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Noisy images doesnt mean a bad cinematography.


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#1 Ronald Carrion

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 01:19 AM

I have been thinking that noisy images are not always something terrible. It can add personality to a movie.

Cassavettes's "Shadows" , and Lars Von Trier's "Dancer in the Dark" come to mind.
(I am using the word noise and grain for the same purpose in this topic).

If so, why is that noise is so criticized?

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#2 Gabe Spangler

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 06:38 AM

I agree, Ronald. The ever-increasing fetish for noiseless images is gross. There are so many green-screened movies with perfect (noiseless) backgrounds and full-on CGI movies, that the younger generations are coming to expect a perfect, noiseless image. This is in turn affecting the digital camera manufacturers to design cameras that have as clean an image as possible. As it stands now, the current crop of digital video cameras are VERY clean. Of course there are the people who don't know what they are doing and then blame the camera when they get an unsatisfactory image. They actually think the camera will do everything. It's the CAMERA's fault that they didn't artistically light the scene, compose well, expose properly or focus correctly.

There are so many non-filmmakers out there complaining about, "This camera is noisy in the blacks.," or, "My new DSLR has noise at 5,000 ISO, WTF!!!" I want to ask these people, what camera exists, film or digital, that doesn't produce noise or grain? The amount and size of noise/grain depends on the ASA rating (or ISO value). Shoot at 100/200 = little noise/grain. Shoot at higher values = more noise/grain. Watch any live-action film, get close to the screen, at you will see the noise/grain dancing around, even if it might be barely noticeable. If a live-action film didn't have noise it would look utterly unnatural and ... well ... dumb.

My favorite is the current obsession with HDR (high dynamic range). Who wants a distractingly flat image because the camera is able to capture a wide range of both dark and light? Have you seen a HDR image? It looks .. well ... dumb.

But the endless critique of technology almost always comes from people who have a technology fetish and have no interest in the visual art of the storytelling that is cinema. Period. They're hobbyists. Don't concern yourself with these people. In twenty years they will still be shooting time lapses of the beach and doing high-ISO tests of downtown, nighttime cityscapes, all the while spewing verbal vomit on YouTube, such as, "I shot this night scene at 20,000 ISO, f1.2 then pushed the exposure 200% in post and it looks kinda shitty. This $500 camera sucks!"

The simple fact is that 95% of so-called "cinematographers" have no business shooting on anything other than their iPhone.
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#3 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 07:37 AM

Some of these images. even the low light ones can be breathtakingly bland. You could find a swing back in the other direction if too many productions have a super clean image and one advantage of the old contrasty film noir style images was the low lighting cost.
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#4 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 09:32 AM

I once shot some stuff on a JVC GY-HD250 with a Pro35 in not-enough-light.

That was so noisy people were banging on the wall to complain.

P
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 11:39 AM

You can always add more noise or grain to an image, and you can always add contrast / reduce dynamic range -- it's hard to go the other direction. Imagine the complaints if Kodak ONLY made grainy film stocks or digital cameras were ALWAYS noisy.

As for HDR, extreme effects can be pretty strange-looking, but considering that film has about 15-stops of dynamic range (is that "high"?), it only makes sense for digital cameras to set their sights on that target -- it's a lot easier to add contrast later than to get rid of it. HDR can be a valuable tool like anything else, but I don't think anyone is suggesting that all photography should be HDR and represent 30-stops of DR or anything like that.

One of the problems I have with grain and/or noise being used for a deliberate textural effect is just that the visibility of the effect is dependent on image size -- if you get some degree that looks right to you for a large theatrical screen, it's barely going to be visible on a large flatscreen TV and more or less disappear on smaller monitors, especially ones with lower resolutions. Not to mention how it interacts with some of the compression schemes that broadcasters use, which is probably the number one reason distributors don't want you to shoot for a noisy or grainy look.

I do wish, however, that grain simulation tools like in the ARRI Relativity device were standard in all color-correction devices.

Electronic noise is not quite as attractive as film grain, being smaller, more uniform, and moving faster, sort of like buzzing insects as opposed to swirling soot I suppose.
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#6 Ronald Carrion

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 12:05 PM

Electronic noise is not quite as attractive as film grain, being smaller, more uniform, and moving faster, sort of like buzzing insects as opposed to swirling soot I suppose.


