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How much better is film?

Discussion in 'Projectors, Screens & Video Processors' started by uncle eric, Nov 19, 2001.

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  1. uncle eric

    uncle eric
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    I was wondering what is the typical contrast ratio of film (As seen in cinema's) ???
    A figure would be helpfull.

    Eric
     
  2. Mr.D

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    Well we work on the basis that from from Dmin ( lowest instensity recorded on emulsion to peak white ( where the neg won't get any more exposed) is 1023 discernable intensity steps) This obviously varies on the scene being shot and some of this is data above nominal white ( headroom , superwhites , means you can print down and the whites will stay up there at white as it were for a couple of stops anyway)

    This is based on viewing a digital negative ( scanned neg) on a calibrated monitor that equates to the image transfered onto print film . CRTs are not quite capable of realising this intensity so there will be some percievable banding in certain circumstances on display that is a limitation of the CRT rather than present on the data. ( I normally say about 1000 discernable intensity steps on a CRT for arguments sake) . Video obviously can't resolve this many intensity steps: I'll look up the exact figures but about 200 rings a bell ( vs film at 1023 but whitepoint is 685 above this and its headroom which will vary from shot to shot and will not make it to video in any meaningful form anyway)

    Look up cineon on the net : its the standard file format for scanning motion picture film and is in widespread use you'll get a lot of useful facts and figures from that: Cinesite have some papers on their website that will illustrate the principles .

    bear in mind we are talking grayscale here not bringing colour into it that 1023 figure pretty much goes for all three colour records on film whereas video is even less dynamic in this area.
     
  3. uncle eric

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    First off I just want to state the obvious. CRT projector fans, including me, all aspire to produce the film experience at home. When I say film, I do mean film not cinema. Who wants to sit on a seat with bubble gum stuck on the armrest and listen to blown subs in a place where there is too much ambient light anyway.

    We know that film has a far higher resolution than any video image including HDTV. However thanks to modern technology we can now upscale even lousy NTSC or PAL with some very good results. 720p to 960p is not uncommon and with a good CRT some of us think we are pretty close. I've even seen 1080i HDTV upscaled to 1080p and nearly dropped dead from being dumbstruck.

    However, purists will say that film has many thousands of lines of real resolution so whatever way a video image is massaged, film will always be vastly superior. Most will agree.
    My problem with that is, yes, Film is much better....in an ideal world.
    Howver, most of the time, I doubt that we are actually seeing the best of film at the Cinema.

    According to Sam Runco in the states, In a recent study, one of the top studio's picked 200 of the best Cinema's in the USA to test whether these cinema's fell within SMPTE specs.
    They found for starters that even the best of them produced less than half the required brightness. (Terrible considering most Cinema's still use lighting even during the main feature due to fire and safety regulations)
    The best of these Cinemas claim to be reproducing some 4000 lines of resolution. Sounds great. The reality was, due to problems such as worn film, sprockets, to much lamp heat, out of focus lenses, and in some cases even bad projectors what was actually being resolved was nearer 700 to 900 lines.
    All of a sudden, video is not so far away.
    Sam Runco also pointed out what I've been saying for the last few years. I think the black level of CRT is actually higher.
    Film has the same set of problems that fixed-pixel devices have.
    That is to say, light is projected onto the screen even in areas which are supposed to be pitch black, Outer Space for example.
    What you are getting is a xenon (in most cases) lamp passing through a transmissive film. Even black areas of this 'film' are transmissive. Hence the association with other single lense devices. Every technology apart from CRT attempts black by projecting light.
    I would be interested to hear knowledgeable views on this.
    Keith (Mr D) our resident film expert, educate us please, the floor is yours.

    Eric
     
  4. Stuart Wright

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    Interesting thought. My first reaction is that video is much better simply because there is no dirt like you find on a film print and there is no reel change. Even if you argue that DVD can have a pause for the layer change, there is no big black ring top right to tell the projectionist when to swap reels.
     
  5. JohnAd

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    I think one area that film still beats CRT is in colour gamut. That is the number of possible colours that can be expressed. I think gold in is not rendered properly on CRTs or digital projectors (this was from chatting to Jon Thompson at the event). This may make the DVD of the Moulin Rouge less than inspriring compared to the cinema.

