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The "video" look vs the ???? look?


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3 hours ago, Mark Romero 2 said:

True, I think the thing is that the main consumers that are being targeted with those things. 

By that, I mean if you count up the total number of hours that consumers ingest content (via all platforms, either on computer, tv, smart device, or in cinema,) their exposure to "the film aesthetic" has declined consistently over the years. 

Put it another way: Let's say that by some magic technology development, film were to become as easy to shoot / process / distribute as digital. Or, let's pretend that a digital sensor that gave "the film look" were to be developed and was available in consumer cameras.

I don't think there would be a clamoring by the public to start consuming content that was shot on film (or with the film look). I think that while the "film look" ship might not have sailed yet, they have loaded the supplies and are getting ready to weigh anchor.

Most people don't give AF, yes. But honestly I think that's always been true, relative to the time period. In the 80s and 90s when people watched a lot of television - soap operas, shows like Maury, and of course sitcoms - none of that stuff remotely looks like a movie or film. But that's what most people were consuming on a daily basis. It didn't prevent them from liking and enjoying movies that look good.

They have no idea why it looks good and that's completely fine. I couldn't explain to you in technical terms why a song sounds good.

And honestly, I think non-filmic looking movies are pretty jarring to the average person - TANGERINE, for example, I know that many "normal" people (regular people who don't work in or care about film) thought that it looked really bad or wondered why it looked that way.

Basically, it's up to us filmmakers to hold ourselves to a high standard of quality - people may not know why they like what they're seeing, but I do think they notice when something isn't as good as what they're used to.

Days of Our Lives and Maury didn't ruin filmmaking or the public's perception of/engagement with movies. I don't think any of this will either, at least not in the way that you're talking about.

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On 2/7/2021 at 8:57 AM, kye said:

@TomTheDP @BenEricson You've both listed some virtues of film (and the negative parts of digital) but didn't list the advantages of digital or the disadvantages of film.  Halation, gate weave, gamma-related colour shifts, hue compression, softness, etc are all parts of dealing with motion-picture film that don't get talked about.

This is kind of what I think the problem is - we view film as being better than digital (and maybe we know that it's only better in some ways) but never talk about the ways its far inferior.  This leads "film" to be a proxy for "nice" and then we never get anywhere because we're not even talking the same language.

People are jumping up and down about 6K and 8K but seem to be unfamiliar with the idea that 35mm motion-picture film struggles to match 4K.  No-one seems to be trying to blur their images to match film (apart from me).

35mm motion-picture film doesn't struggle to match 4K. It can resolve up to 8K. 

70mm can resolve up to 18K. It's part of why top Hollywood filmmakers like Nolan & Tarantino still use it.

Even 16mm can resolve 4K fine which is why The Last Dance looks so good even though the footage come from the 90s. Same with pre-digital NFL Films.

While there are certainly a lot of constraints with shooting film, scan resolution is no problem by todays digital standards.

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@elgabogomez @Django The controlled tests I have seen all show that 35mm motion picture film can't beat 4K and IMAX motion picture film does better but still isn't as good as a 6K sensor like the Alexa LF.

Did you watch the Resolution Demo that I linked in my first post?  I know it's long, but it might have more real information in it than years of reading forums.

I'm curious if you can link to any demos that show, under controlled conditions, direct comparisons between motion picture film and digital cameras.  Or any kind of calibrated resolution test would also be good.  Sadly, everything else other than controlled tests are worthless for actually being able to understand what is going on.

On 2/7/2021 at 5:09 PM, elgabogomez said:

The resolution threshold for what looks good has been surpassed in digital cameras I give you that, and once the film copies reached the theater we watched movies in the resolution degradation was maybe less than hd and maybe that’s what we want to mimic.

The more I think about this stuff, the more I think that sharpness is the problem.  Reality has infinite resolution and no sharpness.  

Both digital and film images obviously have less resolution than reality, but for some reason film doesn't look objectionable but digital often does.  Of course, RAW video, or very high quality codecs, also don't have this objectionable quality.

This all leads me to think that it's about sharpness and not resolution.  Resolution is fine - reality has so much of it that if it was at all objectionable then it would be awful to look at, but it's not.


19 hours ago, Tim Sewell said:

The benefits of digital are, of course, undeniable - in fact this forum wouldn't exist were it not for the advent of large-sensor video and many of its enthusiast members, myself included, would never have been able to even get into a position where these discussions are possible without it.

I agree, however I still think we have a massive blind spot.

