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Che Part 1


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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 09:20 PM

In between rainstorms and working on a piece of writing, I went to see "Che" (Part 1) at the Sunset Laemmle -- well, I saw one hour of it, I didn't have time to see the whole movie. But I have the screener DVD at home if I want to see the rest...

At first, I was a bit horrified about how bad the first scene looked, a night interior in Mexico that looked like it was shot on DV, it was rather soft and noisy. This was intercut with some b&w footage that looked like it may have actually been shot on 35mm b&w film.

Finally the movie started with some "normal" scenes, the whole jungle sequence, so I could judge how the RED ONE held up in a transfer to 35mm.

It looked pretty good! Despite being cropped to about 2.8K or so because of the anamorphic lenses, the sharpness and detail was fine, very film-like. The colors were nice and there wasn't any electronic edginess to bright highlights. I disagree with the people who said the movie was exceptionally sharp, I'd say it was acceptably sharp, but nothing stood out in terms of exceptional detail. It was very fine-grained of course.

The only problem I saw were a few jungle shots where the contrast was so high that the highlights were unnaturally clipped if someone stopped under a patch of sunlight. But that didn't happen too often. But that was the worst artifact I saw.

The movie had a nice 1960's Kodachrome National Geographic photography look. Sort of creamy-looking, perhaps due to the shallower focus from the anamorphic lenses. It was rather pretty at times. Seemed less electronic-looking than "Apocalypto", much more film-like. Makes me want to put anamorphic lenses on the RED...

I still wonder what happened to the first nighttime scene. I guess Soderberg wanted to process the heck out of the scene to make it look different than the later Cuba scenes.
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#2 Serge Teulon

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 07:47 AM

The clipping in the forest scenes really stood out for me too.

Overall there was a certain 'cheapness' (if that is english) to it and I just couldn't put my finger on what it was....maybe need to see it again.

Edited by Serge Teulon, 06 February 2009 - 07:48 AM.

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#3 Dan Goulder

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 11:54 AM

I understand that part I is a mix of Red and Super 16 footage. (super 16 for New York and Mexico sequences?) How did the two formats compare?
Thanks.
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#4 Russell Richard Fowler

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 01:04 PM

I was involved with the Miami premiere of Che 1 / 2 with 2K digital projection from a DCP file. The "grain" on the dark scenes mentioned was not film like and had a cyclic pattern which was very noticable. There some clipping in the forest scenes, especially shots looking up to the sky through the leaves and branches. Kodakchrome is an on target opinion especially the mountain vistas.

As a story told, I liked Che 1 / 2 (#1 is scope #2 is 1:85).....we had a successful presentation (250 people inside / 150 protesters with bullhorns and police detail outside.....Che is a "touchy" subject in Miami) and Mr. Soderberg was easy to work with. The post team at IFC gave me enough info and support to make it look good.

Sharpness was acceptable but as a reference a 3 perf film image to scope ratio shown from a HDCAM SR via a 2K projector ("Notorious" / 20th Century Fox) screening the following week was "tack" sharp and grain when noted was more "film like".

Edited by Russell Richard Fowler, 06 February 2009 - 01:05 PM.

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#5 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 07:28 PM

I too saw Che Part 1 at Sunset Laemmle yesterday, I went to a 1pm screening tho. I loved the film as well as the look. I did notice the clipping, but it wasn't so bad that it distracted me from the story. In a lot of those scenes it was staged in a wide with no coverage, if it cut in and out of the clip i think it would have been more noticeable. In fact I thought it was the best looking clip i've seen. It still had the texture of grain over top of it, whether that was added in the print or post i'm not sure, but I thought overexposed sunlight looked great in the context of the jungle setting.

I noticed the lenses really softened at the edges of frame, but I liked it because most the staging was center frame and the edges being soft really drew my eye to the sharpest area of the frame (the center). The intercutting of 16mm and RED looked great... It was motivated by the story. The only times I've been bothered by mixing formats is when it feels unmotivated... and I think thats the only time audiences pick up on technical things like that. I can't wait to see Part 2.
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#6 Marcus Joseph

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 08:59 PM

I plan on seeing this soon.
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#7 Peter Moretti

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Posted 11 February 2009 - 04:59 AM

I just saw #1 last night. It looked very good... and completely different from "Che 2," which looked washed out and blown-out by comparison.
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#8 Edgar Dubrovskiy

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Posted 12 February 2009 - 04:39 AM

Watched it yesterday on a big screen.
Hm... Can't say I really liked the look.
It's more down to the personal taste, I guess.

For me, the look was somehow distracting to the story.
All the clipped highlights, slight vignetting in some shots, softness on the edges and on the bottom...
Seemed too artificial. And I agree with David, the first and the last scene looked like they went through some insane post.

