finish and screen at 4K. the result is like shooting in 65mm, like the old epics used to do. It?s pretty exciting, and will have a major impact on indie filming ? but we could see no reason why you couldn?t use these cameras for any type of movie. I?m seriously considering using RED for The Lovely Bones.
The interesting by-product was the speed at which we shot. I operated one camera, and Neill
Blomkamp the other. We did aerial dog fights with choppermounts, and a pretty big battle scene. Over the two days, we probably shot upwards of 100 set ups ? a speed that would have been impossible with film. Our crew, many whom were veterans of the grueling 300-plus day LOTR shoot, had big smiles on their faces at the end of the two days. We all shook hands and said, ?Why aren?t we making more films like this?? That was the biggest thing I came away with ? the desire to get back to that type of fun low budget filmmaking. If I get some RED cameras, that?s one of the things I?ll be using them for, I?m sure.
Does this mean making, say, a sequel to Bad Taste during your weekends ? as you?ve threatened in the past ? is that much more likely then?
Whatever they run out to be, the RED shoot has really fired me up to make some smaller, quicker films.
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#2 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 05:43 AM

I posted the quote below from a working DP on another topic on another forum but it is a fascinating counter argument when read directly after Mr. Jackson's comments up above...

----------------------------------------------------

"From June 2006 to mid-March 2007 the 1st unit shot over two million feet of 35mm 3-perf, which saves about 20 percent over 4-perf. The 2nd unit features an aerial unit which shoots a day or so for every show, a stunt / action unit and an insert unit; they shoot even more 3- and 4- perf footage. We're never told we're shooting too much."

"Each episode takes about eight days for 1st unit with six or seven days spent at different locations for exteriors, interiors, days, nights. We couldn't shoot HD, with it's more labor intensive monitoring, working at the speed we do and with the high-caliber of actors we have. Film is the most forgiving format for us in terms of the continuity of look and dealing with the surprises we find in some locations. It's much easier to handle film in the color-correction process than HD."

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#3 Carl Brighton

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 06:35 AM

"I?d been curious about the RED 4K camera for a while, and had pre-ordered five of them, just in case it turned out to be all that was promised. I figured five is the minimum number you?d need for a feature, including a second unit. I had a look at some early tests in LA a while ago and they looked great, but their prototype cameras had never been out of the lab.
I liked what they were doing ? making a digital camera of the utmost quality, and making it affordable for indie filmmakers. It also looks like film ? it has a very attractive quality to the image ? none of the ?digital? look I?ve seen with some other HD cameras"

Which is exactly what I've always said: why wouldn't you want to buy a RED or three if you were in Peter Jackson's shoes? HE can put them to good use, and I daresay I could put them to good use, but as for the bulk of the dreamers who try to pass themselves as serious cinematographers here and elsewhere, the most effective use they'd be able to put them to is keeping the door from blowing shut! :P There is SO MUCH involved in making a decent film. Apart from having the means to capture images, you have to know how to do so many other things, and you have to know people. Jackson knows the right people, I know the right people, most of the dreamers don't. Without the right contacts (or a lot of money), all you're going to make is some rather expensive home movies!

"The real thing will have several stops more latitude, variable frame rates and shutter angles which we didn?t have available to us"
"Several Stops?" Maybe one or two, "several", I'll believe that when I see it.
Wasn't it Bryan Singer who claimed that the Genesis's overexposure headroom was "within half a stop" of film?! Most people wouldn't even be able to tell if film was "half a stop" overexposed, unless they saw the two negatives side by side.

Sorry, carry on...
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#4 Daniel Smith

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 08:05 AM

Without the right contacts (or a lot of money), all you're going to make is some rather expensive home movies!

And what if you're a good, indie DP that can't afford to shoot film?

And I'd much rather an expensive home video than a cheap one.
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#5 Ken Willinger

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 08:23 AM

Film is the most forgiving format for us in terms of the continuity of look and dealing with the surprises we find in some locations. It's much easier to handle film in the color-correction process than HD."


