Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

class="Paragraph" TV GG Marking

class="Paragraph" Published : 25th April 2004

class="Paragraph"
I am about to shoot a Pilot in LA. I asked what GG they wanted.

class="Paragraph"
I was sent a 4 page doc by someone in Paramount Post. Basically it made no sense: from Super 35 HD with 4:3 outside the frame to 3 perf pulldown with HD frame and 4:3 indide the frame. Then it said 3 perf cannot be "steadied" in Telecine for FX work. Then it slagged off HD for awhile saying the cameras were "primitive".

When I asked what format to compose for they said: whatever you like as long as you let us know! So here is my question to you guys out there who work in TV. What GG do you use and how is it marked? Do you shoot Super 35? What do you compose for?

Oliver Stapleton

P.S. I am relieved that in Features we only have two formats to consider!


class="Paragraph"
Oliver Stapleton wrote :

> I was sent a 4 page doc by someone in Paramount Post.

I believe that the person who wrote that is a CML member, perhaps he'd like to comment.

Cheers

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


class="Paragraph"
What GG do you use and how is it marked? Do you shoot Super 35? What do you compose for?

Oliver,

I understand that Paramount is different from most of the other TV studio's, but everything I have shot for TV over the past 5 years has been Super 35 3-perf, with a GG that has 4:3 in the centre of 16:9, common top and bottom. Composed for 4:3, protected for 16:9.

Good luck,
Chris Taylor
DGA/IA 600


class="Paragraph"
>What GG do you use and how is it marked? Do you shoot Super 35? >What do you compose for?

Hello Oliver,

On "Crossing Jordan" we shoot 3 perf with a straight 1.78 ground glass format that NBC broadcast in letterbox. We are lucky enough not to shoot 4:3 and cover for 16:9 which drives most cameramen and operators I know crazy.

Please push for 1.78 so we can establish more TV broadcast in letterbox. Convince the producers it will make their show much more prestigious. My other shows have been super 35 3-perf with 4:3 inside 16:9 with common top and bottom.

We do all of our effects shots 3 perf?

Good Luck

John Aronson
LA


class="Paragraph"
Oliver Stapleton wrote :

>Then it said 3 perf cannot be "steadied" in Telecine for FX work.

First of all, that's not true. Second of all, it is irrelevant, as nobody does telecine pin reg transfers for television anymore, at least not for series work. The specs of the HD telecines, particularly the Spirit (which is the most commonly used machine) are tight enough that, when combined with post stabilization in the various compositing packages, it's simply unnecessary. Not to mention the fact that virtually all 35mm film shot for network television series today is shot in the 3 perf format.

>Please push for 1.78 so we can establish more tv broadcast in letterbox.

Unless you're on NBC, or possibly the WB, or want to risk losing your job for being a pest, I would not suggest that. None of the other networks will air the analog broadcasts that way, period. Any "pushing" for it on your part will do nothing but label you a troublemaker.

Besides, it's really the producer's job to make those kinds of
arguments with a network.

Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles


class="Paragraph"
>Unless you're on NBC

Mike -

You're right that it's the producer's job to find the big fights like this. I brought up letterbox on the "The District" for Season 2 when I heard that "ER" was going to do it. An under whelming response, especially from one producer who was mad that I didn't mention it to him first so he could look like the creative guy in the meeting. So he made sure to kill the idea.

Chris Taylor


class="Paragraph"
I'm amazed that the US has been so slow to embrace 16:9. While in LA a couple of weeks ago I noticed that apart from the Plasma units, about 90% of TV's in stores are still 4:3. Reason?

In the UK we shoot everything 16:9, usually with a 4:3 cut out (common headroom) consideration for foreign markets. However for commercials I try and shoot with an old ISO TV with 1:1.78. This way the 4:3 is taken (or can be) from the full neg area and not a tiny section from the centre that is little bigger than 16mm. It produced headroom problems, but in a 30 sec spot contain 15/20 shots it seems to make sense. The BBC has complicated the issue somewhat by broadcasting 14:9 which is....typical! I tend to ignore it.

