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Star Wars Episode 2 - A millstone in cinematic history :-)


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#1 Keith Walters

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 02:21 AM

It’s hard to believe that it’s been just on 15 years since a small-but-perfectly-formed maverick producer by the name of George Lucas decided to throw caution to the winds and shoot Episode 2 of his ionic Star Wars franchise on "HD" video.

 

His choice of format caused many a sideways glance among those who actually understood these things at the time: It was the Sony HDW – F900; a ½” *  3-CCD EFP camera which captured 3:1 compressed 1440 x 1080 component  video in "SR", a bastardised “segmented” Tape format. That basically means each progressively scanned frame is converted  into a pseudo-interlaced format, and each “field” is recorded as two separate JPEG-like images, (which does NOT give the same result as storing the whole frame as a single image).

 

Since SW2 was to be displayed as 2.35:1, and Panavision were not able to come up with the promised Anamorphics to work with a Prism-splitter 3-CCD camera, the movie was shot letterboxed, so the master images were only 1440 x (about) 800. At the time, Cinema video projectors were very thin on the ground, which meant the vast majority of punters wound up watching a 4th generation film print, struck from a master video image with considerably less resolution that a 4th generation film print struck from 35mm negative! And there weren't no Arrilasers then either, just a lot of rather dodgy CRT video printers.

 

A few years before this epoch-marking event we’d already been told that the then-new HDW – 750 was already a “Replacement for 35mm film” and we laughed hysterically, so hence  we were left wondering what had been done to the aforesaid 750 to give us the F900.

Well … apart from adding 150 and an “F” to the model number … not a lot….

 

Well anyway, Boy George went on to produce exactly the sort of results we said he’d get, and nothing daunted, he then proceeded to sever all ties with the aforesaid Panavision and pitched woo to a new upstart startup called “Plus8 Digital” (nee “Plus 8 Video”) to equip his next instalment: SW3 “Revenge of the Sith”.

 

This time he used Sony HDC-F950 cameras - still 1/2” prism jobs, * but with true 1920 x 1080 recording, which produced noticeably better pictures than Episode 2, (by now the Arrilaser had become available which also helped) but still crap compared to Episode 1, which was still shot on film….

(Plus8 Digital then proceeded to  go broke and were eventually bought by Panavision, ROTS apparently being the only feature of any significance to be shot on their brace of expensive new cameras...)

 

And NOW (drum roll…) 15 years on, Star Wars Episode 7  has just started shooting on …. Film?  Film.

 

Interestingly, the Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2 they're using came out at about the same time George pronounced film to be henceforth as relevant as Jan Von Krogh :rolleyes:

 

Whatever happened to JVK.....?

 

* Sorry, that's 2/3", not 1/2", as Igor points out below.


Edited by Keith Walters, 10 May 2014 - 06:29 PM.

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#2 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 09:08 AM

Revenge of the Sith is an awesome movie, IMO, but I lament that it wasn't shot on film. I sometimes wonder how much more enjoyable the experience of that movie would be on 35mm. It wasn't as if Lucas couldn't afford it.


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#3 Igor Trajkovski

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 11:21 AM

3-Chip 2/3" Type FIT CCD.  Not 1/2"


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#4 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 11:56 AM

Did you mean Milestone, or Millstone?

 

Millstone is way more apt. :)


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#5 Anthony Schilling

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 04:07 PM

I think it looked a lot like the 1978 CBS "Wookie Christmas" special


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#6 John Holland

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 04:34 PM

"Revenge of the Sith" was shite !
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#7 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 05:58 PM

"Revenge of the Sith" was shite !

80% of film critics disagree with you (Rotten Tomatoes)


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#8 KH Martin

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 06:54 PM

I think it looked a lot like the 1978 CBS "Wookie Christmas" special

I always go by my first impresson of the AOTC trailer image of the kid on his bike in the desert ... 'looks like BARNEY MILLER on another planet.'


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#9 Keith Walters

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 07:06 PM

Did you mean Milestone, or Millstone?

 

Millstone is way more apt. :)

I meant "Millstone" :lol:

I actually pinched that from the BBC mocumentary: 

 

All You Need Is Cash (1978)
(Original title) "The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash"

 

http://www.imdb.com/...7/?ref_=nv_sr_1

 

This was a spoof of The Beatles (or more correctly, a spoof of the media frenzy/circus that surrounded their rise and fall)

They were referring to one of the spoof  Beatles albums: "The release of this album, a millstone in pop music history..."


