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Sean Cunningham

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Everything posted by Sean Cunningham

  1. Man, that made me hungry! Great looking stuff man. I got my demo in right before having to go out of town and, unfortunately, unable to bring my camera with me. It's killing me knowing this little guy is still waiting for me back in Texas and here I am still in Virginia another few days. I'm really anxious to see how much it's going to make me hate my Century Optics, hah-hah.
  2. Not really. The noise in digital footage looks bad. It's based on a fixed grid. It's ugly. Remove that junk and add a little bit of organic, analog looking noise (especially if it's based on actual scanned material and not something like that horrible "grain" effect in After Effects) and you improve the aesthetic and smooth over a lot of sin caused by compressed 8-bit imagery.
  3. The upload quality to Youtube is terrible (in this case it's the upload that's the offender more than Youtube itself), so certain telltale things to look for are masked, but it looks like a still photo with some warping at the head of the shot (simulating pupil contraction), zoomed in, with a pull back that hooks up to a dolly out from as close as they were able to get on the actor. It's a simpler version of a similar, but in reverse, shot that I helped create for Strange Days.
  4. This is likely the reason. They'll get ultra-rez plates with really good green resolution (in the case of keying). Even if the film is going to be 2K finish, which is still the majority, VFX facilities are going to be most interested in sharp plates, not the best look, not the most photographic. None of the films listed look terribly great, 300 especially looks like ass. Say what you will about Michael Bay, he cares more about how his films look photographically (even if that's all they have going for them) than pretty much any other director making big FX films, even if, when you shut the sound off, they're kind of a mess.
  5. It's pretty soft and grainy, The Devil's Rejects, but I like that. Zombie was going for a rough and vintage, grindhouse aesthetic without going kitschy and Tarantino/Rodriguez with it. His Halloween remake was quite a bit more slick as far as photography goes with the first being 35mm and the sequel being perhaps the slickest 16mm film I've ever seen. Perhaps that's what you're thinking of? And then you have the gorgeous Lords of Salem which, oddly enough, is RED but lensed with C-Series, E-Series and Primo anamorphics which is nice "usual suspects" of glass for pretty anamorphic films.
  6. Well, I think he's a talented shooter of the slick Hollywood style. I just don't understand why, in this case, he finds one set of footage more appealing. The way the electric light is being accentuated I find so recognizable as "video" and feel they would look equally vibrant (while the rest of the frame looked worse) with any off-the-shelf camera from BestBuy.
  7. Since DSO is investigating both longer and shorter focal lengths to compliment the FF58, what would prevent you from doing the same for each of these? A nice little set with matching DSO pelican case. The single focal length definitely isn't a total turn-off but it would be something only pulled out some of the time since I don't envision having a 36mm sensor anytime in the future. Alternating between on and off Speed Booster would turn this into two viable lenses on MFT, perhaps, but I would feel seriously compromised not having a wider option and doing narrative with the type of blocking and FOV that I enjoy. I can understand the lens as an adapter perhaps being not as optimal as your calibration to the FF58 but is there any reason it should be incompatible with alternate taking lens?
  8. First mistake: talking to producers about cameras or technology. There's some great Super-16mm stuff out there. I really liked what Phil Parmet did with the format in Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects. The AMC broadcast for The Walking Dead looks like ass but on BD it's also a good looking show. But there's nothing about the look that says "Alexa". For an unscientific but very interesting and aesthetically-oriented test of several cameras, including Arri Alexa and S16, see John Brawley's "Available Light" test: ...35mm (Aaton), Arri Alexa, RED MX, Sony F3 and Canon EOS 1DmkIV.
  9. I think you meant to say the Alexa shoots sub-3K but for all intents and purposes you can round it to consider the Alexa (some models) a 3K camera with its 2880 horizontal resolution when recording ArriRaw and very much a true 2K camera given it down-samples to 2048 when shooting 2K ProRes. Some models only do 1920 when shooting ProRes but even this is, essentially, a "2K" resolution based on KODAK's own precedent. If you were to scan a non-silent 35mm negative at "2K" you ultimately have 1828 pixels across for picture information. Lots of films have been posted this way either because the filmmaker/DP wasn't interested in jumping on the Super-35 bandwagon or because they didn't want to shoot some portions of their film with one standard and the rest of the film with a different standard. That post was still considered "2K" even though you don't have a full 2048 across of actual picture information. I say "was" because I don't know that it's that common anymore, given the proliferation of Super-35mm. But, yeah, you can scale good looking 2K up to 4K and none would be the wiser, especially starting with RAW footage.
