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Digital vs Film as it stands right now


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#1 Jason Anderson

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 07:06 PM

So the two factors are resolution and latitude? It seems digital is very close to the resolution of film, the new Epic 5k should surpass film. So is it safe to say all we are waiting for is the contrast ratio. The RED one claims that its chip will hold 10 stops, does someone know how these 10 stops compare to the latitude of film. Perhaps the Epic will hold more stop than the RED one.
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#2 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 07:13 PM

The RED one claims that its chip will hold 10 stops, does someone know how these 10 stops compare to the latitude of film. Perhaps the Epic will hold more stop than the RED one.


What RED "claims" does not seem to be what many Cinematographers are saying. Ultimately, it doesn't matter what the specs say, all that matters is how well the latitude of RED or Epic will compare to film. Right now RED one seems to lose hands down to film in latitude. Perhaps REDs resolution is close or even on par with 35mm film but many people are less concerned with resolution at the expense of latitude. Even some RED users on Reduser.net are complaining that latitude should have been a bigger focus to RED and the user community than resolution.
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#3 Richard Boddington

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 08:18 PM

There's a whole pile of other reasons film is superior. The "two factors" are more like 20 factors, video will never make it.

R,
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#4 Michael Lehnert

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 08:47 PM

...as if automobiles are simply evaluated by MPG figures and 0-60mph data...

What I always find astonishing is that this forum is of a very high quality, yet one comes across such narrow perspectives which reduce a technology without much rhyme nor reason to 'resolution' and 'latitude', even among a group of people who should know better. After all, if that were so, I wonder what keeps all these sub-forums going...

Sometimes, I think cine-film truly is dead, due to the achievement by mostly video/electronics-manufacturers to communicate to an entire generation of (future) videographers/cinematographers and in defiance to common artistic sense and professional technological knowledge, that the only relevant comparitors are resolution and latitude - both factors which incidentally can be attained and matched through inevitable technological progress by video cameras "fighting against" cine-film.

When I recently talked in a discussion about "texture", one student asked "what I was constantly going on about cloth - as if textiles have anything to do with film. Was I talking about wardrobe?". So much for that...
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#5 Jason Anderson

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 09:37 PM

...as if automobiles are simply evaluated by MPG figures and 0-60mph data...

What I always find astonishing is that this forum is of a very high quality, yet one comes across such narrow perspectives which reduce a technology without much rhyme nor reason to 'resolution' and 'latitude', even among a group of people who should know better. After all, if that were so, I wonder what keeps all these sub-forums going...

Sometimes, I think cine-film truly is dead, due to the achievement by mostly video/electronics-manufacturers to communicate to an entire generation of (future) videographers/cinematographers and in defiance to common artistic sense and professional technological knowledge, that the only relevant comparitors are resolution and latitude - both factors which incidentally can be attained and matched through inevitable technological progress by video cameras "fighting against" cine-film.

When I recently talked in a discussion about "texture", one student asked "what I was constantly going on about cloth - as if textiles have anything to do with film. Was I talking about wardrobe?". So much for that...


I would venture to guess that every cinematographer young and old understands the uniqueness of film, it has romance and history. My question was of technical nature. The goal of digital video is to reproduce a similar end result as film. Michael do you feel that film will always be superior for you, no matter how advanced digital becomes. An analog recorder will never clip, sounds role off gradually, much the way light does when reacting to film, digital clips and looks like poop. Digital devices are getting better at handling distortion and clipping though.
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#6 Jason Anderson

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 09:53 PM

There's a whole pile of other reasons film is superior. The "two factors" are more like 20 factors, video will never make it.

R,


Which factors are important to you that are quantifiable characteristics of both film and video. How do they measure up? . Yes I agree video will never be film, from a financial standpoint yes video is making it. Also perhaps rather than focusing on just digital advances, is film advancing in terms of these quantifiable factors.
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#7 Paul Bruening

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 09:56 PM

Well spoken, Michael.
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#8 Tom Lowe

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 09:56 PM

There is more to it than latitude and resolution. For example, a well-exposed digital image is much "cleaner" than film - meaning it has no grain. Now, some people like grain, others prefer the super-clean look of digital. I'm not saying one is better than the other - just that there is a difference.

