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Choice Of Formats

Published : 21st July 2004


First of all I'd like to say that this is a serious request and not a wind up.

If you were being forced because of the high cost of US actors to consider shooting a movie on HD which format would you consider?

This is a movie that contains car & bike chases and shooting in some adverse conditions, ie extreme cold.

Steadicam will be a major factor.

So will a hassle free life for the director, ie he doesn't want a "video village".

I find myself heading towards HDCam regardless of all my reservations on post adjust ability.

The idea being to wet up 3 cards in pre-prod testing and then use as appropriate for the scene with no location tweaking. Only small monitors would be used during shooting, 9" max, with review on large screens possible at the end of the days shoot. Probably an ECinema combination for review.

Shooting mostly with DigiPrimes but with some extreme long lenses.

Viper & S2 is probably not in the running because of memories of BVU and cables.

Genesis could be an option if it is available on time.

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based
www.cinematography.net



Sorry, forgot to say, is 720 * 1280 that much worse than 1080 * 1440 especially once the 3:1:1 and 4:2:2 is taken into consideration?

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based



>Sorry, forgot to say, is 720 * 1280 that much worse than 1080 * 1440 >especially once the 3:1:1 and 4:2:2 is taken into consideration?

Is the Viper an option?

Jessica Gallant
Los Angeles based Director of Photography
West Coast Systems Administrator, Cinematography Mailing List
http://www.cinematography.net



Geoff Boyle wrote :

>If you were being forced because of the high cost of US actors to >consider shooting a movie on HD which format would you consider?

All depends on when the shoot begins...

Jeff "how many cameras do you need?" Kreines



> Is the Viper an option?

---He said it brought back "bad memories of the umbilical cables" (my paraphrase) but I figure that the Director's Friend or S2 is only an interim solution as storage gets smaller, more aggressive and higher capacity.

If Viper's worst problem is that it is ahead of the curve with regard to storage....well...that's not all THAT BAD of a problem really.

Jeffery Haas
freelance editor, camera operator
Dallas, Texas



Jeffery J. Haas wrote :

>Viper's worst problem is that it is ahead of the curve with regard to >storage....well...that's not all THAT BAD of a problem really.

Yes, it is, if you don't want a video village or cables, and/or are planning to use a lot of Steadicam. Solutions that might exist 3 years from now mean nothing if you have to shoot this year.

I think Geoff is on the right track considering his description of the project. HDCam now (no cables, no complex video setup, Steadicam compatibility). And use all your influence and the PR potential of being the master of the CML to persuade Panavision to let you be the first on the block with the Genesis.

And just as a side note, Geoff, you have pointed out that switching from 35mm to HD origination is barely going to make a dent in any exorbitant above the line costs, haven't you? And knowing some of your personal preferences, has S16 origination/DI finish been brought up as another alternative?

Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles



>And knowing some of your personal preferences, has S16 >origination/DI finish been brought up as another alternative?

Especially considering how you like to manipulate the image in post. Both HD formats are compressed and have limited color space.

Jessica Gallant
Los Angeles based Director of Photography
West Coast Systems Administrator, Cinematography Mailing List



>you have pointed out that switching from 35mm to HD origination is >barely going to make a dent in any exorbitant above the line costs, >haven't you?

Ah but nobody ever believes you...

I'm just doing a cost comparison with 16mm, it has to be cheaper.

Timing is a problem as well, split schedule for weather/artist availability, some in September the bulk of the shoot from January onwards.

So, Genesis or Kinetta are out for the first part, who knows about the second part.

Back to cost, on my rough figures the stock, process, DI and deliverables will cost less than 3% of the budget.

>Especially considering how you like to manipulate the image in post. >Both HD formats are compressed and have limited color space.

Oh I know...

I have to go through the process.

You never know if there is some other reason for a HD shoot, you're never told the truth.

For me 16mm is the obvious way, 7217 would be perfect.

On the other hand I have to take a positive attitude to it and see how it could be done in HD if the decision is made, rationally or not, to go that way.

