Jump to content


Photo

Roger Deakins on Digital vs. 35mm


  • Please log in to reply
51 replies to this topic

#1 James Malamatinas

James Malamatinas
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 128 posts
  • 2nd Assistant Camera
  • London

Posted 08 February 2011 - 06:01 PM

Very interesting conversation with Roger Deakins below:

Roger Deakins: Digital vs 35mm

Will leave opinion to you guys; I'm worried about starting another film vs. digital thread - there is enough of those on here!

EDIT: Fixed link. Thanks John.

Edited by James Malamatinas, 08 February 2011 - 06:05 PM.

  • 0

#2 John Sprung

John Sprung
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4635 posts
  • Other

Posted 08 February 2011 - 06:04 PM

The link doesn't work.




-- J.S.
  • 0

#3 James Malamatinas

James Malamatinas
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 128 posts
  • 2nd Assistant Camera
  • London

Posted 08 February 2011 - 06:06 PM

Fixed it, thanks.
  • 0

#4 Kevin Thomas

Kevin Thomas
  • Guests

Posted 08 February 2011 - 07:02 PM

This clip covers a range of topics apart from True Grit and towards the end he discusses shooting on the Alexa


  • 0

#5 K Borowski

K Borowski
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 3905 posts
  • Camera Operator
  • I.A.T.S.E. Local # 600 Eastern Region

Posted 08 February 2011 - 08:02 PM

Oh no! Not Roger too. I am really really hoping he was misquoted or the article heavily slanted towards the pro-digital things he was saying. God knows the media loves to glorify anything involving 11001001s. Fortunately he is accessible enough that I can ask him. We are really fortunate to have Cinematographers who are so open and scholarly, like Deakins, Mullen. We're really privileged in these internet communities to have such a wealth of knowledge instead of tight-lipped thuggish types with the "Took-er-jerrrrb" mentality that if you teach someone your craft they will just come up to be a competitor..
  • 0

#6 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11947 posts
  • Other

Posted 08 February 2011 - 08:46 PM

Next, Phil Rhodes on Digital vs 35mm!

Roger Deakins' opinion is more or less meaningless, because he's completely blind to, and probably more or less consciously unaware of, the overwhelming factor that makes people shoot digital. I've said it before, but the greatest proponents of film tend to be those who get to shoot it at someone else's expense, and I can't really flip that on its head just because Deakins' opinion happens to coincide with the status quo.

P
  • 0

#7 Vincent Sweeney

Vincent Sweeney
  • Sustaining Members
  • 686 posts
  • Director
  • LA at the moment.

Posted 08 February 2011 - 09:35 PM

It's just someone's personal taste. He simply likes ultra clear/sharp images. Even when shooting 35mm he puts a lot of effort into shooting at a lens's sweet-spot, etc. The comment about adding grain is interesting though. He's the same one that had planned to shoot Jarhead on S16mm at one time too.

You don't see him shooting films like Black Swan, or Biutiful either so maybe it's part taste, and part not working with directors that strongly prefer more texture in their work (or whatever you like to call it).
  • 0

#8 Adrian Sierkowski

Adrian Sierkowski
  • Sustaining Members
  • 7118 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, Ca

Posted 08 February 2011 - 11:20 PM

I don't see much wrong with picking the right format for the project at hand, which is what Mr Deakins seems to be saying. I doubt that if a film came up where he thought Digital would be the way to go that he'd pick film, or one where he though film would be better that he'd be shooting digital.
  • 0

#9 K Borowski

K Borowski
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 3905 posts
  • Camera Operator
  • I.A.T.S.E. Local # 600 Eastern Region

Posted 09 February 2011 - 12:19 AM

I don't see much wrong with picking the right format for the project at hand, which is what Mr Deakins seems to be saying.


Read the article, and you'll see that isn't the case. . .
  • 0

#10 Stuart Brereton

Stuart Brereton
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 3077 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 09 February 2011 - 03:52 AM

He has said many times on his forum that he finds the Film vs Digital argument meaningless, and that he will happily shoot on any format that delivers the results he needs. Up until his most recent movie, digital has not been good enough for him and so he has avoided it, but he is currently shooting on the Alexa.
  • 0

#11 georg lamshöft

georg lamshöft
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 310 posts
  • Berlin

Posted 09 February 2011 - 04:20 AM

I find his arguments regarding better tonal transitions und higher dynamic range a little bit surprising - the ALEXA is good, but better than film? He also insists on a 4k DI but accepts uncompresses 1080p output? From what I understand he really likes the sensitivity ad maybe his new movie will show a look we've never seen before but he was always after? I'm a huge fan of Niccol's - let's see how "Now" holds up on the big screen.
  • 0

#12 Francesco Bonomo

Francesco Bonomo
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 366 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • currently in Rome, Italy

Posted 09 February 2011 - 07:21 AM

I find his arguments regarding better tonal transitions und higher dynamic range a little bit surprising - the ALEXA is good, but better than film?


this is from the ASC website:

“To me, Alexa is the first [digital] camera that succeeds in getting an image that is not exactly film, but does something that film cannot do,” he says. “It has better color space than film, more latitude, and basically, it’s faster and incredible in low light. This film [Now] has lots of night exterior work, low light levels, a low budget, and we are working fast and furious on it, and [Alexa] is holding up fantastically well.”

