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The end of film for TV production?


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#1 Keith Walters

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Posted 10 September 2009 - 08:54 PM

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“For me, it started around 2004, when Panavision introduced the Genesis camera,” Devlin says. “Suddenly, we weren’t dealing with a medium trying to look as good as film—we were moving into a medium that was able to surpass film in a sense. That’s when the whole world changed. Suddenly, we could produce image quality with the familiar look of film, but with more flexibility. For instance, with film, we had maybe a three-stop difference in post. Suddenly, we had a five-stop difference. In film, we could blow up our image maybe 10 percent before it would start to degrade. Suddenly, we could blow up our image 250 percent before it was degrading. It was a real game-changer. And now, with the Red workflow, we have a new pattern of working, where we don’t have to wait to lock picture to start working on sound, or lock picture to start on color correction. We can work on things as we feel a need to creatively, and that is a big difference.”

250% blowup from a Genesis "before it was degrading"?! What was he monitoring on - his iPhone?
And "maybe 10%" for film. What sort of film was that: super-8?
As for the Red Workflow ... Err... Wha?

Aside from this, there is actually some pretty good stuff on there about Super-16 and 2-perf 35mm as an alternative to video.
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#2 Milo Sekulovich

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Posted 11 September 2009 - 03:23 AM

This is absolute bull**** and is the sort of
misinformation being s**t out by a good many people
in the digital/HD realm.

Milo Sekulovich
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#3 John Sprung

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Posted 11 September 2009 - 12:34 PM

For instance, with film, we had maybe a three-stop difference in post. Suddenly, we had a five-stop difference. In film, we could blow up our image maybe 10 percent before it would start to degrade. Suddenly, we could blow up our image 250 percent before it was degrading.


This is, of course, dead wrong. It's the other way around in both cases.

Film has more dynamic range than Red, but you can only access it for TV in telecine. Comparing tape to tape correction of film originated material with Red raw to tape might be how this mistake was made. Just look at the ASC/PGA tests.

If you do a blowup in telecine, you can go farther with it. Comparing a tape to tape blowup with a blowup from Red raw, weighted with a dash of enthusiasm, might lead to the other conclusion. I think what we're seeing here is the view of someone who doesn't use telecine.

OTOH, for TV, where the final product is digital, going digital all the way works fine. Where I work, twelve out of twelve shows are doing exactly that. It's the most cost effective path.







-- J.S.
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#4 K Borowski

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Posted 11 September 2009 - 12:54 PM

OTOH, for TV, where the final product is digital, going digital all the way works fine. Where I work, twelve out of twelve shows are doing exactly that. It's the most cost effective path.


A lot of shows are now doing that. As of *last season* it was at 30% 35mm, I think ~15% 16mm, and ~55% HD capture for U.S. originated TV shows.

35mm has probably taken more of a hit with CSI going digital now too, as well as some other big 35mm shows.

So we are down to probably about 40% film origination now. Can't see it being better in any other market.


Dean Devlin may be spouting a bunch of nonsense, but unfortunately, it doesn't take this sort of ignorance for a production to go digital.

At least RED can look decent. I've yet to see a Genesis movie or TV show that doesn't look like garbage. That camera consistently makes skintones look BAD.
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#5 Keith Walters

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Posted 11 September 2009 - 07:30 PM

A lot of factors need to be taken into account here.

First of all, in just about every case, one way or another the motivation to use digital capture was financial, not quality-related. (That includes the spoutings of born-again digital "evangelists" whose principal motivation seems to be convincing production companies that they are still a technically-hip and valuable resource, although all they really seem to achieve is convincing people that they might be in need of the services of an optician :lol: )

Many of the shows that have swtched to digital acquisition are already well past their use-by date anyway. CSI Miami used to be a be a pretty reasonable, if sometimes silly, show, but I mainly just liked the gorgeous cinematography. But lately the scriptwriting has become more and more amatuerish, and once they move to video cameras, that will be the end of it for me. (Painted-in "blue" skies - Yuk!)

