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RE: Picture Distortion- can of worms


I have not followed the whole thread of this discussion. I have managed
motion picture laboratories in Holland, Australia, in Utah and in Hollywood,
California. In Holland (Cineservice-Cineco Laboratories) we served a lot of
German customers, I understand what you are referring to. Fortunately I read
German well, my ancestors moved from Germany to Holland during the
Middle-Ages and the monasteries, castles and cities they built still grace
the landscape of Bavaria today. Having grown up in Holland many of us
survive and thrive on communicating in English, German and French to
communicate with our business partners around us. There are several
observations for your consideration:

1. No thoughtful person would send a German rejection report to someone
outside of Germany who does not use that language. Return it and ask for an
english translation of both the form and its contents and insist on enough
information to understand the criteria, target values and tolerances. This
is a deterrent for occasionally dogmatic people who may have communication

2. German facilities, advertising agencies, producers, networks and
distributors have always had a critical appreciation for quality
expectations and about quality standards to attain them, understanding them
gives you a competitive advantage, rather than serve as an irritation and

3. You should request a copy of their standards and the tolerances being
used, rather than try to insist that your quality standards should be
respected somewhere else. Unless it is a local or house standard, which is
no standard but a practice, the EBU will probably have a copy of it which
will be either in English or French. Fax: 41 22 798 77 66 or call 41 22 798
77 66 to verify. This number is of EBU Headquarters in Switzerland.

4. 'Measurable quality standards' are set in order to meet certain 'quality
expectations' that are considered to be reasonable and attainable within the
context of filmstock and telecine design, the design of video recording,
duplicating and transmission systems and the use of what you are making.
They should be repeatable by human beings such as colour timers and
colorists and sustainable by Companies which are in business to make a
profit within the reasonable and competitive rates expected by their
customers. Measurable quality standards are welcome and objective guides for
those whose task it is in Quality Control, to determine whether quality
expectations have been met or not. Any investment you make in quality
rejection prevention is worth the money invested in a little research and
communication with your peers in German or other European labs.

5. Please note that I do not believe that only the 'highest possible
standards' are desirable. In Hollywood we had a famous filmmaker, a client
at MGM Metrolabs, who insisted that every roll of dailies must carry a Lab
Aim Density patch and girlhead. He wanted to have the Red,Green and Blue
densities logged for every reel on receipt of his dailies. He maintained
extremely slim and unrealistically tight tolerances that clearly did not do
anything to improve the look of his final prints. Not only did we waste a
lot of filmstock in making his dailies, they often took twice as long or
more to make. The price we paid for having his business, and having him as a
client was prestigeous, was probably not worth the losses. I am sure that
those who worked with him elsewhere adjusted their rates for dailies upward
in order to accomodate his requests without losing money on him. By the way
the guy was not a perfectionistic German!

6. Years ago while at the Eastman Kodak facilities in Rochester, NY we were
with an international group of timers and did a test which demonstrated
consistently that what you consider correct in one country or region of the
world, will be considered so-so somewhere else. It apparently has to do with
the light of the sun, local climate-induced diffusion with overhead cloud
cover etc. We found people from warmer climates preferred warmer colours.
>From northern climates preferred colder colours. Few of us ever reproduce
grass that looks as green as it does in Northern Europe, but the locals
don't buy it if it looks any different than what their minds consider

7. Anyone familiar with negative cutting will recognize a legitimate jump
splice, usually the result of hurried, careless work of someone who does not
maintain his or her splicer and if found repeatedly it is seen as a
demonstration of a lack of competence. However, from time to time we
encounter a claim about some super-duper angled, skinny splicer, sometimes
even motorized, usually made in England or elsewhere in Europe that is
supposed to reduce the thickness of splices significantly. Well, I have
tested many such splices, and have never found one to hold up as well as a
regular well-made hotsplice. Although thin, they were very weak and the film
would typically break right next to the splice on either side. They would
leave negatives severely damaged in printers if permitted to be used. None
of the laboratories in Australia, Europe or North America that I have
managed permitted their use at any time. Occasionally you will encounter
someone who believes in the salvation offered by such splicers and it is not
a pleasant experience to be subjected to their 'requirements' resulting from
micrometer thickness measurements.

No longer managing labs I now develop technology solutions to solve industry
problems. Thank you Rob for such a high quality and stimulating forum.

PS. Dominic, please fax me one of those funny reports, I am curious! 

With best regards,

Ed H. Zwaneveld
Assistant Director
National Film Board of Canada
for Technical Research and Development  

Tel: 1-514-283-9143
E-mail: e.ha.zwaneveld at nfb.ca

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