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Novecento
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« on: August 10, 2017, 09:55:28 AM »

With Nolan's release of "Dunkirk", I’ve recently been hearing/reading lots of thoroughly unconvincing comments about why 70mm (and, more broadly, film) matters. So I thought I’d post here why it matters to me.

Firstly there are two distinct things going on which are mutually exclusive since you can have the former without the latter:

-   shooting in 70mm
-   screening in 70mm

Shooting in 70mm is arguably the one that makes the most difference. Since film is a tangible object (unlike a digital file), it produces a texture or “grain” that gives it a certain appearance; digital simply captures the light (and the artificial addition of grain by no means does it justice). 70mm film gives a more detailed picture than 35mm film which in turns gives more detail than 16mm etc. Each serves a purpose, so while 70mm is viewed as the "gold standard" so to speak, it is not always better than 16mm which can serve its own aesthetic purpose and is not always used instead of 70mm for budgetary reasons. Regardless, all are preferable to digital when money and time are not part of the equation.

Since a film shot on 70mm can be distributed digitally as 4k and above with little, if any, perceptible loss of quality, financially there is a good argument for promoting this. However, if you have a digital projector in your house (not an HDTV since these cannot handle motion – the now moribund plasma technology was the best at this but still inadequate), there is little reason to leave the house unless you want the giant screen or the change in ambiance. The argument about watching something shot on film in a very high quality digital format is similar to the vinyl-record versus CD argument. However, while the degradation of vinyl with use can impair the listening experience, the slight scratches, flickers and audio pops that develop on film give it its own distinctive identity much like the grain mentioned above when shooting. As weird as it sounds, while I don’t necessarily want to watch a beaten-up piece of 70mm film as opposed to a newer one, I don’t necessarily either want to watch some 70mm film until it has been broken in a little first (kind of like a pair of shoes).

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« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2017, 10:17:36 AM »

I have to say I deeply disagree on many points here. The whole "Film vs digital: which one is better?" doesn't make any sense. It just doesn't. It's meaningless.

1) There are more than different aesthetic purposes as you imply. Recent Fincher movies are meant to have a modern, digital look, for instance. As is anything shot by Villeneuve. Some could argue that many, if not most contemporary movies are in this case. "FILM > DIGITAL" means absolutely nothing. "The right tool for the right job" is a cliché, but at least it is 100% true.

2) You are also implying that film vs digital is what will impact the most the look of the movie - technology wise. Have you seen every Scorsese movie since The Departed? All of them have a digital look to me, while ONLY The Wolf of Wall Street used digital cameras. At this point in time, by experience, I'll say that camera brands, lenses (perhaps the most defining element of your final look), filters and color grading have often much bigger impacts.

3) In some cases, the 70mm screening is what makes the difference. A close friend of mine will never shut up how Miami Vice looked gorgeous when screened in 35mm (while being filmed in digital, with a very obvious and consciously constructed digital aesthetic). I have seen the Hateful Eight 3 times now: 70mm screening, home cinema, HDTV. Nothing came even close from the 70mm screening.

4) "When money and time are not part of the equation", the lights (or the absence of lights) you want to use to tell your story - another element that will definitely have a bigger impact on the end look than any "Alexa vs 70mm" choice - can also dictate the recording media you'll use.

TL;DR: some movies are meant to be shot on iPhones.

That being said, if we do nothing, 70mm film is going to fade away and we cannot afford that.

« Last Edit: August 10, 2017, 10:23:05 AM by noodles_leone » Logged


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« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2017, 10:33:58 AM »

1) There are more than different aesthetic purposes as you imply. Recent Fincher movies are meant to have a modern, digital look, for instance. As is anything shot by Villeneuve. Some could argue that many, if not most contemporary movies are in this case. "FILM > DIGITAL" means absolutely nothing. "The right tool for the right job" is a cliché, but at least it is 100% true.

I can't argue with your logic here. However, and maybe I'm showing my age a little, I expect to see a film-like texture when I watch a film. When it's missing, I personally find it too artificial looking. In a few years/decades, maybe no-one will care, but I was brought up watching film and that is what I want to see. To give a comparison, watching something shot digitally that would have been far better suited to film is as annoying to me as when you watch an HDTV with "motion smoothing" turned on - something just looks really wrong.

2) You are also implying that film vs digital is what will impact the most the look of the movie - technology wise. Have you seen every Scorsese movie since The Departed? All of them have a digital look to me, while ONLY The Wolf of Wall Street used digital cameras. At this point in time, by experience, I'll say that camera brands, lenses (perhaps the most defining element of your final look), filters and color grading have often much bigger impacts.

I didn't mean to imply that, and no I'm not as much of a Scorsese fan-boy as you Smiley

3) In some cases, the 70mm screening is what makes the difference. A close friend of mine will never shut up how Miami Vice looked gorgeous when screened in 35mm (while being filmed in digital, with a very obvious and consciously constructed digital aesthetic). I have seen the Hateful Eight 3 times now: 70mm screening, home cinema, HDTV. Nothing came even close from the 70mm screening.

Yes - you need to go to a good place with a projectionist who knows what they are doing. Film projection is an art in itself. Is that what you mean?

4) "When money and time are not part of the equation", the lights (or the absence of lights) you want to use to tell your story - another element that will definitely have a bigger impact on the end look than any "iPhone vs IMAX 70mm" choice - can also dictate the recording media you'll use.

