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#1 Stephen Pye

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 06:00 PM

As a non -professional member but someone with a deep abiding interest in photographic quality from his teens, just thought I would post a summary of my views of the movie "Public Enemies" which I saw screened here in Ireland last night - if you consider the subject of film versus digital to be now boring or a topic that has been done to death, please stop reading now ! "Public Enemies" was shot wholly on digital, I understand.The screening of the movie I viewed was in a well appointed, modern cinema - it was a projected 35 mm print print to which the digital content had been transferred.That in itself was interesting as every so often a print blemish or scratch would appear on the otherwise very pristine image quality of the digitally originated footage - that's not criticism - just an observation on the way the marrying of the two media can impact on the subjective viewing experience !
Overall, I thought the image quality in most scenes to be very good and I'm giving an assessment as someone who would regard himself as ultra- critical and reluctant to accept the widespread use of digital in motion picturing making.There's one large caveat I will enter but in most scenes ,in terms of colour rendering, the appearance of subtle textures from the chrome of 1930s automobiles, the various costumes, people's hair, skin, the brickwork and facades of various buildings and structures, large vistas of landscapes, etc. one couldn't really say 35mm film would have rendered them appreciably better.The actual rendition of movement/motion did have that smoothness one has long associated with video but I don't myself consider that to be a huge minus.Equally there were some scenes where the image looked almost too pristine and "clinical" but I think we're dealing here with fairly fine matters of degree and certainly it could be thrown back at me that I'm nostalgic for a bit of grain !
Anyway, the caveat is that the scenes , possibly shot in available light, of a night-time FBI stake-out of a fancy country retreat ( a complex of wooden, single storey structures, I think ) ,where Dillinger and his associates are "holed up", were appreciably inferior to the image quality of the majority of the scenes.Whether it was the low light and the succession of shots with very rapid movements of the actors and the presence of some "hot spots", but I thought I was viewing a playback from a video assist rather than something that a paying member of the public would expect from a big budget Hollywood movie ! That's quite a swipe but I challenge anyone who cares about the look of our movies to sit through those scenes and not experience a sinking feeling in their heart ! If that "look" was deliberately sought after by Michael Mann and his D.P., then all I can say, with respect to those 2 very experienced professionals, is that it was very misguided and is the sort of thing that won't promote the wider acceptance of digital in movie making.Anyway, the length of this post may already have vexed the forum convener so I'll end on this note about "high-end " hi- def. - very good but could be better !
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 07:34 PM

If that "look" was deliberately sought after by Michael Mann and his D.P., then all I can say, with respect to those 2 very experienced professionals, is that it was very misguided


Couldn't agree more, and the results shown in this film have attracted a lot of industry comment for these reasons. It is almost certainly a deliberate choice; at least some of the film was shot on small consumer handycams and the nastiest looking stuff probably originates from those (though even they can look better). I completely agree that applying the home-video look to a period 1930s piece is both ugly with respect to conventional practice, and a very odd artistic choice. It's the last thing a lot of people would have done.

The three main issues with doing this are usually clipped highlights and colour rendition, muddy blacks, and smeary motion, which is reflected in what you saw. Particularly, the motion smear issue is often associated with night shooting since these digital cameras are capable of very long shutter periods approaching the frame rate, such that one frame is exposed for very nearly 1/24th, as opposed to 1/48th as in normal practice. I have long felt that this is a questionable technique for increasing exposure, especially in cases where there is fast motion in the frame, and looks very videoish.

It is difficult to conclude that such a high end show with such high end people would be capable of ending up with this result through simple incompetence, though to an extent that is what it looks like and I'm constantly astonished at what the "high end people" are sometimes capable of, especially when confronted with unfamiliar equipment. That said, go and watch Benjamin Button, which looks absolutely spectacular and was shot digitally.

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#3 Keith Walters

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 08:11 PM

"Public Enemies" was shot wholly on digital, I understand.

IMDB says it's a mixture of film and digital.

Camera
Arriflex 235, Cooke S4 Lenses
Arriflex 435, Cooke S4 Lenses
Sony CineAlta F23, Zeiss DigiPrime and Fujinon Lenses
Sony HDC-F950, Zeiss DigiPrime and Fujinon Lenses
Sony PMW-EX1


Film negative format (mm/video inches)
35 mm (Kodak Vision3 500T 5219)
Video (HDTV)


Cinematographic process
Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format)
HDCAM SR (source format)
Super 35 (source format)

Anybody have any information about percentages?
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#4 Bruce Greene

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 08:15 PM

I haven't seen Public Enemies yet...so I won't discuss that.

I have been to the movies a couple of times in the last week and also supervised the DI color grading of a film I shot on .... film.