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based



Jessica Gallant wrote :

>Especially considering how you like to manipulate the image in post. >Both HD formats are compressed and have limited color space.

The Genesis will use a portable version of the Sony HDCam SR recorder (10 bit, 4:4:4, reasonably low compression ratio) and a log encoded colour space, which at least in theory significantly lowers the limitations (it can even overcrank up to 50 fps, a neat trick). You are, of course, correct with regard to HDCam and Panasonic DVCPro HD.

Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles



>...and see how it could be done in HD if the decision is made, rationally >or not, to go that way...

Fortunately, we work in a industry where all decisions are made on a purely rational basis.

Jessica Gallant
Los Angeles based Director of Photography
West Coast Systems Administrator, Cinematography Mailing List



Suggest considering Varicam using the 10-bit uncompressed HD-SDI spigot connected to a CineRam recorder. Small, no video village, 10-bit 4:2:2 (unless the plan is to do extensive compositing EFX in which case I'd recommend sticking to film).

The question has been raised but I'll mention it again - if doing a project with A & B stars the equipment/stock/processing costs are so minimal that it makes zero sense unless there are specific aesthetic reasons or distribution reasons.

For example, a straight to TV/DVD release with no theatrical. In that case the savings could be substantial. Not if you have to go back out to film. The other place you can really save money is by having fewer trucks on location.

Robert Goodman
Photographer/Producer
Philadelphia, PA



>Yes, it is, if you don't want a video village or cables, and/or are planning >to use a lot of Steadicam. Solutions that might exist 3 years from now >mean nothing if you have to shoot this year.

---All that being already accepted and acknowledged, do you really think it will be THREE years?

PS: The HDCAM that I have seen IS very impressive...yes.

Jeffery Haas
freelance editor, camera operator
Dallas, Texas



Geoff,

I just finished shooting the 2nd Unit on The Dale Earnhardt Story and we shot Super 16.

HD was declined by James Chressanthis, ASC the main unit DP because of many factors. Size and space that we were shooting in, under and over cranking, steadicam, and the list could go on.

The 16mm film stocks are superb and we were in many high contrast situations.

We would not have been able to move at the pace that we did with HD cameras.

Good luck,

Ed Gutentag
2nd Unit DP
www.edgutentag.com



>The other place you can really save money is by having fewer trucks on >location.

Which trucks do you no longer need?

Jessica Gallant
Los Angeles based Director of Photography
West Coast Systems Administrator, Cinematography Mailing List



> ---All that being already accepted and acknowledged, do you really >think it will be THREE years?

Depends on what it is you're waiting for.

We'll be shipping this year, if all goes reasonably well.

Jeff "and it is, so far" Kreines



By having fewer trucks/motor homes/vehicles and consequently fewer drivers, captains, etc you could save more than the 3% Geoff was talking about saving by going to HD.

Wasn't intended to mean that HD requires fewer vehicles than 35mm just that there are lots of more reasonable ways to save money if that's the only thing you're trying to do.

Robert Goodman
Photographer/Producer
Philadelphia, PA



Hey Geoff,

If you do have to shoot HDCAM, you might want to look at the custom "daylight film" gamma curves that Sony's made available on the  cinealta site (used with CvpFileEditor application). I've been using them on my shoots, and I really like the look of the gamma curves over the normal settings inside the camera with knee manipulations.

From the tests I've done, depending on where you want to set middle grey, I've gotten 4 stops over to white clip (with a very nice highlight rolloff) and 5 stops under to black clip, giving me around 8-9 stops of dynamic range. When I say depending on where you set middle grey, I'm saying that by setting middle grey at 45 IRE, you loose a stop in the highlights, but by setting middle grey at 35IRE you gain a stop in the highlights, and only loose 2/3's or so of a stop in the shadows. In other words, with these gamma curves, it seems as though 32-35IRE is about right in the middle of the exposure scale using the "daylight film-look" gamma curves from the  www.cinealta.com   site.

