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S16mm Emulsion-Specific Grain Reduction (ESGR) DI


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#1 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 02:56 AM

Last Friday I went to check out the RED at an awesome new boutique DI Company here in Vancouver called Digital Film Central (http://www.digitalfilmcentral.com/). They were showing that they are ready to ingest RED's workflow and print back to film, so this was little get together with a few RED owners showing their rigs to DP's and Directors in Vancouver. They showed some RED footage from there 2k projector while grading real time on their Baselight (with Truelight color management) system. As well as RED side by side with 35mm.

After that they showed a director friend and I some footage from an S16mm feature they were doing with DP David Moxness CSC (Moxy). They had scanned the S16mm neg on their Arriscan (at 2k I believe... they do 3k over sampling but I think I remember them saying that this was a 2k scan). But they had used their new grain reduction software that was produced by the company and it looked fantastic!! When asked they also could instantly bring up side by side examples of O-Neg vs grain reduction as well as 2k arriscan vs telecine (spirit or cintel) HDCAM SR workflows and the difference was huge in both instances! Specially if you look closely and magnify the image. The HDCAM SR vs 2k side by side comparisons were great... the 2k workflow’s image spoke for itself really, I knew it was better then any other workflow I have experienced in the past just from looking at it, I didn't need the side by side to compare because I’ve done a few S16mm to HDCAM SR workflows. The de-graining wasn't the usual softening of the image and then re-sharpening like all other de-graining I've seen... this was truly amazing. It looked very close to the fine grain of a 35mm negative. The ESGR some how finds the grain, and only the grain and eliminates it… things like human hair and smoke were left in the image.

They gave me a DVD with some footage they had showed me last August. This is linked footage of the Grain Reduction set to 100% shot by DFC DP co-owner and inventor of the software.

480 quicktime (sorry for the watermark)
(Save as) http://www.chayseirv...centraldemo.mov

720 WMV
(Save as) http://www.chayseirv...traldemo720.wmv

To be honest, I wasn't as impressed with this footage as much as I was with what they had showed me last Friday. It had nothing to do with the footage itself, more about their being too much grain reduction and it looking a little digital. Moxy's feature was more of a 70%-80% reduction so it didn't look digital like this footy does, it looked like 35mm; I find it hard to admit because I’ve always been such a cynic when it comes to digital technology and film (I personally love grain, often times the grainier the better in my eyes), but this really did have the look and feel of a 35mm grain structure. However you have to imagine this footage and Moxy's printed back to 35mm to actually gage its power, because grain would be reapplied in the IN and composite answer print.

This last Tuesday I went for a beer with Moxy and he told me all about the process, how impressed he was with DFC, and the Grain Reduction. The ESGR is applied during the scan, which takes a long time scan and process each frame... but that’s the powerful thing about a scanner like Arriscan; its not meant to be a real time telecine scanner like a Sprit or DSX Cintel... it takes its time to scan from anywhere from 6k to 2k and really examines the neg then stores that info (DPX) into DFC's RAID systems for grading. The only draw back to the workflow is knowing how much ESGR to apply because LUT's don't apply the grain of a IN or AP to the image as your grading... so its important to have tests printed to know how much ESGR you want done to your image because once its done you would have to rescan it all over again to get back to where you were.

I’ve known about this company from since they moved into their new offices and started buy up some of their DI gear. I’ve been wanted to do a film out with them for years and each time I step into their offices they impress me with something new. After seeing their stuff this last Friday I’ve made it my mission to have them do my next project no matter what the cost… I would even argue shooting S16mm over S35mm just to have them do a 2k DI and not a HDCAM SR DI or optical print. They are fresh, great group of people, and innovative. They stand against two giants in this city, Technicolor and Deluxe (whom just bought Rainmaker Post and is planning to start E-Film here)... But I think Digital Film Central is defiantly the go to people for DI's here in Vancouver.

Edited by Chayse Irvin, 14 March 2008 - 02:57 AM.

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#2 Martin Yernazian

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 01:06 PM

This is great footage and info, thank you very much I been looking for a house like this for a long time

BEst
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 03:04 PM

I'm in Vancouver but I missed that screening... how did the RED footage look?
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#4 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 04:43 PM

The red footage looked good David! It lacked the texture and highlight detail of film but it was crisp and the best looking digital i've seen. I was hoping they were going to screen 35mm print footage, but the company only has a digital 2k projector, not a 35mm projector. So I think in the near future they will be screening 35mm print footage at Deluxe or Technicolor.

