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class="style10" S16mm - HD Switch

>Published : 8th Feb. 2006

>What disturbs me is that people posting on this list can't see the difference between HD originated footage and film.

>They look quite different.

>Something that gets me is whenever people in the UK ascribe the look of many US shows (typically a very slick, polished look compared to a lot of the stuff shot here) to the fact that 'they' shoot on 35mm. The vastly superior budgets, longer schedules, larger crews and better looking actors (!) never seem to come into their equations.

>The fact that Sex & the City was shot on S16 is a good case in point.

>Tom Townend,
Cinematographer/London.


>Tom Townend wrote :

class="style11">> They look quite different.

>Not always.

>It partially depends on style. For my money, "Enterprise" didn't look a whole lot different during this past season (shot on HD video) than it did for the previous seasons (shot on film). Marvin Rush (the director of photography) feels the same way, as do others. If you're basically a stage bound production, it can look very, very similar, depending upon your lens choices and lighting style.

class="style11">>The fact that Sex & the City was shot on S16 is a good case in point.

>I don't know why. "Sex and the City" always looked like a 16mm production to me. Personally, the only 16mm productions I can remember seeing that "fooled" me into thinking they were 35mm have been Jim Cressanthis' work on "The Reagans" and Billy Dickson's work on "One Tree Hill." There are some others that look good, but for the most part I can see the "16mm-ishness" from across the room.

>Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles


class="style11">>The vastly superior budgets, longer schedules, larger crews and better >looking actors (!) never seem to come into their equations.

>Longer schedules? The average episodic show currently shoots in eight days, from what I understand. It used to be seven and a half. When I was working in episodic it was seven days, and I worked on one hour-long show in '92 that shot every episode in five.

>How long does the typical hour-long show take to shoot in the U.K.?

class="style11">>The fact that Sex & the City was shot on S16 is a good case in point.

>It's interesting to note, however, that it took Hollywood a long time to figure out how to shoot shows in 16mm. Shows in the U.K. have been shooting in 16mm forever, and since the early 1990's the quality has been quite good. Around the same time several U.S. shows started shooting on 16mm and they looked awful. Mostly they were very grainy. There are a couple of 16mm shows on now in the U.S. that I think look very grungy and grainy.

>Then again, there are shows like "Monk" (which I saw for the first time last night) that have certainly figured it out. Being shot in Vancouver, though, I don't think it counts as a strictly American show.

>I remember talking to a mentor of mine back in the early '90s, an operator who had been around quite a while. He didn't like the idea of TV going to 16mm. "Those cameras are too small," he said, "like toys."

>Art Adams, DP [film|hidef|video]
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley"
http://www.artadams.net/local

>Q: "Good, fast, cheap: which two would you like?"
A: "Can I pick fast twice?"


>Art Adams wrote :

class="style11">>It's interesting to note, however, that it took Hollywood a long time to >figure out how to shoot shows in 16mm.

>Sex and the City was shot in New York.

class="style11">> Around the same time several U.S. shows started shooting on 16mm >and they looked awful. Mostly they were very grainy. There are a couple >of 16mm shows on now in the U.S. that I think look very grungy and >grainy.

>The final seasons of Picket Fences and Knots Landing were both shot on 16mm and I don't think anyone ever noticed. Same with My So-Called Life. All of these shows used slower stocks, necessary at the time to avoid the problems you are referring to. I don't know anyone doing that today, except in specific instances.

class="style11">>Then again, there are shows like "Monk" (which I saw for the first time >last night) that have certainly figured it out. Being shot in Vancouver, >though, I don't think it counts as a strictly American show.

>"Monk" has never been shot in Vancouver. The first season was done in Toronto. The show then moved to Los Angeles and has been here ever since. Next time I see Tony Palmieri (DP on Monk), I'll pass on the compliment.

>Incidentally, one of the reasons Monk looks pretty good is that it is transferred on a Spirit and posted in HD, even though its airing network (USA Network) does not have an HD feed.

>Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles


class="style11">>"Monk" has never been shot in Vancouver. The first season was done in >Toronto. The show then moved to Los Angeles and has been here >ever since. Next time I see Tony Palmieri (DP on Monk), I'll pass on the >compliment.

>Huh. I'd heard a while ago that it was a show supposedly set in San Francisco but shot in Vancouver. Guess I'll have to watch it.

