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March Of The Penguins


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#1 Webster C

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Posted 11 July 2005 - 02:36 AM

Maybe this film has been discussed already, if so then please point me to that forum. I just saw this film tonight on a great big screen, and I noticed some very odd artifacts in the print.

First off, the print seemed very soft, right from the opening titles. There was pronounced grain throughout, and an odd fringing around black areas against white- sometimes an reddish fringe, sometimes blue. There was also a pattern of black and red spots which appeared three or four times in the first half of the movie, perhaps just for one frame (not "cigarrette burns").

I was quite looking forward to seeing some stunning cinematography, and for sure the closeness to the subject and harshness of the conditions made the cinematography great notwithstanding. But I was dissapointed with the print quality, and I'm left wondering if it was a bad digital interneg (the grain did not look like bad compression though) or poor print duplication. Perhaps this emphasized an origination from a smaller neg?

There are some great "outtakes" during the closing credits which show the filmmakers on location in the antarctic, but I couldn't tell if they were shooting in 16 or 35. Some shots it looked like they had a arri SR with a large lens, others looked like maybe it was an Aaton 35. To me, it looked too good to be 16mm, but not as good as 35 should look, and overall the contrast seemed muted.

Even the source material that was obviously shot on video looked more poor than usual.
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#2 Webster C

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Posted 11 July 2005 - 02:41 AM

I think I just got my answer from

http://www.film-tech.com/

- Super 16 blow-up. But the fringing still bothers me, that must have been a digital artifact, no?
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#3 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 11 July 2005 - 05:39 PM

The thing I cant stand is when someone automaticly says "That must be a digital artifact", then they have no other explantion for it. It's like there trying to make digital out to be a monster that its not.

A lot of things can cause fringing, not just digital.... Did they even do a DI on this film?
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#4 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 11 July 2005 - 07:19 PM

Webster,

I had the exact same reaction ... So muted! Where was the sharpness you would expect in such a pristine environment?? Where was the saturation? Did you find yourself comparing "March ..." w/ "Winged Migration" (35mm, no DI.) Well, you see during the credits that they had s-16 cameras, and I'm not going to fault someone who spent 13 months in Antartica for shooting s-16mm instead of 35mm. I will question reflexively doing a DI instead of a photo-chemical blowup. (There is a DI credit.) I suppose it helped w/ their few f/x shots, but look at what gets sacrificed.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 July 2005 - 03:29 AM

I suppose it helped w/ their few f/x shots, but look at what gets sacrificed.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I disagree that an optical printer blow-up is inherently better technically than a D.I. for Super-16-to-35mm.
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#6 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 12 July 2005 - 11:40 AM

David,

Please elaborate. Do you mean that a top of the line DI done by top pro's can equal a blow-up done by the night-guy at DuArt? Can you compare the workflows of each method? (That would make for a good FAQ.) My prejudice against DI comes mainly from films like "Story of the Weeping Camel," and Sokurov's "Father & Son," which appeared to be beautifully shot on film, and then DIed into a video look.

Thanks,
Jon R..
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 July 2005 - 02:01 PM

There are good and bad D.I.'s for blow-ups just like there are good and bad opticals.

In general, for example, since D.I.'s, Super-35 blow-ups to anamorphic have been much less grainy than the older optical printer blow-up method. The quality difference between Super-35 and anamorphic for making scope prints has been narrowed as a result.

Unless you can afford to make all blow-ups directly from the original Super-16 negative to 35mm prints, which is the best-looking method but generally impractical, expensive per print, and risks the original. But optical printing using IP & IN stocks has its own form of degradation. A good D.I., in theory, can create a 35mm negative that is a fairly exact copy of the original Super-16 negative but in 35mm, without generational loss (typical increase in graininess, contrast, and loss of color saturation and blacks that comes from duping). Yes, a cheap D.I. can add a video texture, if for example, HDCAM is used as an intermediate step.

It's a blow-up afterall -- every process has its artifacts.

The other problem with optical printer blow-ups is the incorporation of titles over picture and other optical printer effects, whcich can complicate the post process.

Best thing would be to shoot in a format that allowed direct printing, like 35mm 1.85 or anamorphic, and not deal with conversions.
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#8 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 12 July 2005 - 02:31 PM

With a DI, how does one calibrate what you see on the monitor in the digital environment, so you get what you want on the internegative? Does it involve several "answer internegatives?"

Edited by J-Ro, 12 July 2005 - 02:32 PM.

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#9 Webster C

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Posted 12 July 2005 - 02:45 PM

Landon,

Cool your jets buddy. I wasn't aware that it was a D.I. when I was watching it, I was just surprised by the general softness and graininess- and I was looking for clues as to wether it was D.I. or not, and wether it was shot in 35.

Some specifics that pointed to digital artifacts of a D.I.:

the spots on the film that popped on several times were consistent in their shape and position, and were both on the underwater footage that looked like it had been shot on video, and the film footage.

On a long pan shot, the grain "held" for a few frames at regular intervals. This is a compression artifact, I think.

The fact that some of the opening titles over the film footage were soft was my biggest clue that this may have been a poor D.I.

There was a timelapse shot of the northern lights that was incredibly soft and grainy, looked like it was taken from a low-rez video source- I would think that something like that could have been enhanced in the intermediate process.

I figured that the fringing (around the black penguin skin against bright white) could be a lens issue, and could be on the film- but someone will have to give their insight on that... sometimes the fringe was orange, sometimes blue-ish.

