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Moment You Discoverd There Was Something To Digital


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#1 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 23 March 2016 - 04:18 AM

 

This thread's mainly aimed towards the older guys who came up with film and were making money with the film process when digital started catching on.

 

Please tell about your first time coming in contact with a digital camera that was suitable for a feature. What differences put you off/on the most? What piece of gear was it specifically? What was your first all-digital job and what were the emotions during that process?

And lastly, if it happened, was there a specific moment you remember where you finally warmed up to the 1's and 0's of cinematography?

 

If you could share your stories it'd be much appreciated. I'd ask my personal connections but none of them started when the industry was still primarily film.


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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 23 March 2016 - 04:39 AM

What's suitable can depend on a number of things,including the budget, analogue formats like Betacam SP or a 1" VTR can be suitable if you're comparing to digital Mini DV cameras.


Edited by Brian Drysdale, 23 March 2016 - 04:40 AM.

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#3 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 23 March 2016 - 09:20 AM

I mean I played with the D21 and it was interesting, and the Alexa  and I really like it-- but in the truth; it's all about, I think, what's right for the project at hand. I don't know if it's warming, as much as it is looking at the tools you have as a professional within the rubric of the specific circumstances of your film and making your choices. And the reasons for that are as varied as the people who make them.


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#4 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 23 March 2016 - 10:29 AM

If I'm allowed to comment, as I never shot much film, Viper was the moment. The unprocessed output had a cleanliness that I hadn't seen before, other than in still photo raws. I think it was the first electronic cinema camera to produce material that wasn't compromised.

 

P


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#5 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 23 March 2016 - 11:21 AM

I've never used the Viper in anger, although I've played with one on a HD workshop, it was very different to the F900 and Varicam, which were being used at the time on many productions. The pictures were green straight out the camera and it needed a suitcase sized data recorder, but that didn't seem any worse than a portable 1" VTR..


Edited by Brian Drysdale, 23 March 2016 - 11:21 AM.

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#6 John E Clark

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Posted 23 March 2016 - 11:42 AM

It was a dark and stormy night, deep in the basement of a company that had previously made all manner of Film film based x-ray inspection equipment... and my 'mission' was to convert the inspection process over to a digital capture process in 1983...

 

A few years before the Hunt Brothers had tried to corner the silver market, and Film film prices had increased commensurate with that bubble... but even though the bubble burst, and the Hunts were hunted by various agencies with criminal charges... the price of Film film never returned to its prebubble levels.

 

So, it was obvious... just took about 18 years for a 'consumer' camera I could afford for stills... and a few more years for a camera to capture motion pictures...

 

As I did more image processing in the 80s, I even thought about producing a set of tools to process images... then some jokers put out a program called Photoshop...


Edited by John E Clark, 23 March 2016 - 11:42 AM.

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#7 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 23 March 2016 - 12:54 PM

I had been shooting digital ENG for years prior to my first narrative cinematography gig on digital, which was in 2003. Back then, the alternative to the F900 and Viper was the Panasonic Varicam, which is what we wound up shooting on, since it was a direct to video release. So I really didn't think much of it at the time, it felt second nature to me. Also back then, there weren't very many resources about these new digital cameras. It wasn't until much later before the internet became full of technical documents and I started learning about the technology. I actually stopped my creative work for many years to become an engineer and developed digital workflows for many post production companies in L.A. So digital cinema has effected my life in a multitude of ways, far greater then simply a cinematographer.
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#8 Ari Michael Leeds

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Posted 23 March 2016 - 03:51 PM

Still waiting B)


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#9 Carl Looper

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Posted 30 March 2016 - 03:53 PM

I started with film in the mid 70s, adopting video and digital in the early 80s. I could see by late 1982 there was definitely something to digital. My entire adult career goes back to that moment.

 

But the real question for me is: when did I discover there was something to film.

 

This occurred once in 1978, but I didn't, at the time, believe it. And occured once again about 6 years ago when researching and testing film to digital techniques.

 

C


Edited by Carl Looper, 30 March 2016 - 03:56 PM.

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#10 Mark Dunn

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Posted 31 March 2016 - 06:42 AM

I started with film in the mid 70s, adopting video and digital in the early 80s. I could see by late 1982 there was definitely something to digital. My entire adult career goes back to that moment.

 

But the real question for me is: when did I discover there was something to film.

 

This occurred once in 1978, but I didn't, at the time, believe it. And occured once again about 6 years ago when researching and testing film to digital techniques.

 

C

What digital video did you use in 1982?


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#11 John E Clark

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Posted 31 March 2016 - 10:21 AM

What digital video did you use in 1982?

 

While I don't know what Carl may be referring to, I was making equipment to digitize analog video signals in the early 80s. The hardware ranged from 'really expensive' to 'expensive'...