He also insists on a 4k DI but accepts uncompresses 1080p output?


On his website he wrote that he doesn't really care about "numbers" and admits that most people who post there know more about the technical aspects of digital than him, but he adds he trusts his eyes, and even though Alexa has less resolution than other cameras or 35mm film, he believes it holds incredibly well when projected at 2K, 4K and on 35mm. He also added he'd love to see a 4K camera from Arri, though, but if he had to choose one thing to add to the camera it would be the optical viewfinder.
  • 0

#13 Adrian Sierkowski

Adrian Sierkowski
  • Sustaining Members
  • 7118 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, Ca

Posted 09 February 2011 - 09:17 AM

I did read it, though it was brief, but it just sounds like it's snippets from a larger interview.
  • 0

#14 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11947 posts
  • Other

Posted 09 February 2011 - 11:42 AM

He also insists on a 4k DI but accepts uncompresses 1080p output?



There is a certain logic to this, if you think about it.

If you shoot, postproduce and project 1080p, every pixel you shoot ends up on the screen. There is no, or rather should be no, conversion of formats during the process; there is no loss. Each pixel of each frame directly describes image information.

If you shoot 35 then scan it, you have to deal with the fact that the grain does not line up with the pixels and is different on every frame. Since the grains carry the picture information (at whatever resolution it exists) you aren't necessarily describing picture information using the pixels in your scan - you're describing grain, which then describes picture information.

This is a longwinded way of saying that in order to keep 2K of resolution in a film scan, you may well have to scan it at 4 to get everything, simply because details in the film image may not line up conveniently with your 2K scanning grid. Scanning film is not a straightforward re-wrapping of existing data like changing (say) a Quicktime movie to an AVI file, which can often be done without changing the image, it's a conversion between two vastly different regimes, and it is not without loss and imperfection.

It's intuitively true, too. Obviously, a 1080p video originated image is going to look sharper (though not necessarily better) than a film image scanned to 1080p, because the video image has only one set of imaging artifacts and the 35 has two.

This doesn't even take photochemical generation loss into account, which has limited traditional 35mm postproduction to an effective resolution significantly under 2K.

So yes, it might easily look better to scan film at 4K, and the result might easily be comparable to a good 1080p video image. The required data rates, just to give an idea, are just over 1000MB/sec for a 4k by 3k 10-bit RGB image, which would probably require a 10-16 drive RAID these days and is achieved fairly routinely.
  • 0

#15 K Borowski

K Borowski
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 3905 posts
  • Camera Operator
  • I.A.T.S.E. Local # 600 Eastern Region

Posted 09 February 2011 - 12:01 PM

Direct quotes: "First film I’ve shot digitally, because, frankly, it’s the first camera I’ve worked with that I’ve felt gives me something I can’t get on film. Whether I’ll shoot on film again, I don’t know. [Shooting on Digital] gives me a lot more options."

I don't see much wrong with picking the right format for the project at hand, which is what Mr Deakins seems to be saying.


"Whether I'll Shoot on Film Again, I Don't Know" is the title of the article, too, even if you didn't read that part of it.

Edited by K Borowski, 09 February 2011 - 12:02 PM.

  • 0

#16 Adrian Sierkowski

Adrian Sierkowski
  • Sustaining Members
  • 7118 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, Ca

Posted 09 February 2011 - 12:03 PM

I woudln't say there's anything too much so "i'll only shoot digital," rather, I don't know what the next project may need. Else he's just being silly.
  • 0

#17 K Borowski

K Borowski
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 3905 posts
  • Camera Operator
  • I.A.T.S.E. Local # 600 Eastern Region

Posted 09 February 2011 - 12:10 PM

This doesn't even take photochemical generation loss into account, which has limited traditional 35mm postproduction to an effective resolution significantly under 2K.


That's just not correct.

If it were, theatres would have converted to analog video tape in the '70s.

It is true now BECAUSE of DI mastering that movies on film look worse than an HD master (before compression), but that is taking a 2K scan, and copying it three more times.

When you start out with a cut negative, and exercise the proper quality control steps, 35mm, especially from a 4-perf. neg., can hold far more than 2K, even in a 4th generation copy. But hey, everyone was using S35 anyway, because anamorphic lenses were SUCH a hassle to work with. Nevermind, no big deal.