I really liked the dynamic range of the raw footage and its color correction capabilities is really impressive. The footage was from a documentary in africa which showcased mostly day exterior footy and a impressive interior of an african pot maker in his house naturally lit. The day exterior footage in africa was really impressive because they were photographing dark skinned African's against bright cloudy sky's and holding detail in both. The DP who shot it said he used RED's histogram technology to judge exposures onset. One of the coolest features I learned about the camera while there was the ability to upload LUT's into the cameras software where it can store a verity of LUTs and custom LUTs.

One of the rigs was owned by a really good steadicam op named Jim Van Dijk and he was raving about RED's viewfinder that he has previewed and on the waiting list to own. Apparently it was the best viewfinder he had worked ever looked through, which is strong words from a super experienced operator like Jim. All of the footage was shot on RED zooms and at one point in the night DP and Cam op Norm Li had put on one of his 16mm zooms and they changed the recording settings to 2k to see its compatibility and it looked perfect. One of the flaws in the body of the camera that I could see was that there is a back focus... but it looked like it can be well fastened into place with two allen key nubs.

I had read you were in town David and was hoping to meet you there, but it sounds like DFC is going to have another get together soon. How long are you in Vancouver for?
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#5 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 06:32 PM

Those 720p clips are almost hard to believe. Was there any discussion about cost increases Chayse? I assume it can only be applied during scanning on their specific machine?

And thank you for posting that.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 07:12 PM

I'm in town for two more months, believe it or not... (boy, I get homesick when I'm away on a feature shoot.) Anyway, anyone in Vancouver who wants to meet me for coffee or a meal on a weekend when I'm free, send me an email.
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#7 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 07:56 PM

Those 720p clips are almost hard to believe. Was there any discussion about cost increases Chayse? I assume it can only be applied during scanning on their specific machine?

And thank you for posting that.


I looked into if further and its applied to the DPX sequence, which means if you do have a HDCAM SR workflow, after they ingest it as DPX, they then can apply the ESGR. I'm not sure of cost differences. They seem to be very accommodating to whatever your project maybe able to afford. Its a new technology and company (they have been doing film outs for many years but not DI's, they changed their named from Digital Film Group to Digital Film Central when they became a DI company this year), I think their priority is to get it out there and looking great rather then trying to squeeze out every penny they can. I have a quote from a project I did last year and it doesn't specifically say there is any extra cost from ESGR, but our quote was a package price with a discount.
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#8 Evan Warner

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 03:32 AM

wow that is really great! I'm a soon to be film graduate at Simon Fraser in Vancouver, we are set to take a tour there in a couple weeks.

I'm currently working on s16 film transfered to Apple ProRes, do you think they can apply the grain reduction to that?

Cheers
Evan
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#9 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 03:53 AM

wow that is really great! I'm a soon to be film graduate at Simon Fraser in Vancouver, we are set to take a tour there in a couple weeks.

I'm currently working on s16 film transfered to Apple ProRes, do you think they can apply the grain reduction to that?

Cheers
Evan



If your planning to print back to 35mm. They would take your Apple ProRez files and change them to a DPX sequence and apply it there, then color grade and print.
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#10 Michael Most

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 10:17 AM

One of the coolest features I learned about the camera while there was the ability to upload LUT's into the cameras software where it can store a verity of LUTs and custom LUTs.


That was only just included in the most recent firmware update which is still very much a "beta" release. It only works in the camera, and there is no current way to use software - even Red's software - to create those LUTs. There is also no current way to retaain them into the post process. Like everything with Red, this will likely change, but that is the current state. It should, in the interest of fairness, also be pointed out that the Silicon Imaging camera has had this feature for at least 3 years. In fact, it has a complete workflow through post that is based around it, and the ability to create look files either on a computer or in the camera software itself.

I like Red as much as anyone, but a lot of things they're doing are not nearly as original or radical (or working, production ready, and complete) as their fanboys think they are. In a world where anything posted on an Internet forum is often taken as established fact, and used for even further hype, I think it's important to be accurate and tell the whole story, at least whenever possible.
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#11 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 20 March 2008 - 02:23 AM

If your planning to print back to 35mm. They would take your Apple ProRez files and change them to a DPX sequence and apply it there, then color grade and print.


That wouldn't create some issues due to the ProRez compression or are you talking about it being offline and conformed? Although I have to say, I saw some clips projected on a high end HD projector recently and was told that is was being fed from a G5 Mac, from a ProRez timeline. I had assumed something much more robust. The clips were very impressive to my eye. I think they came from a Spirit HD scan and were S16. Honestly I thought they had an SR deck plugged in but, no.

