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Recent article on Film vs digital


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#1 John Rizzo

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 07:54 AM

Saw this the other day, would like to hear some comments from forum members concerning how digital cameras captures  a better picture in low light situations.   

 

 

 

http://spectrum.ieee...ce-obsolescence


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#2 Dan Hasson

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 08:43 AM

Great article. The film vs digital debate (for me) is very boring. Its good people can now choose the medium they want to shoot on.

So to have a film vs digital article not about the cameras is amazing. Digital archival needs a safe, future proof method. But who knows how long something will last. It seems impossible to tell.


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#3 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 01 May 2017 - 01:00 PM

I read this article on Friday and it's great someone else put the current "issue" on paper yet again. This problem is very much the issue with all-digital filmmaking. I have been talking about this issue for 20 years, because filmmakers make decisions that wind up costing the studios quite a bit of money in the long-term. 

 

There are two philosophies...

 

1 - Spend the money up front, shoot your movie on film and finish it on film. There is a cut negative, there is a IP, there are maybe even a few IN's, all sitting around. You can even make a separation negative for even longer-term storage. Scan the camera negative for DCP/Video release, otherwise the "film" elements can be stored in different vaults at a much lower cost then digital over the long term. It's resolution agnostic, it stores for 100+ years without much effort, it's a format which will be viewable forever since all it takes is light and eyes to see it. 

 

2 - Spend the money in the back end, shoot your movie on digital and never touch film. Duplicate the online (camera originals) storage onto LTO. Duplicate the final master output onto LTO. Eventually the online storage (camera originals) will be discarded, leaving you with the final master output as the only version of your movie. This master may have been finished in 2k for cost savings, even though the movie could have been shot at 8k. As distributors want higher resolution masters over the years, your master is now stuck at 2k forever. Sure, you can up res it, but it's still coming from a fixed 2k format. The cost to studio's will also only increase as the years go on. What if the studio stops paying for your movie because they don't care about it? What if they just let it sit on tape and prey it survives? Nobody else is going to pay for it, so that's the end of that isn't it? 

 

Personally, I simply think in the climate we're in today, with content makers scrambling to produce new product due to decreasing viewership, they appear to not care about the long term. They only care about the bottom line today and product is more disposable then ever. I think it's this philosophy that's killing the industry long-term. At least in the past, we had solutions to store media for long-term without worrying. Now, we don't have anything outside of spending gobs of money to simply maintain what currently exists. 


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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 May 2017 - 02:01 PM

The truth is that for the first half of the 20th century, the studios for the most part thought of movies as disposable, even recycling some original negatives for their silver content, so it's romantic nostalgia to think that studios of the past cared more than they do today about archiving.  We're just lucky that film was a somewhat robust storage medium so that it could be left on a shelf for 50 years and still be recoverable later (though not always.)  And we're doubly lucky that the first few decades of cinema were in b&w, and the first decade of color movies used b&w negative stock, before we started making movies on less-stable (color-wise) color negative stock.

 

Today the safest bet is to not take any chances, store movies in multiple formats (including b&w film separations plus digital) in multiple locations.  Many things, like some books, have survived mainly because multiple copies existed all around the world.  But the costs of doing that are the main problem today.  As the article said, instead of making movies on film with ratios of 10:1, 20:1, 30:1, we're shooting digital with ratios of 60:1, 100:1, etc. so there's no way to archive every bit of footage shot.


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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 May 2017 - 02:21 PM

Well, there is, it's just a bit expensive in LTO tapes.

 

I would not usually consider shooting anything where I couldn't archive everything. You have to work really, really hard to make LTO seem expensive if you're on anything other than a very low end shoot.

 

(I do spend a lot of time on very low end shoots, but I suspect I'm in a minority in this conversation at least.)


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#6 Miguel Angel

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Posted 01 May 2017 - 03:24 PM

From the ignorance of not knowing anything about archival businesses I would like to ask why can't the masters be stored online on servers?

Doesn't make sense on today's age of digital acquisition and digital projection? 

