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Film/Video - A Cinematographer's Perspective


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#1 filmmakermilan

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Posted 18 July 2005 - 08:50 PM

There's an obvious debate about whether or not film is better than video or vise versa. Especially now that HD is in such high demand.

I get different opinions from all kinds of people but I rarely hear what a cinematographer would rather shoot on. I personally love film. It looks great, film gives you latitude that video never will, and it's not just point/shoot and you're done. Plus with HD I hear you have to light the hell out of it to properly expose your image.

What's your preference?
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#2 Tim J Durham

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Posted 18 July 2005 - 10:22 PM

There's an obvious debate about whether or not film is better than video or vise versa. Especially now that HD is in such high demand.

I get different opinions from all kinds of people but I rarely hear what a cinematographer would rather shoot on. I personally love film. It looks great, film gives you latitude that video never will, and it's not just point/shoot and you're done. Plus with HD I hear you have to light the hell out of it to properly expose your image.

What's your preference?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Don't go there.
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#3 Nathan Milford

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Posted 18 July 2005 - 10:43 PM

Had you spent a few seconds using the search feature you would have gotten your fill of a few qualified opinions and many many more unqualified ones.

Please don't ask this question. It's a waste of bandwidth and it brings out many more myths and assumptions from gear/number obsessed people who've never even witnessed an HD signal or conversley never opened a can of film, than it does actual facts.

Heed Tim's advice before someone looses an eye.

>8)
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 July 2005 - 10:47 PM

Plus with HD I hear you have to light the hell out of it to properly expose your image.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


???

Generally my light levels are a little lower with HD than with 35mm, mainly because I'm trying to shoot near wide-open in HD to reduce depth of field, plus you often underexpose slightly to control your highlights -- whereas with 35mm I tend to overexpose for a denser negative and I like to get enough of a stop to have a workable depth of field without making my focus-puller's life miserable.

So you can think of the light levels in HD for interiors to often be similar to working at a f/2.8 on 500 ASA film, let's say, which is hardly "lighting the hell out of it".

Personally, I enjoy shooting HD a little more than film because I love looking at the lighting on the set on a big HD monitor; if you love to light as much as I do, it's like having instant dailies being screened in real time while you light. But in terms of the results, I tend to favor 35mm for the image quality.
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#5 Brian Wells

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Posted 18 July 2005 - 11:01 PM

Don't go there.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I'm with Tim. This idea IS completely baked!
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#6 filmmakermilan

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 06:47 AM

lol I didnt expect that the question was so extreme for many of you. I just wanted to know what your preference is and the main reason for it.
Thanks, David for your input. What I heard about HD was only from someone I know. I've never shot on HD before but I'm going to let him know how wrong he is. :P And I remember seeing behind the scenes for episode III. Lucas loved watching his big screen during production.
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#7 Jonathan Bryant

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 02:43 AM

lol I didnt expect that the question was so extreme for many of you. I just wanted to know what your preference is and the main reason for it.
Thanks, David for your input. What I heard about HD was only from someone I know. I've never shot on HD before but I'm going to let him know how wrong he is.  :P  And I remember seeing behind the scenes for episode III. Lucas loved watching his big screen during production.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I think that the limited factor for HD is somewhat resolution but mainly contrast ratio or dynamic range( the cameras ability to capture a wide range of light from very dark to very bright in the same scene ) For me the Star Wars movies shot in HD are not the best example of a HD movie. Because from what I have seen most of that movie was shot on sound stages with lots of green screen and cg effects. I think Lucas went the HD route initially on a cost basis. I remember hearing him say that since most of the Star Wars films scenes had to be scanned into a computer for cg effects so why not just shoot digital and avoid the time and cost of scanning the film if most of what they would be using was just the actors performances. Somebody correct me if I am wrong. Though alot of tv spots & network tv shows are shot in HD to reduce cost and because the resolution between it and 35mm or 16mm isn't as noticeable on tv as it would be at your local cineplex. Most cinemas still use 35mm film projection so if you shoot an movie on say HDCAM you still have to make a prints to send to the theaters. Which will cost alot of money. I think it all comes down to what you are doing. Until we have lots of digital projection theaters and we have improved cameras to have a natural reproduction of wide dynamic ranges major motion pictures will continue to use film. Though the new cameras with CMOS sensors may make the gap between 35mm and digital smaller. Film has different sized silver-halide crystals and capture life much like our human eye. So the short answer to your question is the ccds in the camera are the most limiting factor but if you light accordingly you can capture good results but given the same effort on film it should render better more natural results.
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#8 filmmakermilan

