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How I learned to stop worrying and love digital cinema

Yes, it’s a bit of a film geek question. Consider the source. I myself LOVE film, even the weave and stutter and all the “bad” things about it. I remember in a film class in college, we watched Hiroshima, Mon Amour, the beginning of which, due to a threading malfunction, had sound that was garbled and watery. I thought that was the way the film was supposed to be and loved the weird surreal sound. Oops.

Even in it’s purest, most perfectly projected form, film tends to weave (which is why the image tends to drift around – for some reason i tend to picture the MPAA green preview screen – which many people seem to hate). Now there’s digital projection (DLP) which I was apprehensive to experience, loathing the digital look of the preshow. But, I fear I may actually like it. Yes, the weave is gone, and hairs and scratches, even the cigarette burns are gone (and I do miss those horribly). But at least what being shown is film. Even if shot digitally, most films have a 35mm transfer and THEN become digital again.

So, as a film geek and a techno dork, what’s so bad about digital cinema?

I shot “The Bet” on HD and saw it screened digitally in a theatre and I thought… Well, I thought it looked awesome. A bit pristine, but there was no film involved anywhere in the process. Someone afterwards even assumed it was shot on Super 35.

I could, for $3,000, buy a Red Scarlet (when they’re released next year) which shoots 3K. See the diagram for some insight into SD, HD and 2-5K.


That little itty bitty box way in the corner that says “SD” – that’s what you see on a normal TV. At BEST your expensive HDTV is showing 1080p – that’s even Blu-Ray definition. The Scarlet, a $3,000 camera, shoots at 3K. Ok, geek out done.

The only issue I have with shooting digital is there’s a much more limited range of what the sensor can capture versus film. Basically that means it blows out the highlights. They still haven’t managed to fix this. Once they do, film will, I think, disappear. Immediately.

Now, actually, I get to the point of why I started writing this. I love the idiosyncrasies of anamorphically shot films. The stretch lens flare, the compressed bokeh, even the blue horizontal lines from lens flare (though I could do without it; Hawk lenses tend to minimize it). You are now probably wondering what the fuck is bokeh? Bokeh is “is a photographic term referring to the appearance of out-of-focus areas in an image produced by a camera lens.” (thank you, Wikipedia)

Anamorphic lenses, while creating a horizontally stretched lens flare…


but also compress the bokeh…


There are issues with barrel distortion…

See the bowed lines to the right – which I’ve read can be minimized.

But if you compare these two images from two different Star Trek films, the way the anamorphic lens affects the blurred areas (bokeh) is, in my opinion, more cinematic that spherical.

Click for make big.

Meh. Maybe I’m not a film geek. Maybe I’m just a geek.

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