I agree that an optical blowup would have had it's own inherent problems, but it looks to me almost like this was not intended for theatrical release- as if the film was finished on D1 or digital betacam and released theatrically as an afterthought.
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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 July 2005 - 02:50 PM

The bigger facilities use something like a 2K DLP-Cinema projector tweaked to give a fairly similar look to a projected print, and you correct while looking at this projected image. In terms of how those corrections you make are transposed into something that can be transferred to an IN and create the look in a print that you saw digitally projected, that's what Look Up Tables are for, plus a lot of in-house tweaking, proprietary software, etc.

Other facilities will use HD monitors, computer screens, etc. so you have to understand that some difference in look will occur when it goes to film. You can shoot out some select shots within limits to gauge what's going to happen in the film recording.

If you do an optical printer blow-up, you time using a Super-16 answer print, so there will be some differences when it then goes thru an IP, IN, and optical printer, mainly in terms of contrast more than color.
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 July 2005 - 02:56 PM

I've never seen color fringing added as a result of any digital color-correction; I've seen edge enhancement but that's not colored usually. Color fringing tends to be an optical phenomenon.

It could be soft-looking just because of the way it was shot and not necessarily due to the post process. Or it could have been a low-cost D.I. approach, I don't know not having seen it. The trailers in the theaters looked fine though.

As far as a really soft & grainy shot of the Northern Lights, obviously that was a very low light level shot so some technique had to be employed to photograph it that probably would not get you fine-grained results.
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#12 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 12 July 2005 - 04:38 PM

Thanks for the info. I wonder, also, if the extreme cold didn't have some effect on the film.

BTW, wouldn't they be Southern Lights?
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#13 Trevor Swaim

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Posted 12 July 2005 - 09:07 PM

the spots on the film that popped on several times were consistent in their shape and position, and were both on the underwater footage that looked like it had been shot on video, and the film footage. 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I might be wrong but this sounds like the tags that the MPAA has been adding to films lately. they are on every reel and are different on every print. the theroy is that they can find out what theater any pirated (arrgh!) movie was shot in, because the dots will match up.
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#14 Robert Hughes

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Posted 17 July 2005 - 10:18 AM

So MPAA is watermarking all exhibition prints now? What do the tags look like? Can someone post an example?

Interestingly, studies in the past few years have found that most pirated videos of first run movies became available before the initial screening of the movies, meaning that the pirated films were "inside jobs". Is this another Reichstag type event, the PTB setting up a bad situation and blaming some outsider boogieman for the incident? Seems to be happening more & more these days...
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#15 drew_town

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 10:19 PM

I just came from watching this movie. Oh how I would have loved to have been on that crew. I suppose most of you have realized by now that I shoot mostly documentaries myself. As a result my criticism centers not around the cinematography, but rather the content. Overall I thought it was an interesting and coherent piece. I only wish there had been a little more information in the film, because I started asking myself questions while watching. But I suppose the movie was intended for a slightly younger audience, judging by the information present. I got a kick when I could see the cameraman and boom operator in the eyes of the penguins during the close-ups. Anyway it was quite grainy, but nevertheless an interesting movie worth checking out.
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#16 jeremy edge

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Posted 06 August 2005 - 05:29 PM

I just came from watching this movie. Oh how I would have loved to have been on that crew. I suppose most of you have realized by now that I shoot mostly documentaries myself. As a result my criticism centers not around the cinematography, but rather the content. Overall I thought it was an interesting and coherent piece. I only wish there had been a little more information in the film, because I started asking myself questions while watching. But I suppose the movie was intended for a slightly younger audience, judging by the information present. I got a kick when I could see the cameraman and boom operator in the eyes of the penguins during the close-ups. Anyway it was quite grainy, but nevertheless an interesting movie worth checking out.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I'm going to see it tonight. I'm just impressed by the fact so many movies in s16 are making it to the theater.I just saw Devil's Rejects on wednesday and I thought it looked pretty cool albeit gritty on the big screen form the 5th row.
I guess there is still some life in the format despite it's shortcomings.I think it's cool.
It also gives me some inspiration as I cannot yet afford to experiemnt with 35mm.
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#17 Steven Budden

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Posted 09 August 2005 - 11:47 AM

I love grain in a film, as long as it is not distracting. It directs attention to the film medium itself.
Anyway, I was actually surprised at the quality of super 16 in this film. It made me excited to shoot some myself.

Steven

PS. I may've seen it on a smaller screen than others.
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#18 steve hyde

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Posted 03 December 2005 - 11:48 AM

...I saw a battered 35mm print of this thing last night. I thought it looked fine. It's remarkable that a 16mm documentary film can look *just good enough* and go on to earn more than 100 million at the box office! I think the initial production costs were just under 150,000. Warner Brothers obviously added to that exponentially for post production and distribution.

ref:
http://www.the-numbe.../2005/EMPJY.php
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#19 Chris Fernando

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Posted 03 December 2005 - 08:31 PM

...I saw a battered 35mm print of this thing last night. I thought it looked fine. It's remarkable that a 16mm documentary film can look *just good enough* and go on to earn more than 100 million at the box office! I think the initial production costs were just under 150,000. Warner Brothers obviously added to that exponentially for post production and distribution.

ref:
http://www.the-numbe.../2005/EMPJY.php



The end result of marketing just another documentary as the next 'Citizen Kane'. :lol:

Edited by CMPhern, 03 December 2005 - 08:34 PM.

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#20 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 04 December 2005 - 03:44 PM

I think the initial production costs were just under 150,000.

Where did you hear that? Remember, these folks shot for 2 years and prepped for 2 years before that. They probably spent a lot more than $150,000 just on film stock alone. I believe I remember hearing (or reading) that the budget was $8 million. That's not to say that it's success isn't impressive, just not THAT impressive.
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