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Resolultion: HD vs film


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#1 Mi Ki

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 02:45 PM

I am reading a book "A Light Affliction: a History of Film Preservation and Restoration" which says: During preparation for the Blu-ray release of The Wizard of Oz, technicians at Warners became aware that wire-work used for the Cowardly Lions tail and the winged monkeys would be clearly visible on the discs. The restorers sought the advice of Robert A. Harris who responded, "If 1939 audiences didnt see that wires when they saw the film in theatres, then present day audience shouldnt see them on Blu-ray".
 
My question is: how is it possible that you can you see some details on HD which you cant see on the original film? This doesnt make sense to me. 35mm film has much higher resolution than HD, right?

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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 03:49 PM

Modern 35mm color negative resolves more than HD (and so does at least the green and blue record on b&w negative in 3-strip Technicolor, but the red record was notoriously soft) but audiences did not watch a 4K scan of negative in 1938, they saw projected prints where you have generational loss, printer slippage, and projection optics and steadiness all having an impact on resolution.

Hence why a modern scan of an old negative might reveal detail that audiences did not see in the theaters.

Typical 35mm release print (usually from dupes) projection often does not quite hit 2K/HD levels of resolution. Dye transfer printing for Technicolor had less generational loss but sharpness was dependent on registration of the three dye passes in the printer.

Also there is a chance that the wires were visible in 1938 theaters, just less so and therefore less objectionable.
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#3 Mi Ki

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 04:47 PM

Interesting. Thank you for explanation.


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#4 Carl Looper

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 04:47 PM

 

I am reading a book "A Light Affliction: a History of Film Preservation and Restoration" which says: During preparation for the Blu-ray release of The Wizard of Oz, technicians at Warners became aware that wire-work used for the Cowardly Lions tail and the winged monkeys would be clearly visible on the discs. The restorers sought the advice of Robert A. Harris who responded, "If 1939 audiences didnt see that wires when they saw the film in theatres, then present day audience shouldnt see them on Blu-ray".
 
My question is: how is it possible that you can you see some details on HD which you cant see on the original film? This doesnt make sense to me. 35mm film has much higher resolution than HD, right?

 

 

If you can see them on ANY copy of the original then you can see them on the original.

 

What Harris is suggesting is the complete opposite of what you are thinking he is suggesting. In theory an audience should be able to see the wires on the original theatrical release , precisely because there is more details in such.

 

Harris is suggesting that if an audience fails to see the wires, it's not from want of the original failing in it's fidelity - it's from audiences failing to care. They are not analysing the film on a frame by frame basis

 

C


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#5 Carl Looper

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 04:53 PM

Or at least I assume that is what Harris means. The idea that restorers might, on the basis of Harris's advice, remove the wires, is too ugly to contemplate.

 

C


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#6 Carl Looper

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 05:00 PM

To put it another way: the makers of the film would not be relying on faults in film printing to hide the wires.

 

C


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#7 Mi Ki

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 07:11 PM

This excerpt was from from a small section about controversial aspects of films on Blu-ray which are:
1) unseen limitations with the source material are revealed when viewing films in HD
2) presence of film grain (sometimes eradicated by terrible digital noise reduction)

Edited by Mi Ki, 13 June 2015 - 07:12 PM.

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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 07:26 PM

The filmmakers were not relying on faults but they were making decisions based on what they could see then in projected tests and dailies; they couldn't have known what a digital scan of the negative would reveal, or what would happen when the RGB records were aligned precisely using a computer, etc.

All visual effects tricks involve deciding what can one get away with, it's not an exact science -- a lot of it involves slight of hand and hoping the audience is looking here and not there.
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#9 Carl Looper

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 11:46 PM

I understand that one might look at a print and say to oneself, that in the print, the wires are not that noticeable, and therefore let it go (as distinct from working on the problem further). Indeed I'm sure that's the case. But that's a very different thing from suggesting the reason the wires are not that noticeable (in the original) was due entirely to the quality of the print. The main reasons (it seems to me) would have be in terms of design: lighting, misdirection etc. Or to put it another way - what else would they have done to remove the wires if they could see them? Nothing.