I think my response would be the same as point 2. I would just add that digital has democratized film-making incredibly which is of course a good thing even if it doesn't always allow for the best results in my opinion.

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« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2017, 03:27:53 AM »

I can't argue with your logic here. However, and maybe I'm showing my age a little, I expect to see a film-like texture when I watch a film. When it's missing, I personally find it too artificial looking.
My question here is: is it always the case or do you just happen to notice the effect on some films? For instance:
- What do you think of The Social Networks' cinematography?
- What do you think of Drive's cinematography? Apart from a few in car close ups, that were shot on an old DSLR, most DPs in the world couldn't tell it was shot digital.

I didn't mean to imply that, and no I'm not as much of a Scorsese fan-boy as you Smiley

What I'm implying is that what you're calling a "digital look" is often actually a "RED look" or a "Panasonic look". It's also something that is very affected by color grading:

- The Wolf of Wall Street was filmed by a variety of cameras, mainly a film one (I cannot remember which one) and a digital Canon C500. It is impossible for me to distinguish them... even though Canon cameras have a known tendency to make skins look like plastic.
- The Arri Alexa, when handled properly, looks like film. That's now an established fact among professionals. That being said, most Marvel movies are shot on Alexa and have a very digital look (even in the less CGI enhanced scenes): that's a grading choice.

Yes - you need to go to a good place with a projectionist who knows what they are doing. Film projection is an art in itself. Is that what you mean?

No I meant that the 70mm cinemascope screening had more impact on the look of the film than the fact it was shot in 70mm in that particular case (I suspect it was mostly because QT has never shown to be a real magician when it comes to image quality).

I think my response would be the same as point 2. I would just add that digital has democratized film-making incredibly which is of course a good thing even if it doesn't always allow for the best results in my opinion.

That's all I wanted to read   Afro

« Last Edit: August 11, 2017, 03:39:57 AM by noodles_leone » Logged


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« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2017, 08:25:56 AM »

Unfortunately I haven't seen any of the three films you mention apart from "The Social Network" which I saw on an airplane and so doesn't count.

I totally agree regarding color grading, but the simple fact is that you cannot replicate film digitally. While I far preferred "The Revenant" as a film, "Carol" should probably have won in 2016 for Lachman's beautiful 16mm cinematography if it is treated in its strictest definition of photography by excluding camera movement:

http://nofilmschool.com/2015/11/understanding-value-shooting-celluloid-with-carol-dp-ed-lachman

Now Lachman was of course going for an old look which ties into your "doesn't always" point, but the fact remains that a digitally shot and digitally projected film lacks something even if it is supposed to be set in some clinical future sci-fi world.

In terms of the end result, shooting on film is the most important factor as a HQ digital transfer of that will look great; as far as a night out at the movies goes, then projecting film is also important. The best night I've had at the movies in about a decade now is going with my wife to see "Repo Man" and "The Warriors" as a 35mm double-bill at the Prince Charles Cinema in London's Leicester Square. One of the 35mm films broke during the screening - the projectionist apologized profusely and offered refunds to anyone who didn't want to wait around while he stuck it back together - I don't think a single person asked for a refund. Now that was a night out at the movies!

 

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« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2017, 09:06:53 AM »

Hey, you cannot argue against digital if you haven't seen its best samples  Wink

Another interesting one would be Star Wars Rogue One, which was shot digitally but with vintage lenses from the 70's. Unfortunately, the skies are full of CGI in most shots, which makes it difficult to assess the success of the whole thing (skies, and more generally the way highlights are recorded is usually the easiest way to distinguish bad digital vs film stock).

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« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2017, 02:25:58 AM »

RE: 70 mm vs. 35 mm vs. 16 mm, I want to discuss Techniscope for a moment: Since each Techniscope frame was really half of a 35 mm frame blown up, a Techniscope movie is really comparable to a movie shot in 16 mm, correct?

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« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2017, 02:31:34 AM »

I'm no expert, but in these things you have to separate vertical and horizontal resolution. Horizontaly, if I'm not wrong, a Techniscope frame has the exact same resolution as any 35mm frame. Vertically you lose half the resolution. So it's kind of twice the total resolution of 16mm, just like 35mm has about 4 times (and not twice) the resolution 16mm has, just like 4K has 4 times the resolution full HD has.

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« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2017, 03:20:30 AM »

Not exactly. Vertically 35mm 2p (TechniScope) is about 2mm higher than 16mm. 

A 16mm frame is approx 77mm².
A Super 16 frame is approx. 93mm².
A TechniScope frame is about 208mm².

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« Reply #9 on: August 16, 2017, 05:24:59 AM »

RE: 70 mm vs. 35 mm vs. 16 mm, I want to discuss Techniscope for a moment: Since each Techniscope frame was really half of a 35 mm frame blown up, a Techniscope movie is really comparable to a movie shot in 16 mm, correct?


Don't forget that anamorphic 35 mm reduces the 2,35:1 image to 1,37:1, roughly said it is also kinda a half frame image. All 35 mm techniques to get a widescreen image use in the end only a part of the frame, and should have always a lesser picture quality than a film which is shot and projected in the old 1,37:1 aspect ratio.

If Techniscope would have had only a 16 mm resolution nobody would have used it, and the other way round the theatrical copies would have looked very grainy.

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