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The Long Goodbye


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#1 Kenny N Suleimanagich

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Posted 24 December 2014 - 07:19 AM

Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing "The Long Goodbye" at Film Forum on a 35mm print. It's a movie I've seen a half-dozen times but my first time seeing projected on film. A few notes: 

 

I noticed that the effect that flashing had on that film was far, far better-suited on a film print. The texture in the blacks is just so immense. I haven't seen the Blu-Ray, but I found it to be an interesting study into how a very unique process can look great in one format and hardly be noticeable in another. If anyone has this on blu-ray, please chime in with your thoughts. 

 

It led me to think - in today's era of extremely versatile scanners, what can flashing deliver or do we even need it? At the time there was no other way to introduce that level of consistency in soft blacks - now you can dial a Log image to your preference. Sure the colors go soft too, but they can do that anyway with the right colorist. Also, even with a great transfer and a superb colorist, I wonder if/when they do a DCP restoration of this how those blacks will look (and the milky indoor scenes at the beach house in the daytime, too). Has anyone seen anything to that end? 

 

This was one of a few times that a color 35mm print, 40 years old, has completely blown me away compared to anything I've seen on a small screen. It almost looked like a different film. Sure, there are your usual differences, but there really seemed to be a texture that you could see in the print itself. In an effort/hope to not sound rambling I'll leave this to others to chime in. 


Edited by Kenny N Suleimanagich, 24 December 2014 - 07:21 AM.

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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 24 December 2014 - 11:04 AM

It's complicated because the flashing lifts the blacks but the printing lights used (how dark you print it down) and the gamma and D-max of the print stock affect the blacks.

 

So a digital master would try to take that into account, not try to bring the blacks down to "0" in color-correction but attempt to match the impression of the projected print.  But it's never going to be the same thing, the black levels of digital projection aren't as deep as with a film print.  I haven't seen the blu-ray of "The Long Goodbye" yet but if you go here:

 

http://www.dvdbeaver...bye_blu-ray.htm

 

You can see that even within the three blu-ray versions on the market, there are subtle differences in brightness and black level.

 

And of course, it's going to vary by each person's TV set when they watch it.

 

There is a thread right now on RedUser about whether Red should make a low-con OLPF that emulates an Alexa look, thinking that this will extend dynamic range in the shadows -- but the truth is that flashing or any sort of fogging of the blacks from filtering only adds maybe 1/3-stop of a stop more information in the shadows at best, most of what you see as improved shadow detail is just lifted blacks.  Once you set the blacks to "0", that extra detail in the shadows just drops away again.

 

I don't think flashing is worth the bother with digital cameras and digital color-correction.  Colored flashing may be slightly more valuable since it shifts the color of the low-end in a different direction than the highlights, but even that can be done in color-correction, it's just harder.

 

The funny thing about "The Long Goodbye" is that short of digging out a pristine dye-transfer print from 1973 (and I don't know if it ever was printed that way), we can't really know what the black levels were like back then when this movie was released.  The print stocks were different, the dupe stocks were different, it may have gone through a CRI, it may have been printed by Technicolor in dye transfer (according to the IMDB, this was a United Artists release and Technicolor made the prints), so a new Vision print made off the o-negative probably looks different today than it did in 1973.  Not to mention, I'm sure the base fog level has increased over time due to aging.


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#3 Kenny N Suleimanagich

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Posted 24 December 2014 - 11:47 AM

That's very interesting! I know that TVs and other devices have a pretty narrow and varied band of what they deem "black," but it also makes me wonder when, if ever, DCP will achieve the same richness blacks inherently have on film. One thing that is a positive in DCP releasing is the fact that your emulsion will never scratch or fade or shift in color due to mishandling. Downsides are another discussion. As far as capture we are coming close, but there is something interesting that happens with physical density and texture that last night really clicked for me. 

 

The print I saw seemed to be an original release print. It was in decent shape, with the usual wear but nothing jarring. I did wonder about fogging as sometimes the density of the blacks varied within the same shot (very very subtle). 

 

As an aside, it'd be interesting to do or see a photochemical flashing test with something like 5202 printed on Vision in similar lightning conditions as those Zsigmond created, and see how a modern stock handles that with added latitude and a different grain structure. 

 

Of those Blu-Ray stills, the Kino release looks the most promising. Interesting to see how it looks a lot like stuff being shot today in some circles (particularly the folks interested in low-con Red OLPFs). Low-con and, at times, dreamy. I would love to watch a restored version overseen by Zsigmond and watch a side-by-side. 


Edited by Kenny N Suleimanagich, 24 December 2014 - 11:50 AM.

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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 24 December 2014 - 11:52 AM

If a DCP has a pure black set to "0" on a waveform, then the limitations of achieving a deep black lies in the digital projector, not the DCP.