    Also remeber is you look at one of those gamut charts on a PC you can't see the colours you're missing because they can't be displayed which is why they always radiate out the colours at the edge of what can be presented on a monitor. Same sort of thing aplies to printed versions as well.

    John
     
  6. JohnAd

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    Forgot the other ones where film wins are the number of steps in a grey scale and colour resolution. For DVD colour is half the resolution of the luma for film it is the same for both.

    But on the other hand CRT and digital projectors win on the stability of the image and flicker both of which annoy me at the cinema.

    John
     
  7. dochall

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    I'll show my ignorance here but then I want to be educated. Don't the high end (cinema - as used for Toy Story II in Leicester square) DLP projectors not project light for black?
     
  8. Mr.D

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    Intensity

    As already mentioned by JohnAd its all about the intensity scale.
    film can record about 1000 detectable intensity variations in all three RGB records . Video is about 200. ( even less real detectable variations in colour)

    Resolution

    HD for example is really just big video; its got the same intensity and colour (un)performance as standard def video it just resolves a higher resolution: uses more pixels to make the image. Yes it can resolve more fine detail but its still limited intensity wise.
    35mm fullap film frame is generally regarded as having a resolution of 4096x3112.

    exhibition

    CRT is widely accepted to have a lower black value than just about any other projection system in use I can think of. However ( and I'm no expert here) I believe you can get residual phosphorescence lifting the overal black level a little ie its not so constant but yes I'd agree that a CRT should have a theoretically lower black point than projected film.
    A CRT itself can resolve a similar intensity range to print film ( mainly down to its analogue nature). Its not quite as clear cut as that and there can be unsurmountable problems with colour accuracy and gamma but on the whole a CRT projector can be made to respond with a similar behaviour to projected film. No experience of this myself but I've heard tell of CRT projectors being calibrated for film response and being fed 1K resolution ( 1024x778) film colourspace material. ( this is not HD video)

    I'll go on later
     
  9. ROne

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    Why the chase for absolute black level? There is virtually nothing in life that is absolutely black. Black level is not a relevant as contrast or percieved contrast.

    So what if the cinema can't produce absolute black ... it looks 3-d and that's what counts. Plus you've go to take into account how the director intended to shoot the picture. With a film such as the others there was very little shadow detail, which I would attribute to the director wanting to create a claustrophbic atmosphere. And yet you wait, when the film comes out on DVD some cineophile will be looking for shadow detail that didn't exist in the first place.

    The bottom line is anybody who is trying to better the cinema will only do so to the limit of technology and will not improve the directors intended vision.

    And another thing, CRT is a scanning device, it is incapable of producing and image within one take. And while CRT's apparent smoothing of the image can be favourable, I believe you are acutally covering up artifacts and limitations of the DVD mpeg based format.

    The thing is you can go fast on a race track with a subaru or you can go as fast a possible on a race track with a F1 car. In the digital domain you are emulating something based on illusion, and only when films become truly digital in nature will be able to clone the directors vision without artifacts and other consumer derived nasties.
     
  10. rdg

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    Just to add to the controversy, I went to the cinema recently - first time for ages - to see the Harry Potter hype. The picture and sound were not upto my NEC LT150/Meridian system, and there were more lights on than we would ever have. Colours were not that rich, nor was the detail great. I am of course using my eyes rather than counting lines.
    Yesterday I saw my first Barco, and I think this is still much better than anything in the cinema recently. Although DVD isn't supposed to have that much information, it is surprisingly good.
    Have standards dropped?
     
  11. Roland @ B4

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    Richard Ansell and I first met through John Thompson at an event doing a direct comparison with DVD and Film. My life has never been the same.

    It is the only time I have seen
    The DVD copy.
    The theatrical release on 35mm
    Then the print taken from the neagative (can't remeber the special name)
    Of the same film

    In most cases the DVD (through an Interlpolator and a Double stacked 1209s) came close to the release print. It also highlighted how crap some transefrs to DVD were.

    A DVD has about 1% of the orginal film information.

