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Re: HDTV: CBS and 16mm

>> On Niles' copious screen they were steady, sharp,
>> detailed, textured--for all the world, visually equivalent to projected
>wow.  quite an interesting perspective David.  When can we schedule a
>TIG fieldtrip to see this?  I'd take a weekend out for it.

I'd also like to see another match-up of Dowdell's Spirit DataCine sampler
and CBS's 16/35/HDTV comparison.  It needs to be replicated, disseminated and
widely discussed.  A small conclave of local SMPTE types does not a final
audience make.  Of course the HDTV projection would necessarily again have to
be first-rate.

>> Film printing and projection are
>> nonessential.  It boils down to the capture medium alone.  
>then does your experience, admittedly subjective, make a case that we
>need never strive for a delivery medium better than 1125/60, because
>the eye doesn't discern the difference between that and the resolution
>of projected 35mm film?

Shortly after my post, the thoughtful Christopher Bacon wrote to me:

"I fully agree that HDTV truly does look very impressive when projected, and
Barco knows as much about video projectors as anybody.  While the effect can
be quite cinematic, I'd still hesitate to say HDTV is as good as a decent
piece of 35mm print on a properly running projector.  You'd have to
side-by-side them to tell, but when it comes to issues such as contrast and
color space, I think the film would still look better, even if only

My response:

"Have to admit I did stretch a few points to make other necessary points.
 But I'm a dyed-in-the-wool film person and well appreciate the irreducible
distinctions between film and video, regardless how fine they may have/will
become.  Film is photography, after all, and video isn't.  Still, at a
glance, Dowdell's images passed for cinematic.  I suspect most viewers would
have confused them with film projection.  And you're right:  side-by-side
would reveal the deception; but this reminds me of what we learned doing
side-by-side Super-16/35mm comparisons years ago.  While they demonstrated
the obvious, without the side-by-side as a direct reference, most people
subjectively rated the blow-up "as good as" the 35mm."

Now, regarding the eye and what it "discerns":  though the eye is a direct
outcropping of the brain, it isn't the eye but the subjective mind that makes
subtle distinctions between like visual qualities.  When comparisons within
the same visual field aren't available, the mind is thrown back upon
recollection and prior subjective impressions, matching a memory or an
expectation to immediate sensory data.  It's in this realm that optimized
1125-line projection of film transfers can look "as good as" 35mm in the
minds of an audience.

Whether this can serve as the basis of future business forays is an open
question.  If the bar is set at 35mm, perhaps the answer for the first time
is yes, given the perennial sorry state of much commercial film projection.
 Of course the IMAX people might see it differently, so to speak.

In any case, projection of 1125-line film transfers, even with the
line-quadruplers Niles uses in his NYC facility (I believe I'm correct in
this), represents a considerable degree of electronic compression applied to
a relatively small photographic image that's undergoing remarkable
enlargement to fill such a big screen in the first place.  And does anyone
really argue that image reproduction at a larger scale benefits from the
imposition of a rudimentary Cartesian half-grid called rasterization, as
compared to the furious molecular pointillism of pigment and detail in color
print film?

For the similar reason given by audiophiles who disdain the aural
shortcomings of CDs and Minidiscs--absent overtones and clipped dynamic
subtleties having slipped through the digital cracks, as it were--my mind
resists the idea of paying $8.75 to see merely 1125/60 on the big screen.  

But who knows what will prevail a decade hence?  CDs captured the world in
less time.  Perhaps an open mind is the best policy.  The eye will follow.

D. W. Leitner

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