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 07:52 PM

appreciate the insight
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#9 SEC

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 12:43 AM

There's an obvious debate about whether or not film is better than video or vise versa. Especially now that HD is in such high demand.

I get different opinions from all kinds of people but I rarely hear what a cinematographer would rather shoot on. I personally love film. It looks great, film gives you latitude that video never will, and it's not just point/shoot and you're done. Plus with HD I hear you have to light the hell out of it to properly expose your image.

What's your preference?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Hi,
You bring up a good point of discussion. I had been a member of another filmmaking website which I shall not name. It was a decent forum, but everyone there was shooting video or DV and calling it filmmaking. Personally, I draw a big distinction between the two, and I raised the question at the "unnamed" website, rather hawkishly, about whether it was more a forum for videomakers, since no one was actually shooting film. Well, I was pounced upon, got a little "beat-up" and decided to terminate my participation there. While I admit that my comment was akin to hurling a snowball into a fun party, I think that a horse should be called a horse, and that 2+2=4.
While there is a great degree of skill required to shoot good video, and it can look wonderful and be artistic, shooting Kodak or Fuji is like working without a net. Also, DV seems sterile and to lack "atmosphere". I had a class that was devoted to digital movie making, and the instructor had shot what seemed to be an absurd amount of footage (nearly 40 hrs), only to edit it down to 80 minutes.
I used video a lot before I shot actual film, and it was a great learning tool, essential to my growth as a filmmaker. The advantage of video in this capacity is obvious, but there was nothing like the feeling and "rush" I had as I watched my first reels of film through a projector on a screen. I still consider myself to be a student of film, and maybe I'm marking myself as a dinosaur, but the difference is apples and oranges. Film, while old-fashioned, is still a miracle to me.
Happy Shooting
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#10 Jonathan Benny

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 01:29 AM

... but everyone there was shooting video or DV and calling it filmmaking.


I think we've reached a point where the term "filmmaking" does not relate to a particular format.

Indeed, "Dancer in the Dark" is a great film by a great filmmaker who shot it on video. And yes, I imagine his ratio was quite high.

Additionally: it is my opinion that it is not the format (ie film or video) that makes a particular job challenging, rather, the requirements of the scene itself.

Both film and video each offer advantages for making the job "easier" - it's more about what the filmmaker and cinematographer do with those advantages to create something memorable.

Just one opinion,

JB
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 11:41 AM

The word "film" in "filmmaking" or "filmmaker" in these cases is another word for "movie" -- as in motion pictures. It is not a word for the physical photochemical photographic medium. Afterall, these people aren't physically making the film stock either if you want to get really picky. "Film" was originally a somewhat derogatory nickname anyway...

I don't care if someone who is a filmmaker happens to shoot a movie digitally (such as Igmar Bergman just did.) It's still "a film by" (and the DGA will confirm that) and he's still a "filmmaker."

I do have a problem when someone calls the Genesis or Dalsa a "digital film" camera because whether or not that they say are substituting the word "movie" for the word "film", they actually are giving the false impression (probably deliberately) that there is such a physical thing as "digital film", that they are shooting some sort of digital version of film, as opposed to shooting with an electronic imaging camera. I understand why they might think that a camera recording to data (which the Genesis doesn't) is not a "video" camera in the strictest sense, but whatever, they can avoid the word "video" as long as they don't call it a "digital film" camera! Call it a "digital motion picture camera" if they want, or a "digital cinema" camera.
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#12 Manu Anand

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Posted 27 July 2005 - 08:06 PM

Davids post reminds me something Chris Doyle said on a talk i was lucky enough to attend in New Delhi.