    Your local cinema is genrally given a very poor copy of the film. If you take a release like Harry Potter the number of copies they have done only goes to show the poor transfer standards that we put up with.

    Black should be black not light grey. Otherwise film, the pictures and home cineam just becomes big tellie. Chewing gum for the eyes.

    ROne you lost me a few times.
    How do you measure contrast if black is not important.
    Ever tryed writing your name with a sparkler. How you expect to see individual frames is a mystery to me.

    If we could get colour and greyscale correct it would be cracked.
    Never loose sight that DVD is just a copy of the film it will never look as good.

    Just as film taken from video won't.

    Good thread Eric
     
  12. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    The colour gammut thing is interesting. Keith, I saw the claimed colour gammut for the Barco CineMAX when I was down seeing them a few weeks ago. It's in their special CineMAX brochure. I couldn't believe it. HUGE for a CRT projector.

    I can see an Event2 type dem coming on..........

    Gordon
     
  13. Guest

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    ROne makes an interesting point. When all cinema projection equipment eventually becomes digital will that mean that the only true representation of the movie in the home be possible with a digital PJ? The tables will well and truly be turned on the whole CRT vs LCD etc.etc. debate.
     
  14. uncle eric

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    Thanks Roland.

    ROne,
    I would say black level and contrast ratio (without black there would be zero contrast) is probably the single most important weapon any projection device has.
    The bigger difference there is between black and white the greater the dynamic range. Also, the total colour gammut capabilitys of the device is carried by this wide dynamic range.

    Projectors such as the Barco Cinemax can, when set up correctly and used alongside quality front ends that are upscaled by something like the S&W or Teranex, look absolutely three dimentional.
    The lack of film stock artifacts such as grime, plus the above mentioned general low standard projection used in most cinemas probably makes CRT viewing clearer to the eye.

    Video is a trick, any trick that works is a good trick.

    Two years ago during an industry show in Las Vegas called 'Showest' a shootout was organized to compare three different types of projection devices. One film PJ and two Video PJ's.
    The film projector was brand new and set up by the manufacturer and a full engineering team with two truckloads of eqipement.
    The other two devices were the Hugh's Dila and a DLP.
    The shootout went on for a few days.
    In the following weeks, the trade magazines all rated film a distant third place. Thats when Video manufacturers knew they were getting somewhere.

    Eric
     
  15. ROne

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    Sorry if i came across confusing, probably trying to make too many points.

    Roland, I don't mean to say black level isn't important, but its only one aspect of the picture level. if you didn't have a white level to play off against the BL you wouldn't have contrast, nobody wants to watch a black cat in a black room with the lights turned off.

    I was merely making the point that the black level issue is over-reached when you take into account the original cinematic vision. I am questioning whether people are trying to introduce more as it were (I know its essentially impossible) black into black.

    For instance in "The Others" there are many shots where shadow detail is none existence but the black is a kind of grey. If the intention of the film maker is thus then why would you want it to be even darker? How many films feature complete black, virtually none because real life doesn't feature black.

    I understand without black you wouldn't have contrast but the same goes for white level as well.

    With regard to the sparkler analogy, I am not questioning the illusion of the moving image, I am questioning the presentation of the moving image. Why would we bother trying to get optimum refresh rates if the way a device creates its image was not relevant. Why not just stick with 24fps, mimicking the film frame rate. But we do we strive for greater refresh rates for greater clarity, and I was indicating that the way a CRT device scans is not truly represetative of the way film projects and was only questioning the validity of electronic devices to mimic chemicals and mechanics.

    We just seem to bat on about black level and contrast but what about the quality of mpeg and the resolution? Its alright having a great front-end but bear in mind you are only as strong as your weakest link, goodbye.

    I can't really get my head around these film/digital debates. What source were they using in Las Vegas? How can you perform a test and say the digital copy can be better than the original film and that a lossy/compressed version of the original is transparent - that's nuts. I have read about these tests before and have been witness to a similar situation and don't buy the fact that MPEG2 can hold up to this sort of scrutiny. The fact that very few projectors if any can even begin to project to the size of a modern cinema . That would be a fair comparison, swap you electronic device for the projector at the local, see if anybody notices. There is no way an electronic projecot/mpeg2 combo would compete.