Phil, you of all people should know better to generalize the WORST a product is capable of (2K DI, 4th generation copy from a S35, 500T negative) and play it off as indicative of that system as a whole. And I place Deakins' opinion far above a number-cruncher or a film geek who is more fascinated with the technology than the final product it produces. That, in a way, is almost like a blind test, a truly objective observer evaluating the final image. Barrin, of course, cases where it is degraded by age, genetics, gender, other heritable traits, the trained human eye is one of the best indicators of on-screen quality.
  • 0

#18 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11947 posts
  • Other

Posted 09 February 2011 - 12:21 PM

When you start out with a cut negative, and exercise the proper quality control steps, 35mm, especially from a 4-perf. neg., can hold far more than 2K, even in a 4th generation copy




Well, I'm just not sure that's true, what can I say.


Even if it's possible I suspect it isn't done often and it certainly isn't the norm. I've seen camera original scans - good scans, on good gear, from big movies - where I didn't really think that a 2.35 super-35 frame shot on 500 speed stock was 2K, let alone 4, and I promise you it wasn't by the time it'd been shot back out to intermediate stock and duped. Now that's not normal either, that's a pretty extreme case, but I'm afraid that this idea that traditional four-stage photochemical postproduction routinely produced 4K results on the average cinema screen is just fantasy. It looked good, because of all the advantages of what we might call "dynamic image element technology", or moving grain, and I like it, I have no objection to it, it's fine, but 4K on the screen? I suspect not.


And if it did, you wouldn't want to scan at 4, for all the reasons I mentioned. You'd want 6 or 8.


P
  • 0

#19 K Borowski

K Borowski
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 3905 posts
  • Camera Operator
  • I.A.T.S.E. Local # 600 Eastern Region

Posted 09 February 2011 - 12:44 PM

I don't think 35mm through either 2K, 4K DI or contact print workflows, even technicolor from the OCN has ever produced 4K results.

I forget the resolution of print stock, but I am pretty sure it can hold more than 4K, not that someone would ever come up with a high speed system that could do that.


I'd say, a good contact print could get maybe around 2.5K on the screen from a 4th gen, maybe approaching 3K from a show print. I'd say 35mm neg., 4-perf. anamorphic academy only holds about 3.2K or so of actual information. So yes, 6K, whatever the number is that is between 6- and 8- K would probably be the absolute maximum you'd need. 8K is really overkill.

But resolution isn't where 35mm film really shines. It's color bit-depth (analog equivalent). I'm not really qualified to talk about color spaces, bit-depth, compression any of those issues, but color film, contact printed, can convey a remarkable range of tonal and color rendition that is, to me, unmatched by any digital system I've seen. Even in the DI system, using a good color space (Cineon and its successors are the only systems I really know of that really attempt to render a full "filmic" color range, but even here I've read there is great room for improvement - and it was designed by Kodak!) there really is something lost after digital imput and digital output regardless of steps taken to deal with grain aliasing, preserving resolution, etc. etc. etc.


For me, the most important thing is being able to produce good flesh tone, not to get XK on the screen. But, yeah, we're getting less than 2K now in every movie in the past year that I know of, save "Inception," and were only getting marginally more than 2K (save S35 content) before DI.
  • 0

#20 Simon Wyss

Simon Wyss
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1417 posts
  • Other
  • Basel, Switzerland

Posted 09 February 2011 - 01:09 PM

I think the film vs. digit debate is also somewhat hooked to a generation, that one of now 50 to 70 years old, roughly. I have a 1951 born boss who can react so superficially, so lightly, incomparable to for instance my generation of now 40 to 50 years of age. It’s no wonder to me that Deakins and others, let’s include Jean-Pierre Beauviala here, switch between film and video any time. Beauviala is an electrical engineer and the cameras he designes or co-designs are like some more apps of an electronic world. A producer of 44 years today for whom I was busy prefers an Arriflex 35 II to everything else except perhaps the Wall he acquired lately. Again another cinematographer I know personally works Mitchell, Bell & Howell Standard, Moviola. Of course they vanish in the mass. But we’re here. I am a film man, too. I have an uncle who says film although it’s video. He is a 1942er.
  • 0


FJS International, LLC

The Slider

Tai Audio

Paralinx LLC

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Visual Products

Opal

Metropolis Post

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

CineLab

Glidecam

Willys Widgets

Technodolly

Rig Wheels Passport

Ritter Battery

rebotnix Technologies

Abel Cine

Wooden Camera

CineTape

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Aerial Filmworks

Tai Audio

Opal

The Slider

Paralinx LLC

Rig Wheels Passport

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Abel Cine

FJS International, LLC

CineTape

Technodolly

Broadcast Solutions Inc

CineLab

rebotnix Technologies

Ritter Battery

Wooden Camera

Willys Widgets

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Aerial Filmworks

Glidecam

Visual Products

Metropolis Post