I don't think that anyone in this thread is interested in applying Gate Weave to their images, and I'd suggest that some of the people here talking about how film is desirable don't even know what it is.  

This proves exactly my point, that our one-sided rose-coloured-glasses view of film is getting in the way of a useful conversation about what is great about film and what is not, what is great about digital and what is not, and what might have been great about tape and what wasn't.  

Until we start breaking down the various attributes of each then we're going to have discussions where someone less educated in the medium talks about "the film look" as a proxy for everything nice about an image, and the people who have deep knowledge about what is really going on react in ways that don't make any sense to the newcomer, and the discussion never makes any progress.

If we had a different phrase, then maybe it would create space in these conversations to discuss the good parts of every medium without the newcomers inadvertently implying they love gate weave.


On 2/7/2021 at 6:30 PM, SteveV4D said:

Of course there's the cinematic vs video look argument as well, but that's a complex and well argued one and frankly can be pinned down to personal bias.  For me, pleasing lighting, good DR, low frame rate, 180 degree shutter and decent colour grading are important.  Others will argue differently.

Actually, I think the cinematic vs video look argument hasn't been argued well at all, which is kind of the point of this thread.

The state of the debate is this:

  • People almost universally claim to like the colour and DR rendition of good film stocks
  • People almost universally claim to like the colour and DR rendition of well-shot and well-graded Alexa images
  • A huge amount of technical knowledge accumulated over decades went into developing film stocks
  • A huge amount of technical knowledge about film and digital accumulated over many years went into developing the ARRI colour science
  • The few people who have demonstrated the ability to flawlessly match digital to film do so with Alexas, are able to do so after years of personal testing and research and talk about making complex adjustments that are often not known about or discussed in the public domain, and use specialist and even custom written software tools to do so

So I'd say that a better summary of "cinematic vs video" is that film-like colour and DR are an attribute of "cinematic" and only a selection of people on earth know how to do that.  ...and good luck if you "only" have Resolve.

On 2/7/2021 at 11:39 PM, TomTheDP said:

People definitely blur their images to match film especially  when shooting on cameras that add sharpening. Using pro mist filters is super common to get a softer image. I think the disadvantages of film are well recognized though the visual ones are sometimes sought after. 

Are you talking about blurring images or softening contrast?  The BPM filters soften contrast but don't blur.

Vintage lenses often do both, with the lens optical tolerances accounting for the resolution of the lens (blur) and the coatings accounting for the macro and micro contrast of the image, which is actually called halation.

On 2/8/2021 at 3:19 AM, pixelpreaching said:

Definitely depends on the film. Many of the currently available 35mm color films aren't great at all with skin tones. Portra, which has pretty much always been a go-to for people photos, is the best. But I've found pretty much any others are totally off - in a wide variety of different ways depending on the stock.

Anyway, just wanted to add that because (IMO) Portra (all flavors are great - 160, 400, or 800) is the only one that gives me pleasing skin tones.

Some quick examples, straight scans with no editing (1st is 35mm Portra 800, 2nd is medium format Portra 160 on a Fuji GA645Zi, 3rd is medium format Portra 160 on a Bronica GS-1)



Fascinating how different the colour reproduction is on those images, even with two coming from the same film stock.

Funny how no-one in this thread has mentioned that they're chasing images that vary in colour reproduction from shot to shot like film can do.

On 2/8/2021 at 4:04 AM, TomTheDP said:

I don't know I'd be happy with an Alexa Mini LF sensor personally. 😅

The point of this conversation (and these forums in general I believe) is to try and get smarter are getting better results with more modest equipment.

Anyone can just say "oh well, if you want good colour then go buy the Alexa 65...  byeeeeee" but it's not really of much help.

On 2/8/2021 at 7:40 AM, pixelpreaching said:

The new sensor in the Blackmagic Ursa 12K - which BM designed themselves over the past 5 years or so apparently - actually gets us closer to "film like" than pretty much anything else out there right. In theory, at least, based on the sensor design itself - there's plenty of ways to screw up the potential of it in the imaging pipeline (not saying BM did that, but I'm talking just about the sensor design itself).

Maybe a 1:1:1 Foveon sensor will someday be able to get us there on the video front - which I think is something Sigma is working on. I know they're working on a FF 1:1:1 Foveon sensor, but I think they're working on the video angle too.

Anyway, I'm very excited to see what Blackmagic does in the coming year(s) with other cameras and sensors.

Any ideas about what BM did in the new U12K that improved the image and got it closer to film-like?