The b/w bits looked absolutely great. Like good old 16mm b/w reversal.
The one thing I loved from the colour footage were close-ups. Looked really good.
The exceptional sharpness of the digital, plus absolute lack of noise created some beautiful close-ups.
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#9 Ira Ratner

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 06:18 AM

Che is a "touchy" subject in Miami


Remarkably well said.
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#10 Mike Lary

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 04:01 PM

I saw the Roadshow edition in Royal Oak a few days ago. I was one of seven people there for the evening show. :(

I was pretty impressed with the quality of the Red footage overall, understanding the limitations of the camera. The softer, less digital, look of the blown out highlights was less than ugly. It was hard not to keep thinking of it as video because of the crushed shadows in the jungle juxtaposed with the occasional blown out skin tone, but it was very well shot and the acting was spot on. The mixed formats worked very well, giving the interview segments a documentary feel and helping to separate the time periods visually. For me, there were no technical issues that detracted from the experience.

There was one thing I noticed in Part 2 that I'm curious about. In a press conference there are some sync issues with camera flashes. It looks like a shutter / flash timing issue, where a horizontal band of the flash will appear on the image while the rest of the image is normal. The band jumps around from flash to flash. Did anyone else notice that?
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#11 Rodrigo Llano

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 08:51 AM

I think that Che is a really good way to show how Digital capture could be pushed in many different ways to tell a history. Probably we will find a lot of pros and cons about the look of the movie but I feel that this is a good example about how digital works by it self, without any pretensions to equal film.

The only thing that I miss was more density in the blacks... probably was just an issue related to the distribution copy of the movie for the LatinAmerican market.

In a very personal perspective about the look. I agree about the highlight clipping is distracting but understandable.
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#12 Russell Richard Fowler

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 09:45 AM

The train wreck in the movie was a hoot...basic Photoshop in action. Edging and shading of the wrecked train made it look so cardboard in digital....
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#13 Chris Durham

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 01:22 PM

It's funny. I saw the roadshow edition with a filmmaking friend and we both came into the intermission saying "wow, they really did a great job of making the black and white Red footage look filmlike - it looked a lot like Super 16!" And then we looked in the program where they thanked Red and Aaton. Oh, that makes sense. Just goes to show how much difference there still is.
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#14 Jean Dodge

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Posted 26 March 2009 - 12:48 PM

I saw CHE / The Argentine in 35mm at a multiplex, and then a week later saw the roadshow version of both parts one and two at an arthouse theater again in 35mm. I'd like to see it on a 4K projector to compare... but like the esteemed Mr. Mullen said, if the goal of Pt One is was to emulate a national geographic kodachrome look the camera preformed admirably - especially in the jungle conditions considering it is basically a DSLR with a PL mount on it.

Soderberg deserves credit for having the balls to go for it, he had an early build of the camera and didn't let that stop him. I heard they used cold packs from a cooler to keep the thing from overheating at times, issues that have since been addressed somewhat now by Red.

The proof is in the pudding as they say and the film looks "better than 16mm," possibly better than s16 and yet has the feel of a film shot handheld in the jungle, like say "Burden of Dreams." Only in 'scope, which was what made it unique. Keep in mind the film made diddly theatrical in the USA, and already has grossed ten million in Spain alone. It was made for the latin market... and in those terms it looks great and is innovative and has some fine acting. Cinematography is about satisfying the story, the director's vision and the audience. (My opinion of the film is not important here, I'm a gringo cineaste. I found it dull for the most part, despite good performances.)

Dennis and others make all the relevant technical points about clipped highlights and such... I'm just trying to speak from a producer's point of view. It was a good call, shooting on the Red.... ARTISTICALLY. However since the budget was in the range of 65 million, perhaps the Aaton 35 or a Moviecam might have been a better call... if the goal was a perfectly exposed and presented image, but then the DP is also the director, and he has to hold up physically for the whole shoot. So we're back to digital, or s16mm and the Red One was picked partially for it's compact size and light weight. Cameras, and the systems they employ to make images are "just a tool."

CHE aside, IMHO, 16mm has been dealt a major blow by the Red One. Heck, the $5k panasonic HD cams hit 16mm hard enough... Issues with dirt and scratches, negative cutting, A+B rolling, optical blow-ups etc... all gone. 16mm is now an artistic choice and a "look," more than a cost-cutting tool. Yes, there are practical differences but they are small compared to the big picture. Soon the Epic will be out, (later builds of the Red system, with 5k and up, and full frame sensors, etc.) and 35mm will take a hit as well. 35mm is a heck of lot more resilient, however.
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