>And yes, please pass on my compliment. I thought it looked very nice.

class="style11">>Incidentally, one of the reasons Monk looks pretty good is that it is >transferred on a Spirit and posted in HD, even though its airing network >(USA Network) does not have an HD feed.

>Interesting. I wonder why other higher profile networks broadcast such grainy 16mm shows? I'd list some but I don't need the hate mail.

>Art Adams, DP [film|hidef|video]
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley"


>I wouldn't necessarily say that U.S. shows always look "better" because of their higher budgets (well, maybe just technically). I remember back in the 1980's when I'd be flipping TV channels and see a U.S. show like "Simon and Simon" (shot in 35mm I assume) and then the Sherlock Holmes series from the U.K. (Super-16 I believe) and preferring the look of the U.K. show simply because of the richer, more natural lighting.

>Now perhaps the Sherlock Holmes series was better-budgeted than "Simon and Simon", who knows... But U.K. television people working in video and Super-16 in the 1970's and 80's really taught me that one can create some rich images with "inferior" formats if some creativity is applied.

>David Mullen, ASC
Los Angeles


>Art Adams wrote :

class="style11">>Then again, there are shows like "Monk" (which I saw for the first time >last night) that have certainly figured it out. Being shot in Vancouver, >though, I don't think it counts as a strictly American show.

>I believe 'Monk' has been back in LA for a year or so. One of our B-Camera Operators, Bonnie Blake is on a short hiatus from 'Monk' and helping us finish our series in the meantime (by coincidence we're also S16mm, and like 'Monk' cameras provided by Keslow Camera, and post done at Encore).

>For our series we shot half hour episodes in 4 days, but our delivery was also 1 minute longer than what I'm used to (23:30 or a 30+ page script), and we have no stage, all sorts of locations, a subway train and soccer games and montages that makes our show really challenging to achieve in such a short time. Plus we've got nothing over Canada when its been raining here in LA like it has been (did I mention, no stage ?).

>Our show was almost done 24p, and I am glad the producers elected to go S16mm (rain, mud, small locations, steadicam, overcranking, speed ramps, lots of day/ext). Shooting 7245 and 7218, and trying desperately to shoot something new that we've been testing with Kodak on our show, but its not officially released yet here in the US.

>I only wish we were on a Spirit finishing HD.

>Mark Doering-Powell
LA based DP


>Art Adams wrote:

class="style11">>Huh. I'd heard a while ago that it was a show supposedly set in San >Francisco but shot in Vancouver. Guess I'll have to watch it.

>Set in San Francisco, yes. Some location work done there (not much, but some). Shot at RenMar Studios in Hollywood and various local locations.

class="style11">>Interesting. I wonder why other higher profile networks broadcast such >grainy 16mm shows? I'd list some but I don't need the hate mail.

>Networks have nothing to do with grain, as we both know. That's something that's determined solely by how it's shot and, to a lesser degree, how it's posted. On those levels, the network is quite uninvolved.

>Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles


>I don't know, I thought Homicide was one of the better looking 16mm shows *because* there was no attempt to smooth it out...

>Then there was Roy Wagner and Push, Nevada which had a look all its own.

>Sam Wells


>Any info on "Tilt". ??? Airs on ESPN.

>Gorgeous photography, lighting, camera moves.

>I love all the bar scenes where the characters are keyed from the bar top - soft lighting from below.

>Every scene has got some kind of exotic lighting setup -

>Great show to watch.

>Kirby Hamilton
Director/Camera
www.kirbyhamilton.com


>David Mullen wrote :

class="style11">>But U.K. television people working in video and Super-16 in the 1970's >and 80's really taught me that one can create some rich images with >"inferior" formats if some creativity is applied.

>It was plain 16mm throughout the 1970 and most of the 80's for television.

Stephen Williams DoP
Zurich

www.stephenw.com


class="style11">>preferring the look of the U.K. show simply because of the richer, more >natural lighting.

>It was the compositions that got me. Until the 90s American television composition wasn't very advanced, in my humble opinion, but UK television showed off some great stuff: lots of depth and foreground with frames that were very painterly. I didn't always like the lighting but the compositions were nearly always marvellous.

>I also liked the way many of the shows were blocked : instead of shooting a master and going in for lots of coverage entire scenes would be shot from one clever angle, or the shots would flow one from the other instead of being designed for rapid cutting.

>When I spoke to people in Hollywood in the early 90s who were being forced into 16mm for the first time they really complained about it being a toy format. When asked if they had ever seen any British television most of them said no.

class="style11">>On those levels, the network is quite uninvolved.