 

I think it's far more preferable to treat the filmmakers as having been perfectly aware of the wire's visibility (if one was looking for such) and having done everything possible in front of the camera to diminish their visibility.

 

Or at least that's a much better theory to use when assessing how a restoration project should address such an issue.

 

Now I haven't read the original text (and context) in which Harris is speaking -  so I don't really know what he meant - but I read it as Harris suggesting the restorers (technicians) should not worry about the wires being visible in the restoration - ie. that if the 1939 audience didn't notice it in a 35mm print, then the same audience wasn't going to notice it in a digital restoration (unless of course they're looking for it).

 

But if he is in fact suggesting the restorers do remove the wires (through emulation of a print in which we suppose the wires would not be visible) I think that's just really really bad advice by Harris.

 

I guess the question to resolve is what Harris meant and what the restorers ended up doing. Did they remove the wires?

 

C


Edited by Carl Looper, 13 June 2015 - 11:48 PM.

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#10 Carl Looper

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Posted 14 June 2015 - 12:25 AM

If the restorers did in fact remove the wires I think they are very wrong to do so.

 

If you look at the style of the film, it's constructed very much like a stage show in terms of look and feel, where most of the effects are practical. Indeed if we look at the exceptions it is very simple effects work - some simple super impositions and some back projection, without much sophistication at all (but certainly very cool in their own way). The main strategy employed in the film is realism - not pseudo-realism - but that sense of "being there" - regardless of where - and in this case the 'where' is a stagey world. A stage show.

 

And just like in a stage show, it is through lighting and misdirection where things like wires would be minimised (if indeed anyone bothered with hiding such at all).

 

And that's the spirit with which a restoration project should treat the film - to assume the filmmakers wanted the best possible fidelity (because that's what they were aiming at using incredibly hot lights and low speed film - and there's no way the visibility of the wires would interfere in anyway with the style of the film. And I'm sure, even if prints of the day were not as good as a restoration today there would have been absolutely no problem if they were. On the contrary. They would have been even happier.

 

C


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#11 Mark Dunn

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Posted 14 June 2015 - 05:10 AM

In the DVD of the 1938 "Robin Hood" you can clearly see that the split arrow trick used a bamboo shaft, a detail not visible in prints. Should the bamboo have been 'dirtied up' so that it looks as it did on a print?

Tricky.


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#12 Mark Dunn

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Posted 14 June 2015 - 05:19 AM

On re-examination, it's not segmented bamboo but a tricked- up shaft which was pre-split and held together with cotton ties, which are clearly visible for about 18 frames. But they're not visible on prints or SD transfers.


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#13 Carl Looper

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Posted 14 June 2015 - 07:20 AM

If it was me in charge of restoration I wouldn't be trying to emulate what a print of the day might have looked like. As much as I understand what the motive for that might be. Practical effects become even more compelling when you can see them clearly - even if such clarity does give away something of how they were otherwise achieved. Indeed I'd argue they would become even more compelling.

 

But it depends on the period. With older films they have a kind of theatricality that just doesn't care about whether such looks real or not - more important was that it was real.

 

Do we look at the tin man in the Wizard of Oz and find fault with his tin face, ie. that it looks like makeup? Or that the lion doesn't look anything like a lion? Or that the distant skys look like a painted wall? And if not why not? And if not (as I'd argue) why would we need to treat the wires any differently?

 

And from what I remember of Robin Hood it worked in an equally theatrical way, without any loss of fascination in having been made that way. Indeed, it would become even more fascinating if you could feel yourself more there in that world. And if a digital restoration from the original negs can do that - take you back in time - I think that's far more important than anything else.