  10. He's also published a video showing their actual night driving tests and his conclusions are disappointing, given they're a fixation on a slight baseline lifting of shadow detail and very electronic, very video looking response to the lights in the background. He explains why, and it's plain to see what he's reacting too, even through the youtube filter. What's not plain to see is why he thinks it looks better having more video looking night photography for the driving/racing portions of the film while the rest of the picture looks more film-like. More "like a movie". Perhaps that's the point, I just find it distracting, evident in the trailer, and now even moreso with the camera choice in the forefront of my perception, having seen his tests. Knowing, rather than just suspecting, has rendered me entirely uninterested in the experience despite liking Aaron Paul.
  11. It's not yet common. Some directors insist and have enough juice to pressure production to fork over the substantial budget increase both 4K VFX and DI will cost them. Prior to the phenomenon of IMAX presentation for non-educational films 4K was more common for anamorphic films where that's considered rather minimal quality for anamorphic. I would be really surprised if more than 10% of big VFX films are being posted at 4K and certainly less than 20% right now. That's up from hearing about the one or two films a year requiring 4K post just a few years ago. The shift to DCP already gave a resolution boost to 2K finish over general release print quality, commonly considered worth about 1K thanks to all the optical steps. If you've ever seen first-gen prints straight off a neg projected big and beautiful you cry at how much is just gone by the time it hits the multiplex. This is a big reason why the death of film as an acquisition format is far too premature, regardless of how good any digital camera is, because DCP of analog origination is the best looking digital presentation going. Similarly, digital origination looks nice® when printed to film and optically projected. It would be interesting to see experiments with digital origination, print to neg and then scan that negative for DI and eventual DCP. Anyhow, yes, I was surprised to read someone had busted out the VV. They must be doing pan/zoom or perhaps some tricky projections where the extra resolution is desirable above working from a 4K 4-perf scan. It's maybe a little overkill if they're using it for an Alexa section. CG itself, regardless of standard practice, doesn't need to be rendered to your target, working resolution because we tyipically work at 4x to 8x oversampling. You have further shading and geometric oversampling if you're using a REYES style micro-polygon renderer (Pixar's Renderman implementation, prman, or SESI's Mantra renderer being the most common) where, nominally, if you were to only do a 1x spatial sample you would still have four micro quads shading beneath each pixel. Straight raytracers commonly have even more oversampling thrown at them as they're prone to spatial aliasing but there's decades of research into techniques like poisson disc sampling and other stochastic techniques striving to improve results while lowering computation because noise is less distracting and more aesthetically pleasing (and more consistent with motion picture imagery either analog or digital) than hard, jagged lines.
  12. See my post above, it explains the mix of spherical and anamorphic and use of C500, which was used for ariel octo-copter shots.
  13. Oh, and it didn't click until now, I must be getting old, Gravity is this year's Life of Pi test. More than 80% of that film is not Alexa or film it's synthetic, lit by digital artists using the Arnold renderer (same as Pacific Rim and, going back a bit, Monster House). Cuaron named his Framestore vfx supervisor, Tim Webber, in his acceptance speech at the Golden Globes which makes him a class act, unlike that prick Ang Lee. Cuaron acknowledged that his film could not have been made otherwise. If they give the DP award to Lubezki I'm fairly positive he will also be showing Claudio how it's done. Unlike Miranda, Lubezki was actually involved in the visual effects and animation that make up an overwhelming majority of the film's imagery and therefore rightfully shares ownership in the end result, like Deakins does in his immersive forays into effects and animation.
  14. I think these are both very skewed reference points though. Neither one went for anything approaching a realistic look or used anything approaching a delicate touch. Not because they couldn't, they just didn't. I loved the mayhem and design and the action but when Del Toro is in full on comic book mode he seriously over lights and you end up with a very TV contrast ratio. It's almost a tragedy because all of that loving production design is cheapened by there being no real sense of shadow on anything. A big part of this is very few director+ dp + gaffer combos, when their film is created on a stage, light as if they were on location. That's part of what makes Ridley Scott, um, Ridley Scott. The same year these were in theaters, last year, I really enjoyed the photography in Maniac, which was RED. Aja and Co. shot in downtown LA in some of the same locations as NWR for Drive and it had an entirely different feel on the Epic. I couldn't say better or worse just different...maybe sleazier and more lurid but still beautiful. I was more surprised after seeing the picture that it was RED since I was convinced after watching it was either Alexa or film. I think the team behind Need For Speed misstepped when they looked for a camera that reacted differently to the electric light of night in the city and chose the C500 which, in their own side-by-side tests, looked like video compared to their Alexa tests. They should have screened Maxime Alexandre's work on Maniac or done their same test on the Epic, because it also has a different, more vibrant response to those lights without feeling as giveaway electronic and cheap.