When someone asked him this question he said"it didnt matter"

The problem he has was if i rememeber correctly

" the video guys have got it all wrong..they are trying to make their medium look like film ... maybe if they just thought of video as a different medium and forgot about film they would come up with something better. something totally new.. a different aesthetic..but here all they are trying to achieve is the "FILM LOOK"

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#13 Jonathan Benny

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 01:54 PM

a different aesthetic..but here all they are trying to achieve is the "FILM LOOK"

Manu Anand
Bombay

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I believe the objective isn't to find a new aesthetic, rather, to find a way to get a film look (particularly on a tv display) without paying the $$ of film origination.

Currently, there is no digital system that can do what film does in terms of look, and I'm not convinced that there ever will be. But for better or for worse, for some people the simple objective is still there: to find a way to get a "film look" without using film.

Just one opinion,

JB
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#14 sneeze proof

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Posted 31 July 2005 - 09:36 PM

This all reminds me of the reactions to digital audio recordings when studios were converting from big analogue 24 track tape to digital items.
Not many people liked it at first because it wasn't capable, and then as it started to become capable, there were those who believed it was too sterile and lacked character, until it became even more capable again.

Granted, moving picture is in another league, but it's the same sort of arguments and I think eventually, in the not too distant future, we will see what we see in audio. Artists like Lenny Kravits who record (or used to) on old analogue equipment for a certain sound or groups like the Propellorheads who use vinal to create their sound.
But digital will capture a broader, cleaner, fuller representation of the real thing and other mediums will be used for specific tasks.

It's interesting to watch it happen.
Revolution rocks!
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#15 Robert Edge

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Posted 01 August 2005 - 09:29 AM

To draw an analogy, perhaps flawed, perhaps not:

A few years ago, I built a tube amplifier from a design by a highly-regarded French sound engineer named Yves Cochet. It is a wonderful amplifier for many forms of music, such as classical music and jazz, but a solid state amp will do a better job on hip-hop.
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#16 Tim J Durham

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Posted 01 August 2005 - 10:49 AM

To draw an analogy, perhaps flawed, perhaps not:

A few years ago, I built a tube amplifier from a design by a highly-regarded French sound engineer named Yves Cochet.  It is a wonderful amplifier for many forms of music, such as classical music and jazz, but a solid state amp will do a better job on hip-hop.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

With jazz, particularly, you miss what's in between the notes. Some people refer to it as "presence" and used it also when CD's were gaining popularity in defense of vinyl recordings.

I still think an album in good shape has a better sound, when played on a quality turntable through a clean tube amp, than does an all-digital recording on solid-state components. Most would call it noisy but I'd call it "alive". It's more evocative for me. Could just be sentimentalism, I spose.
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#17 Robert Edge

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Posted 01 August 2005 - 11:13 AM

Could just be sentimentalism, I spose.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


The musicians I know, most of them born well into the solid-state era but who without exception prefer tube amps for live performances, don't think it is just sentimentalism. However, I don't know anyone who plays hip-hop. I think that tube amps are slow compared to solid-state amps, and have trouble doing justice to some kinds of current music.

Two of the things that I like best about my tube amp - that I understand it down to the last bit of wire and could fix it myself, and that the electrons put on a great show in the dark - are truly sentimental/psychological considerations, having nothing to do with actual performance.
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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 August 2005 - 12:30 PM

Digital images share some qualities and problems as digital sound: they "overload" (overexpose) less gracefully than analog but they have less noise in the low-end (underexposure.)
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#19 sneeze proof

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Posted 01 August 2005 - 08:41 PM

and this is exactly what I am looking forward to
where film is used like tape and vinal is used (run the signal in hot and let it naturally compress) rather than using film because it's the best picture quality

if you know what I'm getting at :)
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