BTW, my thoughts on the Varicam are that the tape format is too compressed for any good post-manipulation. That's just my opinion, but really, you're only putting down 40Mb/s of real data when you're working at the 720/24p that the Varicam puts out because of the way that it's recording the material. The Cinealta on the other hand is using it's complete bit rate to record it's 24p signal, so you're getting 4 times the data rate per frame in the Cinealta compared to the Varicam.

So I think with the newer customisable gamma curves that a nice look is achievable with the Cinealta.

Jason Rodriguez
Post Production Artist
Virginia Beach, VA



Whoa!

I wasn't talking about saving 3% by going to HD.

I was saying that with 35mm that was the percentage of the budget that stock, processing, post etc.

The savings by going HD will be around 1% maybe 1.5%, I doubt that we will actually save anything as I will have to spend more time in other areas.

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based



Here's my list.

Super 16 Which seems to do it all: over/under crank /color space/ a clear work flow and is a no brainer. V2 stocks will totally kick it.

Kinetta- assuming units are available Does some of what you need, maybe lacks a degree of over crank

HD cam Varicam These 2 are almost the same thing AFAIK though Varicam has some modest overcrank.

Though I have to say making up for high above the line numbers by stealing from the camera department seems a little goofy.

Even if you bumped down to DVX's, FCP and Twixtor you wouldn't save enough money.

Mark Smith
Oh Seven Films
143 Grand St
Jersey City, NJ 07302



>you might want to look at the custom "daylight film" gamma curves that >Sony's made available

Thanks Jason, unfortunately I've tried to register to get these a few times and Sony don't seem to like me.

Well, they don't respond to me.

If I go this route then I'll certainly get hold of them somehow...

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based



If the budget is under $10 Million US, the best place to look for cost-savings is to cut the number of vehicles required on location. That can save you 3% of the budget.

As for how much HD will save - that depends on the project. A film laden with car chases doesn't sound on the surface like a candidate for cost-savings by going to HD.

Robert Goodman
Photographer/Producer
Philadelphia, PA

P.S. I did understand what you meant - though perhaps it didn't come out that way.



Geoff Boyle wrote:

>If you were being forced because of the high cost of US actors to >consider shooting a movie on HD which format would you consider?

I can honestly say having seen David Mullen's "JackPot" projected at a top notch theatre in Hollywood 24P HDCam looked great. Since that film was a few years back I'm sure with the updates to the HDCAM cameras and lens choices the results could only look better.

I would think cost wise it's a toss up between Varicam, HDCAM or S-16.

Tom McDonnell
Director/DP
New Orleans, La



A film laden with car chases doesn't sound on the surface like a candidate for cost-savings by going to HD.

While I can think of many, many situations where I'd prefer digital over film, IMHO the cars are the biggest reason to use film, at least for these scenes. You'd have one hell of a time controlling contrast across glossy sheet metal in HD - whatever you've got in an environment, there's a surface on a moving car to find it.

Film negative has the advantage of having an inherently *lower* contrast than reality - you've got a lot of printing room on highlights. Tell 'em you've found these amazing cameras with high-tech one time use silver-salt sensors that'll keep you from having to fly silks everywhere...

Tim Sassoon
Sassoon Film Design



Geoff Boyle wrote :

>Timing is a problem as well, split schedule for weather/artist availability, >some in September the bulk of the shoot from January onwards.

You might also mention to the producer that the reaction of the high priced above the line talent might be, shall we say, a bit less than enthusiastic when they walk on the set the first day and see an HD video camera. Or a 16mm camera, for that matter.

It does seem a bit incongruous to spend so much on the cast only to scrimp on the images they're being used to create, if that is indeed the case.

Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles



>I have to say making up for high above the line numbers by stealing >from the camera department seems a little goofy.

I have gone into traditional Brit mode....

Ours is not to reason why
Ours is but to.......

So into the valley I go!

>If the budget is under $10 Million US

It's not.

At current exchange rates it's nearly twice that.

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based



Geoff - what's your aspect ratio ?