Also, how did you create that .wmv file Chayse, or was that something they gave you? It looks really clean. Happen to know if you can export 720p wmv's from FCP2 like that?
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#12 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 20 March 2008 - 02:30 AM

That wouldn't create some issues due to the ProRez compression or are you talking about it being offline and conformed? Although I have to say, I saw some clips projected on a high end HD projector recently and was told that is was being fed from a G5 Mac, from a ProRez timeline. I had assumed something much more robust. The clips were very impressive to my eye. I think they came from a Spirit HD scan and were S16. Honestly I thought they had an SR deck plugged in but, no.

Also, how did you create that .wmv file Chayse, or was that something they gave you? It looks really clean. Happen to know if you can export 720p wmv's from FCP2 like that?


Aye. Its better to scan right from the neg to DPX to avoid compression artifacts, banding, and aliasing. But they can still do it if pro rez is all you have. ProRez is a great codec. I do my reel in prorez and I'm really happy with the compression it does. The wmv was given to me by DFC.
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#13 tylerhawes

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Posted 20 March 2008 - 06:19 PM

That's a nicely done demo.

For those in LA (as opposed to Vancouver where DFC are at), we have developed our own grain removal process that I think is capable of similarly impressive results. I've always been a cynic about grain reduction and thought that in general it is not worth it 99% of the time. However, when we got this working for a film we finished last month, it was a jaw-dropping surprise to me the first time I saw it. I didn't think it was possible, but the results speak for themselves.

We have not yet put together a demo of it or publicized our capability, but will soon. In the meantime, if anyone has some Super 16 footage or otherwise that they would like to test with this process, let me know and we can set something up. Our process is also emulsion specific, BTW.
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#14 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 20 March 2008 - 09:52 PM

That's a nicely done demo.

For those in LA (as opposed to Vancouver where DFC are at), we have developed our own grain removal process that I think is capable of similarly impressive results. I've always been a cynic about grain reduction and thought that in general it is not worth it 99% of the time. However, when we got this working for a film we finished last month, it was a jaw-dropping surprise to me the first time I saw it. I didn't think it was possible, but the results speak for themselves.


I don't think its generally a good idea either but the further the technique is progressed, the more it becomes a truly legitimate tool.

Besides possibly being applied without merit or being applied too heavily, do you see any technical image problems with the work you've done so far? And how do you guys charge for it? Is it time intensive or does it work more like a drag and drop filter with basic adjustments?

Curious what happens if you appply it to 35mm stocks. Have you played with that yet?

I sent you a PM.
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#15 tylerhawes

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 11:52 AM

Besides possibly being applied without merit or being applied too heavily, do you see any technical image problems with the work you've done so far?


Only if it is turned up too high, or if you have something in the image that has the same sort of patterning as the noise. But there are ways to deal with that, they just require more human interaction than the other shots. For example, on the last film there was a shot of a skyline above the water, and where the water met the shoreline it was being confused for grain because the size of the wave mist and crashing surf on such a long shot was the same size as the grain. So that area was getting a strobing moire pattern to it. All we had to do was put a mask on it with feathered edges and reduce the intensity of the grain reducer by half, and it matched and worked perfectly.

So you will find shots like that as you go through the film, but normally they are scattered, and not pervasive.

And how do you guys charge for it?


Not really my department, although I know in general we always charge by the hour for our services for lots of reasons, not the least of which is the inability to predict or control how many hours a Director or DP might want to tweak something.

Is it time intensive or does it work more like a drag and drop filter with basic adjustments?


It is mostly render intensive, although it does require a little play at the beginning with you to tweak for your taste of balance between degrain and au natural. Plus there is some time to setup the batch of shots and get keep shepherding the renders through, etc.

Curious what happens if you appply it to 35mm stocks. Have you played with that yet?


Yes it works great with 35mm. It just gives you a very clean but still natural looking image, so long as you don't overdo it.

I can't release images of the work we did, unfortunately. We'll dig through footage we have releases for and see about making a demo for that, unless someone has a specific project that could make use of the technology, then I'd rather take a sample of that for the demo...

We're in the middle of moving to a new, bigger/better facility, so it won't happen for a couple weeks...
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#16 georg lamshöft

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 09:10 AM

I was fascinated by the results from the very beginning. Now ARRI starts to support this process: http://www.arri.de/f...4_ARRI_News.pdf
The link www.degrain.de doesn't seem to work yet.

But how does it work? Would it be possible to use this technology for still photography? Or does it work by comparing an image series and therefore recognizing what is grain (changes from image to image) and what is detail (remains the same)?
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