 

I think we have to get outside of ourselves and the world we live in today, and go back to the days before boring seamless special effects and see films through the eyes of the day - not the eyes of the audience as such but the eyes of the filmmakers of the day (to the extent we can imagine such) - and what they might have liked to have seen - which means getting an idea of the mood of the day - that it wasn't about fooling the eye (or the brain) but about a kind of theatrical sense of things - where effects were not pivoting on how well they might fool the audience, but how well they worked as a theatrical device in the flow of things.

 

When you see an effect for the first time, you literally see what you are meant to see. A short time later you might realise something not quite right about it, but you no longer care. You go along with it. You're being pulled along by the theatrics of the unfolding scenario. And the effects are all understood that way. It doesn't matter if they're not that convincing. There's an entirely different logic operating in the effects work of older films.

 

And I think making these films look clearer than they did, will be in keeping with the directions of the day.

 

But it's really a case by case thing. One has to get some idea of each film in itself and what such is doing - and this requires someone literally taking charge of the restoration and directing it, with convictions (rightly or wrongly) on how it should be done. To step into the shoes of the original authors and inherit their belief system - to talk to the ghosts of the departed and see what they think.

 

And I don't think they'll be saying: oh yeah - just do a mediocre print.

 

C


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#14 John Salim

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Posted 14 June 2015 - 09:51 AM

Surely in a film restoration, the aim is to restore the original negative to how it was originally ( prior to positive release ).
Modern printing and scanning will reveal more information seen many decades ago, so the projected film is bound to look a little different.
It may even be argued that modern DCPs and prints should be graded to emulate carbon arc illumination when using modern day xenon lamps.
 
To change the image itself ( ie.. clone out wires etc... ) is to re-make the image.
Where does that work end ?... do you repair the optical work flaws as well ?
 
The director ( if still alive ) may have a right to remake his movie, but restoration technicians should just restore it.
 
John S :rolleyes:

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#15 Freya Black

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Posted 14 June 2015 - 10:11 AM

Just to throw another aspect into the mix. Stuff like wire work can also become visible because of differences in colour grading and similar aspects involved in the transfer. I think people like to think that a new transfer will automatically be close to what the director etc intended but in fact it can take a lot of effort to make a new transfer that is in keeping with the original film.

 

There have been a number of transfers made without reference to the original prints that look odd as a result.

 

Freya


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#16 Carl Looper

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Posted 14 June 2015 - 08:42 PM

Reference to an original print is a good guide but I don't think it should be *the* guide.

 

What is really required is treating the restoration as the creation of a brand new work, from original negs, with all that entails, which means creative decisions as much as technical ones.

 

Looking for some technical solution (such as matching an old print) is just an easy way out. No effort at all. No difficult problems to solve.

 

Now it's certainly not about restoring a negative. What would that mean anyway? Other than cleaning it and ensuring it doesn't disintegrate into ectoplasm.

 

Indeed it's not about restoring anything at all. It's about creating a brand new print. And that means making decisions on how it should be printed. Creative decisions as much as, or even more than, technical ones.

 

To make a brand new print - one that is better than any surviving ones (or any lost ones for that matter).

 

And the best way to do that is to become possessed by the spirits of the original filmmakers, and let them make the new print.

 

C


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#17 Carl Looper

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Posted 15 June 2015 - 02:37 AM

So following some research it looks like they did remove some wires from the Wizard of Oz. Not all of them but some that were more visible than others:

 

"As for the wires, purists may argue it sacrilege (think of what Lucas and Spielberg have done to their classics), but the goal at WHV was to preserve filmmaker-intent. After endless discussions and research, the team decided that these specific wires (others have been left in) disrupted the narrative, and were invisible (as intended) in all other releases (including film). Only at this increased definition was there a visible flaw."

 

http://www.highdefdi...After_Pics/3397

 

 

Besides the wire controversy an interesting thing that emerges in this digest, (and what I've also observed in my own studies on such) is that the higher the definition they scanned the film (they did 8K), the finer became the grain, meaning no need to involve any grain removal techniques. Or to put it another way, scanning at a higher definition became in itself a "grain removal" technique. It's a bit of a mind-bender but it actually happens. Film technology is full of surprises.

 

C


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