I hate 4:3. My preference is 2.35 even for commercials.

Tony Brown
London


class="Paragraph"
>Anyhow, the result is that I am going to attempt to shoot 4 perf 4:3 ratio >using the whole neg area for this pilot. This makes sense to me, and >hopefully the studio will agree.

They most certainly won't agree if the pilot is being posted in HD, and quite frankly, I'd be very surprised if it is not. As I mentioned earlier, 3 perf 35mm, shot as 16:9 with an "emphasis" on the 4:3 common centre frame, is the "de facto" film production standard for network television today.

Trying to do anything else (especially 4:3 framing in an HD environment) is asking for, at the very least, a lot of trouble, and at the very most, a ticket off the production.

Mike Most VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles


class="Paragraph"
Hello Mike,

Curiously enough Paramount have said that is absolutely fine. In fact, they agreed that the whole situation is very strange where the number of US viewers watching TV on a widescreen set is LESS THAN 1%! So when they send out TV is the 16:9 format there is a border top and bottom for 99% of US viewers. They also said that they tried to stay with maximising 4:3 as the primary format with 16:9 as the “secondary” format, but got overruled by the bigger networks.

I think there is a whole raft of different forces at work here.

Among them I would put :

Marketing : i.e. selling more/better/newer TV sets. A perception that “Cinema” is “better than” TV, so let’s make the format more like Cinema.

A desire to improve quality. This is what drove me in the first place to look at the madness of deriving a 4:3 frame from an area of the 35mm neg that is less than the academy frame. The US dismisses Super 16mm as an “inferior” format, but thinks it is OK to only use the centre of the 35mm frame. Strange.

class="Paragraph" TV Cameramen – dare I say it – probably like to work in 16:9 because it is err… more like shooting Cinema. HOWEVER, ask any Sports cameraman what he thinks of 16:9 and you’ll get a bleak look. That ball goes out of frame so much more than it used to!

As John Sprung at Paramount said, you’re asking to do what we all thought should be done 5 years ago. Oh well.

Oliver Stapleton.

PS what is this obsession with getting fired? Does it happen a lot??


class="Paragraph"
Oliver Stapleton wrote :

>In fact, they agreed that the whole situation is very strange where the >number of US viewers watching TV on a widescreen set is LESS THAN >1%!

True, at the moment. However, television programs are not shown once and forgotten about, at least not if they go to series. What works today is not likely to work in the future. Archivability (is that a word??) is a very important issue for any studio today, particularly if the show is to be posted purely electronically, as is almost always the case. Being short sighted and framing/posting in 1.33 only can be a dubious decision today.

>They also said that they tried to stay with maximising 4:3 as the primary >format with 16:9 as the “secondary” format, but got overruled by the >bigger networks.

For a number of good reasons, IMHO. Although John and I have been friends for a long time, I would point to the shows they posted this way, particularly Frasier, Becker, and That's Life, as examples of why it basically doesn't work. The framing on the 16:9 versions of these programs was, to be kind, a bit avant garde, and the quality of the HD versions was far, far below that of programs posted using a common centre technique and thus no electronic resizing and downrezzing for the HD master. They were considerably softer and noisier, across the board. When Frasier and Becker switched to common centre posting (Becker went to HD video origination, so there was little choice there) the quality of the HD versions improved by a vast amount, and the framing was far more sensible. An NTSC version of any program is simply unacceptable as an archival element today, so the viability of the HD version is more important than your friends at Paramount are making it out to be.

>Marketing : i.e. selling more/better/newer TV sets.

I don't think the studios care in the least how many new television sets are sold. The only possible motivation for such concern would be a desire to introduce and market an HD DVD format and resell the millions of titles that have already been sold on standard DVD. This motivation has little in common with television program production or network broadcast.

>A desire to improve quality. This is what drove me in the first place to >look at the madness of deriving a 4:3 frame from an area of the 35mm >neg that is less than the academy frame.