I think what he is probably talking about is 720 or 1080 HD...not 2K or 4K which is a totally different animal and is really digital cine, not HD.
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#6 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 09:16 AM

I think what he is probably talking about is 720 or 1080 HD...not 2K or 4K which is a totally different animal and is really digital cine, not HD.


I think the pro-film DP is also talking about guerrilla filmmaking as being easier with a 35mm camera because you don't need to be hauling around all of the Hd monitoring gear. Yes 35mm has a lot of accessories but it appears this particular DP has perfected a system that uses 35mm in a very fast and efficient manner for run and gun style of shooting. Yet Mr. Peter Jackson appears to be stating that he thinks the Red Camera is necessary for doing run and gun.
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 10:56 AM

I wouldn't quibble over Jackson's technical accuracy too much - he's a director, not a DP. "The real thing will have several more stops of latitude" is an exaggaration, just as when James Cameron originally said that the resolution of the Sony F900 "was closer to 65mm".

I've already debated Jim at the RedUser site over the reasons why Jackson's conclusions over the speed of his shoot are only partially attributable to shooting on the RED -- remember that Jackson is not a regular HD shooter, so his comparison is to shooting with 35mm. His time savings are mainly coming from (1) not reloading the camera and (2) not having to cut the camera as often, which are real time savings -- but in another shooting situation, like on a set with a lot of lighting set-ups, or actor rehearsals, etc. camera time is not the biggest time-waster. You're generally waiting on some other department.

And running around outdoors and grabbing stuff with two cameras is generally a fast way to shoot even on 35mm film. I think Jackson was just discovering what people who shoot HD have already discovered regarding the time savings factor. What's significant more is that the quality level was higher than current HD products. In other words, 35mm quality at HD speed-of-use.

The Peter Jackson endorsement is a major feather in the cap for RED and Jim should rightly be proud and take advantage of it when promoting the camera. I'd just find a way of skipping that quote about "several more stops of latitude" coming in the final camera version...
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#8 Sam Wells

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 12:35 PM

I'd just find a way of skipping that quote about "several more stops of latitude" coming in the final camera version...


As I said before I'd trade "several stops of latitude" for a way to keep from clippy highlights.

(Trying to see if Canon's "Highlight Tone Priority" is gimmick or more but haven't been able to see an EOS 1D Mk III yet).

If I can live with: Highlight response; Sensitivity (virtual "ASA"); rolling shutter -- I'm starting to seriously think about this camera, as much as it surprises me to say this....

I'd know what to do with it Carl.....

-Sam
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 01:16 PM

As I said before I'd trade "several stops of latitude" for a way to keep from clippy highlights.


That would solve the clippy problem. With more stops of dynamic range, you can apply knee compression more effectively to simulate the curved response to light that film has.
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#10 Stephen Williams

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 01:51 PM

Hi Jim,

Out of curiosity what was the dynamic range of the camera Peter Jackson used.

My best,

Stephen
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 02:05 PM

Hi Jim,

Out of curiosity what was the dynamic range of the camera Peter Jackson used.

My best,

Stephen


I heard it was nearly ten stops (?) and that they've gotten up to 11 1/2 stops now, which is great. It wasn't bad before, judging from the Jackson short, but it's even better now.

Color negative is even wider than that, of course, but over-11 is nothing to sneeze at.
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#12 Jim Jannard

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 05:03 PM

We had dynamic range issues with Boris and Natasha when we arrived and I told Peter so the 1st day. I am going to stop putting numbers out for dynamic range until we are done. I can say that it was down when we went to NZ and it is a major priority for us, even to the extent of delaying the project for new board spins. Our ongoing sensor development will primarily focus on ever increasing dynamic range without compromise to the resolution and "feel" of the footage. This is our 1st camera. While I am very proud of what we are accomplishing, I absolutely know for sure we can improve many things as we move forward. That is the main reason why the foundation of our platform is modular and upgradeable.