Anything wider than standard would force me to HD Cam even though I prefer Varicam in any standard situation. It's hard to overlook the speed increase and colour of Varicam. People have mentioned Varicam as a low budget choice but frankly - as you've always maintained the quality loss is despicable, therefore if we've got to lose detail by being on one of these lower formats, then the two issues, colour and speed have to win out.

Terry Flaxton
http://www.flaxton.btinternet.co.uk/



>what's your aspect ratio ?

1.85

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based



Geoff :

Have you considered a Sony 950 racked up with an HDW-500, which features fibre optic remote control. This split system allows audio to be connected at the rack, monitoring / scopes all racked up, and a single package that can be lift-gated into a truck or hefted with 2 people, and set up in moments at each location. 120v is mandatory, but this allows "video village" to become less entangled in wires than video assist has been. Crappy weather? Protect the camera head, and all the other stuff lives in the warm rack, in a truck or undercover somewhere. HDSDI to monitors keeps cabling to a bare minimum.

I've done this many times, even for a 3D project. A little cube truck makes for a nice control room, or you can push out easily. Larger monitors rode the lift gate, strapped to the side walls. It all set up very quickly, even the 3d project.

Steadicam with fibre - pretty slick to preview a shot while your DIT/DIE/Engineer/Tech can finish a few tweaks at the same time. And you can still cable ALL your monitoring or audio stuff FROM THE RACK!

A friend shot a feature last fall on the 900, and I was told he figured to save $8000 per roll of 50 minute tape compared to film expenses. Yes, the camera package rental can run about the same as a 35mm package, but you gain freedom to run that cheap tape for long periods, without having to worry about cost ...or "roll"..."speed" waits. Since we'd keep rolling more often, we got a few extra good takes since the cost of shooting the extra few minutes dropped so much.

The DP also appreciated seeing the immediate results on a 24" monitor, either before rolling or a quick playback. You're probably comfortable with an NTSC image from a video tap, but HD playback is rather nice to have on the set. I would avoid relying on an 9" monitor. You simply can't see nearly as much detail, or cosmic debris in your shot, or lens flare issues, or (you get the picture).

(Detroit has something like 5 packages from a few vendors like this, and I even worked with that 3D rig where we ended up bagging pickup shots QUICKLY as sun set on our final day. Customer was an GM, shooting for an auto-show 3D theatre.)

Kevin Stebleton
Until recently...24p tech and all sorts of video...



Geoff wrote :

>I have gone into traditional Brit mode....

>Ours is not to reason why
>Ours is but to.......

>So into the valley I go!<


Canons to the left of you, Canons to the right of you....

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



>Canons to the left of you, Canons to the right of you....

THAT'S good, Wade !

Sam Wells



>So into the valley I go!

> Canons to the left of you, Canons to the right of you....


Wade for Geoff shouldn't it be :

Canons to the left of you, Fuji’s to the right of you....

Sorry, bad one I know...

Tom McDonnell
Director/DP
New Orleans, La



Tom McDonnell wrote :

> Canons to the left of you, Canons to the right of you....

>Wade for Geoff shouldn't it be :
>Canons to the left of you, Fuji’s to the right of you...."


'Fuji' just doesn't have the ring to it....

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



>racked up with an HDW-500, which features fibre optic remote control. >This split system allows audio to be connected at the rack, monitoring / >scopes all racked up, and a single package that can be lift-gated into a >truck or hefted with 2 people,

I did, I checked, I said straight up front, bike chases, car chases, extreme cold.

It's game for laugh isn't it? where's Beedle?

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based



Wade Ramsey wrote:

> Canons to the left of you, Canons to the right of you....

As long as they're not XL1s!

Jeff Kreines



Tom McDonnell wrote :

>Canons to the left of you, Fuji’s to the right of you....

Stuck in the middle with Digiprimes?

(Not a bad place to be stuck, but where are the Cookes?)

Jeff "or the Switars?!" Kreines



You don't hear Pachabel's Fujinon in D performed much these days either....

Sam Wells



Sam Wells wrote:

>You don't hear Pachabel's Fujinon in D performed much these days >either...

Yeah, Pacha just doesn't ring my bel, but I always get a charge out the Light Brigade!

