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How does SD look on the big screen?


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#1 Lance Tang

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 02:43 PM

I've recently heard of some SD movies being put on the big screen. Do they look ok? Would it be better to use HD?
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 03:49 PM

Choice of acquisition format has a lot of variables, and "SD" and "HD" can mean a lot of things. However as a general rule, HD will work better because it's less of an enlargement to get it on the big screen (as it is "bigger" to begin with).
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#3 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 04:13 PM

Quite a few films have been shot on SD, the dogma films for example. These days all things being equal HD should be the way. Although, perhaps something like DVW 970 shooting progressive frame digabeta with good lenses could prove to be better than say a Z1 on a big screen, you'd need to test it.

Edited by Brian Drysdale, 12 November 2009 - 04:15 PM.

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#4 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 15 November 2009 - 05:36 PM

If you are happy with a standard 16mm type of aspect ratio, than the SD will hold up nicely. SD black and white can look good. Even super-8mm film in BW can look surprisingly good when blown up off of a video copy of properly done transfer.

The other issue that comes into play is your budget. Can you afford to dress wider parts of your scenes with a small crew. If you have a project that is going to have a lot of one person close ups, you may actually want an SD aspect ratio. Otherwise, might play just as big of a role in determining your camera is how you are going to capture your sound.
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#5 Robert Costello

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 09:19 AM

Arent DVDs SD?
(other than specific HD or Blue-ray)

I went to a screening of an older movie in an art museum with
maybe 200 seats and the picture looked fine...
they were playing off of a dvd...
maybe projector lumens and contrast ratio has a bit to do with it?...

Most film festivals only accept dvds..

my thought is that even if shot on film or HD
if it gets downsized or enlarged to the
finite amount of information in SD, like a standard dvd,
then it will look fine as long as it was captured/telecined/rendered properly...?

of course the amount of info you're taking into the camera will be different but
in the end it will be SD ...
it's really just a pixel count??
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 12:01 PM

There are some advantages to oversampling -- even though SD (NTSC) broadcast in the USA is only 480i, we can generally tell when footage was shot in 35mm or 16mm, or HD versus consumer SD. Of course, some reasons we can tell are things other than resolution, like grain size or depth of field, but shooting at a higher resolution and downsampling often keeps certain fine details that may not be visible if you actually shot in SD.

But the devil is in the details, as mentioned, something shot in 2/3" DigiBeta may outshine something shot on a consumer 1/3" HDV camera.

So asking "how does SD look on the big screen?" really depends on what the SD footage actually is, and it depends on the SD source for projection, the digital projector, etc. And asking whether it would be better to use HD again depends on the specific HD camera versus specific SD camera.

I saw a film-out to 35mm from something shot on the Panasonic SDX900 (480P) that looked quite good on the big screen, not that different than something shot on the Varicam (720P) or F900 (1080P).

The thing is that our perception of resolution is variable, it depends on what our eyes feel they need to be seeing, which is why close-ups shot at lower-resolution tend to look acceptable because if we think the eyeballs are sharp, we don't care if every pore is not in sharp relief (we may be glad), whereas in a wide landscape shot, our eyes crave to see lots of fine detail, and sometimes even 35mm is not sharp enough.

You also have to factor in that not all cameras and recording formats are the same in terms of measurable resolution -- just because two cameras record "1080P" doesn't mean the final images necessarily resolve that many lines equally.
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#7 Tim Carroll

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 12:24 PM

The thing is that our perception of resolution is variable, it depends on what our eyes feel they need to be seeing, which is why close-ups shot at lower-resolution tend to look acceptable because if we think the eyeballs are sharp, we don't care if every pore is not in sharp relief (we may be glad), whereas in a wide landscape shot, our eyes crave to see lots of fine detail, and sometimes even 35mm is not sharp enough.


David,

Along the lines of what you are saying, do you think the following would work.

In a scene where a drifter character is wandering along railroad tracks out in the middle of the country at sunrise. Starting with a wide shot of the sun coming up, the fields, the tracks, this lonely figure, all in 35mm. Then the character comes upon a body lying by the tracks. As we come in tight on our character and his interactions with the body, we switch to Super 16.