Jim
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#13 Michael Morlan

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 11:31 PM

I know this is probably heresy, but it is possible to shoot HD without the phalanx of monitors - with just a meter and exposure controls - just like a 35mm shoot. I've tried to introduce the concept of trusting me, the D.P., with the details of acquiring a usable HD image but have been generally shunned for such a notion. Gone are the days when the work of a cinematographer was an arcane art. Now, anyone and everyone on the set gets to comment on the work of the DoP. On the plus side, one doesn't have to spend time screening dailies. :lol:

I suppose, as i continue to build relationships with directors, we will come to trust each other's art and vision thus allowing for a break from the current HD chain gang. (I'm working with a first-time director right now who absolutely must watch an HD monitor rather than watching the actor's performance with her own eyes.)

Now, with the introduction of RAW footage coming off HD cameras, it might actually be easier to convince directors and producers of the value of speeding up production by releasing the camera of the tether to a black tent. Now, the DoP's choices are no longer cast in celluloid but can be changed to anything a producer or director desires. (Now there's a scary thought. How does a cinematographer protect his work anymore?)

Michael
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#14 Jim Jannard

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Posted 08 June 2007 - 02:52 AM

I know this is probably heresy, but it is possible to shoot HD without the phalanx of monitors - with just a meter and exposure controls - just like a 35mm shoot. I've tried to introduce the concept of trusting me, the D.P., with the details of acquiring a usable HD image but have been generally shunned for such a notion. Gone are the days when the work of a cinematographer was an arcane art. Now, anyone and everyone on the set gets to comment on the work of the DoP. On the plus side, one doesn't have to spend time screening dailies. :lol:

I suppose, as i continue to build relationships with directors, we will come to trust each other's art and vision thus allowing for a break from the current HD chain gang. (I'm working with a first-time director right now who absolutely must watch an HD monitor rather than watching the actor's performance with her own eyes.)

Now, with the introduction of RAW footage coming off HD cameras, it might actually be easier to convince directors and producers of the value of speeding up production by releasing the camera of the tether to a black tent. Now, the DoP's choices are no longer cast in celluloid but can be changed to anything a producer or director desires. (Now there's a scary thought. How does a cinematographer protect his work anymore?)

Michael


I can't remember Peter once going to the tent to look at the monitors while shooting. Richard Bluck was also there with his light meter to help make the exposure call, Peter always using the on camera LCD. There were times when Richard did go to the tent occassionally to verify his call and to check the difference in exposing RED vs. his experience with film, but much of the work was shot by trusting his meter and instincts... which was pretty impressive. He is a trained professional. There is no doubt that monitors play a more important role when shooting digital due to a bit less forgiving dynamic range. But it is not mandatory depending on your experience level and how quickly you learn to understand the difference between the two mediums. Our shipping camera will offer a histogram and waveform for the EVF and LCD as added exposure judgment tools.

Jim
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#15 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 08 June 2007 - 04:35 AM

I think headphones are more important than overseeing what a compentent DP already knows how to do. If the actor doesn't sound believeable it may not matter how good the take looks whereas the reverse is not necessarily true.

On the dynamic range issue, doesn't it matter whether the shot is a wide shot versus a close-up versus a wide-shot with huge backlight highlights versus a close-up with huge backlight highlights etc...
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#16 Carl Brighton

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Posted 08 June 2007 - 05:06 AM

And what if you're a good, indie DP that can't afford to shoot film?

That's a bit like the old "good, fast, cheap" adage - pick any two!
In other words, if you can't afford film and you can't find anyone to back you, you probably aren't any good. Or, you might have talent, but no appreciation of what might actually interest anyone else. Or you might just be a nut. Not you in particular, but as a general rule.
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#17 Carl Brighton

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Posted 08 June 2007 - 05:24 AM

That would solve the clippy problem. With more stops of dynamic range, you can apply knee compression more effectively to simulate the curved response to light that film has.


You'll probably find yourself talking to a brick wall there. That is the single most misunderstood aspect of HD vs film cameras: you cannot post-manipulate a pixel unless you can capture it linearly first. Telecine can usually still pull something out of a heavily overexposed pixel on a film negative, but once one of the photodiodes of an HD camera is overloaded, there's no going back.