No, not really. The difference in quality in the electronic image is far more dependent on electronic processing than it is negative area, particularly with today's extremely fine grained negative stocks. This may sound a bit odd, but the fact is that the resolution of even the reduced image area is more than sufficient to create a 1920x1080 HD image. The Paramount approach requires that the HD version be created from less than full HD resolution in order to do a "vertical deanamorphose" - 810 lines, if I'm not mistaken - so the final HD image is, essentially, an electronic blowup, at least vertically. The notion that common top framing is a better approach than common centre framing was simply not born out by the results, at least the ones I have seen, that seem to indicate that while the 1.33 framing is fine, the 16:9 framing is a failure. In the common centre approach, the 16:9 framing is a bit compromised, but in the vast majority of cases (sitcoms being the most obvious and common exception) seems to work remarkably well. And the quality of the archival version (always the 16:9 HD master) is significantly superior.

class="Paragraph" Not to mention that we have been using an image area of less than the academy frame for many years in theatrical production (1:1.85).

>PS what is this obsession with getting fired? Does it happen a lot??


More often than you want to know. Not to mention the fallout that often comes with having a reputation as being "difficult." I never meant that these issues shouldn't be mentioned. But asking about something and "pushing" for something are two different things.

Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles


class="Paragraph"
Having owned an Aaton and photographed some 16 Super-16 features along with untold hundreds of docs, short forms and whatnot over the years in the format, I can tell you that 4:3 extraction from 16:9 is not that bad a way to go. With practice some very attractive frames are possible for both ratios.

I do wish there were a way to do a little pan & scan reframing for the 4:3 broadcast instead of just a straight centre extraction, that has been enormously helpful when mastering the 4:3 versions of my Super-16 frames. But I would say it's been an issue on at most 5% of the footage, mainly because I an aware of it during shooting. Maybe I'm just used to that combination ground glass.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP


class="Paragraph"
>Being short sighted and framing/posting in 1.33 only can be a dubious >decision today.

Does it really make sense to maximise composition for the 2nd run audience of 2010, when you could make it look better for the audience of today by making the 1.33 frame more interesting? Being short sighted is not seeing what’s in front of you clearly. What’s clear is that 99% of US audiences are watching 4:3 TV NOW.

>An NTSC version of any program is simply unacceptable as an archival >element today…


Of course the archival element, as we all know, is the film negative, not the HD master which will likely disintegrate within ten years and be subject to several re-formats during the period. The likelihood is in 2020 when they pull out a hit TV show, they’ll go back to the neg and transfer it straight to whatever Digithing they’ve come up with by then. If Digi is so wonderful for Archive, how come all the shows aren’t shot on Digital?

>The difference in quality in the electronic image is far more dependent >on electronic processing than it is on the negative area..

Thank you for this remark, as I can see how much sense it makes that even HD is not very good at picking up quality difference for a relatively small picture. I understand (I think!) what you have to say about the HD image being “compromised” by using the full 4:3 neg area.

I’ll obviously discuss your opinions further with John Sprung and see what he thinks.

It seems important to realise that some issues are to do with Framing and Composition, and others are to do with Resolution and Picture Quality. Your general tone and argument seems to imply that all is fine and as it should be. It seems to me that any Operator will tell you different, when his has to look at a ground glass that has very thick no-go areas on both sides of the frame. I like to make images for people to see now, and I like to make them as well as I know how. I can only do this by dealing with one composition and then letting the other one sort itself out afterwards. What’s real for TV for NOW is 4:3.

As you know, I am a Feature Film cameraman, so all this is quite new to me, and very interesting it is too. Of course in the UK and Europe we don’t “archive” to HD at all, but use DigiBeta instead. Naturally I have no real idea what this means. Since I have spent my life framing in 1:185 and 1:235 perhaps I am just looking forward to returning to the days of 4:3, where you can make a close-up which includes the neck!

And anyhow, I love silent movies.

Oliver Stapleton


class="Paragraph"
>What’s clear is that 99% of US audiences are watching 4:3 TV NOW.

That doesn't really matter, because all American networks now require an HD delivery. So regardless of the current viewership, the fact is that the ship has already sailed on the viability of 4:3 production, unless you're shooting a reality show, a documentary, or a commercial.

