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Alexa HD for cinematic screening


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#1 Tadeusz Kieniewicz

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 03:55 AM

Hi All!
In two weeks I'm starting shooting feature film. We decided to shoot digital and I'm keen on Alexa. We can't afford Codex or other Arri RAW recorder so it brings lot's of questions:
-If I'll record uncompressed 1920x1080 12bit is it going to look ok in Cinema? I'm asking mostly about resolution

We will be shooting mostly in high key so I thought Alexa is best choice, specially that director want to avoid super sharp images (1920x1080??)

But! There is this EPIC question, perhaps it'll be smarter to shoot 5K which is perfect for cinema but I don't like how RED cameras handle higlights...

Generally my question is what is more important in your opinion Resolution in EPIC or good highlight handling in Alexa?

Cheers, Ted.
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#2 Freya Black

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 05:21 AM

But! There is this EPIC question, perhaps it'll be smarter to shoot 5K which is perfect for cinema but I don't like how RED cameras handle higlights...

Generally my question is what is more important in your opinion Resolution in EPIC or good highlight handling in Alexa?


Hiya Ted,

Well 5k might be "perfect for cinema" if you are doing a filmout but I assume you aren't given that you have no budget to record in the fancier Alexa modes.

I think the question to ask might be how is the film going to be distributed? Most digital cinemas can only handle 2k which is only a little more in resolution than 1080p. Of the few that are 4k capable, there are hardly ever 4k DCP's made so you still only get to see the film in 2k. Film DI's are sadly often only done at 2k too.

If on the other hand you are thinking the film might show at film festivals, then you will be lucky if they can screen 1080p in my experience!

In short, theres no real problem with the resolution of the Alexa, in everyday terms, if you are outputting to a digital master. It might be nice to have a 4k Alexa but it's not that useful presently as the infrastructure isn't there to project it digitally and is presently being destroyed for projecting it old school analogue.

love

Freya

Edited by Freya Black, 21 February 2012 - 05:24 AM.

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#3 Tadeusz Kieniewicz

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 05:30 AM

[quote name='Freya Black' timestamp='1329819708' post='366708']
Hiya Ted,


If on the other hand you are thinking the film might show at film festivals, then you will be lucky if they can screen 1080p in my experience!


So what about Sundance film festival where most of the films were shot with Canon which is 1080. I know that most cinemas are up to 2K only and I'm thinking abut up scalling 1080 from Alexa to fit 2K
what about that?
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#4 Freya Black

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 06:06 AM

So what about Sundance film festival where most of the films were shot with Canon which is 1080. I know that most cinemas are up to 2K only and I'm thinking abut up scalling 1080 from Alexa to fit 2K
what about that?


Well obviously Sundance is one of the bigger fests in the world and well, are you ready for this, until recently the specs for digital screening at Sundance were...

...prepare yourself....


HDCAM 1080i at 59.94fps

It might be this has changed more recently, I don't keep abreast of these things too much. It used to be that was the ONLY format they would screen off other than 16 and 35mm film (which all those Hollywood fake Indie films screen off)

So for sundance that would mean a DOWNsample to 1440×1080 even aside from the 1080i stuff

I wouldn't worry about sundance till you snag an acceptance anyway, they have mountains of entries and only a tiny number are ever selected, so you can worry about making your tape when you get in. ;)

Cannes OTOH can accept a DCP apparently, if you have the $20k to make one!

I'm not big on maths but I've heard it described as being only a 5% difference between 1080p and 2k, so it's very marginal.

Would encourage you to make a blu-ray for smaller fests but be prepared for the fact that the highest format at a lot of smaller fests is digibeta. DV-CAM still abounds, and some places actually screen off DVD as opposed to requiring DVD screeners.

Personally I love mini-dv and DVD's, they are relatively cheap and easy!

love

Freya

Edited by Freya Black, 21 February 2012 - 06:08 AM.

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#5 Freya Black

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 06:11 AM

So what about Sundance film festival where most of the films were shot with Canon which is 1080


If you mean cheap canon EOS DSLRs then I suspect they might not actually resolve a full 1080, even if they record in that. Dunno enough about them to confirm that tho.

love

Freya
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#6 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 06:23 AM

Cannes OTOH can accept a DCP apparently, if you have the $20k to make one!



It no longer costs $20k to make a DCP. You can buy the Cube Cinema software cheaper than that, or there are various places that will do you a back-bedroom job. The people who designed DCP seem to have made it about as complicated as possible, to deter people from writing low-cost tools to do it, but at the end of the day it's only a file format (or more exactly, several files and their formats).

The difference between 1920 and 2048 is trivial.

I'm not sure that you'd find "most" Sundance entries were shot on Canon DSLRs. Regardless they certainly don't resolve a 1920x1080 image. What seems important for these places though is that you provide your material in a format they can handle, regardless of how you got to that point. I don't know exactly what requirements Sundance in particular have, but I don't imagine most film festivals are particular pixel peepers if the content is good enough in other ways. They shot an episode of, what was it, House or something on a 5D so it can presumably be got through a broadcast QC. How much work it was to achieve that, on the other hand, I don't know.