Right now chemical cinema film still wins if for no other reason than dynamic range, but the next generation of digital cinema cameras will begin to take a very serious chunk out of chemical film's grip on the motion picture industry, and within a few years we will begin to see a major groundshift, similar to what happened with SLR cameras. It will take a little more time, but it's gonna happen, no matter how many film lovers try to deny it. Top-end DSLRs still can't really match or beat chemical film for dynamic range, but that has not stopped digital from almost completely overrunning the 35mm still market.
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#9 Jason Anderson

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 10:25 PM

Imagine if we were unable to find the chemicals to produce color film and advance film to the point it is today. Film had an evolution of trying to replicate colors and light the way our human eyes see things. It will be a very long time before the contrast ratio of our eyes are surpassed. Digital will never be film, the same way digital and film will never reproduce images like our eyes can. Now that said, what are similar features between the two mediums that we can discuss, such as resolution and latitude, clearly I opened a can of worms when stating that these were two factors. Correct me if I'm wrong, these certainly are important factors.
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#10 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 10:27 PM

Top-end DSLRs still can't really match or beat chemical film for dynamic range, but that has not stopped digital from almost completely overrunning the 35mm still market.


I'm confused as to the purpose of this thread...is the issue whether digital will match film in quality or whether digital will become the dominate acquisition medium? I think that digital may one day become the main acquisition medium just like DSLRs are used by more people than 35mm SLRs are. However, I don't think that digital will EVER truly match the characteristics of film. It will never look like film in the true sense. I doubt that in my lifetime I will even see a digital cinema camera that has the smooth "rolloff" of film. I think the main thing that will happen is that audiences will get more used to seeing digital footage in movies and will thus accept it in time. IMHO, digital will never have the "magic" that film does.
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#11 Jason Anderson

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 10:31 PM

I'm confused as to the purpose of this thread...is the issue whether digital will match film in quality or whether digital will become the dominate acquisition medium? I think that digital may one day become the main acquisition medium just like DSLRs are used by more people than 35mm SLRs are. However, I don't think that digital will EVER truly match the characteristics of film. It will never look like film in the true sense. I doubt that in my lifetime I will even see a digital cinema camera that has the smooth "rolloff" of film. I think the main thing that will happen is that audiences will get more used to seeing digital footage in movies and will thus accept it in time. IMHO, digital will never have the "magic" that film does.


compare the two scientifically, texture and emotion aside.
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#12 Tom Lowe

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 10:43 PM

IMHO, digital will never have the "magic" that film does.


The magic is not dictated by the tools. I've seen photographs on Filckr that were so amazing and magical ... and it turns out they were taken on simple point-and-click digital cameras. I've seen people with $30,000 medium-format cameras take dull pictures.

Some day, a great director and DP will shoot a gorgeous, breathtaking motion picture on a digital cinema camera, and I seriously doubt you will be feeling any lack of "magic."

Would you rather see a Uwe Bowl movie shot on IMAX, or a Scorsese movie shot on a Genesis?
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#13 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 10:48 PM

The magic is not dictated by the tools. I've seen photographs on Filckr that were so amazing and magical ... and it turns out they were taken on simple point-and-click digital cameras. I've seen people with $30,000 medium-format cameras take dull pictures.


I'm not talking about stills, I'm talking about moving pictures.

Some day, a great director and DP will shoot a gorgeous, breathtaking motion picture on a digital cinema camera, and I seriously doubt you will be feeling any lack of "magic."

That is your opinion...I personally doubt that it would have the same magic it would if it HAD been shot on film.

Would you rather see a Uwe Bowl movie shot on IMAX, or a Scorsese movie shot on a Genesis?

Honestly, I wouldn't be interested in either at this point. ;)
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#14 Tom Lowe

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 11:00 PM

Okie Dokie. :P

Ok, how about a Michael Bay movie shot on IMAX vs a Terrence Malick picture shot on an HV20?

Edited by Tom Lowe, 19 June 2008 - 11:02 PM.

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#15 Jason Anderson

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 11:06 PM

Would you rather see a Uwe Bowl movie shot on IMAX, or a Scorsese movie shot on a Genesis?


I would not be surprised if IMAX eventually uses a 65mm digital camera.
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#16 Tom Lowe

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 11:08 PM

I would not be surprised if IMAX eventually uses a 65mm digital camera.


Why not use an IMAX-sized CMOS sensor? 8K resolution or whatever.
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#17 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 11:31 PM

Okie Dokie. :P

Ok, how about a Michael Bay movie shot on IMAX vs a Terrence Malick picture shot on an HV20?


Your killing me Tom! I have this to ask you...why are all these great filmmakers you mention getting daffy and not using film in your examples anyway? It's a sad day when Uwe Boll and Michael Bay use more artistic savvy than Scorcese and Malick. :(
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#18 Tom Lowe

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 11:39 PM

Well I was just trying to make a point. It's not the tools, it's the artist who uses them. Digital is getting close enough to chemical film now, with full 35mm cine-size sensors, RAW, etc, that it's starting become less an issue of the technology, and more an issue of the artist and his or her talent. The divide between film and digital has narrowed a great deal in the last few years. I understand the love of film, but I also understand the love of digital.
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#19 Michael Lehnert

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 12:15 AM

I would venture to guess that every cinematographer young and old understands the uniqueness of film, it has romance and history. My question was of technical nature. The goal of digital video is to reproduce a similar end result as film.