>Considering how the networks used to meddle with how shows were broadcast it's surprising that they don't care about grain, especially as it's avoidable in 16mm now.

>I worked on a USA TV movie years ago as an assistant, and at the time USA mandated that shows be transferred from an internegative. The DP was quite unhappy as this meant all his highlights were going to go blue. (And they did.)

>Art Adams, DP [film|hidef|video]
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley"


>One of the problems I find with S-16 looking poor is cheap transfers. I know of more than a few productions that still transfer on an old Rank-3 or URSA Diamond and then tape to tape for final colour correct. There's so much more noise and visible grain issues when using this work flow compared to using a more modern machine such as a Spirit or a Millenium. There's a very big difference between the look of S-16 footage coming off a Rank-3 v. a Spirit.

>I know of some 35 shows that get away with it, but it becomes an issue in the smaller format.

>Mitch Gross
NYC DP


>Mitch says:

class="style11">>One of the problems I find with S-16 looking poor is cheap transfers.

>I whole-heartedly agree. Even with 7218 to HD, I don't see any serious noise when I'm transferring on a Spirit. Honestly, my experience is that the difference between Super 16 to HD and 35 to HD is crispness more than grain. In a Spirit session recently with 7217, the colourist commented that he wasn't seeing any more noise than he often sees in 35mm transfers.

>On the other hand, I shot a student film a year or so ago, and he sent the film to a "bargain" house in LA where it was transferred on a Rank Turbo. I've honestly never seen so much grain (noise) in anything short of Super 8, but the answer print looked superb.

>Seems to me that a new technology (Vision2) is only as good as the other technologies in the work flow.

>Frazer Bradshaw
DP San Francisco
www.seaworthy-cine.net


>Mitch Gross wrote :

class="style11">>I know of more than a few productions that still transfer on an old Rank->3 or URSA Diamond and then tape to tape for final colour correct.

>They must be cable shows. Almost all network programs are required to deliver in HD. Mk. 3's and Ursas are SD only.

>I have always felt that CCD technology, with its broader light source, is a better platform than flying spot for a film format in which grain is the primary enemy, at least when you're trying to make it look as close to 35mm as possible. That's why we (meaning the post facility I was with at the time) transferred My So Called Life, Byrds of Paradise, and some other 16mm shows on a Philips Quadra, which was the technological precursor to the Spirit. In HD, it seems to be an even more glaring difference - hence the general preference of the Spirit for 16mm work.

>Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles


>Oh dear,

>The last thing I wanted to do was stir up a hornet's nest - especially on 'Pro'

>First up - to shoot super 16mm (heck - any format) and telecine on anything other than a spirit is just madness. If people are doing that - they're mad. And I'm not going to accept any excuse. If you're finishing on tape and your market is TV drama – why hobble yourself on any other transfer?

>As far as aesthetic appreciation of UK drama series is concerned...I'll submit that people may have hankered for the 'look' of early/mid nineties UK dramas, the world over. For a variety of reasons. Of course, we've always done the ultra-naturalistic look well - we haven't been often able to afford to create any alternative look! That time has passed though.

>For whoever it was that said they couldn't abide 16mm because the cameras were small and "toy like"... I say, "get over yourself you macho fool". The only appreciable difference these days is that you have to shoot at a wider stop if you want to ape the 'classical' shallow depth of field appearance of 35mm originated footage.

>As for studio bound footage shot on HD looking like 16/35mm. Well maybe, but that's not a "real world" test for comparison. And I don't believe it. Maybe my mother couldn't tell the two apart but I sure could.

>Yours,

>Tom Townend.


>Mitch Gross Wrote:

class="style11">>"One of the problems I find with S-16 looking poor is cheap transfers. I >know of more than a few productions that still transfer on an old Rank->3 or URSA Diamond and then tape to tape for final colour correct.

>When the Rank and Phillips machines were first introduced, s.o.p. was to strike a FILM PRINT and transfer that and never use the negative. This minimized the grain issue as there was far less of it if everything was exposed properly, even if the print was a "one light" or "best light". No matter what your choice of telecine machine is nowadays, I find that all of them like a thick negative.

>Paul Varrieur


>Paul Varrieur wrote:

class="style11">>When the Rank and Phillips machines were first introduced, s.o.p. was >to strike a FILM PRINT and transfer that and never use the negative.