 

One brand name that still exists is Matrox which made processing cards for several then standard computer 'buses', but I think they standardized on the PC in the 80's.


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#12 Phil Connolly

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Posted 31 March 2016 - 11:06 AM

The Sony EX1/EX3 for me was the most exciting digital camera break through. Prior to that you either had very expensive digital solutions Genesis, Viper, F900 - that weren't as good as film but cost about the same (or slightly more). At the affordable end most indies were working with DVX100's, XL1's etc... That just looked horrible on the big screen. The Sony Z1 was a step in the right direction but it was so limited and the resulting image was still disappointing.  

 

But with the EX1 you had a camera that was affordable to indie filmmakers, that resulted in an image (if shot carefully) looked decent on the big screen. Even better it was the first affordable camera with an SDI out allowing higher codec recording. Not I'm not saying that the camera is close to film or better digital systems. Just that it was the first one to really allow people on tight budgets to capture images that wouldn't look embarrassing on a big screen unlike previous generation of DV cameras before it. It was the first camera to empower indie's, if you shot carefully audiences wouldn't spot that you were shooting on a budget system and for cash strapped filmmakers thats the holy grail.  

 

I had used the Arri-D20 prior to the EX1 - and that experience was loverly, although tempered with giant flight cases, expensive HDCAM-SR tapes and very expensive insurance cover and the fear of having the only prototype of the camera in UK sitting on my kitchen table in Hackney was a bit stressful. Also stealing locations with a D20 and tethered SR deck in central London is a bit tricky 

But looking at the live very filmic image off a 24"CRT was worth it. But the D20 was never going to be a go-to camera that I'd be able to use on my own personal projects. 

 

I am less interested in digital surpassing/emulating film in terms of technical quality. The power of digital is the ability to shoot great images on small affordable camera systems, that open ultimately open up new possibilities in filmmaking that can't be achieved with film.

 

Digital Projection that same - its perhaps not as good as an A grade 35mm showprint projected by a competent projectionist in terms of technical quality. Though with laser projection (i"ve not seen it yet) its probably close. But digital projection makes it vastly cheaper to screen your work to an audience. I think its great that a festival can screen one of my films and I can FTP a file I made on my laptop, rather then make an expensive 35mm print, pay large courier fee's and worry about the 'projectionist' damaging it.

 

I actually started on digital and only worked with film later so it was never a case of having a conversion to digital. I guess for me when I started out I was shooting on miniDV and wishing I could afford film. Later one when cheap digital got better and started to look nice, I worried less about not being able to afford film and enjoyed the look of the format I was shooting on.

 

Now I'm less focussed on that kit side of things as most things are or can be made to look decent. On my current project I've put in hundreds of hours development of the story and script. Most of the budget is going on cast and crew and the camera format will be what ever I can get the best deal at the time of shooting. Format is lower down my list of priorities then it was. 

 

Where I am with my filmmaking "career" (ahahahah) is the big bucks haven't materialized so I won't be shooting on 70mm any time soon. But it digital allows me to keep making stuff and being creative then thats a good thing. 


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#13 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 31 March 2016 - 11:20 AM

I don't think laser projection really looks all that much better, although I've only seen it in the context of the booth demo at NAB last year which, while impressive for a trade show display, was necessarily a screening-room sized display. It has certain key advantages for 3D content.


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#14 Phil Connolly

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Posted 31 March 2016 - 02:11 PM

But dosen't Dolby Cinema and IMAX Laser offer increased contrast ratio and better blacks then conventional DLP? Thats my only real issue with D-Cinema is the milky blacks. Contrast has got better, I did see Attack of the Clones projected on the 1.3K DLP system and the contrast ratio was terrible - looked like an early laptop screen. So things have improved a lot since then.


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#15 Carl Looper

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Posted 02 April 2016 - 06:21 AM

 

While I don't know what Carl may be referring to, I was making equipment to digitize analog video signals in the early 80s. The hardware ranged from 'really expensive' to 'expensive'...

 

One brand name that still exists is Matrox which made processing cards for several then standard computer 'buses', but I think they standardized on the PC in the 80's.

 

Yes, I was doing DIY digitisation of video signals and even made a simple 4 pixel digital camera using photo diodes (used in a machine vision application). Most of my work at that time was actually the other way: with digital animation to film (photography via a CRT with filter wheels) and also to videotape (5 second pre-roll on every frame being edited in). The first commercial digitisation system I used was the Quantel PaintBox (about '83 or '84), and then after that was a Fairlight CVI (later half of the 80s). Then there was the Amiga and capture cards.

 

Early days - limited pixels - limited bits - slow CPUs - but through such one could clearly see the future.

 

C


Edited by Carl Looper, 02 April 2016 - 06:24 AM.