Another factor is that shooting with video cameras has political advantages to do with Actors' contracts and so on.

We have also seen very similar cycles to this before. Back in the late 1980s I was recruited by Samuelsons Australia (later bought by Panavsion), to maintain the large fleet of BVP-3 Betacams they had just spent a fortune on, because "film is/was dead" (at least for TV production). Well by 1990 you literally couldn't give those things away, because the new SP betacams had come out, even though the BVP-3 was still a perfectly capable camera. So they spent more money on SP Betacams, and after an initial flurry of interest, they turned into dust collectors as well. The rental market rapidly moved back to film origination, and more CEOs mysteriously "retired" overnight...

Much the same story with overseas companies too of course.

The current financial crisis (if there ever really was one) is slowly drawing to a close, which means financial restraints will be less of a factor in the future.

The greatest irony of all this is that just as large-screen true HDTV displays are starting to proliferate in people's homes, production companies are turning to lower-quality capture systems. The difference between 35mm film and HD video origination is painfully obvious, even on my not-particularly-expensive 42" LCD TV.

And given the unbelievable speed with which the standard large-screen TV display ramped up to 1920 x 1080, I would not be in too much of a hurry to rule out the possibility of 4K home cinema displays in the near future, possibly based on OLED technology.

But it's going to be the same old story; people who go the extra mile with 35mm film origination will still have a marketable product decades down the track, even if it does mean re-editing from the original negatives.
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#6 Michael Most

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Posted 11 September 2009 - 08:55 PM

35mm has probably taken more of a hit with CSI going digital now too, as well as some other big 35mm shows.


CSI Miami is being shot digitally (Genesis, I believe). CSI Las Vegas and possibly NY are both staying on film for the time being.

At least RED can look decent. I've yet to see a Genesis movie or TV show that doesn't look like garbage. That camera consistently makes skintones look BAD.


In that case, you should take a look at the features "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" and "Get Smart," or the television shows "Smallville, " "90210", or "United States of Tara." And if you want an example of what Dean's company is doing, take a look at "Leverage" - shot on Red and, in my opinion, looking awful. I'm not necessarily blaming the camera for that, just as I'm not necessarily claiming that the choice of the Genesis "created" the productions I just mentioned. The fact is that every single one of these devices is capable of producing very nice images when in capable hands.

And in reference to another post, the final colorist on CSI Miami is a very good friend of mine. He feels that there's been essentially no significant change in the look of the show this season (on the Genesis) when compared with any previous season (on film). And he's got one of the best pairs of eyes I know.
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#7 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 11 September 2009 - 09:21 PM

The current financial crisis (if there ever really was one) is slowly drawing to a close, which means financial restraints will be less of a factor in the future.


You had me until this remark Keith...they have a name for this...it's called "recession denier!"
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#8 John Sprung

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Posted 14 September 2009 - 12:13 PM

What's really going to be interesting is how Leno does tonight. Replacing our expensive scripted dramas and comedies with a five night prime time strip that costs so very little to make could be a game changer. He doesn't even need great ratings to be more cost effective.





-- J.S.
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#9 Michael Most

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Posted 14 September 2009 - 01:54 PM

What's really going to be interesting is how Leno does tonight. Replacing our expensive scripted dramas and comedies with a five night prime time strip that costs so very little to make could be a game changer. He doesn't even need great ratings to be more cost effective.


I'm sure Leno will do great tonight. What matters is how he's doing a month or two from now. Or even a week or two.

"Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" tried essentially the same thing, and succeeded big time - for a few months. Then it was over. My preliminary guess is that the Leno experiment could easily suffer the same fate. Not to mention that stripping Leno has absolutely no back side potential, unlike scripted shows. But NBC knows all of this. We're all going to just have to wait to see how it plays out.
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#10 Freya Black

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Posted 14 September 2009 - 02:54 PM

CSI Miami is being shot digitally (Genesis, I believe). CSI Las Vegas and possibly NY are both staying on film for the time being.



