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Is Super 16 really good enough for HDTV ?


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#1 Keith Walters

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Posted 17 January 2009 - 05:31 AM

Until recently I have never had access to full 1920 x 1080 HD at home.

I have had unlimited access to large-screen Full-HD sets at work for some time, but the trouble has been that there is virtually nothing transmitted during the day that is true HD or even vaguely approaching it.

I now have a large screen 1920 x 1080 set at home and so I can watch some the Prime Time offerings in full HD (although virtually all that is available is re-runs right now).

One thing that immediately struck me is the variability in quality between shows that are all originated on 35mm film.

The other disturbing thing is how grainy shows are that are shot on super-16 (such as the various Law and Order dialects).

At the moment the bulk of HDTV panels in use are "Half-HD" with only about one million pixels instead of the two million for full HD, and on one of those the grain is acceptable, and it's not really noticeable at all on an SD set. However as more and more consumers move up to full HD (the prices being is free-fall at the moment) I wonder how long super-16 will remain acceptable.

I think this may well be the reason the various studios are quietly checking out Super-35 type HD origination. (However not on any of their flagship productions).

Mind you, the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s all had brief spasms of interest in video origination for prime-time shows, which very quickly died out. It's not entirely out of the question that as 50" 1920 x 1080 TVs start to proliferate in Account Executives' living rooms, 35mm film will rise yet again Phoenix-like from the mud :lol:
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#2 Mark Williams

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Posted 17 January 2009 - 06:29 AM

I'm no expert but wonder in the transfer from 35mm for example Is picture evenly reconstructed and proportional in its interpretation of film?

In fact I'm wondering if any HD film gives an exact reflection or just its own interpretation? With pixels its a determind pattern but electronically manipulated for storage purposes. Many claims are made for accuracy etc. But....

Perhaps the faults with grain etc are being over exaggerated by the electronic capture? Because lets face it when you go see a film 40' wide and sit 20 feet away.. YOU don't notice it and yet on a 40" TV Suddenly 35mm film has all its grain clearly seen? Some would say thats because the defination in the cinema is not as good as a 40 " screen at home in HD.

Something seems not quite right and I dont think its the low quality of film.
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#3 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 17 January 2009 - 12:54 PM

There is also the HDTV compression factor. Most NFL games, for one, look so heavily compressed they look like they were shot on security cams, even on "half HD" monitors (like the term, BTW!). . . So it can't be helping 16mm.

I think a better way to tell how 16mm behaves on full HD is if you were looking at a properly telecined S16-originated and adequately compressed Blue Ray Disc on a full HD monitor.

Also, someone could design some really kick ass anamorphic 16mm lenses, to get all of the resolution one can squeeze out of the format . . .
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#4 Paul Bruening

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Posted 17 January 2009 - 01:03 PM

2-perf, V3 and full HD. A perfect threesome.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 17 January 2009 - 01:11 PM

After being denied it for years on standard def, I actually LIKE being able to see film grain on HDTV.

I think the only problem with it is how it interacts with compression in HD broadcast. But aesthetically, I don't mind seeing the grain structure of the different formats, at least it stands out next to digital photography. Of course, I don't want the grain to be exaggerated in some way beyond what would be perceived in print projection.
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#6 Keith Walters

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Posted 17 January 2009 - 06:29 PM

Of course, I don't want the grain to be exaggerated in some way beyond what would be perceived in print projection.

This was way beyond that.
With a Full HD screen (assuming it has a competent HD decoder - some TVs do not) I can easily see 35mm film grain, but only to the extent that I can see it's there, certainly not intrusive, and about the same visibility you see in a cinema.

What I saw on Law & Order looked like an old Betacam with the gain set to +6dB!

Incidentally, switching to the SD digital broadcast of the same show, it didn't look too bad at all. Hence my comments about the small number of Full HD screens currently in use.

Edited by Keith Walters, 17 January 2009 - 06:31 PM.

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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 17 January 2009 - 06:36 PM

Sometimes over-sharpening can make the grain pop out, as well as adding too much contrast. And sometimes you're also seeing noise, not grain, depending on the telecine used, how it was graded, etc.
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#8 Walter Graff

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Posted 17 January 2009 - 08:32 PM

Where does this silly term "half HD" come from?
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#9 Keith Walters

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Posted 17 January 2009 - 10:48 PM

Where does this silly term "half HD" come from?


