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16MM and High Definition


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#1 Frank DiBugnara

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Posted 13 October 2007 - 12:54 AM

I wanted to try and start a discussion about 16mm transferred to HD.

For many years, I have often touted the incredible performance of evolving T-Grain technology in Super 16mm. For stuff that is finished to SD video, S16mm (letterboxed) has provided an outstanding image for very reasonable production costs.

I must admit, sadly as the owner of extensive S16 gear, that my last few experiences with S16 to HDCam on a Spirit has been a bit less than impressive. The HD just makes the S16 look too noisy and seems to bring out noticeable "sizzle" that is just not there in SD. These issues go away in 35mm. (HD also makes much more noticeable the difference between Academy and Super35 framing when going to video.)

Interesting also, is that if you take S16 to HD footage and down-res it to SD, the added HD sizzle does not completely go away to nearly the point it would if one would just transfer to HD in the first place (on the same Spirit).

Now, I understand why this is happening in S16. I wanted to get other people's thoughts and experiences with this. What does this realistically mean for the future of S16 in an increasingly HD broadcast world?

I know that the reality is that S16 continues to enjoy a resurgence in recent years. How does this resurgence reconcile with the noise problems?

Here's some footage from a S16 shoot that went to HDCam and then down-res to SD:

S16 to HD

Here's another clip shot on 7212, 100T. When going to SD, this would be absolutely grainless!

Green Screen: S16 to HD

For comparison, here's an old link I posted a while back with S16 to SD (the interiors in this clip were shot with the same stock and lens as the above footage):

S16 to SD

The differences might not be completely visible on the Quicktimes.
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 13 October 2007 - 11:57 AM

I tend to agree. Very very well shot, slow stock 16mm can look OK in HD. But frankly, I wouldn't usually trust it. This was made very clear at a recent BSC-sponsored event at the NFT in London, where they retransferred some very old dramas and projected them cinematically. Yes, it looked vastly, hugely, enormously better than the original Beta SP standard-def transfers, but it wasn't a patch on something like an F900.

Now that's old stock. I'm sure if you shot the 50D with the best lenses on the planet you would get perfectly acceptable results for HD. But frankly, much as it's caused a stir, and pending tests which may well prove me wrong, I am hesitant about the suitability of 16mm film for HD work. The result really comes down to whether you consider grain to be detail or not. I don't.

Phil
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#3 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 13 October 2007 - 03:36 PM

Hi Frank, thats some great looking footage, despite some obvious 'sizzle' in some shots, mostly only in the interiors.

As a slightly ashamed fan of The OC , i've always been amazed at the limited apparent grain of that show and as far as I am aware thats super 16, vision 200T and 500T and mastered to HDCAM.

Admittedly I'm only watching it on a standard-def tv, but it would be interesting to know what it was transfered on and any work done to it in post.

I think this analyzing of grain can be slightly deceptive though, viewing TV on my humble standard-definition cathode-ray tube I'm often intrigued to find 35mm shows like Smallville or Big Love (series one only) to look surprisingly noisy while One Tree Hill or The OC often look grain-less.

Obviously its probably digital noise entering the equation but in the end i feel the look of super 16 still feels more cinematic, natural and less jarring than digi-beta or HD - a little bit of grain seems like a small price to pay.

Here in the UK, ITV drama's have very much stayed super 16 based, and look far more polished than the BBC equivalents which are all gradually turning to video. Last year ITV's Primeval was by far the best looking british drama series, shot on super 16, plus it had a lot of CGI work - it really challenged the conventional wisdom that you can't do CGI with 16mm.

Andy
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#4 Adam Thompson

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Posted 14 October 2007 - 01:35 PM

Then how do films like Last King of Scotland, 28 weeks later or Babel look on HD? Im curious of anyone has a blu-ray of them or saw them digitally projected?
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#5 Adam Thompson

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Posted 14 October 2007 - 01:44 PM

Why does something have to be so grainless Phil? I still don't understand why its such a bad thing, although anything I do is feature film related so maybe it's because many of us are in different worlds of production. They get crossed and confused when discussed technically without talking about the final display method or what type of project it relates to. I agree that a high-end commerical might look better super clean, but that still depends on what type it is I think.
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#6 Frank DiBugnara

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Posted 14 October 2007 - 05:07 PM

Yes, grainless is definitely not always the way to go, but it is good to know that you have a tight, grainless option if you want it. The bothersome part is that at times what I've seen in the HD transfers feels more "sizzle" than a traditional graininess. I have just discovered this and am still looking into it.....It might not be a fatal thing for S16, just something I want to learn more about.

In 35mm, you have the option in just about any distribution format to be as grainless or grainy as you want. I just want the same to be true in 16mm as it was in standard definition finish.
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 October 2007 - 05:20 PM

The issue isn't really the artistic merits of graininess, it's the technical problem of how that graininess interacts with the high compression rates that broadcasters want to use.

I think it's a shame, however, that these BBC broadcast engineers want the photography altered to suit their compression technology, rather than work on improving their compression technology to support the photographic intent.

There was a similar problem in the 1960's when studio cinematographers were forced to consider how dim drive-in movie projection was in terms of how they lit sets, or how TV cinematographers of the day had to factor in the contrast of using prints in a film chain for broadcast. Nowadays what we sometimes think of as mediocre 1960's cinematography was just some cinematographer's best solution to the demands of the distribution mediums being used.
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#8 Hal Smith

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Posted 14 October 2007 - 06:15 PM

I wonder if since a given emulsion was probably developed with 35mm in mind that the grain parameters were optimized for that format. In other words: the largest grain size practical for 35mm was used to optimize sensitivity. If S16 was the dominant market for theatrical release Kodak and Fuji would be thinking differently about just how they "tweaked" parameters in product development.