    What they mean is that the film is limited by the projector - a mechanical device that stuggles to uphold the true quality of the film.
     
  16. tryingtimes

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    Just to add to the debate :)
    Even though 5000 x 3760 is the resolution needed to produce no discernable difference from 35mm film
    Pixar used a resolution of only 1536 by 925 with an effective 48 bits per pixel for Toy Story 1.

    The dlp projector at the trafford centre was 1280x1024. When I watched toy story 2 there it was certainly the best picture I'd ever seen at the cinema.

    Current HDTV does (and the next home format will) exceed this resolution (don't know about colour depth)!

    On a separate note - I personally think that film is overrated and we should be looking to create the scene as if I am looking through a hole in my wall.

    When we do enough to deceive my brain of this then we will have won. All we need to do then is increase the size :)

    We're already seeing enough improvement in the home projectors to be able to see every mpeg artifact going.
    I think that we will need a new source before we have to worry about new projectors.

    Gordon - did you have any luck sourcing a HDTV recording of a movie?
     
  17. Cliff

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    Just to throw in another spanner...

    Yes a CRT device can go completely back
    Film cannot as it is a transparant medium with a light behind it and the black dyes are never completely opaque.
    Consider this - if the above is true isn't it the case that when a film is converted to an electronic medium and projected on uncle Erics Barcos the deep black is artificial - as it is not reproducing the black as per the scanned print.

    It has been stretched to give you "pitch black" (Gamma adjustment?)
     
  18. JohnAd

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    Cliff

    The whole Telecine process is a bit like the screen shots you get posted on the boards, you can't set it up so that there is just a magic machine that just takes the film in one end and pumps the DVD out the other. I think that each scene has to have to contrast and brightness adjusted to match what the telecine operator thinks the director was trying to do.

    For stuff like a black sky in space this is pretty obvious but for normal films there must be a toss up between matching what it would like at the cinema and using the full range of the video.

    This whole process means that it is possible for the DVD to look very different from what is shown at the cinema. sometimes better often worse. Just watched Traffic again during the week and the Mexico scenes that I remember being deliberately bright, grainy, bleached out at the cimena seemed to have magically turned all contrasty and now have true blacks in them, something that I'd be pretty sure wasn't indended (also a lot of the grainyness had gone). The cinema effect of going from those bleached out scenes to the clinical dark blue scenes was lost on the DVD.

    John
     
  19. Mr.D

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    OK a few things :

    Dynamic range is not the difference in luminence ( light level ) between black and peak white it is the number of intensity variations that can be resolved between a set black point and a set white point.

    I've got a monitor that has an accurate black point ( thats the easy bit) and a whitepoint around 19ftL ( the monitor will go up to about 24ftL without problem but we set it lower and then drive the monitors harder toward the end of their lives) Anyway the point is that between those to values ie effectively 0-19ftL) a nominally exposed film image will resolve 1000 or there abouts . If I raise the whitepoint on the monitor to 24ftL it will not increase the dynamic range : it may increase the differences between values but not the number of differentiations themselves.
    If I look at a video image the dynamic range is about 200:1 but the black point and the white point have not changed on the hardware.

    So dynamic range ( I actually reffer to it more commonly as the intensity scale) is not the same as contrast range. There will come a point when if you lower the whitepoint below a certain point you are lowering the contrast range of the monitor to a point where it is physically unable to resolve an adequate anount of intensity steps within that space if you like; so differentiated intensities begin to get mapped onto the same intensity: you've crushed your dynamic range.

    So hopefully from the above you can see that dynamic range is not down to the difference in black and white on your display device although it is affected by it.
    Hopefully you can also see how when film goes to video you are taking 1000 differencies or thereabouts and squeezing them into 200 differencies ( lets suppose colour is equal to greyscale for video for a minute) To avoid the image getting unpleasant on video things are done which mean its not quite so straightforward as shoehorning all those 1000 intensities into 200. First thing is you lose the "headroom" in the whites. Intensities above white are either removed (clipped) brought down (crushed) or a bit of both softclip. Lower intensities are also crushed and sometimes clipped resulting in the video "look" of flat largely detail free blacks and harsh abrupt whites. So you've probably got down to about say 650 values from your original film. Then you make decisions as to what values you want to be mapped to where (bearing in mind where the human eye likes its intensities placed).
     