>The likelihood is in 2020 when they pull out a hit TV show, they’ll go >back to the neg and transfer it straight to whatever Digithing they’ve >come up with by then.

No, it really isn't. American television programs are cut solely on videotape, and only one studio (Warners) does any breakdown or assembly of negative at all. In order to recreate these programs, you would have to recover all of the (uncut) negative (including stock shots and dupe elements from other episodes - potentially difficult in itself), match it up to negative assembly lists which may or may not exist, and recreate the show from scratch. This is very expensive, troublesome, and has a lot of room for error. That's one reason why virtually all post production on network material is now being done in HD, which can be reasonably expected to have a shelf life at least a few years longer than standard def.

>If Digi is so wonderful for Archive, how come all the shows aren’t shot on >Digital?

The vast majority of sitcoms (and virtually ALL new sitcoms, with the exception of one) are shot on HD video. Only one drama, though (Joan of Arcadia). My feeling is that this has a lot more to do with production flexibility and familiarity, especially with location work, than it does with archival issues.

>I’ll obviously discuss your opinions further with John Sprung and see >what he thinks.

John and I agreed to disagree on this one a long time ago. I still really like him, though, and I would certainly listen to anything he has to say.

>It seems to me that any Operator will tell you different, when his has to >look at a ground glass that has very thick no-go areas on both sides of >the frame.

Not an American operator who's worked in television for the last 5 years or so. It's standard practice. Besides, the "no-go" thing is not as major as I think you're making it out to be. In general, close-ups and overs work just fine (better than 4:3, in many cases). The only real issue is in group shots, as the wider you get and the more actors are in the frame, the more the action needs to be artificially concentrated in the 4:3 area. That' s why dramas seem to work better than sitcoms using dual framing, because in sitcoms you have a lot of relatively wide 3 and 4 shots - shots you rarely see in drama.

>What’s real for TV for NOW is 4:3.

Not in the US, regardless of the viewer statistics. What's real is HD delivery. And the viewer statistics will change over time, in part because the consumer electronics companies are pushing for it, and in part because all of the US television networks (including Fox, beginning next season) are committed to it.

Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles


class="Paragraph"
Oliver Stapleton wrote :

>If Digi is so wonderful for Archive, how come all the shows aren’t shot on >Digital?

Well, sadly, in the past year many many 1/2 hour shows have made the switch to digital. (The exceptions are those shows with many years of film in the vaults.)

>What’s real for TV for NOW is 4:3.

I really like 4:3. But some networks (NBC mostly) do run their more prestigious hour dramas (like the once good but unwatchable after Aaron Sorkin left West Wing) letterboxed. Letterbox is finally acceptable over here.

Jeff "when is C-Span going 16:9?" Kreines


class="Paragraph"
Thanks for the various replies to my question about GG markings for TV.

It seems from the various discussions I have had over the past few days, that we are in the strange position (particularly in the USA) of making images for 4:3 TV (which most people watch) from a neg area which is close to that of Super 16mm. It seems very odd to widen the gate to Super 35mm and then use a small picture from the middle of it, which is smaller than the academy original. I was even told of a US TV series shooting in the UK where the 16:9 frame is being taken from INSIDE the 4:3 frame which is INSIDE the outside 16:9 marking!! How crazy is that.

Anyhow, the result is that I am going to attempt to shoot 4 perf 4:3 ratio using the whole neg area for this pilot. This makes sense to me, and hopefully the studio will agree. It's only a pilot so we might as well see it the way it's meant to be.

Personally I love 4:3 for TV. I've always liked the difference. It suits Sport, News and Docs so much better. Most people can only put a certain width of telly in their room. So effectively we have come up with a system where we just lost all that picture top and bottom. Widescreen TV is "really cool" and is a way of getting the whole world to buy new TV's. I'll be looking at 4:3 as long as it's there and enjoying it's difference from the ratios of the Cinema. I appreciate that the die is cast and Academy as a ratio will disappear: I will mourn its passing.

Thanks for all your help,

Oliver Stapleton