I really miss John Pytlak. This is the kind of thread he would wade right into - and give us all the straight skinny from Mother K. May he rest in peace.
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#9 Tenolian Bell

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Posted 14 October 2007 - 06:19 PM

The HD just makes the S16 look too noisy and seems to bring out noticeable "sizzle" that is just not there in SD.


I think this depends more on your expectations. There is grain because the image is made of silver halide crystals. Under various conditions grain will be more noticeable than others. I think its tilting towards unrealistic to expect an absolute "grainless" S16 image. Whether that is good or bad depends on your personal aesthetic.

These issues go away in 35mm.


While grain is easier to hide in 35mm the image is still made from the same crystals as S16 so its not really "grainless" either.
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#10 Tenolian Bell

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Posted 14 October 2007 - 06:27 PM

I wonder if since a given emulsion was probably developed with 35mm in mind that the grain parameters were optimized for that format.


35mm is sharper simply because it has over twice the area to record image information than 16mm. I haven't heard of anything photochemical that can be done to close that gap. Outside of using some new chemistry technology in the 16 stock that you don't use in the 35 stock. But there is no reason for Kodak to do that.

All stocks use a mix of larger and smaller crystals. The slower stocks use a higher number of small crystals, the faster stocks use a higher number of large crystals.
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#11 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 14 October 2007 - 09:55 PM

I am hesitant about the suitability of 16mm film for HD work. The result really comes down to whether you consider grain to be detail or not. I don't.

Phil



I think one of the factors may be an older Spirit vs a newer machine like a Spirit 2k or 4K or a scanner like a arriscan. We can go and argue about the artistic merits of film grain and whether or not it is relevant, or as Phil believes, just noise but that would take us nowhere fast. I have seen that a oversampled scan with better nyquist characteristics will resolve the grain better and make it finer appearing vs. a hd or undersampled scan which seems to enhance the grain.

Atrocious broadcast television compression seems to get worse all the time, sure there is a picture there but as soon as there is alot of movement in frame it's all blocks. Yay! lets squeeze more dollars out of everything.

-Rob-
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#12 Frank DiBugnara

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Posted 14 October 2007 - 11:52 PM

There is more noticeable grain/noise in an HD transfer because the HD canvas is so much bigger than the SD canvas. You are really "blowing up" the S16 image quite a bit in order to transfer to HD. As I understand it, a Spirit has both SD and HD outputs that are then fed into the DaVinci and then to the tape deck.

What I'd like to understand is why after I take the S16 to HD footage and downconvert it to SD in my NLE (or take an SD SDI signal out of an HD Cam deck into the NLE), that the sizzle I've talked about does not go away when in SD again (small canvas). Something about the HD step in the post chain introduces this noise---noise that would definitely not be there if I had gone to SD in the first place.
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#13 Curtis Bouvier

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Posted 15 October 2007 - 09:37 AM

Why does something have to be so grainless Phil? I still don't understand why its such a bad thing, although anything I do is feature film related so maybe it's because many of us are in different worlds of production.


I couldn't agree more with you, I personally LOVE the grain in film, it gives atmosphere and character, just enough grain so you can notice, I don't mind the jitter jatter from left to right (regulation?) here and there with the odd splotch of hair or dust every 72nd frame. the imperfections really add a lot of authenticity and originality. as long as it's not Over Board.

Digital is usually almost grainless and that gives me a sense of no warmth or feel.

but thats just me :lol:
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#14 Tenolian Bell

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Posted 15 October 2007 - 11:31 AM

There is more noticeable grain/noise in an HD transfer because the HD canvas is so much bigger than the SD canvas. You are really "blowing up" the S16 image quite a bit in order to transfer to HD.


I don't know if I would use "canvass" as a metaphor to describe the difference between SD and HD. HD is not bigger in any physical terms, HD simply records more information than SD. The grain was always there, SD just did not resolve enough fine detail to allow you to see it.

Digitally speaking S16 is around 2058x1237 pixels at 16bit and HD is 1920x1080 pixels at 10bit. Transferring S16 to HD is not a blow up.

Digital is usually almost grainless and that gives me a sense of no warmth or feel.


Digital is 100% completely grainless. Noise is a different artifact.
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#15 Curtis Bouvier

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Posted 15 October 2007 - 12:19 PM

Digitally speaking S16 is around 2058x1237 pixels at 16bit and HD is 1920x1080 pixels at 10bit. Transferring S16 to HD is not a blow up.

Digital is 100% completely grainless. Noise is a different artifact.


If super 16 is around 2.4 Mega Pixels I can't imagine what 65mm imax film is.. :blink:

The noise in digital images your right, a lot like going higher up in the ISO range on digital SLR's, you get an undesired noise, camera's are getting better at that though. Electronic noise from the image sensor, where is grain is an actual physical artifact from the film itself.

with film each and every frame is unique, at least to a more noticeable degree than digital, I think that's what I love most about it.
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#16 Tenolian Bell

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Posted 15 October 2007 - 01:56 PM

If super 16 is around 2.4 Mega Pixels I can't imagine what 65mm imax film is...


65mm 8 perf is 8746x3835. I'm not sure about 15 perf.

The actual usable information from a digital scan can vary depending on the speed of the film, how well it was exposed, the quality of the lens. The scanner/telecine itself offer various levels of quality, depending on the type of scanning technology, how much real information the scanner is recording, and the digital medium the scan is being recorded to.

Electronic noise from the image sensor, where is grain is an actual physical artifact from the film itself.


Admittedly I was being anal, but a lot of people confuse the two.
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