  20. Mr.D

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    Nope its not that simple. What you need to remember is that its not really about where black is and where white is but where the intensity scale is ...the actual detail starts and ends.

    Film has points called Dmin (density minimum) and Dmax ( density maximum. Dmin is the point where the emulsion will actually start to become exposed with regard to light. Dmax is where the film can be exposed no more regardless of the amount of light you hit it with. They are the theoretical limits of the recording ability of the film. Everything below Dmin is considered black ie no detail recorded( white is a bit more complex because of the nature of films response curve and the printing process) although this point may appear to be brighter than complete black on projection this is not detrimental to the percieved dynamic range. The dynamic range if you like starts a little bit further up but the full intensity scale is there you havn't lost anything : its not like having the brightness too high on a TV.

    I should add that the percievable amount of leakage through the totally exposed parts of film ( think print so its reversed) shouldn't be particularly offensive in a properly set-up cinema with a nominal print. Other issues such as light leakage and unwanted overall brightness levels in the cinema will have a greater effect ( of course if your print is underexposed you're stuffed anyway)

    Also bear in mind that the black point on video will equate a lot higher up on the film scale : all detail below this point is effectively lost. It may appear "blacker" by nature of the display but its not an improvement intensity wise. Its a clip.
     
  21. ROne

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    Mr D, if its not where the black is and where the white is, why do we bother setting each to its optimum? I understand the difference between contrast ratio and dynamic range but surely the optimum picture requires the biggest range which means going from peak white to absolute black and as many steps in between as possible?

    Also when you refer to video, what do you mean - VHS, betacam sp or DVD, they're all forms of video and I would of assumed VHS less adequete at contrast ratio than either of the other two considering its lack of bandwidth.

    For me its not an issue whether film is better than video (excluding HDCAM ), for me its an issue that the we are only ever making copies from a reference - we cannot improve on the reference but we may able to optimise what we've got.
     
  22. Guest

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    I noticed that no-one has mentioned Imax?
    See a great demo of imax(and in 3d),then you will realise how far the home consumer is from a great film picture.
    There will come a time in the future when people are submersed in holographic experiences that emulate not only in sound-but in smell- a facsimile of the actual experience-you will probably be able to interract with the enviroment of that film and not only see what the director intended-but feel as well.
    Imagine a guy with no legs who is able to become one of the skiers in a film!!
    Invalids and the sick will not be limited by their reality experience any longer...
    When these days come,people will laugh about the old days where people watched flat images and had seven boxes on their walls!!
    ..and when you think of it in that context,you realise that we still have a long...long ...way to go.
    How far away is this for the masses? ....40 years...60 years..who knows?
    Maybe longer when you think of the miniscule advancements in this area in the last 40 years...black and white and mono to colour and surround sound-not a huge leap...
    I mean christ-they been talking about 3d for the home for 40 years-where is it?
    I think the consumer should demand the latest technology-and from what has been said many times before,vote with their pocket-I mean-look how long crt has been around(I know i`m gonna be unpopular with this statement!!)-but its yesterdays technology and needs to be consigned to the scrapheap-but it wont be(yet)-because mugs like us keep buying them!
    Everyone should hold fire a little(..I know we cant though!!)and wait for these emerging technologies to filter through-LCOS will be a fair bet...
    But in my lifetime?..I`ll be happy with a 3d dvd with 4,000 lines of resolution..
    Doug
     
  23. Mr.D

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    When I'm talking video I'm referring to a video intensity range rather than a film intensity range. For arguments sake say D1 4:2:2 if it makes you feel better but its sorta irrelevant for the purposes of this discussion.