I'm a big fan of trying to learn by picking apart good examples of things.  For example, I bought a BMMCC just to be able to experiment with the colour science as it has a good reputation.

A few questions for thought around the U12K:

  • Does it keep its magic at lower resolutions?  If so, it's not the resolution creating the magic.
  • Does it keep its magic when blurred?  If so, it's not the sharpness creating the magic.
  • Does it keep its magic when sharpened?  If so, it's not the lack of sharpening that is creating the magic.
  • you get the idea....
On 2/8/2021 at 11:02 AM, hyalinejim said:

I often blur photos, particularly if I add grain. Otherwise it doesn't look right. 

Do you do this just to make them look nicer?  or for a particular aesthetic effect?

19 hours ago, Tim Sewell said:

We have 2 competing sets of desires when it comes to large sensor video. On the one hand we want more resolution, greater bit depth and higher frame rates (all of which improve the ROI for professional users); while on the other, we want sensors that will satisfy our aesthetic desires which for most of us align much more with the organic nature of celluloid than they do with pristine Rec709 video. Perhaps those two desire sets will never be compatible, but unfortunately there will never be sufficient sales to enthusiast users to justify pro-sumer/consumer level equipment that abandons the megapixel/frame rate race in favour of a lower resolution with film-like DR etc.

I was having this discussion (sort of) with a couple of occasional photo shooters just on Friday. they were saying that there was now no discernible difference between film and digital. I disagreed. I can certainly easily differentiate the stills I shoot on film, to those I've shot on digital - even though I generally process the latter to look as much like the former as I can. The organic, random, chemical nature of silver halide photography gives a highlight roll-off - and just as important, a roll-off to underexposure - plus a transition from in to out-of focus that simply can't be achieved in a grid matrix of photosensitive receptors. That look is at once closer to and further away from what we see with our own eyes and that is where its magic lies.

I know what you're saying but I'm going to disagree with the way you outlined it.

There are two competing sets of priorities, one set that makes an image with the organic aesthetic, and one set that is all about resolution and high frame rates and other specs.

I think these priorities only conflict when a person doesn't know enough about what is going on.  For example, in this thread I've linked to evidence showing that film has quite limited resolution, and yet we've heard from others that film has heaps of resolution.  For those that understand how much resolution film really has, then there is no conflict, they aren't tempted by the allure of increased resolution because they know that the aesthetic they desire doesn't have that resolution.  

Other parameters have different status, for example, film has almost infinite bit-depth, all the way through the entire signal chain, so having greater bit depth is in alignment with a more organic aesthetic.

Knowing which parameters are which is the point of trying to have these conversations.

17 hours ago, Ivan Zhao said:

The "filmic" look is difficult to define. It is not only the color reproduction, but many other factors as well. Which digital cameras (old and new) would you all consider to capture video in the most natural way?

Any modern camera that jiggles the image around slightly from frame to frame or subtly varies the exposure from frame to frame would have to take this crown, considering these are attributes of film that no other camera is replicating.

14 hours ago, Tim Sewell said:

Interesting discussion along very similar lines going on now at Lift Gamma Gain: https://liftgammagain.com/forum/index.php?threads/what-is-the-best-example-of-film-emulation.15452/

That conversation is the one that inspired this one.

10 hours ago, Mark Romero 2 said:

You know, it's kind of funny... and a bit depressing.

Out of boredom, I started watching a gameplay of the popular game The Last of Us II, which incidentally is created by Sony.

The CGI is really beautiful in it. It's not really film-like per se, but it is still nice.

But then I worry that when sensor designers finally get around to being able to create the perfect film-like sensor, the majority of the consumers will have moved on. Especially with people being locked in doors, and even when things "get back to normal," they aren't going to be as normal as they were before.

And so with the prevalence of gaming (higher frame rates), and tiktok (shot on phones), I just don't know how much longer the film aesthetic is going to matter to tomorrow's consumers of the world. My fifteen-year-old son is in to video (and photography) and he couldn't care about film-like sensor response.

Another reason that we should move beyond film being a proxy word for "good".

Is anyone asking if the kids will stop liking good images because they never saw film in a theatre?  No, that's ridiculous.

Therefore, good does not equal film.

Are there desirable attributes that film has, yes absolutely, but many aspects of film are only desirable because of association and nostalgia. 

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7 minutes ago, kye said:

Another reason that we should move beyond film being a proxy word for "good".

Is anyone asking if the kids will stop liking good images because they never saw film in a theatre?  No, that's ridiculous.

Therefore, good does not equal film.

Are there desirable attributes that film has, yes absolutely, but many aspects of film are only desirable because of association and nostalgia. 