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#7 georg lamshöft

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 03:37 PM

I think film grain and digital noise can be used as a conscious visual tool and it's stupid that certain (younger?) blu-ray-reviewers interpret any kind of grain as an artifact and prefer a waxy over-filtered image.

But in most cases, IT IS just that, an artifact. Something not real, not-conscious - a by-product of the limitations of aquisition technology. Therefore it can become really distracting and annoying. Film grain is at least an "analogue artifact", it lacks the artificial appearance of digital artifacts - but take "Black Swan" for example, a great movie, but the heavy grain makes it lack "depth" - I would have preferred a cleaner, rich look and some grain to accentuate certain scenes, not cover the whole movie with it.

"Dancer in the Dark" ? Don't get me started, I saw this highly acclaimed "anti-Hollywood"-movie once, that was enough... It's so ugly, it hurts! It's pretentious ugly. But it fits the story, which is as primitive (the bad American robs the poor, blind immigrant...) as any "Transformers"-movie - but that's a different story. Why did Björk vaste her talent for this film? I cannot imagine working on this movie was much fun for a skilled DoP anyway What's next? Lars von Trier shooting a film with lens cap on?

No, sorry, not every film has to be shoot on grainless 15perf-IMAX to produce glossy postcard-images on every scene, but cinematography is also about aesthetics - pointing a handheld available-light camcorder somewhere is not exactly aesthetic - whether it's called "Blair Witch" or "Dancer in the Dark" - now hate me for this comparison ;-)

Edited by georg lamshöft, 04 January 2011 - 03:41 PM.

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#8 Ronald Carrion

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 05:12 AM

I just watched Thomas Vintenberg's "The Celebration", winner of the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, it was shot entirely in handheld Sony PC-7 , the smallest video camera available in 1997. I liked it. Nothing wrong with the grainy look.
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#9 Shidan Saberi

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 05:23 AM

I've seen many movies that were noisy in the dark. Even Dark night batman.

I've been thinking about the same thing for awhile now. I've decided some sometimes noise can be nice sometimes unbearable.

A music video i made some time ago had horrible noise. It was very unpleasant to watch. But other times i see things with noise that are very pleasant to watch.
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#10 Ronald Carrion

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 05:32 AM

"But other times i see things with noise that are very pleasant to watch."


I think it's because the noise, in some movies, adds some sort of character to the them. In others. the noise is just a mistake.
On film, the grain adds some nostalgic feeling.
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#11 Ronald Carrion

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 05:31 AM

But other times i see things with noise that are very pleasant to watch.
[/quote]

I think it's because the noise, in some movies, adds some sort of character to the them. In others. the noise is just a mistake.
On film, the grain adds some nostalgic feeling.
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#12 Ronald Carrion

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 05:30 AM

But other times i see things with noise that are very pleasant to watch.
[/quote]

I think it's because the noise, in some movies, adds some sort of character to the them. In others. the noise is just a mistake.
On film, the grain adds some nostalgic feeling.
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#13 Ronald Carrion

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 05:30 AM

But other times i see things with noise that are very pleasant to watch.
[/quote]

I think it's because the noise, in some movies, adds some sort of character to the them. In others. the noise is just a mistake.
On film, the grain adds some nostalgic feeling.
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#14 John Sprung

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 02:31 PM

As for HDR, extreme effects can be pretty strange-looking, ....


Yes, if it's significantly beyond the range we'd see with our eyes, it's quite strange. But so too is dynamic range significantly less than that of the human eye, which is why we have fill light. We're also all accustomed to some low DR cliches, like blown out windows. Eventually we may become accustomed to HDR, too. To the extent that it reduces the need for ND on windows and fill light, it should make life easier in production.




-- J.S.
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#15 Anton Papich

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 09:13 PM

There are so many non-filmmakers out there complaining about, "This camera is noisy in the blacks.," or, "My new DSLR has noise at 5,000 ISO, WTF!!!" I want to ask these people, what camera exists, film or digital, that doesn't produce noise or grain? The amount and size of noise/grain depends on the ASA rating (or ISO value). Shoot at 100/200 = little noise/grain. Shoot at higher values = more noise/grain. Watch any live-action film, get close to the screen, at you will see the noise/grain dancing around, even if it might be barely noticeable. If a live-action film didn't have noise it would look utterly unnatural and ... well ... dumb.