I know that your question was of a technical nature: that exactly is the problem, because these two technological aspects do not provide any substantial insight into a comparison between video and cine-film - which was your underlying question.

Okay, 35mm is realistically around 6-8K, 16mm really at around 2-4K, and Super 8 well above HD, when looking at MTF data of Vision2 and future Vision3 family.
As David just posted in another thread, "...color negative film holds about 14 stops of latitude/dynamic range so in theory if you could record more than that, let's say 16 stops of range, as a linear signal, you could emulate the 14-stop curved gamma look of film...".

But what does that say? It does mean nothing as to where Digital vs Film stands. Because we are assessing cine-film qualities by the comparative measure of digital, i.e. in respect to resolution and, to some extent, dynamic range / latitude. Before these fundamental "videological" terms came up, no one counted linepairs per mm when Eastmancolor films or VNF came out, or calculated latitude ranges ... stark contrast, light contrast; color reproduction and tonality; texture and graphical notes... those were aspects one discussed when talking about the medium one wanted to shoot a test reel for a project.

I really don't care if the RED or Epic or Megalotron Pippifax will give me 4K or more, thus "beating" 35mm... that is only relevant for people who wish they were big shot DoPs on a budget, playing out their Hollywood Bling phantasies with 3rd class pop groups noone will ever see on MTV.

What I find relevant is that it takes over a minute to power up a RED, so that I have to idle around for composing a frame and waste battery life (which comes at a premium, particularly when shooting Direct Cinema documentaries) whereas it takes no time and just a light pressure of my eye to see through an Aaton X or 416 or Bolex 16 Pro.

Film has romance and history. Michael do you feel that film will always be superior for you, no matter how advanced digital becomes.


No! And my answer can always be No because you miss my point completely. That would be like asking "Mondeo Man" if he will always fell that Rolls-Royces will be superior for him than his Ford Mondeo?! What is he supposed to anwer to this? He can't affort the other, so why bother? Both cars have totally different approaches to the concept of automobile, therefore comparison is absurd?
You will always be evaluating this incorrectly because you are only looking at artistic aspects through glasses that are predisposed to analyse in essentially meaningless technocratic terms that were pre-selected for nothing but marketing purposes to become "defining comparators against cine-film in order for some electronics manufacturers to sell gear for an industry they didn't have any foothold or technological investment in at all.

If I am after a film look than cine-film will be the superior choice to go for. If I want a video look, then the many video formats that create various video looks of their own are the superior format to go for: if I want to shoot a film like Cloverfield that plays with the notion of immediate consumer gear video aestetics, I wouldn't dust of my Mitchell S35. Likewise, I wouldn't want to choose a RED for shooting "Koyanisquatsi IV - Now, the world will really go berserk", as only 65mm can really caputure the grandure of nature for big projections - that's why I also think that watching Goddfrey Reggio's masterpieces on DVD at home is beside that works' point. But watching a S16 docu by Frederick Wiseman or D.A. Pennebaker on a multiplex screen isn't it, either.

Film has romance and history.


Furthermore, I really start to dislike Digitalians paternalistic standpoint of cine-film being all about history and romance, as if the technological (!) discourses that has cine-film actually still outgunning digital media in those defining aspects digital manufacturers have chosen to compete with (namely resolution & latitude) in the first place, are in fact just drivel from vintage-hugging mentally-retarded don't-carers that can't accept change, or better: advancement. I am not some sort of German romantic that wishes he would sit under an elm tree with Goethe and Byron day and night and reminisce about how great the world would be if all women were wearing push-up clothes out of a Pride & Prejudice adaptation and how nice the world would be if realpolitik would just vanish for once like a puff of air, thus resolving all powerstruggle on this quaint little planet.

For a critical analyst and common-sensical thinker who prefers to evalutate first before he accepts someone elses railway channels for one's own thoughts, I find the discoures that have crept up in this industry over the recent years mindboggingly kindergarden-like as they are totally devoid of reflection. But I must say it's me that feels stupid if I have to say to a student that s/he should first question what is written in the Epic brochure, and not just re-iterate someone elses rules, and worse, start judging the world around them by those "foreign" rules.
But hey, I now sound like an Enlightenment philosopher daring humans to think for themselves, so maybe I am just a nutty romantic after all... where are the deep-cut models, Johann?