Budgeting for a project that can't afford 35mm throughout, but it will probably be shot "out in the country" and I have access to an MOS 35mm camera which I would like to use for all the really wide open spaces shots. But I am wondering how well it will cut in with the Super 16 that the rest of the project will be shot in.

Your opinion?

Thanks,
-Tim
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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 12:29 PM

Should cut alright, but I'd perhaps grain up the 35mm and grain down the 16mm to arrive @ a happy medium; 'course a lot will depend on how you're planning on posting this. a lot can be done in the DI to work out the differences between the two.
I'd perhaps shoot 200T on the 35mm and 50D on the S16mm.. 'course might just be better to do the whole thing on S16mm on finer grained stock to begin with and use the money you'll probably save over 35mm to up production design a bit. Just my thoughts.
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#9 Tim Carroll

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 12:52 PM

I'm trying to capture the beautiful, yet lonely vastness of this wide open prairie, and contrast it with the warm close intimacy when the drifter finds this other human being (the body turns out not to be dead).

I want the vastness to be beautiful, lonely, but beautiful. Like a gorgeous painting of a sunrise on the prairie, where when you first look at it you go "Man that's beautiful", but when you really look you're overcome with the desolateness of the place.

Best,
-Tim
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#10 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 01:00 PM

In that case perhaps look into actually shooting all of that "vastness" anamorphic and then S16mm framed for 2.40. Keep on the lower grain film stocks for the S16mm (7217@125 for example and 7212) but then you're working with a bit more light than I'd like. Also if you keep a good range of colors in your S16 shot and avoid blandness you'll help hide the grain, says me. Again, just a thought, but I find the 2.40:1 frame very lonely if you just have one person in it; it really pits man v world around.
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 01:04 PM

"City of God" and "The Constant Gardener" mixed S16 and 35mm along those lines, wide shots on 35mm, closer shots on S16 (more or less.) The D.I. process, especially when done at 2K, can help blend the formats better.

Grain size is the main giveaway, so yes, if you can shoot the S16 on a slow stock and the 35mm on faster stock, it will help smooth out the differences. Even on a fast stock, you'll still have the resolution improvement of shooting in 35mm over S16 in the wide shots.
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#12 Tim Carroll

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 02:06 PM

Thanks guys.

Best,
-Tim
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#13 David Landelle

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Posted 12 December 2009 - 04:33 AM

I am not a cinematographer, so this is only my point of view.

If SD is 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 the horizontal chroma resolution will be the same or even better in SD than in HDV (4:2:0 or 4:1:1) so upsampling will still give a good impression.

Also, HD is not easy to perceive all the time, and it relies on the ability to get a sharp focus during shooting (shooting with a true HD viewfinder of zoom, an HD screen sideways, or measuring as in the old days).

In my mind "visibly HD" images are maybe 10% of the time (unless you make a demo reel for an HD camcorder :)

In the end, HD is like having twice the resolution (horizontal and vertical) : this is exacteley what you get when you zoom by 2 with a good optical zoom. And the eye does not actually "see" all the big screen. So if you want to tell a story in SD I presume you may tell it using close-up rather than wide angles (as before).

In the end, I think very little viewers see HD in good conditions, so wide success may not rely on technical details. You may know that soccer (the highest quality broadcast in europe, all shot with highest quality HD trucks) is still shot taking into account that 90% of the world is watching it in 4:3 SD. Stanley Kubrick made the same choice I think :)

My conclusion is that HD was more a tactical move from the broadcast industry to escape the PC and consumer stuff, but for end users, this is not a big deal. Anyway now everybody can shoot crisp AVCHD images with a camera and an SD card ... well I am only talking about technical facts ... this rarely looks like Coppola <_<
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#14 Freya Black

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Posted 12 December 2009 - 08:36 AM

There are plenty of SD cameras that can shoot 16:9 of course so you don't have to be restricted to 4:3 in S.D.

love

Freya
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#15 David Landelle

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Posted 12 December 2009 - 09:26 AM

There are plenty of SD cameras that can shoot 16:9 of course so you don't have to be restricted to 4:3 in S.D.


Shure, production is 16/9 and 1080i, as well as broadcast on major networks, but the cameraman uses 4:3 markers on the viewfinder while shooting to enshure it will look fine when viewed on a 4:3 display (90% of the world viewers for soccer).
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