My favorite is the current obsession with HDR (high dynamic range). Who wants a distractingly flat image because the camera is able to capture a wide range of both dark and light? Have you seen a HDR image? It looks .. well ... dumb.

But the endless critique of technology almost always comes from people who have a technology fetish and have no interest in the visual art of the storytelling that is cinema. Period. They're hobbyists. Don't concern yourself with these people. In twenty years they will still be shooting time lapses of the beach and doing high-ISO tests of downtown, nighttime cityscapes, all the while spewing verbal vomit on YouTube, such as, "I shot this night scene at 20,000 ISO, f1.2 then pushed the exposure 200% in post and it looks kinda shitty. This $500 camera sucks!"

The simple fact is that 95% of so-called "cinematographers" have no business shooting on anything other than their iPhone.


He he, can't agree more! I mean, you are absouletly right about all you have written. Each day I read those remarks from people who are obssesed with technology. They don't take films/photos, they only argue about 1 000 000 ISO and that sort of stuff.
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#16 Ronald Carrion

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Posted 08 January 2011 - 12:48 AM

I think film grain and digital noise can be used as a conscious visual tool and it's stupid that certain (younger?) blu-ray-reviewers interpret any kind of grain as an artifact and prefer a waxy over-filtered image.

But in most cases, IT IS just that, an artifact. Something not real, not-conscious - a by-product of the limitations of aquisition technology. Therefore it can become really distracting and annoying. Film grain is at least an "analogue artifact", it lacks the artificial appearance of digital artifacts - but take "Black Swan" for example, a great movie, but the heavy grain makes it lack "depth" - I would have preferred a cleaner, rich look and some grain to accentuate certain scenes, not cover the whole movie with it.

"Dancer in the Dark" ? Don't get me started, I saw this highly acclaimed "anti-Hollywood"-movie once, that was enough... It's so ugly, it hurts! It's pretentious ugly. But it fits the story, which is as primitive (the bad American robs the poor, blind immigrant...) as any "Transformers"-movie - but that's a different story. Why did Björk vaste her talent for this film? I cannot imagine working on this movie was much fun for a skilled DoP anyway What's next? Lars von Trier shooting a film with lens cap on?

No, sorry, not every film has to be shoot on grainless 15perf-IMAX to produce glossy postcard-images on every scene, but cinematography is also about aesthetics - pointing a handheld available-light camcorder somewhere is not exactly aesthetic - whether it's called "Blair Witch" or "Dancer in the Dark" - now hate me for this comparison ;-)




You are right.
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#17 John Sprung

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 01:38 AM

Look around in the real world under extremely low light. Guess what -- your eyes have grain....




-- J.S.
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#18 Damien Andre

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 02:11 AM

i feel digital noise is more obvious than film grain. it usually has a color to it and just isnt as nice as film grain. i think thats why theres such anti-noise feeling in digital cinematography. i could watch a super-8 film cropped to 2.4:1 blown to 35, but a 10,000 iso video just looks ugly to me.
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#19 Marcus Joseph

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 10:10 AM

I was watching the beginning of The Godfather Blu-ray recently and noticed the subtle amounts of grain and I didn't mind that too much, but when I do a more in depth watch when I finish it off, I'll make more so of a decision. I was skimming through and noticed such clean looking shots in comparison to the opening though, very fine artsy looking stuff.

In that era of filmmaking though (I'm thinking the dependence of style relies heavily on the stock used/chemical process) there is a distinct similarity between the style of shooting with one film to another. It all makes think back to this thing I saw about the extremely high quality Sound of Music Blu-Ray transfer I read about on the On Screen forum and the extreme difference of colour, style and even the quality in relation to the original. Don't get me wrong, it looks amazing and I'd love to check it out, but wouldn't it be almost changing the entire reaction, mood and perhaps intention (very difficult to find out) of the filmmakers original creation?

It's a question to ponder with all this digital restoration technology available to us. I find Star Wars another fascinating factor, the original trilogy being shot so long before the latest, still has much higher resolution in comparison (the live-action elements anyway). But alas we all know George Lucas' intentions of digitally mastering and then remastering the hell out of everything he ever made.
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