>Well, if you're talking about 30 years ago or so, that would be correct. However, we've been mastering features from negative (usually internegative, but negative nonetheless) and, more commonly, interpositive since about 1980. And ever since video post as we know it today began (around 1984 or so, although most of the industry didn't change until the late 1980's, and early 1990's for some studios) we've been transferring from nothing but camera negative for episodic television posted on tape.

>Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles


class="style11">>It partially depends on style. For my money, "Enterprise" didn't look a >whole lot different during this past season (shot on HD video) than it did >for the previous seasons (shot on film)...

>Exactly so. I think Enterprise looks just fine, no really noticeable difference from last year. Watching on a 55" Pioneer Elite off DTV.

>To a large extent, it has been my experience that if the DP walks on set thinking "This is video, and that's how I'm going to light it" then that's how it will look.

>The best looking video I've put out over the last 35 years has always come from DP's who lit the shot without regard to the medium (with the exception of limiting blown out highlights to a couple of stops over).

>Bob Kertesz
BlueScreen LLC
http://www.bluescreen.com


>Tom Townend writes :

class="style11">>The last thing I wanted to do was stir up a hornet's nest - especially on >'Pro'

>Stir away, it always produces the most interesting threads

>Cheers

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


>Bonjour

>From the French perspective, in 2004, still roughly 85% of episodic prime time television was shot on S16. Since we do roughly 50% of that market, I'd say our statistics are quite accurate. The rest was done either on HD for cost reasons, or on DV for "aesthetic" reasons.

>The switch from S16 to HD is predominantly in low budget features. Cost, again, is the driving force. We're also starting to see night time soaps going to HD, but from Digi beta or DVCAM rather than from film.

>As HD is getting more economical, it seems to be filling a real need for enhanced quality at the lower end of the budget scale.

>Bring on the Vipers...

>Danys BRUYERE
Dir. Operations
Groupe TSF, Paris


class="style11">>First up - to shoot super 16mm (heck - any format) and telecine on >anything other than a spirit is just madness.

>I think this statement has a little bit of madness in it and is quite overly simplified. Proper lenses, proper exposure, proper stock choices(did I mention lenses?) are essential to produce quality results on any telecine, followed by quality developing with a lab that has proper QC procedures, followed by TK transfer with a professional Grader/Colourist who can "drive" the telecine properly and who has a support team of engineers who keep the suite tweaked.

>I'm not going to get in to different manufacturer's telecines but I've seen standard def transfers from a professional Colourist generated on Turbo's, Diamonds with "Y" Fronts that blow away a hacks transfer generated on a Spirit.

>Noise is not grain!! It is electronically generated from the system your using and yes it can be exaggerated by the operator driving (or over driving) the gear.

>When discussing super 16mm transferred to HD you have to put things into perspective. You will see grain, it can be reduced to a point electronically but will degrade the image quickly even with the best grain/noise reducers out there.

>Resolution can also be confusing and deceiving, is it perceived resolution such as HD acquisition? I've seen many HD transfers from super 16mm that looked way to electronically enhanced, a lot of people like that look.

>When we first started doing HD transfers on our Sony Vialta clients and yes…colourists were taken a back by the increased grain level of super 16mm and yes…35mm, film is composed of grain and in this heightened scanning and monitoring process it will take time to get used to it.

>It takes me back to the print days when we screened dailies on print, you saw a lot more than you will ever see in standard def!!

>Regrettably many cinematographers have not had the opportunity to ever screen there work on print. So when they first see their work in HD they may be very happy or very disappointed, no matter what telecine they were transferred on, did I mention lenses?

>Regards,
Vinny Hogan
President
Cineworks-Miami


>Mitch Gross Wrote :

class="style11">>"One of the problems I find with S-16 looking poor is cheap >transfers....productions that still transfer on an old Rank-3 or URSA >Diamond then tape to tape for final colour correct.

>Mitch I couldn't agree with you more...
I find this a very interesting topic...

>I've been a colourist for 25 yrs. 80% of my film transfers are from 16mm negative. I run a Spirit with a daVinci 2K Plus and the results are astounding.

>Not everyone has the big budgets to shoot 35mm anymore but they want to shoot film. In the 80's when I transferred with a Rank 3C and then later on an URSA , I'd say that most of the transfers were 35mm and the 16mm transfers looked ok.