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#5 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 27 December 2014 - 01:21 AM

I just watched a BluRay copy of The Long Goodbye tonight. Besides loving the film and Vilmos Zsigmond of course, I also wasn't impressed what so ever with the transfer. It did not get a DCP treatment at all, looked like a one-light transfer of perhaps the internegative (no black dots, just white ones). It was for sure HD, the grain was there. I don't know much about the production, but it was clear the intention was low contrast and high filtration. Many shots were as described above "dreamy" which was quite an interesting look. The film reminded me a lot of what PT Anderson was trying to get out of Inherent Vice. There is a constant state of "whatever man" and the cinematography backed up that sentiment perfectly. The almost constant use of zoom lenses was quite an interesting choice and I'm not sure if it was Altman's or Zsigmond's, but perhaps it was about getting better coverage within a short shoot schedule. 

 

BTW.. I didn't see any flickering/flashing effect on the BluRay. 


Edited by Tyler Purcell, 27 December 2014 - 01:23 AM.

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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 December 2014 - 01:38 AM

Flashing is not the same as flickering -- flashing involves adding an even amount of weak overall light to the negative, consistent from start to finish, so the effect should not vary or fluctuate.

 

If you "see" the flashing, it just means that you are seeing the effect of the contrast loss in the shadows. Heavier degrees of flashing will have the effect of veiled or milky blacks.  In "The Long Goodbye" the amount of flashing varied by scene -- there was a party at a beach house that was heavily flashed, for example.  Also, heavier flashing is less noticeable in day scene compared to night scenes simply because a day scene has smaller areas of black in the frame.  So a 20% flash might barely be noticeable in a sunny day exterior but would make a night exterior look a bit milky.  The effect also would vary by exposure since the flash was adding part of the overall exposure -- so if you flashed a scene by 20% but in one shot, you accidentally underexposed by 1-stop, that 20% flash would look heavier in that one shot because it was now a greater percentage of the overall exposure.

 

"DCP" treatment doesn't apply to home video masters. A DCP just means that it has been color-corrected for the P3 color space of digital projectors with the 2K or 4K pixel dimensions required for different aspect ratios.  An HD transfer for home video is in Rec.709 color space in HD pixel dimensions.  It may or may not have been the best color-correction job possible given the source available, I have no idea, but the same quality image could have been created for a DCP, that label does not imply some extra level of quality.

 

I think what you really mean to say is that it hasn't been given a major digital restoration, like at 4K from a scan of the negative -- it's just a video transfer done in an HD telecine using some available film element, probably a color intermediate that has been in a vault for years.


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#7 Mark Dunn

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Posted 27 December 2014 - 04:58 AM

 

 

BTW.. I didn't see any flickering/flashing effect on the BluRay. 

I wonder if you are at cross purposes. It doesn't mean any sort of exposure variation.

'Flashing' means pre-exposing the neg to a low but precise level of white light. The effect is as David describes. The characteristic curve is altered, more noticeably in the toe.


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#8 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 27 December 2014 - 02:09 PM

WOW ya learn something new every day! I wouldn't dream of pre-exposing film to get less contrast, but I understand the technique, just never used that terminology before. Perhaps that's why it didn't look like a proper digital finishing, whoever did the finishing, didn't want to disrupt that look. 

 

I use the phrase DCP because it refers to a cinema-grade digital master file, usually made for archiving when it comes to older films. Transfers which are made specifically for DCP, are usually much higher quality then those made specifically for REC709 video release due to the stringent guidelines. As a consequences, DCP transfers always stand out compared to their telecine counterparts. 


Edited by Tyler Purcell, 27 December 2014 - 02:10 PM.

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#9 Ravi Kiran

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Posted 31 December 2014 - 11:45 AM

I think what you really mean to say is that it hasn't been given a major digital restoration, like at 4K from a scan of the negative -- it's just a video transfer done in an HD telecine using some available film element, probably a color intermediate that has been in a vault for years.

 

This is what the Arrow Blu-Ray booklet says about the transfer:

 

http://www.criterion...hp?f=48&t=12846

 

The HD master for The Long Goodbye was made available from MGM via Hollywood Classics. The film was transferred from the original 35mm Interpositive held by MGM. Colour grading was performed by Paul Schramm at Todd-AO Video in Hollywood, CA. Director of Photography Vilmos Zsigmond provided detailed colour notes so the master could better match the original look intended look from 1973, resulting in an overall emphasis on muted, desaturated colours with very low contrast. This look, which is maintained on Arrow’s Blu-ray edition, is correct and true to the film’s original theatrical release. Yvonne Medrano managed the process for MGM Technical Services.

Additional picture restoration was supervised by James White and completed at Deluxe Digital Cinema - EMEA, London.
Digital Restoration Artists: Tom Barrett, Clayton Baker, Dana O’Reilly
Deluxe Management: Mark Bonnici, Graham Jones


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