    When you set black point and white point on a display you are doing two things: setting a maximum contrast range and correspondingly maximising the potential of the display to accurately resolve a given intensity scale that you feed it ( or map to it if you wanna get funky) you are giving yourself nice wide goalposts see I indicate that here:

    Don't worry about what I said about setting your whitepoint below the max resolving capability of the display : I just do that because we view in pretty dark conditions and know we can still resolve the required intensity scale accurately with the lower setting and it means the displays last longer and our eyeballs!

    Imax is film its exactly the same stuff as 35mm its just a bigger frame size meaning more resolution the colour and intensity response is no different from film. Course you can show it at higher frame rates but you can do that with 35mm.

    Moving images in any widespread form have only really been available for a tad over 100 years. I'd say going from silent miniscule resolution impurity riddled inaccurate unstandardised home made unentertaining curiosity to technically accurate colour standardised calibrated colour flexible high res widely available major cultural art-form/language in that time is quite something. It took us about 100 000 years to bother painting and drawing with any regard to perspective and scale. So you could say we've gone from cave-painting to Giotto in 4 generations : strikes me as not too shabby.

    Whilst its nice to try and predict what will come in later years we do have to try and make do with what we have at the moment.

    Anyway I'd like to point out that I am not taking an anti-video stance here I'm just trying to point out some of the differencies between the two formats. I am more than happy watching a video image if I'm sure its fulfilling the best criteria that the format is capable of.(and within equipment limitations obviously) Its only when the criteria don't live up to the possibilites of the format be it film or video or 3d holotropic sensoflicks that I get irritated : then it gets in the way of enjoying the actual "movie" the actual "artifact" thats trying to communicate with you which is what its all about at the end of the day.
     
  24. Mr.D

    Mr.D
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    Snip

    Trying to sort out a few things in this thread.

    Toy Story was done at various resolutions the overall image size is just down to their scanning and record paradigm its not acurately indicative of the resolution of the images themselves which varied a bit. Toy Story is rendered 3d animation it contains inherently less detail than a real scene so the resolution isn't such an issue. Film captured material will look soft at this res.

    48bit colour is innacurate . Its better to say 16bits per channel: this is not adequate to represent the full dynamic range of negative film stock: it can be worked with though if you are careful : CG again is a bit different as its a linear interpolation of scene where as film has a designed response curve that has evolved for scientific reasons BUT primarily because human beings find a certain distribution of intensities pleasing : and its not linear which we'll get to in a minute.) Some of Toy Story was done at 8bit also. ( some of TPM was also and again it shows)

    We should not be trying to create images that appear as hole in your wall. Real world scenes are linear in response characteristics : as its real photons bouncing off surfaces. 3D CGI works with similar modeling principles (ray-tracing simply).

    However human beings do not percieve linear images as actually being linear! To produce an image thats perceptually correct you have to design the curves. ( this is why film isn't linear its deliberate) Another thing to bear in mind is that a view from a hole in your wall is not an image its a real world enviroment : apart from the fact that the intensity scale in view is infinite and the contrast range from black to white is orders of magnitude higher than what you'll see off any image on any display device ( unless its pitch black outside of course) And that the resolution is effectively infinite.

    The fact that its a real scene invokes all sorts of mental cues and processes: its not the same mental experience of looking at an image.
     
  25. uncle eric

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    Keith,
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and educating us a little more regarding the differences between film and video.
    After all this though, would I be right in thinking that Video, if done well, can indeed look more pleasing to the eye?
    While I have probably never seen film at its best, I have (I believe) seen Video at its best.
    Last year, I looked in disbelief at a HDTV image upscaled from 1080i to 1080p and it was literaly like looking through a window.
    I am not saying video is better than film, just that in instance's like this, it certainly looks better. To me anyway.

    Eric
     
  26. Mr.D

    Mr.D
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    OK if you took a nice fresh 35mm print and a good projector and a viewing enviroment with ideal conditions and put a CRT projector next to it and fed it HDTV and made the two perform with similar overall brightness levels then the 35mm would look superior to the HD. Differences would be: more detail in the blacks on the film version more subtle ramp into peak whites more colour variation things would appear all one colour or cruder on the HD version in comparisson. Tonality would appear smoother on film but with more differentiations also ie more tonal detail.