  15. While the Academy itself is all about politics, which is the only reason I can think of why both Only God Forgives and To the Wonder are missing from Best Cinematography, the Arri cameras are being picked by DPs because that's what they want to shoot on, for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with politics. This is also the first year where a majority of the nominees are digital origination versus film, 3:2 where last year it was 2:3 and the year before it was 2:3 as well (with one RED film, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and one mostly film with some RED b-cam, Tree of Life). A lot of European DPs prefer Arri cameras just in general and then you add to that the Alexa's more immediately pleasing, baseline output which is less dependent on DIT support, post, etc. Let's see what Cronenweth Jr. and Fincher can get in there for next year though.
  16. For Her, they initially discussed shooting 35mm during the day and Alexa at night but Jonze liked the way the Alexa looked in daylight as well, stating it "has a really beautiful creaminess that worked great for this movie." Like the other films, they altered the look of the photography depending on what was happening, with specific lenses for flashback, high speed and everyday, including the DPs own set of uncoated Cooke Panchros and an old set of Zeiss Superspeeds and a Canon K35 zoom specifically for its flare. It was a really tight budget with a tiny crew. The ACM article makes no mention of any specific instance where the C300 was used. I haven't seen the film yet but I'm betting, being they shot in LA, on location, with almost no money and a tiny crew, it was used to impromptu steal a shot or location discretely or just get a camera crammed somewhere the Alexa was just too big to go.
  17. Captain Phillips seemed to have the most disparate use of cameras. Quickly skimming the Nov'13 ACM it appears they used Super-16mm (Aaton) shooting on the water, especially for the Somali only parts of the film, in the skiffs. Being so remote without support they didn't trust digital for this kind of shooting. As soon as the Somalis step onto the boat and Tom Hanks' portion of the story starts it switches to 3-perf 35mm. For the arial stuff showing the extremities of scale they shot Alexa. GoPros were used to capture the SEAL parachute drop. VistaVision was used for VFX plates. They don't mention the C300 at all in the article, nor do they list it at the end, so I'm betting it's inclusion above is mostly about marketing. Wolf of Wallstreet was split 4-perf 35mm and Alexa to ArriRaw. Here again the filmmakers went with different shooting styles for different stages of the narrative, mainly with different optics, lighting and color. Depending on the character's state of mind they shot either spherical Arri Master Primes and the Hawk anamorphics, heightening DiCaprio's mania by shooting a lot with the 35mm and 28mm anamorphics, switching to spherical when his state of mind is more clear and precise. For DiCaprio's "quaalude look" they shot 20mm on an Alexa at 12fps with 360 degree shutter, then step-printed to resample back to proper time. And a prototype C500 was used by the second-unit/VFX to shoot ariel photography. It was small enough they could rig it to the nose of an RC Octocopter. The RC copter was necessary because the location in Long Island didn't allow full-size choppers as well as allowing them to get shots that would have been impossible with a full size chopper.
  18. Stunt shots, shots expressly intended as video, cramped quarters. The same reason 5Ds have been used in film and television production for several years now (and GoPros). Strapped to vehicles. Strapped to people. No big mystery. They're not being used for extensive coverage just where they can be most effective or offer a shot impossible to get with a studio camera without wrecking the narrative flow or standing out too much. Threat of destruction is also a big factor. We're starting to see big features that have gone through ACES post workflow as well which will allow multiple camera types to mix more easily and consistently.
  19. That's certainly a big reason for why The Hobbit is the biggest offender here. The faster frame rate, even when down sampled to 24P, retains the crispness of the HFR and therefore high shutter footage. But other 4K digital acquisition, at 24P, will still have objectionable aesthetics if you compared side-by-side with film of similar scanned resolution. I'm having a parallel discussion on the subject with some industry colleagues and apparently some vendors actually have been working on the problem and identifying one of the biggest reasons why two images of equal resolution, one film origination and the other digital will almost invariably result in the analog picture being found more pleasing: (* HVS = human visual system) We're designed to detect patterns and edges and the fixed grid of the sensor is the perfect structure to draw our attention. It is also a phenomenon that has both spatial and temporal factors (like the HFR of The Hobbit). Film resolves higher that digital of supposedly similar resolution when you include how we perceive the analog image over time versus the fixed and never changing grid. This is something that Aaton (see the pattern here, Arri and now Aaton) is or was working on with the Delta Penelope: ...this is my first exposure to this project but reportedly they're having problems with the Dalsa sensor. edit: oh, I guess the company is no more. Hopefully something like this will be along the lines of where Arri goes with new cameras.
  20. Even 1080P, most folks don't need and shouldn't be editing raw or scrounging around for specs that let them spend gobs of money to edit with the raw files. They need to really learn how to edit and separate their editing from conform+finish. You can be totally productive with terribly basic hardware when you take a disciplined approach and understand the process.