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#10 Keith Walters

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 07:08 PM

3-Chip 2/3" Type FIT CCD.  Not 1/2"

You're absolutely right!

It HAS been 15 years.... :rolleyes:


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#11 Keith Walters

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 07:18 PM

Revenge of the Sith is an awesome movie, IMO, but I lament that it wasn't shot on film. I sometimes wonder how much more enjoyable the experience of that movie would be on 35mm. It wasn't as if Lucas couldn't afford it.

And what's it going to look like when/if we ever go to 10 foot 4K screens?

 

That was and still is  the biggest argument against HD origination: There is still far more information in 35mm negative than can be practically extracted using current technologies, but if you originate in 1440 x 800, it's going to remain 1440 x 800 until the end of time...

 

At the moment there seems to be little incentive to scan 35mm past 2K, but if and when that ever changes, the original negatives will always be there to re-scanned. This is exactly what is happening with a lot of old TV series, some of them from over 50 years ago. They scrub up extremely well on HD.

 

Much later shows shot on NTSC or PAL video, look really sad by comparison.


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#12 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 10 May 2014 - 09:35 PM

That was and still is  the biggest argument against HD origination: There is still far more information in 35mm negative than can be practically extracted using current technologies, but if you originate in 1440 x 800, it's going to remain 1440 x 800 until the end of time...

 

I do agree with you but you may get opposition from David Mullen on this point. I believe I have seen him state more than once that 35mm resolving power is unlikely to be more than 4k, if even that. 


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#13 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 03:25 AM

I do agree with you but you may get opposition from David Mullen on this point. I believe I have seen him state more than once that 35mm resolving power is unlikely to be more than 4k, if even that. 

 

Yeah, Rob Legato reckons spherical 35mm (I assume 3-perf) tops out at about 3k all-told.

 

And given that from my own tests conventional 200ASA Kodak Gold 135 negative (which is much larger than S35mm stock) seemed to top out at about 10 megapixels before you just started magnifying the grain, I'm inclined to believe him.

 

Of course a fine-grained 50ASA stock would give you more, and anamorphic 4-perf would give you more, and obviously film stock magnifies much more gracefully than digital imagery even when it's not giving you any additional resolution - but I always had to laugh as I watched the 'megapixel marker' for 135 film constantly increase as digital sensors climbed higher and higher in resolution. At first they were calling film 8mpx to the 2mpx digital sensors, then 10, then 12, then 16 and finally I remember someone claiming 20mpx for 135 stock - I always wished I could have found the 135 stock that was giving him that much detail!


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#14 Keith Walters

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 04:52 AM

I do agree with you but you may get opposition from David Mullen on this point. I believe I have seen him state more than once that 35mm resolving power is unlikely to be more than 4k, if even that. 

 

Fine grain 35mm film can capture up to 4,000 lines across the active area of the emulsion. That is, 2,000 vertical black lines on a white background. You need a damned good lens (or a a crappier one well stopped-down and a lot of light) to capture that resolution. but the lines are definitely there; you can see them under a microscope.

 

But 4,000 lines is NOT "4K" despite what any number of clowns assert here and elsewhere. You need an 8K scanner to resolve 4,000 lines. (Or more correctly, you need 8K to accurately and alias-free scan images containing detail up to the equivalent to a 4K sinewave pattern).

 

However, at present there is little incentive to extract more than 2K scans (that is, capable of resolving about 500 vertical black lines on a white background) because there are very few 4K digital projectors around, just about all cinema projectors are 2K.

 

If 35mm film was only equivalent to "3.1K", then that would mean it only had a horizontal resolution of about 1,600 lines, which is arrant bloody nonsense!

If by  "3,100 lines" you mean actually mean 3,100 lines, then that is equivalent to "6.2K" NOT 3.1K. Even Sony acknowledge that.

 

You cannot interchange the terms "Lines" and "Pixels"! If you do, you're just demonstrating your ignorance to all the High Powered industry people who lurk here (and elsewhere), but never post. You are being watched :rolleyes:


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#15 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 06:08 AM

The sad fact is that the four-generation 35mm distribution chain was rarely better than about 1.5K at the best of times.


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#16 Keith Walters

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 06:28 PM

The sad fact is that the four-generation 35mm distribution chain was rarely better than about 1.5K at the best of times.

 

Yes, after 4 generations of duplication from 35mm camera negative. That doesn't change the resolution of the original negative.