My beef is that- the films in the theater (projected on film) looked rather "dead". The resolution was poor. The color pallet, dull.

I keep reading that film has a "larger color gamut" than digital capture. This is probably true. But what I noticed again, and again in the DI suite is that the color gamut of film is very limited in the darker tones. Dark flesh tones and reds/oranges loose their color in the film print and come out kind of neutral/cyan. It reminds me of the weakness of the early Epson printers I owned:) A digital original shown on a digital display does not have this limitation of gamut, even if there are highly saturated colors that film can reproduce that digital can not.

While the film certainly has more latitude in the highlights, the way it rolls off in a 2k scan makes it look rather flat compared to a properly exposed digital capture. It's as if I can't make out the high frequency detail.

So I guess my point is, that for all the romance of film capture and presentation, we're not seeing it in the theater by and large. I remember being in awe of films presented in 70mm in years gone by. Fame and The Right Stuff come to mind. But now, I'd rather see a digital projection of a digital original (on a good projector) than the lifeless film prints being sent out to the public.

Just my 2 cents, and I think this is a real challenge for the future of film as a medium. As movie goers get used to seeing almost 2k digital presentations at home, settling for a <1k film print in the theater will send the customers back to their home theaters perhaps.

Comments welcome!
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#5 Keith Walters

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 11:57 PM

Here's just two of several sites that have started discussions about the use of HD on this movie. In general, (for what it's worth) the response appears to be far from universally positive! Interestingly, nobody but me and IMDB seems to be aware that at least some film was used.

On Reduser and like-minded sites, fanboys have have repeatedly gone into uncontrollable paroxysms of shorts-starching over the image quality of films "shot on RED", only to find that "Shot with RED" does not necessarily equate to "Shot on RED" That is, pictures that were "indistinguishable from film", (No! BETTER than film!!), turned out to actually BE shot on film, the RED (and similar HD cameras) having only a very minor role in the production. :lol:

A related example is "Slumdog Millionaire" which is repeatedy held up as an exemplar of Digital Cinematography, even though most of it was shot on 35mm film. The video parts were shot on video for reasons of practicality, not image quality.

http://www.slashfilm...s-work-for-you/

http://cinerobot.blo...ic-enemies.html
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#6 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 06:46 AM

I adore one of the comments on that first link:

it didn't work because it looked like a crappy british tv show.


Couldn't have put it better myself, much as the fact depresses me.

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#7 Stephen Pye

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 05:43 PM

IMDB says it's a mixture of film and digital.

Camera
Arriflex 235, Cooke S4 Lenses
Arriflex 435, Cooke S4 Lenses
Sony CineAlta F23, Zeiss DigiPrime and Fujinon Lenses
Sony HDC-F950, Zeiss DigiPrime and Fujinon Lenses
Sony PMW-EX1


Film negative format (mm/video inches)
35 mm (Kodak Vision3 500T 5219)
Video (HDTV)


Cinematographic process
Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format)
HDCAM SR (source format)
Super 35 (source format)

Anybody have any information about percentages?


Thanks for that information - if IMDB have their facts right then that puts a different complexion on my comments - however, I'd be surprised if the specific scenes I mentioned as exhibiting noticeably inferior image quality were shot otherwise than with a digital motion camera.
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#8 Rajavel Olhiveeran

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 05:56 AM

had been waiting for this cinema for so long and then i watched it finally on big screen. . .
i believe for this genre and the period portrayed...'Film' would have done better justice to the film..than digital....
its just not the format but the way it has been shot...the style of shooting also was not as
convincing as the other films from similar genre...like 'road to perdition'.....
...interesting thing which i just got to realise is ....in the world of cinema genre....apart from the story and scripting.....
we have all been acclamatized to the style of visual storytelling of those done for those specific genres....so that 'look'..
also unconsciously becomes part of that 'genre'.......and as a result even that becomes an expectation out of that genre...

ok assuming the creators of this film didnt want that...and they actually wanted to break away from that (which they have).....
it just failed to better the 'Emotional response to the Visual Look'.......which the earlier films had done in the same genre with 'film'...
this is more than just the format of the camera....it also how the shots have been taken.
(this emotional response to the visual look could be subliminal for the audience...they might not be able to put their finger on it)

to be technically speaking.....those jittery movememnts during the pan or subject movement......and bleeding edges.......and loss
of detail at the highlights....generallly took away the punch from the images...thereby reducing (reducing..) the impact of the film..

... ofcourse on the whole i loved the movie...
but as a cinematographer my thirst was not quenched!!!
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#9 Thomas James

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 11:06 AM

I think the reason why video was chosen was that the director was after the live look rather than a period or nostalgic look. I think he wanted the audience to experience the 1920's as if it were happening today.
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