P
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#7 Freya Black

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 06:41 AM

It no longer costs $20k to make a DCP. You can buy the Cube Cinema software cheaper than that, or there are various places that will do you a back-bedroom job. The people who designed DCP seem to have made it about as complicated as possible, to deter people from writing low-cost tools to do it, but at the end of the day it's only a file format (or more exactly, several files and their formats).


Yeah funny that, a bit like the new UK tapeless broadcast format will be I suspect.

I was very interested to hear what you were saying about open source software for DCP creation before you caught me earwigging at that show! ;) I don't know about that at all! What can you tell me about it?

I'm not sure that you'd find "most" Sundance entries were shot on Canon DSLRs.


I was feeling skeptical about that too but don't really know much about this years line up and couldn't be bothered to go and look! ;)

I don't imagine most film festivals are particular pixel peepers if the content is good enough in other ways.


Well yes, most film fests out there will screen whatever if it is good, and rightly so.
It's more a case that festivals have always been behind the curve and many of them only upgraded to digibeta not so long ago. I was actually surprised at the arrival of HDCam at some of the smaller ones the last year or so. More of an economic thing I think.

Some are more flexible than others if they can make it work. Sundance OTOH has traditionally mandated certain formats.

love

Freya
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#8 Tadeusz Kieniewicz

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 06:48 AM

Thanks all of you for response! I didn't say that I'm thinking about making copy of my film for sundance;) I just asked cuz I heard about lots of dslr entries last year. I'm just speculating if Alexa 1080 will be enough for Cinema. And now I see that yes it's enough if projection is from 2K projector:) So thank you one more time

cheers Ted.
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#9 Freya Black

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 07:21 AM

Thanks all of you for response! I didn't say that I'm thinking about making copy of my film for sundance;)

Don't mind! :) To me it's just another festival, and actually it's a good example of what the real world is like in terms of festivals.

I just asked cuz I heard about lots of dslr entries last year. I'm just speculating if Alexa 1080 will be enough for Cinema. And now I see that yes it's enough if projection is from 2K projector:) So thank you one more time


Yeah as Phil pointed out 1920 vs 2048, you don't even need to be good at maths to see the difference in those numbers is marginal! :)

As to Alexa for cinema, despite the Alexa being designed with TV in mind, it is getting a lot of attention in Hollywood lately. The recent sci-fi movie "In Time" was shot by Roger Deakins ASC/BSC on Alexa!! Other famous cinematographers using Alexa are:

Caleb Deschanel ASC
Dick Pope BSC
Claudio Miranda ASC
Emmanuel Lubezki AMC ASC

I even hear the new Bond movie is being shot on the Alexa!
So there are lots of movies being shot on the Alexa and many of them are already in/have been in cinemas!

love

Freya
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#10 Tadeusz Kieniewicz

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 11:16 AM

Yes Freya you're right Roger Deakins already said that he will be using Alexa on his project's but I can't belive if he doesn't use Arri RAW format.
I saw In Time at CAMERIMAGE festivals and projection and images were perfect in term of quality. But I don't know if he was shooting Arri RAW (over 2K resolution) or just on SxS cards...
I should ask him on his forum though.

cheers
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#11 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 11:55 AM

1920 is going to be fine for theatrical. Hell, Avatar originated @1920, as did Tron, and 2 of the Star Wars Prequels. And, with the Alexa's nice dyanmic range, I think you'd get better results than with an Epic with a hell of a lot less post work required.
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#12 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 12:26 PM

What he said.
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#13 Freya Black

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 12:41 PM

1920 is going to be fine for theatrical. Hell, Avatar originated @1920, as did Tron, and 2 of the Star Wars Prequels. And, with the Alexa's nice dyanmic range, I think you'd get better results than with an Epic with a hell of a lot less post work required.


I think at least one of those Star Wars prequals was @1440 even!
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#14 Freya Black

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 12:54 PM

Yes Freya you're right Roger Deakins already said that he will be using Alexa on his project's but I can't belive if he doesn't use Arri RAW format.
I saw In Time at CAMERIMAGE festivals and projection and images were perfect in term of quality. But I don't know if he was shooting Arri RAW (over 2K resolution) or just on SxS cards...
I should ask him on his forum though.


Well you are right that I was just quoting about cinema movies shot on Alexa willy nilly rather than considering whether they might have been shot in the 3kish mode.

However check out this quote:

The Alexa features a 3,392x2,200-pixel, Bayer-pattern CMOS sensor with an active imaging area of 2,880x1,620 pixels (23.76mm x 13.37mm). In late 2009 and early 2010, when Deakins began work on In Time, the camera was in its nascent stages. It was on Version 2 of its software and not yet capable of the ArriRaw mode (a “3K” option for 4:4:4 raw image capture), so the cinematographer captured in 1920x1080 4:4:4 10-bit uncompressed mode to Codex recorders.

The digital footage was further cropped to 1920x800 to fit within the desired 2.40:1 aspect ratio. “We shot widescreen, but not anamorphic,” Deakins explains. “You shoot on the width of the sensor and extract the image, cropping off the top and bottom, to get 2.40. You’re losing some of the image, of course, but frankly, [with digital capture] you can sometimes have an image that is too sharp.”



:)

You can read more about it here:

http://www.theasc.co...nTime/page1.php

Enjoy! ;)

love

Freya
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#15 Tadeusz Kieniewicz

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 01:48 PM

Thank you so much that is really helpfull
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