 

But what exactly do you mean by "1.5K"?

If you mean 1,500 pixels, you're basically stating that cinema projection has an effective horizontal resolution of 750 analog lines.
This "house of mirrors" figure is routinely quoted but, do you have any any actual data to back this up?

But all this to the side, the fact remains that in the case of the Star Wars films, you were starting the 4-generation duplication chain with a master negative with about the same resolution that normally comes out the end of the same chain, when you start with a full resolution 35mm negative!
In other words you were winding up with a cinema print equivalent to 8 generations of duplication from 35mm negative.


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#17 Nicolas Courdouan

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 06:11 AM

Episode II had many problems, and its resolution wasn't one of them.

 

I'm sorry to say I don't really understand the purpose of that thread. Is it to diss one of the great pioneers of 20th century cinema? To poke fun at what is arguably his worst movie? Or is it yet another one of those "Film is and will always remain better than digital" nonsense that misses the point that both can coexist and live happily ever after?

 

Lucas did not choose digital over film to get what he thought would be a better picture. He did it to try and get people to notice and invest in digital, so that it could develop and achieve the status that it has today. When people start shooting with 50+K digital cameras in the future, they'll have Lucas and his 1440x1080 movie to thank - in part - because he had the guts to try and shoot a hugely popular film with an emerging, experimental technology. And this is how things get made, by experimenting, noticing the flaws and improving upon them.

 

There are far better films than Episode II that were shot - partly or entirely - on DV format. I'm thinking about 28 Days Later and INLAND EMPIRE, to name but two of them. Let's not forget that what makes or breaks a movie is the idea(s) behind it, not how many lines it can fit on one frame.


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#18 aapo lettinen

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 07:14 AM

The sad fact is that the four-generation 35mm distribution chain was rarely better than about 1.5K at the best of times.

 

Yes, after 4 generations of duplication from 35mm camera negative. That doesn't change the resolution of the original negative.

 

But what exactly do you mean by "1.5K"?

If you mean 1,500 pixels, you're basically stating that cinema projection has an effective horizontal resolution of 750 analog lines.
This "house of mirrors" figure is routinely quoted but, do you have any any actual data to back this up?

But all this to the side, the fact remains that in the case of the Star Wars films, you were starting the 4-generation duplication chain with a master negative with about the same resolution that normally comes out the end of the same chain, when you start with a full resolution 35mm negative!
In other words you were winding up with a cinema print equivalent to 8 generations of duplication from 35mm negative.

I believe about 95% of the people making statements about film theater print resolution have got the number from the ITU research from 2001 or other later works quoting that research. here is one (page 6 to 8) : http://www.etconsult... Resolution.pdf


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#19 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 10:50 PM

The last PGA camera assessment series that compared Super-35 (scanned at 6K and finished at 4K, then projected at 4K) to the Sony F65, Red Epic, Arri Alexa, Canon C300, all finished at 4K and shown using a Sony 4K projector.... well, on the big screen at Sony, I'd say that the 35mm material was closest to the Arri Alexa shot in 2.8K raw in terms of visible detail on the big screen -- there was more fine detail recorded by the Sony F65 and Red Epic.  Which just confirms what I've seen in my own film work, that 35mm film seems similar to a "3K+" digital camera in terms of what detail it records.  Of course, if it records 3K of detail, it should be scanned at 6K to avoid aliasing. Of course, my observations are not scientific.  And if 35mm is 3K+ then IMAX should be 9K+ being three times as wide...

 

I think people confuse optimal scanning resolution with measurable detail, hence some people saying that 35mm film is 6K or 8K just because there may be some anti-aliasing benefits to scanning at that high a level of resolution.  But I can't find any published line resolution chart that shows a piece of 35mm movie color negative film, 24mm wide, resolving 4K or higher... you would think by now that someone would show that.


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#20 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 12:45 AM

I think people confuse optimal scanning resolution with measurable detail, hence some people saying that 35mm film is 6K or 8K just because there may be some anti-aliasing benefits to scanning at that high a level of resolution.  But I can't find any published line resolution chart that shows a piece of 35mm movie color negative film, 24mm wide, resolving 4K or higher... you would think by now that someone would show that.

As someone who makes my living writing software in both industry and academia, I can say that many of the digital methods of acquisition are not truly the resolution they state either. Much "hocus pocus" is being utilized to generate the impression that this or that camera is 3k,4k,6k,100k, whatever. I take all numbers with a grain of salt.


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