In that case, you should take a look at the features "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" and "Get Smart," or the television shows "Smallville, "


!! At what point did smallville switch to video!!??

I'm a little suprised!

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#11 Michael Most

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Posted 14 September 2009 - 03:02 PM

!! At what point did smallville switch to video!!??

I'm a little suprised!


All of last season (2008-2009) was shot on Genesis. I'm not surprised you didn't notice any change, but quite frankly, I though it looked a bit better after they went to the Genesis. And I don't consider myself a zealot in either direction.
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#12 John Holland

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Posted 14 September 2009 - 03:30 PM

I dont think over here , we have seen that series yet !!! so still 35mm stuff being shown here i think !
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#13 Freya Black

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Posted 14 September 2009 - 04:25 PM

All of last season (2008-2009) was shot on Genesis. I'm not surprised you didn't notice any change, but quite frankly, I though it looked a bit better after they went to the Genesis. And I don't consider myself a zealot in either direction.


I've not followed it recently I have to confess. I used to be something of a fan but I lost track of it somewhere.
I guess it's been running for a long time but I feel a little sad they are winding it down. I did feel it was actually quite a high quality programme and the boys in it were kind of cute. ;)

Must catch up with it sometime.

love

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#14 K Borowski

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 10:50 AM

All of last season (2008-2009) was shot on Genesis. I'm not surprised you didn't notice any change, but quite frankly, I though it looked a bit better after they went to the Genesis. And I don't consider myself a zealot in either direction.


You're Fu* %ing nuts if you think the Genesis looks better than 35mm film, ever PERIOD


And, you may not consider yourself a zealot. I do, a lot of other people do. You are.

Edited by Karl Borowski, 15 September 2009 - 10:52 AM.

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#15 K Borowski

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 10:56 AM

CSI Miami is being shot digitally (Genesis, I believe). CSI Las Vegas and possibly NY are both staying on film for the time being.



In that case, you should take a look at the features "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" and "Get Smart," or the television shows "Smallville, " "90210", or "United States of Tara." And if you want an example of what Dean's company is doing, take a look at "Leverage" - shot on Red and, in my opinion, looking awful. I'm not necessarily blaming the camera for that, just as I'm not necessarily claiming that the choice of the Genesis "created" the productions I just mentioned. The fact is that every single one of these devices is capable of producing very nice images when in capable hands.

And in reference to another post, the final colorist on CSI Miami is a very good friend of mine. He feels that there's been essentially no significant change in the look of the show this season (on the Genesis) when compared with any previous season (on film). And he's got one of the best pairs of eyes I know.



Didn't say anything about "CSI: Miami." Don't assume that I am too lazy to differentiate between the two.

I've seen all the shows you mention, and I will repeat, I have yet to see a show [or movie] shot on the Genesis that doesn't look like shĦ.
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#16 Michael Most

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 11:40 AM

You're Fu* %ing nuts if you think the Genesis looks better than 35mm film, ever PERIOD


And, you may not consider yourself a zealot. I do, a lot of other people do. You are.


Karl, I don't know what your problem is with me or anyone else. You're entitled to your opinions, I and anyone else here are entitled to theirs. It doesn't make me "Fu* %ing nuts" and it doesn't make you right. But I'm going to stay above the fray a bit and offer some reasonable, intelligent answers.

I said that I thought in many ways the show "Smallville" looked better on the Genesis than it did on film. I didn't make any generalizations, nor did I make any comments as to the technical or aesthetic capabilities of either medium. I said what I said because in my opinion (and only my opinion), Smallville is a show based essentially on a comic book, and as such, has always been designed with a rather bold color pallette and a lot of detail, particularly in the blacks. The cast is all relatively young (especially since they got rid of the Kent parents), so it is shot very "clean." I felt that when the show switched to the Genesis, these characteristics became even more pronounced, and the overall look became a bit cleaner and sharper, typical of electronic origination. In many cases, I think these things would be a hindrance. In the case of "Smallville," I felt they were appropriate, and helped to achieve what was probably intended all along a bit stronger. Not a night and day difference, but a few changes for those who are paying attention. In a conversation (admittedly second hand), I found out that at least one of the two directors of photography agreed with that assessment.

