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"Doctor Who" style filmlook?


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#1 Samuel Berger

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 11:47 AM

Howdy folks, haven't been on these boards in a few years. I was wondering how the film look is achieved on the current run of Doctor Who. As far as I know it's shot on DigiBeta and not even HD due to the costs of rendering HD quality CGI. Yet it looks like film to me. Any idea how they do it, what software or camera settings? I'm very interested in this.

Thanks for any tips.
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#2 John Holland

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 12:00 PM

They have shot HD for a series or two. A new series starts this coming weekend on BBC 1 in HD i think it was shot with a Arri Alexa.
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#3 Samuel Berger

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 12:25 PM

They have shot HD for a series or two. A new series starts this coming weekend on BBC 1 in HD i think it was shot with a Arri Alexa.


Indeed good news, that they're using HD now. I knew Torchwood was always shot on HD and was hoping DW would catch up.

But how did they make the DigiBeta footage look like film in the past, any idea? I'm not even sure how they made the HD footage look like film, kinda new to the digital angle.
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#4 Samuel Berger

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 12:31 PM

I read somewhere else:

"I'm pretty sure they use a Snell and Wilcox ARC150. This is a realtime box of tricks, play it in one end, play it out the other and there you go, filmised.

Cheers, Andrew Parkinson (Colourist, BBC)"

Any thoughts on this?

Also read: "They deinterlace in hardware when they conform the project. They use a Snell & Wilcox Alchemist." and "the current BBC spec for filmic look is 1920x1080i at 25np."
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#5 John Holland

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 01:08 PM

I cant give you a answer to that not into post production i tend to switch off when subject comes up .Hope someone else will be able to help you.
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#6 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 01:09 PM

Arislan, you need to go to My controls and change your username to your real first and last name. It's the rules, see.

Doctor Who is shot with Sony F35s. They did one season (season 5, I think) on Sony 900s. Previously to that, they shot interlaced on Digibeta. Progressive scan was available for Digi at the time, but they chose to deinterlace in post, as having to use a 1/50 shutter would have a cost a stop in sensitivity, and as Dr. Who has a lot of night exteriors that was deemed significant.
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#7 Samuel Berger

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 01:22 PM

Arislan, you need to go to My controls and change your username to your real first and last name. It's the rules, see.

Doctor Who is shot with Sony F35s. They did one season (season 5, I think) on Sony 900s. Previously to that, they shot interlaced on Digibeta. Progressive scan was available for Digi at the time, but they chose to deinterlace in post, as having to use a 1/50 shutter would have a cost a stop in sensitivity, and as Dr. Who has a lot of night exteriors that was deemed significant.


Done. That rule wasn't here when I joined in 06. I guess they got tired of people naming themselves after Mexican wrestlers to complain about slot cars. ;-) Old timer joke.

Ok, so how to they give that show its film look? Is grain added?
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#8 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 07:35 PM

Ok, so how to they give that show its film look? Is grain added?



The "film look" comes from the fact that they are shooting Progressive rather than Interlaced frames. In addition to this, the F35 has a 35mm sized sensor, which gives 35mm style DoF. I believe it's also being lit in a more cinematic way that it has been in recent years. Knowing the BBC's aversion to film grain, I'd be surprised if they were adding any in post
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#9 Chris Keth

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 09:57 PM

The "film look" comes from the fact that they are shooting Progressive rather than Interlaced frames. In addition to this, the F35 has a 35mm sized sensor, which gives 35mm style DoF. I believe it's also being lit in a more cinematic way that it has been in recent years. Knowing the BBC's aversion to film grain, I'd be surprised if they were adding any in post


Also, since the sun doesn't exist in the UK, it gives the illusion that these video formats can hold highlights well. ;)
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#10 K Borowski

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 10:05 PM

Sorry, but none of what I've seen of the current incarnation of "Doctor Who" screams "good highlights" British Summers and all. Blown highlights all over the place, even in controlled lighting interior locations.

Ugly flesh tones.


This is no "Date Night" in terms of digital cinematography done well IMHO.

Then again, it's no "Battlestar Galactica" for digital cinematography done piss-poorly either.



I agree with John here; think this is a matter of form over function. I can understand the appeal of this series, just like Star Trek, only a little bit more monster of the week and far less in terms of plot. Plenty of nice eye candy. Frema Agyeman has me watching Law & Order UK like a junkie too. God I'd love to have a slot on her docket.


Then again, I was furious when they switched "Enterprise" to digital it's last season, not that it didn't suck a plenty on 35mm film!
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#11 Ollie Craig

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Posted 27 April 2011 - 04:25 AM

Having watched Doctor Who: Confidential last week, it looks like - for that episode at least - it's now being shot on Alexa.
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#12 David Abell

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 12:45 PM

First of all, Seasons 1 through 4 looked nothing like film. They looked like someone picked a prosumer video camera and hired a DP to emphasize the ugliness and limitations of said prosumer video camera.

Seasons 5 and 6 look a lot better. Unfortunately, I don't know what they were shot with (I saw this thread looking for that info).

I saw they were shooting with an Arri camera this season (at least the episodes shot in the US) but couldn't make out what it was.

Whatever they used on the last episode, it looked much worse than the first two episodes of this season and looked very video-ish. Then again, sometimes it's hard to tell between well-shot video and awfully badly shot film.

But regardless of what it was shot on, season 5 looked about 10,000 times better than season 4.
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#13 David Abell

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 12:53 PM

I just looked at pictures of the Alexa on Arri's site and the camera they were using looks nothing like it. It had an Arri logo on, but not the rounded body of their video cameras. To me it looked more like a 535.
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#14 Mark Dunn

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 01:04 PM

Well, whatever they're using, it certainly isn't 35mm.
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#15 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 01:44 PM

Well, whatever they're using, it certainly isn't 35mm.


Last I heard they were shooting on Sony F35 - some recent torch stuff also had those vertical smears. I don't know about the HD series, but they used to shoot some FX shots on Super 16.
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