 

Have a good day.


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#7 JD Hartman

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Posted 01 May 2017 - 06:13 PM

From the ignorance of not knowing anything about archival businesses I would like to ask why can't the masters be stored online on servers?

Doesn't make sense on today's age of digital acquisition and digital projection? 

 

Have a good day.

 

Because it would cost you.  How much I don't know, but you want it stored "somewhere" with the assurance of multiple backup copies,  You'd also want proof of real insurance, so that when they lose your data, you can recover adequate compensation for the irretrievable loss.  Saved on filmstock or to magnetic tape would outlast any type disc drive or other spinning media.


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#8 George Ebersole

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Posted 01 May 2017 - 07:05 PM

Ultimately what you want is the image you want to present to the audience, and the more information you can capture, then the more information you can work with, no matter if it's photo-chemical or electronic.  So yeah, I'm also curious why there's still any argument over it.  Pre-90s a lot of DPs I knew didn't like the final product because you lost a couple of generations worth of information through editing and duplication.  

 

Take that for what it's worth.


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#9 John Rizzo

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Posted 04 May 2017 - 03:03 AM

Thanks for the response s 

Im curious about what you guys think of this portion:

 

He also planned to use traditional film cameras for most of the shooting, reserving digital cameras for low-light scenes. He quickly realized, though, that film “didn’t have the sensitivity to capture the scenes we were trying to shoot, especially the things we shot at dawn and dusk,” as he told an interviewer.

The digital footage, by contrast, had no noise or graininess, and the equipment held up much better in the extreme cold. The crew soon switched over to digital cameras exclusively.


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#10 Simon Wyss

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Posted 04 May 2017 - 04:07 AM

What should guide archivists? Film projection has been killed or abandoned almost entirely.

The digital roll-out was the hardest blow to the phenomenon. Archivists must decide whether to pursue

photochemistry or to rely on computer technology. Every measure of not chemical nature destroys

possibilities to preserve a heritage. I mean film, not video.


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#11 Manu Delpech

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Posted 04 May 2017 - 04:23 AM

I'm one of those who think that digital definitely looks best in low light situations, or night stuff, it just looks far more interesting, and we do see multiple situations where films shoot on film for day, digital for low light, night, like Prieto & Scorsese did on Wolf & Silence. Day stuff though imo does not hold a candle to film in day situations.

 

Then again, it sometimes strikes me a bit as laziness where you see DPs saying how great it is to be able to barely use any light & just shoot with existing light in low light situations. Now granted, sometimes, like on Silence, going from film to digital is not downright shocking, since they sometimes seem to be pushing the sensitivity, resulting in a grain-like noise pattern, but when you switch from grainy film to textureless, smooth clean digital, it can be jarring. 

 

I'd argue though that film still looks better in every way. Now, if you really want a clean, smooth image on low-light situations, that's your right, but if you really want to shoot film all the way, there's no excuse.


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#12 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 04 May 2017 - 05:43 AM

I dont know.. this comes up alot.. DP,s are called lazy because they dont need 20 x 10K,s to light up a city block anymore.. I think its a bit harsh .. high ISO,s let some films get made that otherwise wouldn't ..  or shots that would be been too expensive to shoot..also it doesn't mean the Dp,s skill is less or diminished because they dont need so many lights..  just a different way to light a scene.. still need the close up to look good.. its more not having to spend $50K lighting up a city back background for the wide shot... these are all advantages aren't they ..??


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#13 Jay Young

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Posted 04 May 2017 - 08:16 AM

I dont know.. this comes up alot.. DP,s are called lazy because they dont need 20 x 10K,s to light up a city block anymore.. I think its a bit harsh .. high ISO,s let some films get made that otherwise wouldn't ..  or shots that would be been too expensive to shoot..also it doesn't mean the Dp,s skill is less or diminished because they dont need so many lights..  just a different way to light a scene.. still need the close up to look good.. its more not having to spend $50K lighting up a city back background for the wide shot... these are all advantages aren't they ..??

