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A chat with filmmaker Jeff Gibbs, Michael Moore's producer on Bowling For Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11

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#1
Andrew Reid

Posted 10 May 2012 - 03:59 PM

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[img]http://www.eoshd.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/From-the-castle2-1.jpeg[/img]

A few days ago I spoke to [url="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1345020/"]Jeff Gibbs[/url], a lifelong friend of [url="http://www.michaelmoore.com/"]Michael Moore[/url], a composer, a producer and a filmmaker in his own right. Most significantly of all, Jeff is also an EOSHD reader!! So last week we had a long transatlantic chat on the phone about filmmaking, DSLRs, 4K and Jeff’s new film. Currently in the edit suite, this is a wry but thoughtful documentary called [url="http://www.documentaryaustralia.com.au/films/details/489/planet-of-the-humans"]Planet of The Humans[/url] about “what happens when six, no make that seven, billion clever apes overrun an entire planet.”

The feature, shot partly on the GH2 and 5D Mark II, takes a cynical view of the green energy industry, bio-fuel and questions what the future is going to look like after oil runs out. Jeff had some great insights into the world of cinema, DSLRs and The Hobbit…

[url="http://www.eoshd.com/content/8001/a-chat-with-filmmaker-jeff-gibbs-michael-moores-producer-on-bowling-for-columbine-fahrenheit-911/"]Read full article[/url]



#2
marcuswolschon

Posted 10 May 2012 - 05:43 PM

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On Timelapse / Vimeo

I didn't really think about this before.
Reflecting it...I completely agree.


further down:
"Not for him the stealth factor when approaching a corporation, rather all guns blazing!"

I don't understand the grammar of this sentence.


"Jeff did use a GH2 on his documentary ...but is still put off it somewhat for documentary because of rolling shutter jello and a lack of mic socket." Wait a second. I can clearly see the Mic socket on my GH1 and GH2s. But I guess he was refering more to phantom powered XLR sockets.

Andrew: Don't overdo it with repeating your critique on the 5DmkIII and your praise of the GH2 over and over again. You don't have to build that point into each and every blog posting.

#3
Andrew Reid

Posted 11 May 2012 - 01:01 AM

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On Timelapse / Vimeo

I didn't really think about this before.
Reflecting it...I completely agree.


further down:
"Not for him the stealth factor when approaching a corporation, rather all guns blazing!"

I don't understand the grammar of this sentence.


"Jeff did use a GH2 on his documentary ...but is still put off it somewhat for documentary because of rolling shutter jello and a lack of mic socket." Wait a second. I can clearly see the Mic socket on my GH1 and GH2s. But I guess he was refering more to phantom powered XLR sockets.

Andrew: Don't overdo it with repeating your critique on the 5DmkIII and your praise of the GH2 over and over again. You don't have to build that point into each and every blog posting.


Indeed, the natural sound aspect is almost part of the image in the way it influences the mood of any music you put over the top of it. Something I've neglected sometimes as well. Sound is double the work, though! A real skill.

Mic socket should be headphone socket, a typo. Corrected it, cheers.

#4
Sara

Posted 11 May 2012 - 10:19 PM

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Great interview and excellent topic about sound design.

If anyone owns the Aliens Quadrillogy DVD/BluRay pack there is an interesting interview with Elliot Goldenthal on this very topic.  He and director David Fincher wanted a movie score for Aliens 3 that was atmospheric and a blending of the sound effects.  The studio wanted the opposite and felt that the score needed to be separate from the sound effects. 

The original idea was that the score was to provide "mood" and enhance existing sounds vs compete with them and or overpower them.

Difficult balance and tricky to get right.

Wiki:

"The film's composer, Elliot Goldenthal, spent a year composing the score by working closely with Fincher to create music based primarily on the surroundings and atmosphere of the film itself. The score was recorded during the Los Angeles riots of 1992, which Goldenthal later claimed contributed to the score's disturbing nature.[19] The choral segment featured in the opening titles, performed by boy soprano, is "Agnus Dei" ("Lamb of God"), from the Catholic Mass, and was included as a reference to the prisoners as lambs being led to the slaughter."

The end result wasn't quite was Elliot Goldenthal wanted but it is still enjoy able.

#5
Sean Cunningham

Posted 11 May 2012 - 11:40 PM

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Jeff is totally wrong about the quality of "release prints" going down, equating the current hype over 4K as a sensible if not necessary improvement.  The switch to first generation digital projectors effectively quadrupled the release print experience for audiences.  Over-the-air HDTV transmission and the native resolution of our GH-2 and Canon DSLRs is nearly as big of an improvement.  This is based on the long observed metric that optical release prints, by the time you went through all the duplication steps, rendered the potentially greater than 8K original negative contents (depending on 4-perf, 8-perf, anamorphic or super-35 process) at a meager 1K effective resolution for audiences.

Early digital projection wasn't hampered by its own limitations per se but by the playback technology driving them.  Even today, this is the main limitation, especially since we have cameras better than the original CineAlta line for acquisition (3:1:1 8-bit).  The camera systems available to the studio establishment for digital acquisition have not been the lowest common denominator in the chain between filmmaker and audience for the last five years at the very least.

4K is a waste for most applications.  It's just more and so long as digital release standards aren't much more than JPEG2000 sequences, 12bit or not, I'm not convinced 4K isn't anything but an engineering circle-jerk.  It's porkbelly pixels.

#6
Sara

Posted 11 May 2012 - 11:52 PM

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4K is a waste for most applications.  It's just more and so long as digital release standards aren't much more than JPEG2000 sequences, 12bit or not, I'm not convinced 4K isn't anything but an engineering circle-jerk.  It's porkbelly pixels.