Yes, and we might have to move past "video" being synonymous with "bad."

What if there is an "other" aesthetic that will become associated with quality? Neither traditional film look, nor traditional "video" look; some aesthetic that is created by either purely digital art, or by having an extreme reliance on artificial intelligence. 

I mean, looking at traditional photos. The earliest photos were what, silver (I guess they were called Daguerreotype). Then there was printing on glass (called Ambrotype).

What if our debates about film vs video are just an echo of the Daguerreotype vs Ambrotype conversations of the 1860s and 1870s, where they couldn't even conceive of a "color" film, even though color was in the real word all around them?


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8 minutes ago, kye said:

Any ideas about what BM did in the new U12K that improved the image and got it closer to film-like?

I'm a big fan of trying to learn by picking apart good examples of things.  For example, I bought a BMMCC just to be able to experiment with the colour science as it has a good reputation.

A few questions for thought around the U12K:

  • Does it keep its magic at lower resolutions?  If so, it's not the resolution creating the magic.
  • Does it keep its magic when blurred?  If so, it's not the sharpness creating the magic.
  • Does it keep its magic when sharpened?  If so, it's not the lack of sharpening that is creating the magic.
  • you get the idea....

To answer your questions first:

1) Yes it does, but the 12K resolution is indeed the reason for that.

3) I assume? The 12K resolution is kind of irrelevant in terms of shooting at full resolution. The camera isn't really designed as a 12K camera. Yes, it can do that and produce great results and many people may want 12K. But, it's really 12K so that it can be an amazing 8K and 4K camera (which it can do with the full sensor, no crop).

4) Sharpening: again, see #3


The new sensor in the 12K is unlike any other sensor out there. Instead of the typical bayer array on every other cinema camera (aside from monochrome cameras), it uses a 6x6 CFA (Bayer is 2x2). This means true RGB (equal number of red, green, and blue) - Bayer is GRGB (1 red, 1 blue, 2 green). But, it doesn't stop there. It then has a second layer of white (or clear) pixels. It's kind of like two 6K sensors stacked on top of each other (not exactly true, but KIND OF like that). The white layer then lets all light through, vs color that does not (to the tune of about one stop on a bayer sensor).

Because of the 12K resolution, aliasing practically doesn't exist (after all, for aliasing to happen your lens must out-resolve the sensor - a tough task on a 12K Super 35 sensor). This smoothes out higher frequency edges.

That's as close to analogue as anything to date. IN THEORY, based on the sensor design. It doesn't mean, though, that the sensor tonal response will be like film (digital tends to be linear, film is non-linear - CCD sensors were non-linear, which is why many of them were thought of as "film like.")

Anyway, that's the basics of it.

It's probably the best we'll get until a 1:1:1 Foveon, provided such a sensor will be able to shoot video - and even then, will it overcome the abysmal high ISO limitations of current Foveons? Probably not. Then again, film was worthless in low light too.

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I'm hoping this isn't a disguised 1080p vs 4K resolution argument thread. 😂😂😂

Looking through the video of Steve Yeldin, I agree with his own assessment on it that it doesn't bring anything new, rather it clarifies various thoughts and observations that have been circulated before, though not always given due consideration.

I think many would agree that a 2.7k image on a Professional cinema camera, shot with cinema lenses and upscaled to 4K will deliver a better image than a 4K mirrorless using cheap, standard photographic lenses. 

DR, colour science, bitrate, RS - motion cadence, post processing, choice of lens, aperture, ISO (gain) all play a part in how an image looks.  Unfortunately cameras at the sort of price point many users here will be limited to, often see improvements only in resolution, though recent cameras have seen superior RS performance.  Manufacturers for budget cameras will target their perceived audience with specs that will headline YouTube videos, rather than those that will actually make a difference to filmmakers.  Thus, we still await the internal ND filter, whilst 8K has become possible.

Going back to the Film look, it is one noted for its grain, which will impact on image quality in regards to clarity and sharpness.  I feel those who don't see how film can match 4K, are missing several details in how the film was shot, how long its been stored, quality of the lens used and also how it has been transferred to a 4K image.  Also sharpness tends to get confused with image detail.  Video shot in the 70s and 80s looked sharper than the film shots, but throw both onto a bluray from their source and film detail holds up far better than video.  

Upscaled 4K vs true 4K vs a downsampled 4K image are all going to look different depending on lens choice, codec, bitrate, grading and a host of other factors, making tests very hard to judge.  