 

At NAB this year, the Panasonic guys were trying really hard (even with beer!) to get me to jump on board the 5000iso train. They had a beautiful black room and model lit with a cineo remote phosphor lamp.  It looked ok. 

 

This was a great demo for 5000iso.  BUT - for some reason I couldn't get them to understand that shooting in that style meant that actors were back to hitting exact marks, because if they moved even centimeters they would be a whole stop under or over.

 

Personally, I tend to shoot at lower "film speeds" as the budget allows, but I am preping a feature where there is no budget and I need to figure out a way to shoot without a lot of light.  Its all very interesting. 

 

 

 

On another note, I read an article that said a lot of digital archival work is being written out to film because it lasts a while longer. 


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#14 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 04 May 2017 - 08:35 AM

Ive used that camera.. the LT version ..in the night at 50 fps !.. at ISO 5000.. you actually can have your actors not hit their marks because you can be at higher stops..with not a huge amount of lighting.. I know its mad .. but its quite an amazing camera .. I wasn't shooting drama ..but it was easy to pull my own focus..  


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#15 Miguel Angel

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Posted 04 May 2017 - 08:39 AM

 

Because it would cost you.  How much I don't know, but you want it stored "somewhere" with the assurance of multiple backup copies,  You'd also want proof of real insurance, so that when they lose your data, you can recover adequate compensation for the irretrievable loss.  Saved on filmstock or to magnetic tape would outlast any type disc drive or other spinning media.

 

 

That might make sense. 

However, and just for the sake of talking... ssd hard drives last a lot, apparently around 50 years when used daily, they don't have moving parts and are very tiny so you could make an array of hundreds of them, keep them in a safe environment and probably they would last at least 70 years! 

 

They would be more environmental friendly too! 

 

Have a good day. 


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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 May 2017 - 12:37 PM

You would think a higher ISO camera would allow you to not shoot as wide-open on the iris, thus making hitting marks less critical not more critical.

 

The thing is that lighting up a cityscape or a candlelit room in order to use slower film stock is not the same look as capturing the available light -- it's not a matter of laziness, though of course it can be more convenient.  But over the decades, there has always been a drive to capture low-levels of available light for the look it gives compared to lighting up the scene artificially.  I wouldn't say that Kubrick's experiments to shoot by real candlelight in "Barry Lyndon" was driven by laziness, nor what Michael Mann did on "Collateral".


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#17 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 04 May 2017 - 12:48 PM

I wouldn't say that Kubrick's experiments to shoot by real candlelight in "Barry Lyndon" was driven by laziness, nor what Michael Mann did on "Collateral".


I agree, both stories required the use of the technology they pioneered.

At the same time, over-all, I do feel filmmakers today, under-light compared to during the film days when they really couldn't.
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#18 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 04 May 2017 - 12:52 PM

Thanks for the response s 
Im curious about what you guys think of this portion:
 
He also planned to use traditional film cameras for most of the shooting, reserving digital cameras for low-light scenes. He quickly realized, though, that film “didn’t have the sensitivity to capture the scenes we were trying to shoot, especially the things we shot at dawn and dusk,” as he told an interviewer.
The digital footage, by contrast, had no noise or graininess, and the equipment held up much better in the extreme cold. The crew soon switched over to digital cameras exclusively.


I think it's bullshit personally. It's an example of wanting a look (film) but not willing to follow the protocol to get that look. The easy solution is to give up and use the magic box.

In my eyes, that's really what it comes down to. Digital appears to be an easy solution to everyone's problem. Yet, those very same people aren't looking at anything else but tomorrow. They simply make product and when they're done with one, they'll go make another. What they shoot with and how that relates to distribution and archiving, is irrelevant.
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#19 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 May 2017 - 12:55 PM

I hardly call "The Revenant" an easy shoot...


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#20 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 04 May 2017 - 01:09 PM

I hardly call "The Revenant" an easy shoot...


No argument there, but most of their issues were logistical, not technical. I don't blame them for shooting digitally.
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