On that note a group of people I work with all got free tickets to see Hugo in 3D last month on a 2k screen.

It was done so well and so sharp that they all told me they LOVED how Huge looked in 4k on the big screen and that the new 4k Alexa was amazing. 

Bottom line is that people can't tell the difference unless things are side by side.  And I think Hugo is proof of that.  It looks great and Alexa fans should be proud.

Now will Prometheus blow us away with its 4k 3D? Red Epic.

#7
Sean Cunningham

Posted 12 May 2012 - 06:10 AM

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On that note a group of people I work with all got free tickets to see Hugo in 3D last month on a 2k screen....


Exactly.  If you show the same footage side by side, 4K and 2K and ask someone, "which is sharper, which has more detail?" of course they are going to say the 4K.  The answer to the question of "which is better?", without qualifying the full meaning of the word "better" a child could answer. 

Now...show them a CU of a conventionally done actor with conventionally done make-up.  Show them 4K, show them 2K and show them a pristine optical film projection.  Which one they say looks better may not be the same.  It won't be for the talent being photographed.

Do the same comparison photographing a set designed to look like the interior of a spaceship.  Do the same thing with a set designed to look like a pre-industrial period...a western...a fantasy movie.  Which one they say looks better isn't likely to be the 4K.  In fact, set construction will not be able to rely on any amount of impressionistic leeway with the audience as resolution goes up and acquisition becomes more and more clinical and closer and closer to what Apple has achieved with its Retina display. 

For decades people have been fooled by visual alchemy, quite literally.  Metal they accepted as real actually being wood.  Stone that's actually cardboard.  Glass that's actually plastic.  Metal that's actually plastic.  I'll never forget the first time I walked directly from a screening room, viewing film dailies from a previous day's miniature shoot to compare the amazing images I'd just seen on film with what was actually photographed. 

The difference was astounding, in this case, a crane shot booming up through a burnt-out cathedral to see the sun flaring out the lens, peaking through a smashed stained-glass window.  If you're familiar with Interview With the Vampire you might remember the scene.  In actuality the cathedral was maybe 5' in height, made mostly of painted cardboard and the sun was a lightbulb.  You can forget about that kind of magic with a GH-2 much less the 4K future.

The make-up effects industry is already on the down slope.  They're even less prepared to deal with 4K than the set craftspeople or model makers.  Contemporary make-up effects cannot even stand up to conventional HD photography very well because digital renders rubber as rubber, paint as paint.  It doesn't look like alien skin.  It doesn't look like human flesh.  It doesn't look like anything but what it actually is. 

The loudest voices pushing technology in filmmaking since George Lucas first shot digital, 3:1:1 green screen plates that all had to be hand-rotoscoped because keying didn't work with early HDCAM have always been incredibly myopic.  It's funny he, Cameron and Jackson have all been hailed as visionaries and revolutionaries in this new, digital century and yet the only reason some of their decisions weren't complete failures was due to the sweat and long hours of literal armies of digital professionals who fixed their filmmaking and try and turned their lie into some form of truth.  Rodriguez didn't have an army to depend on, initially, and relied on denial.

#8
Andrew Reid

Posted 12 May 2012 - 02:19 PM

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Superb point (about set design, makeup) Burnet and very well put.

#9
Ray Pointer

Posted 12 May 2012 - 10:23 PM

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Low quality release prints did not just happen.  Substandard prints were being released to theaters in the 1970s. Graininess is due to many factors such as enlargement from 16mm.  Some low budget features were enlarged to 35mm for limited distribution, with this being accepted as a type of "documentary style." Since these were not generally mainstream releases, they did not gain that much attention. 

What Jeff eludes to in his complaint is a combination of many issues that include film stocks, laboratory standards, technician skill and knowledge, and the esthetic tastes of Directors and Producers.  As film processing is being diminished in favor of digital imagery, the core of photo-chemical professionals who knew how to work with film stocks has nearly disappeared. There is already controversy over digital "restoration" and Blu-Ray releases of classic films that have been pushed too far in an effort to seemingly "improve" the images to the point that the original color palate and exposure balance has been violated.

I saw a digital restoration of GONE WITH THE WIND eight years ago that horrified me.  While it seemed impressive to be able to see the texture of the costumes, I was bothered by seeing the makeup on the actors.  The purpose of film makeup is to "blend," making an image that should  be accepted as natural instead of  something artificial and painted on.  But most of all, I was horrified to see an electrical cord hanging from the Oil Lamp that MELONY holds as ASHLEY is carried into the bedroom after he was wounded following the Shanty Town raid.

Obviously, I have seen this film many times because I ran it when I was a projectionist in the Detroit District in the 1970s.  The print that I ran of GWTW was a used EASTMAN print was was "acceptable,"  but nowhere of the quality of the original Technicolor version.  While the digital version was more faithful to the color balance, this was something that was making the film something that is was not in attempting to exceed what was intended to be seen.

When THE TEN COMMANDMENTS was re-released in 1966, Paramount sent out unbalanced Eastmancolor Prints that shifted color balance every time a process scene came up.  While I had looked forward to seeing deMille's final epic, the experience was ruined by a false representation due to poor print quality.  So you see, Jeff, this is nothing new.  That doesn't excuse it, of course, but the continued practice of releasing poor film prints works against the concept of the ideal of projected film that many people still appreciate.  But if can only be as good as the stocks and the people handling them.  And as I said before, there are getting to be fewer people who know how to handle film anymore.

#10
jlev23

Posted 13 May 2012 - 03:07 PM

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sorry, but i feel like that article is a waste of time. his opinions have no backing and goes to show that a little knowledge is dangerous. in all fairness we dont watch his movies for quality, now we know why they look so bad.




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