Unless you could build a complex gamma correcting amplifier for every one of the 12 million or so photodiodes, there's no way you can stop the photodiodes overloading on highlights, apart from closing down the iris or putting in NDs. Of course as soon as you crank up the gain to compensate for the loss of signal on the pixels that weren't being overloaded, you crank up the electronic noise inherent in the chip. This is where we came in, about 25 years ago :lol:
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#18 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 08 June 2007 - 05:42 AM

And what if you're a good, indie DP that can't afford to shoot film?

And I'd much rather an expensive home video than a cheap one.


Depends if you're a film maker or a DP. If you're a DP you train yourself so you can shoot film, there are numerous workshops and indie film makers who want to shoot shorts on film - it's their job to obtain the funds not the DPs. You then build up your reputation as a DP over time.

The monitors seem to have built up as agency and other clients have become more involved during the shoot. I was doing a film shoot last year and the only time the video assist monitor came out was when agency people were around. On the other occasions the director just looked down the viewfinder if he wanted to dress shots or check any framing issues.

It really helps communications if the director is beside/close to the camera and the actors, generally a 9" monitor gives you all the information you need to direct.

A correctly set up V/F helps the DP to set the exposure. With many of the high end CRT V/Fs you can often set the exposure without using zebras if you keep an eye on the highlight details. Unfortunately, you can't do this with the LCD V/Fs, although I haven't tried doing this with an Accuscene.
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#19 Carl Brighton

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Posted 08 June 2007 - 06:12 AM

I've just had a bit of a vision of the future.

I've just come back from a sneak preview on a closed set using a pair of Arri D-20s coupled up to four, under US$1,000, 1920 x 1080 Korean-made 40" consumer type LCD TVs. Not special studio monitors, just regular living room TVs with HD component inputs.

(It's for a proof-of-concept pilot, and I can't give you any other details).

I was absolutely flabbergasted at the picture quality! Up until now, I have not been exactly overwhelmed by any of the demonstrations of HD cameras and displays I've seen, because there really haven't been any proper 1920 x 1080 displays, at least ones that actually PRODUCE 1920 x 1080.

I asked if they knew about the RED, and they did, and they would have loved to have given it a trial, but they knew that wasn't going to be possible in the near term. I don't know how much they paid to use the D-20 (if anything) but I gather it isn't likely to be an on-going option unless Arri seriously drop the price.

One of the engineers there compares Jim Jannard to the American businessman Earl "Madman" Muntz. Muntz's most enduring achievement was bringing TV to the masses in the early 1950s by drastically pruning the design (and hence the price) of TV sets to the minimum number of parts that would still work reliably. At first the established manufacturers laughed at his simplified design, but later on, virtually all black and white TVs were built to the same concept! Not all TVs sold were Muntsz's, but they probably would have been if the other manufacturers hadn't smartened up their act.

Muntz also invented the predecessor to the 8-track car music player.

The RED is not a simplified design by any means, but a much cheaper way to make something that people assume needs to be expensive. I can see a future utterly unlike what people are envisaging.
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#20 Ken Willinger

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Posted 08 June 2007 - 09:20 AM

A correctly set up V/F helps the DP to set the exposure. With many of the high end CRT V/Fs you can often set the exposure without using zebras if you keep an eye on the highlight details. Unfortunately, you can't do this with the LCD V/Fs, although I haven't tried doing this with an Accuscene.


I've found this to be true as well and in fact do not like using zebras. I find the effect distracting and have always found that setting up the viewfinder with bars in B&W for proper contrast allows great control over exposure without having to rely on a monitor. Usually I only consult a monitor for judging color (providing that the monitor is set up correctly). I find that most of the directors I work with want a monitor on set, but rarely do I find them trying to adjust what I am doing. It's mostly for their reference. I also have not used the Accuscene but I'm confident it will have the same if not better ability to judge contrast and highlights as a high end CRT V/F. But I think I will still need to operate it in B&W to correctly judge exposure in the frame. If you have only worked with film this seems crazy because you can't really judge any exposure issues with what is seen in the V/F, and you are used to seeing color, not B&W. And the V/F is only for framing the shots...so this is quite a departure for the film guys and something that will take them a long time to trust.
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