  21. And you'd be in the company of a lot of respected DPs that have made the transition to digital. Arri has proven since the introduction of the Alexa that, when it comes to digital, how you fill those rows and columns is ultimately more important than how many rows and columns you're filling. Higher and higher resolution and more and more DR and wider and wider color gamut are all goals the engineers busy working away at Sony or RED understand. They're practical problems with practical solutions, overcome by throwing more and faster engineering at them. These engineers aren't going to create better cameras though. Last night I finally got around to watching Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master and immediately thought about where we were going here. It's almost poetic that this film was released the same year as the first installment of The Hobbit, a shitty looking 4K movie shot on RED. I'm not anti-RED and there are plenty of good looking RED films, this isn't one of them and this film is a good example of what's missing from RED (and Sony's) path. Reading about their workflow, on The Master, it reinforces my feelings that 4K and beyond, with digital cameras, is really a problem for filmmaking, and it's not just about resolution. Nobody has ever complained that 65mm made actors or sets or props or make up look bad. The Master was a mixed 65mm (mostly) and 35mm show, graded photochemically with both print and DCP distribution. They did four separate release finishes for this film, with true photochemical for 70mm and 35mm prints. It's crazy. But for their DI they scanned the 5-perf 65mm at 8K and the 4-perf 35mm at 6K for an eventual 4K DCP finish. More than once I've read, based on DP and colorist commentary, that anamorphic 35mm with a digital 4K finish is considered minimally what you need if you care about preserving most of what's there in the neg, where 2K is an abomination, but 6K for spherical when you're not shooting 8-perf seems excessive by conventional wisdom. Everything I've read over the years about how obsessive P.T. Anderson is over the photography of his films leads me to believe they weren't assigning film this level of resolution unless it warranted it. Every aspect of his acquisition and release methodology was thoroughly tested. My own experience on dozens and dozens of films working with scanned 35mm imagery concurs. Making 4K actually look good with digital cameras isn't something that seems part of the conversation at these electronics shows and soft lenses is the current bandaid but I think it's just that. They're not confronting head on a fundamental flaw in how these sensors are recording reality so discretely and unattractively. Resolution is to blame but film proves this to be false. For the 35mm portions of The Master the emphasis was on the sharpest lenses available, so that the footage cut well with the 65mm. Meanwhile DP after DP are on record choosing reportedly soft lenses, like Cooke S4, for high resolution digital acquisition, otherwise finding the look is harsh and unappealing. Moreover, PT Anderson requires his films be shot on the slowest stocks available, ensuring the smallest possible grain. DP Mihai Malaimare brought his personal 85mm Zeiss Jena for Panavization, the sharpest 85mm he's ever used or seen, and Panavision found a matching set of expanded focal lengths already in their possession. All this emphasis on resolution didn't make the film less beautiful. On the contrary, I can't think of the last time I saw close-ups in a motion picture that inspired this much awe. It was just astounding. And the color. Seeing a film, shot on film, with a photochemical grade that looks this amazing also points out just how over-graded a majority of films are, regardless of the origination. There's a lot of "just because you can doesn't mean you should" sort of observations one could make. All the criticisms levied against The Hobbit and DP after DP working around and against the "edge" of Ultra-HD (some of which, yes, is preserved even in 2K or 1080P reductions), this was never the case with film, shooting with what we know to be higher resolving power than 4K. I think we need to be shifting the conversation away from just the simple number of rows and columns and to how they're being filled. Video engineers did finally get around to giving us the ability to shoot video with film-like gamma curves, finally appreciating that we don't like our movies looking like the nightly news. Now they need to appreciate that 4K+ for movies needs to be different than 4K+ for covering Formula-1 or football.
  22. Long enough to almost go out of business, fire John Sculley, bring Jobs back who fired the entirety of the Newton team and re-populate Apple with his NeXT team. A good while. It would have taken longer without a messiah.
  23. I got my GH2 from B&H online. I likely would have anyhow but there is literally no place for a normal consumer to buy one here, in a decent sized city, or GH3 if I was to look now. Panasonic just isn't a popular enough brand here for anything but consumer A/V equipment. I had a devil of a time trying to find a back-up battery some months ago and ended up, after half a day's search, finding a small shop that carried this generic brand (that lasted half as long with no feedback to the LCD, but I wasn't about to be picky that day). They were a rental house with a small retail space up front so it was a good guess that if they had a GH2 rental package they might carry some replacement batteries. Mailorder has decimated the local camera shops and exchanges who have pretty much all shut down save for one good sized store. I just loathe to go in there because when I do I'm usually looking for something mildly unusual and the retail monkeys just look at me like I'm speaking in tongues. I kept trying to think of different ways to describe a "lens collar" to this one guy and you'd think I was asking him for a warp drive.
  24. Especially since he doesn't light, generally speaking. Being able to see where he can use available light to artistic effect is some kung fu he's really strong in.
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