    No I do not believe video is more pleasing: good video well diplayed will appear superior to a bad print badly projected but thats as far as it goes in my book and its hardly an insightful observation.

    Would I be happy watching HD on a decent display : yes. Would I believe it was superior to film: no.
     
  27. tryingtimes

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    Hmmmm - interesting - your time in answering to this thread is much appreciated.
    You obviously know far more than me and these posts are about me trying to get my headd around it!
    I can see that the hole in the wall has infinite resolution, huge contrast and an infinite intensity scale.
    But isn't the eye/brain more easily fooled than you suggest?

    I don't understand this point about us not seeing linear images as being linear. Surely the light is RGB when we look out of the window - the camera lens sees the same rbg values and therefore our eye eventually sees those same rgb values (theoretically obviously) on the projected image why the need to remap the values on curves if our eyes (the non-linear bit) are used in both circumstances?

    My other point was merely that trying to reproduce film was becoming moot because it itself is flawed - the hole in the wall is not. As we move into an age of digital cameras, digital post-production, digital projectors, etc then I think that we need to move the goal posts.
    How quickly will these surpass film?

    For example JohnAd's point about Traffic was brought about by someone trying to manually set a black level without the director's supervision. In the digital space this will not need to be done because we will know the exact RGB value of the original cinema version (which will be the director's intended level).

    I apologise if I just keep introducing factual innaccuracies that you keep having to correct but I'm sure that there are other people reading that are thinking the same things (maybe
    :D )

    Cheers
    Alex
     
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    Seems to me that perception is the key word here. If I 'perceive' to be seeing a more colourful, detailed image via video (in whatever guise) than I do when viewing film, that is because 'I' am. My view will be different to yours and everybody elses but, at the end of the day, if I prefer one over the other it is simply because I perceive one as being better than the other.

    What makes the arguement even more complex is the fact that a certain Mr Lucas will make his next blockbuster utilising equipment which will record images entirely in the digital domain. This should have been the case with The Phantom Menace but in Mr Lucas's opinion the technology was not good enough to be a viable alternative to film. Sony went away, weaved their magic and presented hardware that finally made the transition possible.

    Bear in mind that George Lucas was not looking at crappy film transfers when he was making his mind up, he was making a commercial decision driven by a need to reduce production costs whilst not sacrificing image quality. The word used throughout the evaluation process was 'filmic'. This basically meant he wanted a digital solution that still provided a picture that had that 'certain something' that only film has and for the reasons so eloquently described in the preceeding posts.

    Perversely, the lack of digital theatres across the world will mean that the digital image will be transferred to film for those not lucky enough to be able to see the movie in its 'native' format. To add insult to injury, the film 'copy' will not have the best image of the two by simple virtue of it being a copy, regardles of how good the transfer is.

    The explosion in digital photography clearly indicates that the 'analogue' film process is already giving way to the convenience of digital. Agreed it does not match the quality of film. Yet. But some day it inevitably will. That day is not as far away as we might imagine.
     
  29. uncle eric

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    Keith,
    I know what you are saying, and of course I agree that film, when the prints are nice and fresh and when projected well using good equipement will indeed look far nicer than any massaged video image.
    But, and this is the point of my last post, Joe public seldom or never gets to see film anywhere near its best.
    Our access to film is the local multiplex where as you well know, THX spec or not, things are pretty far from optimum.
    These Cinemas are a compromise in themselves. You cant expect a pitch black environment due to fire and safety standards, soundwise, well thats another thread in itself, and most importantly you cant expect the cinemas to show new prints at every screening of the movie (imagine the ticket prices :eek: ).

    What I'm saying is that at the moment, when looking at some of the HT systems that myself along with many fellow forum members have put together for use in their homes, the overall veiwing experience (both Visual and Audio) is in most case's far superior than any trek to the local Cinema.

    To sum up, I would say that I see a better quality image in my HT room than any recent visit to a cinema I can ever remember. The last one being Harry Potter at the Barnet Odeon a few weeks ago. To say that image was rubbish would be very polite.

    Eric
     
  30. Mr.D

    Mr.D
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    Ok here we go again.