Not silly at all.
A Full-HD screen has 1920 x 1080 RGB pixels, which comes to 2,073,600 pixels.

The vast majority of flat panel TV displays sold now and in the past had only about half that number ot less, the highest resolution available typically being about 1366 x 768, which comes to about 1,049,088 - half the number that are actually in a 1920 x 1080 transmission, or about 70% of the resolution. I suspect that number is chosen both because 768 is a binary-friendly number (3 x 256) widely used in computer displays, and because it then comes to about one million pixels.

What else do you want to call it. "One Over the Square Root of 2 HD"?

No mention was ever made of any of this until now of course, when full HD sets have become available at very attractive prices. On a still night you can still hear the howls of outrage from the blowhard early adopters who paid a now-outrageous sum for a half-HD (or less!) panel with just an analog tuner, when a less impulsive neighbour shows them what he has just bought himself for Christmas for about one-quarter the price they paid in 2005 dollars and had a couple of hundred dollars worth of extras thrown in. Heh heh heh... :lol:

If your eyes are good enough can definitely tell the difference with the right source material, although a lot of people's presumably are not good enough. It's not just a matter of the right glasses either, I've had three decades of arguing with people who I can only assume have Handycam sensors at the back of their eyes :lol:
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#10 Keith Walters

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Posted 17 January 2009 - 10:56 PM

Sometimes over-sharpening can make the grain pop out, as well as adding too much contrast. And sometimes you're also seeing noise, not grain, depending on the telecine used, how it was graded, etc.

You could well be right there. The Super-16 footage didn't look particularly soft, which suggests that they cranked up the detail correction to make it look more like 35mm. But if that was the best Telecine could do, I would strongly suggest they take their business elsewhere!

Other shows on the same channel, and with the same preset "Picture" setting on my TV, were not grainy at all, it was definitely inherent in the show I watched.
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#11 Walter Graff

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Posted 18 January 2009 - 12:35 AM

Not silly at all.
A Full-HD screen has 1920 x 1080 RGB pixels, which comes to 2,073,600 pixels.
...



No offense but you don't know what you are talking about. You know little about the mathematics of how the human eye sees and hence why manufacturers make some sets 1366 and others 1920 based on your response.
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#12 Keith Walters

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Posted 18 January 2009 - 05:04 AM

No offense but you don't know what you are talking about. You know little about the mathematics of how the human eye sees and hence why manufacturers make some sets 1366 and others 1920 based on your response.


Making some pretty radical assumptions there.

Until about 3 years ago, for all practical purposes you couldn't buy a domestic 1920 x 1080 flat panel TV at all.

Now, many manufacturers are offering a range of screen sizes, sometimes even in a choice of Plasma or LCD, most in a choice of 1366 or 1920, 1366 surprise, surprise being somewhat cheaper.

Inside, in most cases the tuner/AV processing boards are identical, in some cases they even use exactly the same board for both Plasma and LCD versions, with the same remote.

All modern flat panels take in a DVI-type signal, and all signals boards put out a matching DVI type signal. The only difference is that a video board for 1366 has different firmware from one meant for 1920.

The only reason some sets are 1366 and others are 1920 is price.

There's an enormous amount of utter codswhallop talked about viewing distances and screen heights and so on; these are all related to 1930s interlaced scanning technology and have no relevance whatever to flat panel displays.

If there is some esoteric mathematical relationship between the mathematics of human vision and the ideal resolution of a TV screen, I doubt too many manufacturers have heard of it.

I have seen identical-screen-sized 1366 and 1920 versions of the set I bought side by side; the picture is noticeably sharper on the 1920 set, what more do you want?

Are you going to tell me your math says it's NOT sharper?
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#13 Russell Richard Fowler

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Posted 18 January 2009 - 12:15 PM

You are assuming HD is only 1080...there are approximately 20 resolution standards considered HD; from 720P (1280 x 720 pixels) on up. Some networks such as FOX only supply a 720P signal, so your t.v. set (and mine) are uprezzing to 1080. Better to talk of HD resolution than "analog" like half (versus 1/4....3/4...HD).
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#14 Walter Graff

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Posted 18 January 2009 - 12:20 PM

You are assuming HD is only 1080...there are approximately 20 resolution standards considered HD; from 720P (1280 x 720 pixels) on up. Some networks such as FOX only supply a 720P signal, so your t.v. set (and mine) are uprezzing to 1080. Better to talk of HD resolution than "analog" like half (versus 1/4....3/4...HD).


