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Camera's, film looks, choices, and more


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#1 Jeremy Walton

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 02:46 AM

Ok, I got some questions. I'm out of film school, but since I don't know a whole lot in this field I'll post here for help. Ill break up the different questions in paragraphs. Also I searched the forums, but sometimes the answers were to technical, so please keep it simple.

First off. Lets talk HD. I shot a short film on the sony F-900. Which is 1920 X 1080. Now there are people buying the little hand held Sony camcorders they sell at best buy. In the product description it says shoots in HD 1920 X 1080. So these 2 cameras have the same resolution? If they do then if you projected both videos on the big screen wouldnt even the smaller camera look great? I know the F-900 looks fantastic projected on the big screen. During film class we also projected a Canon XL-2 on mini DV which was ok but blown up to a big screen it lost quality. So whats the scoop with these cheap cameras shooting HD? I know there is a big difference... the F-900 having a better lense and a bigger chip. But can someone break this down in very simple terms?

Okay next question. A feature I want to shoot I want to have a specific look. Lets say like "Rachel Getting Married". This film was shot on the F-900 with I think HD lenses. It looked like a documentary and like it was shot on HDV or DV. This is the style Im going for. So if this is the style they wanted why not shoot it on a lower quality format? Why spend the money on the F-900? Let's just rule out because they could! Now I shot with the F-900 and it is a crisp sharp HD image. So did they adjust the settings in the camera or was this done in post to give it the lower quality look? This is my thought process... they knew it was going to be put on 35mm for the theatre, so even though they wanted the low quality look it needed to be shot on a high quality camera for the 35mm print. Now this brings us back to my first question about the differences in camera's.

Okay next question. I'm sure I won't be able to shoot on the f-900 for my feature. It will be a gorilla shoot for sure. For this reason I wanted a smaller camera, something I can hand held, or throw on a stedi cam with no problem. Let's say the Panasonic HVX-200. I've been around this camera and have seen it on the big screen. Not to bad. What I hate is the video feel. Everything is in focus. So let's put a 35mm adapter on and some prime lenses or just a Zoom lense. Now after reading some posts the conclusion was you need A LOT of light if I were to use this set up. Some people even called this setup "video on steroids". It was said to use the lense it came with. I guess I don't understand that. How can the normal lense look better than the 35mm lenses? Even if you do need more light? Now my situation is a little tricky. I want a film "look" for the feature, but this will be very much a run and gun operation. So lighting will be minimal. Now there comes the problem. I use the 35mm adapter which needs A LOT of light, but the way Im shooting I want to use minimal lighting. So does this mean I just have to choose? Either go with the video look, spend the time to light properly, or upgrade my camera choice?

Okay I will stop here. I'm sure this is a lot of info. If I have post in the wrong area or this has been discussed already I apologize. This is my first post and I tried to search as much as possible before posting. Thank you!
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 07:07 AM

The F900 will have substantially more resolution recorded for many reasons, primarly the lenses are higher quality, it doesn't compress the recorded data as much (or as badly) as the prosumer cameras, and chances are it has 3 ships as compared to 1 ship (one for each color). So, even though the full image is 1920x1080, the camera is really recording 1920x1080 for red green and blue individually and combining that into the final image, as opposed to a prosumer camera which will use just 1 chip. A lot of it comes down to the lenses and how the camera actually quantifies the data. Without getting too complicated, just understand the F900 is "better," at doing math. Another factor is how much data it actually records, as the more data in the image will effect your perceptions of resolution. IN this case, the F900 uses HDCam which is 330mbps, I think. It might be a little off of that. The HVX you mention is about 40mbps....(in 24p mode it's 100mbps in 60p).

It's a look. I haven't seen the movie, but often on a features film you'll use a little softer of a look to help the HD get over all the imperfections on human skin. Also, rachel getting married used the panavised F900 it seems (F900R) and hence the panavsion lenses would''ve had an effect on the look. The reason why the used the F900r over a HDV camera... well I dunno, I wasn't at that meeting, but the fact that it gives you more data and is oveall a stronger camera designed (kinda) for feature film work with all the film accessories in mind... that's one good reason. Again, major films have a set post workflow that a lof of them go through and the f900s have been worked into that workflow for awhile. The other things to think about is that RGM definitally had to go through a DI. So they'd've wanted to get as much information in-camera as possible so that there is more in the video for their color correction. Now, a lot of things done in color correction is matching and I can tell you from experience, there isn't too much you can do with HDV or DV in terms of moving it 'round. Take a simple situation like you're shooting an ext and you need to do i it throughout the day. Well the 1st half is in bright sun... then the second half it suddenly goes to partly cloudy!? Now you're watching it after the edit and it's going from overcast to sunlight and overcast... So you try to fix that in the DI... that's where you need all the information a higher-end camera can give you.