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



>high priced above the line talent might be, shall we say, a bit less than >enthusiastic when they walk on the set the first day and see an HD >video camera. Or a 16mm camera, for that matter.

Mike,

I cry foul, as your comments show a complete bias. You have lumped a digital camera into the same box with a 16mm camera. Even your semantics bias against digital cameras by calling them "video cameras".

I hardly think "high priced talent" would be put off by digital origination. If "24p" is the new buzzword, then this should be enough to set the kind of talent that would take it upon themselves to second guess production at ease. Use it. Talent has other concerns when walking onto the set besides the choice of technology that production has made. Do you think a major star is going to be less enthusiastic about working on a Jim Cameron or George Lucas production because Jim and George have chosen digital cameras?

A 950 or a Viper, with a full matte box, follow focus gears, front box, on-board monitors, etc, looks enough like professional equipment to fool even the most experienced talent. And if there were a Genesis on set...it is really hard to tell that from "real" professional equipment because of the disguised recorder on top. It looks just like a magazine.

If you are going to make a choice as to shooting film or digital, then do so on the merits of the technology as it relates to the budget, the work-flow, and the "look", and not necessarily in that order. Don't make the decision because high priced talent may be put off by how a camera looks. Most high priced talent I know are very much professionals, and professionals know to trust the people they work with. This is one reason they rose to become high priced talent.

Steve Schklair
Cobalt Entertainment



Geoff said it was all about car chases and stunts and the like....

So what's the best digital camera for slo-mo that actually works? (Besides Varicam).

Nick Hoffman
NYC DP



>high priced above the line talent might be, shall we say, a bit less than >enthusiastic when they walk on the set the first day and see an HD >video camera. Or a 16mm camera, for that matter.

--- You're joking, right?

Jeffery Haas
Freelance Editor - Camera Operator
Dallas, Texas



Steve Schklair writes :

>Even your semantics bias against digital cameras by calling them >"video cameras".

Puuhhleezzee! No "Newspeak".

There is nothing wrong with the term "Video Camera". It is the proper term for such devices. "Digital" is often employed purely as a marketing--not technical--word.

The cameras we discuss here ARE indeed "Video Cameras".

Lew Comenetz - Video -- er-um excuse me!!!
Digital Engineer USA



>There is nothing wrong with the term "Video Camera". It is the proper >term for such devices. "Digital" is often employed purely as a marketing->-not technical--word.

Lew,

I forget who on this list described 24p HD as "video with a blur added". That is pretty accurate but it doesn't have a very high tech ring to it.

65mm, 35mm, 16mm, 8mm it's all film. 1080i, 1080p, 720p, 480i, 480p, 24p it's all video. If it's not video than what is it?

Tom McDonnell
Director/DP
New Orleans, La



>I forget who on this list described 24p HD as "video with a blur added".

That would be Walter's description. Good one...

John Babl



>I forget who on this list described 24p HD as "video with a blur added". >That is pretty accurate but it doesn't have a very high tech ring to it.

IIRC, it was Walter Graph.

>If it's not video than what is it?


Digital Video...

Jason Rodriguez
Post Production Artist
Virginia Beach, VA



>I forget who on this list described 24p HD as "video with a blur added". >That is pretty accurate but it doesn't have a very high tech ring to it.

That was Walter Graff a couple of years ago.

Jessica Gallant
Los Angeles based Director of Photography
West Coast Systems Administrator, Cinematography Mailing List



Tom writes :

>65mm, 35mm, 16mm, 8mm it's all film. 1080i, 1080p, 720p, 480i, 480p, >24p it's all video. If it's not video than what is it?

Data.

Lucas Wilson
HD/2K, Whatever it takes.
Los Angeles



Tom writes :

>65mm, 35mm, 16mm, 8mm it's all film. 1080i, 1080p, 720p, 480i, 480p, >24p it's all video. If it's not video than what is it?

Lucas commented :

>Data.

Bandwidth filling CHAT?

Steven Bradford
Film HD Program Chair
Collins College
Phoenix Arizona