This may help explain some of it. Bottom line you can't simply say I saw two TVs and one looked better because of the resolution.

http://www.cnet.com/...ain;contentBody
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#15 Bryce Lansing

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Posted 18 January 2009 - 12:57 PM

I'm no expert, but I think that film resolution is as good as it's mm times 100 in lines. For instance, 8mm is only as good as 800 lines of resolution, 16mm is as good as 1600 lines (perfectly fine for 1080 HD scan), and 35mm is as good as 3500 lines (which is why it's usually scanned at 3k or 4k).

I've seen well scanned 16mm that looked sharper than my HVX at 1080. There will come a day when 1080 HDTVs will be old and cheap, and we'll me looking at 5k TVs. There will be more cameras with 5k sensors, ad people will start asking the question "is 35mm good enough for 5K TVs?". But I will always love the grainy look of film over the sharp, through the window look of HD digital.
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#16 David Rakoczy

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Posted 18 January 2009 - 12:57 PM

To answer the title of this thread "Is Super 16 really good enough for HDTV?"... the answer is yes, absolutely!
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#17 Walter Graff

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Posted 18 January 2009 - 01:12 PM

"There will come a day when 1080 HDTVs will be old and cheap, and we'll me looking at 5k TVs"

Where dos this notion come from? Don't confuse the marketing race of camera manufactures looking to get you to buy cameras with broadcast TV. It's not a money tree. How many years did we live with 525 TV in the US? I would not expect a change in home TV broadcasting any farther than what we have now for many years to come. They got what they wanted. To change it again requires major infrastructure changes again. Yes they will market all sorts of gimmicks like 3D but the core of HD is what it is.
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#18 DJ Joofa

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Posted 18 January 2009 - 01:13 PM

... the mathematics of how the human eye sees and hence why manufacturers make some sets 1366 and others 1920 ...


Though conformance to certain parameters of human vision has been utilized in some cases (e.g., chroma subsampling), a strict adherence to the principles of vision has not been the criteria when it has interfered with picture quality. For e.g., almost always, the NTSC luma coefficients (0.299, 0.587, 0.114) are used incorrectly with nonlinear gamma encoded signals, where these coefficients are strictly valid only for linear signals; but that is done since it results in better color fidelity near primaries.

The parameters that HDTV committees have considered important are: aspect ratio, digital sampling structure, total number of lines, colorimetry, and transfer characteristics among others. Hardware timings have been important considerations in HDTV, and an important consideration when these standards were being worked out was that the harmonics of the clock frequency do not interfere with international distress frequencies of 121.5 MHz as the civil, and 243 MHz as the military aircraft emergency frequencies.

HDTV has taken several decades to be formalized properly and there are tons of standards and resolutions besides 1920x1080. In fact, even for 1920 x 1080, many MPEG2 encoders used 1920x1088. Even when the horizontal resolution is 1920, there are standards that don't have 1080 in vertical, for e.g., SMPTE 260 specifies 1920x1035 active pixels out of 2200x1125.

If there is some esoteric mathematical relationship between the mathematics of human vision and the ideal resolution of a TV screen, I doubt too many manufacturers have heard of it.


Human vision is a complicated subject. We don't know much about the process in the cognitive stages of vision as we have more knowledge about the lower-level vision stages (retinal sampling structures, cones, rods, etc.). Though, TV manufactures and other people in this area are generally aware of vision principles in this lower level area, that arguments should not be carried too far, as the higher level processing in the vision are still not fully discovered.

As I said above full conformance with human vision has traditionally been dropped in areas that have resulted in more pleasing pictures.
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#19 Walter Graff

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Posted 18 January 2009 - 02:11 PM

As I said above full conformance with human vision has traditionally been dropped in areas that have resulted in more pleasing pictures.


Bottom line anyone that talks resolution numbers is not fully realizing the aspects that make up a pleasing picture. In fact all studies show resolution to be low on the list of importance to what humans perceive as sharpness and detail. Resolution numbers in fact say very little about how good your TV works. To me it's the equivalent of the useless thread after thread about what camera is the best.
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#20 Hal Smith

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Posted 18 January 2009 - 03:01 PM

There's a Tektronix White Paper "A Guide to Standard and High-Definition Digital Video Measurements" that has a lot of information about different digital and analog TV standards at:

http://www2.tek.com/...r...=2210&lc=EN

Tektronix sent me a hardcopy when I requested one.
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