AS for your film.... look into a different camera/adapter setup. The Sony EX range is great, I swear by my EX1. Look into a Letus adapter which looses less light than a Red-Rock, if you really want an adapter. MAKE SURE YOU USE CINE LENSES... you'll thank yourself later on.
Lens adapters aren't very gorilla or run and gun, though, it needs more fussing over than film, says me. Don't force your tools to do jobs they ain't gonna do. it's a trade off and you ought avoid it. Let me phrase this... would you want to do the "video look" with an IMAX camera? I would certainly try to find the format the script itself calls for and shoot on that. If your film calls for a shallow focus look, well you can do that on video (some video easier than others) if that is how you're qualifying "film look." That's kinda a bogus term, though, very nebulous as there are a lot of things which make up how film looks. But back to topic, if you just want a shallower focus look, then rend a 2/3" camera and some fast lenses. It's approximately the sme size d/of characteristics as 16mm. Since you're low on light to begin with shooting wide open (thus reducing DoF) shouldn't be a problem. The Panasonic Varicam comes to mind here. Hell rental might even come out cheaper than an HVX+Adapter+lenses....
Now that's if you mean Shallow DoF in terms of film look. Film is also a little more muted, generally, and records a vastly wider range of colors and luminance than video so you'll need to light and have proper production design accordingly. Have a look @ Benjamin Button, shot HD (Viper and F23). It looks so damned good not just because of the camera/lenses but also the production design (very important) and the lighting (very important). The same has to hold true for your production.

Also the XL2 looks "worse" on the big screen as it's SD v the HD. It's enlarged "More" to get it to the big screen because the image is "smaller." (720x480 v 1920x1080)

Hope that helps.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 10:39 AM

A couple of things to keep in mind -- even if a recording is 1920 x 1080, it doesn't mean that it started out at that resolution -- some prosumer cameras have sensors with less pixels and they are uprezzing. Also, some cameras have three sensors, each 1920 x 1080, to create RGB and some have a single sensor and have to create RGB from that.

And not all 1920 x 1080 recording formats are the same -- some have more compression than others, some have more color subsampling than others (4:2:0, 4:1:1, 4:2:2, 4:4:4), some are 8-bit, some are 10-bit, etc. And compression schemes vary.

Finally, and this is the main thing: 1920 x 1080 is only a measurement of pixels, it's not a measurement of sharpness and true resolution. Listing the number of pixels has become a shorthand for resolution, but it's not the same thing.

Also, sharpness and resolution are not the same thing either -- you can make a lower-resolution image look as sharp as one with more detail in it.

Practically, this tends to mean that prosumer HD uses more compressed recording formats with less color information, lower resolution lenses, and smaller sensors that capture less fine detail and then add some electronic sharpening to the mix to make it look closer to the resolution of a professional camera. But some of this compression and whatnot also means that the live image looks much better than the recorded image, and the recorded image looks much better than what you can get after color-correction.
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#4 Alex Lindblom

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 01:33 PM

First of all F-900 records in HDCAM which is 1440x1080 in 8bit 3:1:1 at bitrate of 144Mbit/s.
Personally I never cared for this look, it was the camera that started this so called revolution but it has always looked like video to me, no matter how good it’s lit.

Now when it comes to the choice of camera it’s always down to your vision, the truth is video ( in it’s current state ) will not look like film and especially not in a low budget situation. It’s very hard to make a camera recommendation since I don’t know anything about your film.

But since you don’t seem to have much of a budget I mean the F-900 are not that expensive to rent these days of course everything is relative.

If you are going down the rental road I would go for a RED, it’s not exactly film but it’s pretty darn close, the only drawback is that you have to read up a bit on the post process but there is not a big deal. It’s also not the best in low light.

Another option is to actually buy a Canon 7D, despite it’s flaws ( aliasing, low measured resolution, high compression etc) the actual images that comes out if these cameras are fantastic for it’s price, and if you are shooting guerrilla style in cites, people will just assume you are taking snapshots and not shooting a film, it’s also very good in low light.
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#5 Jeremy Walton

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Posted 26 November 2009 - 02:17 PM

Okay thanks for the responses.

So basically the term HD and 1080 is thrown around to much. Its like they throw HD in there for people to buy. Because how I see it now I would figure if someone said we have SD... HD... and Film I would think good... better... best. But now high end SD cameras are better then some low end HD cameras. It seems HD and 1080 are not what makes the difference. So what qualifies a camera to say they are HD? If it hits 1080 lines of resolution? No matter how they go about getting to that resolution? If I ask a producer what they are shooting on and they say HD... that could mean so much!!!

About my film look and run and gun shoot, yes this is a generic term, but I think its understandable. If I watch the new superman I think HD. When I watch The Brothers McMullen I think Film. So thats what I mean by a film look. My run and gun shoot I'll refer to Edward Burns film The Brothers McMullen. He's shooting on film, which is expensive, and it was a gorilla shoot for sure. Very minimal lighting. They tried to shoot outside a lot and use natural light. Maybe just some silks. So this is my approach to what I want to do. The problem is getting that film look using HD. Which Rachel Getting Married did. I just can't use a big camera like the f-900. Hopefully that makes a little more sense.
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