If I've ever been accused of zealotry, it's been on the film side. I've been accused of being a film zealot a few times in Internet forums simply because I've pointed out that to this date, there's no electronic capture device that can equal it - a simple statement of fact. But I'm also open enough as a person and as a relatively experienced "industry insider" to appreciate digital cameras and the enormous progress that's been made with them. I'm open enough to see some of these new cameras as essentially another film stock, another tool with an attendant look and feel, that might be very appropriate for some projects, and less appropriate for others. I'm also intelligent enough to understand the world as it really is instead of wasting time dreaming about the world as I think it should be, and in the real world, economy is an important driver. Put all of this together and, at least to me, what it means is that we live in a world with a lot of choices, both aesthetic and financial, and if anything, we should embrace the diversity and try to take advantage of it. If that makes me a zealot in either direction, I'm not seeing it.
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#17 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 03:49 PM

I must agree with Karl, although I wouldn't insult you or call you nuts.

Watch "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans" and compare it witht he first Underworld which was shot on film. The new UW looks terrible and it was shot on Genesis and RED One. The skin tones look vomitous and not in a way that anyone would want on purpose.
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#18 Michael Most

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 04:01 PM

I must agree with Karl, although I wouldn't insult you or call you nuts.

Watch "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans" and compare it witht he first Underworld which was shot on film. The new UW looks terrible and it was shot on Genesis and RED One. The skin tones look vomitous and not in a way that anyone would want on purpose.


Since the two pictures were also shot in different locations by different cinematographers, I think it's a bit presumptuous to attribute the difference solely to a camera.

But that aside, I think I did just say that I don't believe there is any current digital camera that can equal 35mm film in terms of pure image quality and latitude. But I also said that it doesn't mean there isn't room for digital cameras on many projects when deemed appropriate.
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#19 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 04:56 PM

But I also said that it doesn't mean there isn't room for digital cameras on many projects when deemed appropriate.


I keep hearing this all over the place but I keep wondering what is the practical reason anyone would choose to accept a downgraded image? The RED One fans used to talk about resolution. In fact, there is still attempt to carry resolution to ridiculous levels. But it seems the makers of digital cams still dont get it. It's not the resolution...if it were then there wouldnt been people willing to shoot Super 8 and 16mm over 4k cams. Film simply has characteristics that digital doesn't. I could explain some of them but some of them are hard to quantify...they're just there. Latitude is one factor but not the only one. It's also color rendition, depth (which isn't just a latitude issue), grain patterns vs. pixels (film is much softer), the truly progressive nature of film vs. simulated progressive capture of digital. Then there is just the fact that film is more surreal than digital. It's like going from reality to something much better.

Anyhow, like I said, I have yet to hear the benefits of shooting on these digital cameras over film. It's not really an issue of money because at the level of millions, film is a small cost anyhow.
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#20 Thomas James

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 05:22 PM

One of the benefits of shooting digital is that it makes 65mm cinematography so affordable. And while high dynamic range is important it is about the resolution and because of resolution thats why 65mm cinematography was so popular during the epic film period of the 1960's. What the proponents of film do is that they know that 65mm cinematography is unaffordable so they try and hold digital back insisting that digital is inferior. Thats why directors like Steven Sodebergh of the "Che' fame have embraced digital because they want to recreate the nostalgia of 65mm film during the epic period of film making. Now of course I am not saying that we are there yet however there will come a day when 65mm film is replicated by digital and this will amount to a significant increase in motion picture quality.

Edited by Thomas James, 15 September 2009 - 05:24 PM.

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