An analog recorder will never clip, sounds role off gradually, much the way light does when reacting to film, digital clips and looks like poop. Digital devices are getting better at handling distortion and clipping though.


I honestly don't understand your argument above, because I just experienced a Mozart recording at the Royal Albert Hall, which was made on analogue tape at 38cm/s speed for radio broadcasting purposes. They chose it because they thought it's the best machine for this sort of music - just as much as you can't shoot an IMAX-film on Super 8, or get a VistaVision experience with a RED.

My point is: why are video formats constantly attempting to emulate cine-film? Why is the sole purpose of digital advancement apparently the goal that the video look shall imitate the film look? Why isn't anyone in the video-electronics industry deciding that it's about time to cultivate the video look instead of imitating that film look (whatever that is supposed to mean, BTW?) and let the film look just standi alone by itself at the road side?

I mean: it can't be penis envy, can it?
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#20 Michael Lehnert

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 12:58 AM

Compare the two scientifically, texture and emotion aside. [...]
Which factors are important that are quantifiable characteristics of both film and video. How do they measure up?


Hmm, maybe it is about penis envy after all...

This is like those equally pointless debates between social science and natural science, between qualitative research and quantitative research... sure, you can prove the universe's existence "scientifically" in pure hard-core mathematics, and people will believe it as "true". Yet even those (intelligent) mathematicians and statisticians acknowledge that in the end, their scientific arguments are not more or less hard-factual than cosmological philosophy that "merely" reflect on metaphysics. Why? Because the very creation of the equation is a cosmological act of presumption constructed on the choosing of the elements that are deemed relevant and hence go into the equation set-up.
In the end, it's about the different languages one uses to come to the same conclusions. That's why Kant on one side and Newton on the other where both natural scientists and philosphers. However, while the scientist will rarely be questioned by people unfamiliar with the matter (because numbers are involved and more readily accepted as "true"), the philosopher will be critisised by every dim-witted idiot because it is believed that thought words are easier to disprove than numbers. After all, everyone can open one's mouth and say "no" und utter some good-sounding nonsense when asked to prove. Have you ever attempted to logically disprove an illogical point made in the first place? It's very difficult!

That is why you can run entire global corporations on fundamenally flawed balance sheets and no one will object 'til the ship sinks, whereas "creative approaches" are immediately bashed and ridiculed "as not being result-oriented and working for the bottom line".

As cine-film is essentially about texture and tonality, leaving that aside is exactly one of those illogical points.
It's like comparing Roman Abramovitch's yacht to Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior based on the number of colours used on the outer hull. These are possible aspects, but in the end pointless comparators as they do not elucidate relevant conclusions when attempting to understand both vessels.
It's like looking at a C├ęzanne original and a colour xerox of the same, and saying "wow, that xerox is really better then the original, because it lacks all those brush strokes that distract from the motive and yet has the same dynamic range as the original". The idea that those brush strokes are integral to the painters work and are often executed with motivation as they are, doesn't come to the quantifying viewer - which is why he may well evalute the technical aspects, but he will never grasp, let alone comprehend the artistry involved.

Cinematography is an art form, and very much so due to technology and on the technical level of the tools - more than any other artform! It's not, however, the spec sheet of the system requirement of a computer application!


Well I was just trying to make a point. It's not the tools, it's the artist who uses them. Digital is getting close enough to chemical film now [...] that it's starting become less an issue of the technology, and more an issue of the artist and his or her talent.


I do not understand the correlation between the two dychotomies alongside you make your argument, particularly how the "reduced difference" of "quantifiable, scientifically-comparative" aspects that are supposedly deemed "crucially important" in the final evaluation between two "different acquisition media" has anything to do with the artist and his or her talent. The mastery of the technological tools are what defines the talent in cinematography. You as a director should know this better than anyone, as you direct the ensemble of talent to produce the oeuvre.

I mean, would a film by Howard Hawks be better if the Double-X grains of "Stagecoach" would be baseball-sized, thus emphasising the film look via grain to the grotesque? Would anything by Michael Bay be watchable at all without coming along like a personal insult to the cinemagoers intelligence if he were to shot with an Arriflex 765 instead of what his producing studio asks him to use. Would salon-communist Wim Wenders regain his anticorporate reputation from the 1980s if he would stop shooting on Sony's latest video systems after they bought his production company out of bankrupcy, suddenly converting him into the public prophet for adopting digital video now then later? Would the new Start Wars trilogy have been better if Lucas had shot it with Panaflexes and Dykstracams like in 30 years ago?
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