Personally I prefer digital to film and I can't say I'm chasing the film look.  Certainly I'd like my stuff to look cinematic, but that doesn't mean chasing a film look to me.  Watching a TV show yesterday shot in the 80s on 35mm film, if have to say the colour wasn't to my taste reminding me of Panasonic skin tones. 

I am also not such a fan of the alexa look to be honest.  I often find myself preferring Red to alexa in look.  I also think that a soft image can be too much sought after to extremes at the cost of providing detail where needed.  


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It's an interesting video by a very respectful DP, but what I gather from his pixel peeping comparisons for the sake of analysis is that 35mm/70mm film,  can be identified through various attributes & aberrations (namely inter pixel, spatial and temporal as he categories them). 

Now one could see these as technically inferior to their high-end (ARRI, RED) digital equivalents, or on the other hand simply as characteristics that gives film photography its analogue charm. That ever so elusive filmic look (grain, softness etc).

Funny thing is the motion film vs digital film debate is pretty much the same as film photography vs digital photography debate going on for decades now. In the end it is down to personal taste which you may prefer.

Reading parts of his written follow-up is just as interesting as he dives into the relevance of footage transformation as a crucial step pre-color grading in order to better understand another vital component of the 'film look' color science : ON COLOR SCIENCE FOR FILMMAKERS

This brings us back to our little world of consumer brand camera equipment and/or sub-$10K cine cams. 

Color science is often talked about when leaning towards a certain brand or even a certain camera model (i.e Sony's with/without S-Cinetone). Its an often misunderstood, hard to quantify 'secret sauce' of manufacturers. With hybrid cameras getting closer and closer to cine cameras, we start to see color science shifting towards Alexa/Venice emulations and of course RAW options which allows further transformation and push/pull latitude.

I think the hybrid/cine gap is really starting to close itself as far as sensors, DR, RS, codecs, resolution and CS with the latest flagship video oriented offerings from Canon, Sony & Panasonic. Over-sharpening & NR does still seem to be a PITA to battle with on some models though.




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4 hours ago, kye said:


Are there desirable attributes that film has, yes absolutely, but many aspects of film are only desirable because of association and nostalgia. 

I wasn’t kidding before, you really need to go shoot a roll of 35mm stills! Reading about the stuff will only go so far! It is clearly incredibly difficult to explain why film is good, especially when it needs to be explained in a very analytical way.

Deakins just uses the regular Arri LUT that Yedlin seems to hate and it looks amazing. Sicario looks better than knives out, no? They both look “filmlike.”




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  • Super Members


You might want to have a look at the Dehancer colour grading suite of tools for Resolve.


Aside from the film stock emulations, it also has emulation control of specific aspects such as halation, grain, gate weave and film breath so you will really be able to dig in to see the cumulative effects of all these elements on your own footage.

It is free to download and try out (watermarks the image) and has an input profile for your GH5.

Incidentally, the CEO of the company has also started publishing a series of lectures on how to see colour on their YouTube channel which I suspect will be right up your street.


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4 hours ago, SteveV4D said:

Going back to the Film look, it is one noted for its grain


On the topic of grain and the "film look" - one of the best examples of a digitally shot movie looking like film in recent times, for me, was LADY BIRD. And they did some work to get it that way, which I haven't heard other DPs talk about (this process). 

They (Greta Gerwig and DP Sam Levy) shot on the Arri Alexa Mini. They did NOT shoot in ARRIRAW because they felt the 3.4K was too sharp. So they shot 2K ProRes (goes to show that RAW isn't everything - WHIPLASH also shot ProRes according to the gaffer).

Then the *grain* in the movie, which is substantial for a modern digitally shot movie. It's NOT artificial grain. What they did was record a black signal and pulled the noise out and amplified it. Basically boosting the gain from the noise floor and finding the right amount.

This way they could get the amount of grain they wanted without boosting the gain in the footage itself, which would have other (some negative) consequences.

And I think it goes to show how great Alexa does with their noise - it's extremely film grain-like.

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15 hours ago, kye said:

images that vary in colour reproduction from shot to shot

Three major variables (there are others) that affect and explain how and why a given film stock looks different under different circumstances 

1. Exposure. Under or over exposure will change the look significantly. Contrast and colour are not linear with regard to exposure.

2. Freshness of the film. Expired film will look underexposed. 

3. How it's scanned. This is essentially taking a digital photograph of a piece of celluloid. Different scanners give different results. Brightness, contrast, saturation and white balance can be altered.

If these variables are held constant then the results should look the same for a given roll of film.



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