>Today, the Spirit and a 2K Plus can make 16mm and Super 16mm look really good. I'm talking 35mm good. But like anything else a good colourist does make the difference.

>The only real problem I run into is centering position. Some DP's will shoot full frame and some will shoot full frame negative but centred for 16mm academy. Many times I don't get any documentation or a framing chart on the head of the roll.

>I would like to make a suggestion to all the DP's out there that shoot 16mm full frame.

>Please shoot a framing chart at the head of the first roll for reference for the telecine transfer. If a framing chart is not available simply shoot a piece of paper with a centre cross aligned with the centre of your ground glass in your camera. This will ensure that the colourist should centre accordingly.

>Bob Sliga
Sr. Colourist
Film and Tape Works-Chicago


>Vincent G Hogan wrote:

class="style12">>telecine on anything other than a spirit is just madness.

class="style12">>I think this statement has a little bit of madness in it and is quite overly >simplified.

>I forgot to mention that I wrote that moments after getting home from the pub

>Of course the key think is the telecine operator, not the machine. Otherwise it's just the same misinformed argument over 35mm being automatically superior to Super 16mm.

>People think they're being canny by negotiating cheap transfers all the time though. I've learnt the hard way to insist on a particular telecine operator, a particular machine and if they're not available, only to accept a recommendation from that individual.

>The cheapest deals I've ever seen for TK have been at the swankiest facilities houses and the top graders - they can afford to drop the price way below list after all.

>Tom Townend,
Cinematographer/London.


class="style12">>When the Rank and Phillips machines were first introduced, s.o.p. was >to strike a FILM PRINT and transfer that and never use the negative.

>I think I worked on the last show that did that: "Shades of LA," a one season series shot in 1991 or '92. That was the one where we shot an hour-long episode in 5 days with two cameras.

>Toward the end of the series they dropped back to one camera. I have no idea how they made their schedule. (I was "B" camera 1st AC.)

>It was interesting to see how transferring from a film print blended away a number things like multiple shadows and really cranked up the contrast.

>Art Adams, DP [film|hidef|video]
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley"


>Thanks Vinny Hogan; I think you put this in a necessary perspective.

>Sam Wells
filmmaker/nj/usa


>s.o.p. was to transfer a print

>Art Adams wrote:

class="style12">>"I think I worked on the last show that did that: "Shades of LA," a one >season series shot in 1991 or '92'

>Hardly thirty years ago as Mr Most suggests. A few years back I shot a commercial that was scheduled to be transferred on an Ursa. Unfortunately, the lab scratched a 1000' roll from head to tail. We transferred the damaged negative anyway as well as the undamaged to get a jump on editorial. The lab struck a wet gate print to replace the damaged footage. We then transferred the wet gated print. The difference was outstanding. Colour Preproduction, Contrast, Dynamic Range, all improved.

>The point I was trying to make is that the early flying spot machines did not do film negative any favours. As others have said on this thread, a competent/talented colourist and a technical staff that cares makes all the difference, even when working on premier machines such as the Sprit and Millennium

>Paul Varrieur


>Paul Varrieur wrote:

class="style12">>Hardly thirty years ago as Mr Most suggests.

>I was referring to features. I thought I made that clear.

>If we're talking about television, I stand by my comments regarding shows posted on video. Only 2 studios (Warner Bros. and Universal) continued to post on film into the 1990's. In the case of Warners, the shows posted this way went the standard film route and were transferred for air most commonly from a locon print, but in some cases (Miami Vice being the most well known) from "standard" projection prints. In the case of Universal, some of the shows (Murder She Wrote, the Columbo MOW's) were transferred from assembled negative until one day there was a "mishap" on an episode of Murder She Wrote.

>From that point on, the studio insisted on making IP's for video transfer - that is, until they went to all video post, as did Warner Bros.

>In the name of historical accuracy, I would also point out that Stephen J. Cannell Productions also cut and posted on film in the late 1980's on shows such as Wiseguy, Hunter, and a few others. But they also went to video post on 21 Jump Street and a number of other shows (including the final season of Wiseguy and the next to last season of Hunter) and eventually gave up cutting on film altogether.

>Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles


>Michael Most wrote:

class="style12">>Set in San Francisco, yes. Some location work done there (not much, >but some).

>The unfortunate reality of San Francisco in the last couple of years…nothing but a background...

>David Mallin, President
Cloudchaser Films LLC
San Francisco, CA 94117
http://cloudchaserfilms.com/