    Digital capture technologies are not the same as HD video firstly . The intensity scale again. Its still not as great as film and there is no standardisation yet with regard to what people in the industry think its capabilities should or should not be. Limitations of digital capture that I am aware of are: latitude is not as great as film . ( this also affects colour) The biggest issue I've heard is that the digital capture systems have no headroom in their whites ( with film you can print down about 2-3 stops and the peak whites in the image stay where they are because film captures values above peak white as mapped to print film: this is a handy way of optimising where your detail is : you can overexpose to get detail in the darker areas of the image and print the result down without crushing your whites: but lets not turn this into an exposure discussion as we'll be here for years)

    additional: you notice I don't mention resolution very often : this is because its not the biggest issue in deciding whether an image is acceptable or not: you obviously need resolution but its not the sole deciding factor and not what really differentiates different formats such as film and video. ( its not that simple)

    Now this can be got round with careful lighting and exposure but my main point is that the technologies mooted to replace film are closer to film in response and capabilities than video.

    The linearity issue is well documented if you have a look on the net. Check out Charles Poyntons work on gamma as a primer ( based on mainly video issues but the principles are the same:video is not linear either). All I will reiterate is that looking at the real world is not the same as looking at an image. The real world percieved with human eyeball "system" is non-referential: you cannot measure RGB values without a reference otherwise its meaningless. For example if you use a light meter for photography that meter is measuring light in a real scene with reference to 18% gray exposure on film. If you are measuring colour temp its with reference to measurements taken from black body radiators heated to specific temperatures ( thats why its a temperature scale). So if we can't actually make measurements with reference to human beings why does film ( and video and any other image to be honest) behave the way it does. Answer you take a bunch of people sit them down show them lots of colours at varying brightness in different conditions and see if there is any corrolation with what your average person thinks is correct visually. ( this is pretty much what the CIE do :COMMISSION INTERNATIONALE DE L'ÉCLAIRAGE ) You then build these characteristic curves into your imaging technology in order to please the human eye even if you can't measure it. (hint : it ain't linear and it ain't accidental)

    Now a few general responses to some of the further issues raise in this ongoing thread.

    Transferring digitally captured material to film should not represent a deteriation in the image : as I've said film still has a higher performance. The full dynamic range of the digital system should easily fit within the maximum tolerances of film.

    I agree entirely that watching a poor print in a poor cinema is far from satisfactory. I'll honestly say I'd get less annoyed if I ended up watching it on dvd instead if its a decent transfer.
    This dissatisfaction at most film exhibition in your average multiplex is down to careless maintenance and set-up and less than accurate print duplication at the labs. ( wear and tear on a print shouldn't be a huge concern in an adequtely maintained cinema. However as you are all painfully aware these are few and far between.

    The point I am getting at is that whilst digital projection offers advantages over film exhibition its not in the area of overall image quality: However if you are never going to get that potential quality level in certain cinemas and the digital option bypasses the issues that lead to this quality shortfall and ultimately lead to a better experience then fine.
    However all this says is that digital projection is easier to get to a certain quality level for companies who wish to expend a minimum of maintenance effort on it ( bear in mind this is far from proven: the only thing I can think of thats potentially worse than a bad film set-up is probably a bad digital set-up). What I've tried to indicate in this thread is that the potential quality level of film is higher than that currently provided by digital technologies.

    Whether you get this quality with any guarantee is another issue and one I'm not necessarily disagreeing with.
    With regard to Uncle Elric not everything I'm pointing out here is in response to what you've said but is actually an attempt to rectify some of the misconceptions stated throughout this thread by a number of people. ie digital is "better" than film.

    Hopefully thats provided answers to most of the issues raised and I'd like to point out that whilst I do work in the film industry doing work that intrinsicly involves some of the topics we've discussed I am far from the world's authority in these matters ( not to be too unkind but some of these issues are massive and highly complex and continualy debated and modified over time) so if I have made any gaffs along the way I apologise but I'm reasonably confident the principles I've outlined are correct.

    I am in no doubt that eventually film will be superceded by digital systems for both capture and exhibition but it won't be with any of the technology currently in use.
     
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