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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 April 2016 - 12:46 PM

I shot my first 19 features on film, one in Super-16, the rest in 35mm.  Then in 2000, I shot one of the earliest Sony F900 features and then shot maybe four more features on that camera. I tried to do one of them on the Viper but couldn't make it work, budget-wise, due to the data recording and storage aspect in 2003.  Tape was still by far the easiest and simplest way to record HD.

 

But by 2004, I was doing bigger indie movies all shot on 35mm film again.

 

Then in 2008, after shooting the TV series "Big Love" on 35mm, and the movie "Jennifer's Body", I did two back-to-back features on the Red One camera, so my first 35mm sensor camera experience and my first experience with data recording.

 

That fall of 2008, I went on to shoot a TV series for Showtime, "United States of Tara", all on the Panavision Genesis camera.  I also shot the pilot for "The Good Wife" on that camera in the spring of 2009 (they switched to the Sony F35 when the series began and later to the Alexa).  

 

I think the spring of 2010 was when SAG was having trouble closing a contract deal so the studios switched to making TV pilots under the AFTRA contract, which meant not shooting them on film, a decades' old clause that used to make sense: SAG actors were shot on film, AFTRA actors were shot on video, back when video was only used for news, reality, soap operas, live music events, etc. and film was used for most scripted drama.  But by 2010, this archaic distinction became a legal loophole for a massive shift away from film for television work in the U.S.  Technicolor in Vancouver told me that they lost some 80% or more of their processing work within two years.

 

So 2008, 2009, and 2010 I shot on the Genesis, other than one pilot ("The Chicago Code") I did in the spring of 2010 on the Red One.  But that was the year that the ARRI Alexa came out and "The Chicago Code" immediately switched to it.  

 

Even in 2010, the issues of data management were still being worked on on sets.  I recall doing "The Chicago Code" and running three cameras on the first day and the producer came up to me the next day and said that the data downloader person spent three hours after wrap (in the camera truck with a teamster standing by) trying to back everything up and didn't complete the work. We had a big second unit stunt day on the other side of town happening later, simultaneous with our shoot, and I was fretting about shuttling RED drives back and forth across town between their unit and our unit, or setting up their own data management system, and in the last minute a pilot shooting on the Genesis wrapped and I was able to hire their crew and cameras to shoot the stunt work, and being taped-based, I didn't have to deal with the data issues.

 

But just as the SAG conflict was an exterior event that changed the course of television shooting away from film, the Japanese tsunami of 2011 had the same affect on switching the industry away from tape to data due to a shortage of Sony HDCAM-SR tapes from Japan.  Suddenly everyone found themselves making data management more efficient on set because they no longer had tape to fall back on (plus everyone was jumping from Sony F35's and Genesis cameras to ARRI Alexas that year.)

 

Then I shot my last feature on 35mm film in the summer of 2010, until I shot 35mm again last summer (and am now shooting a little film on something).

 

In the spring of 2011, I shot "Big Sur" on the new (then) 5K Red Epic camera.  Then that fall I shot "Smash" for NBC on the Alexa, and shot the second season in 2012 also on the Alexa.  I shot a pilot in the fall of 2013 on the Alexa, shot the series "Extant" in 2014 on the Alexa, shot the movie "90 Minutes in Heaven" in the early part of 2015 on the Alexa, and then shot the indie movie "The Love Witch" on 35mm film.

 

Just came back from Toronto last week having shot a pilot on the Alexa.  But now I'm shooting some pick-ups for something in 35mm film.


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#17 Giray Izcan

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Posted 02 April 2016 - 03:20 PM

Do you enjoy shooting on film? Would you prefer to shoot on 35mm if everything was up to you and your decision? 


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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 April 2016 - 09:30 PM

I enjoy the look of 35mm but for the most part, I enjoy the process of shooting digital IF the camera has a very wide dynamic range and is at least as sensitive as 500 ASA film, if not allowing me to use higher ASA ratings more easily than with film.


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#19 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 03 April 2016 - 07:11 AM

 dosen't Dolby Cinema and IMAX Laser offer increased contrast ratio and better blacks then conventional DLP?

 

I'm not aware of any technical reason why that would be so, because it's still a DLP device doing the actual modulation. The lasers are just a light source. It isn't a scanning laser video projector like the early ones.

 

Perhaps some sort of optical alignment benefits are realised, or perhaps they're just using a better, more recent type of DLP chip with the laser projectors. Maybe it's a bit like the Dyson vacuum cleaners - the reason they seem great is not particularly becuase of their innovative tech, it's just that they fitted them with really big motors!

 

P


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#20 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 April 2016 - 10:51 AM

I think perhaps it is just the increased brightness which then gives the impression of increased black levels and a wider contrast range.


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