Distinguishing between Film Work and Digital Work.

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Alessandro Machi, Feb 1, 2007.

  1. Alessandro Machi

    Alessandro Machi Member

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    I like creating the heart of my shot, in camera, via film. When I shoot Super-8 film, I enjoy experimenting with time-lapse images. Once in time-exposure land, no matter how I think either a frame or a series of frames will look, I won't really know until the film has been processed and the either projected or when the processed film is transferred to video. The film to tape transfer colorist can make all kinds of adjustments to the electronic representation of the super-8 image. Once on video I can do real time color and luminence adjusting by using hardware color correction such as a sony component video color corrector or a Panasonic MX-50 switcher. The key is that I must recopy the video image from the master tape to a new tape to actually save the changes. Usually I use Betacam Sp as a videotape medium because it is of pretty good quality and easily holds up for a few generations. Regardless, the actual heart of the image already existed, and at the moment of its creation, I was just a curious witness.

    One underlying theme that many may not agree with is the notion that creating a digital still image has an advantage over shooting a film still image in the sense that one can shoot a lot more shots digitally and instantly view the result, but perhaps there are naysayers here to that position. A still film image can either be touched up when in the darkroom, or the picture can be scanned and altered in Photoshop, but at the moment the picture was taken, the photographer again is just a curious witness.

    If I view a newspaper photo and I can tell that objects outside of the intended target have been digitally blurred, is it still a news picture? It's one thing to crop a picture or adjust the color and contrast, but has a line been crossed if the newspaper actually adds blur effects and does not announce that the news picture has been digitally altered above and beyond the basics of contrast and color?

    Every now and then I create a Super-8 image that if I were to poll a hundred people probably well over 90% would assume it was either created or augmented in the digital realm. Without an actual separation of categories, it seems part of the achievement of creating an in camera piece of art is muted by the viewer if they were to assume it was viewed at the moment of creation, and then created or adjusted on a computer when in fact neither of those conditions resulted in the photo they are viewing.

    If the Tour De France no longer banned steroid users, and instead had two categories for their races, steroid users and non steroid users, then the guy who finished 30th but was the first person across the line among the non-steroid users would be treated with the same regard as the steroid laden winner.

    When it's all said and done, isn't what one can create with their imagination and the unknown different than what one can create with modern day see ot as it happens technology? I don't think it's an issue which method one prefers, I just think it would be a good thing if both methods could co-exist far into the future and that the viewer understood and appreciated the difference.

    If the day comes when art is no longer created under a wait and see environment, I think we all will lose something.
     
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  2. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    What do you really intend to show with your stuff that's originally shot on motion-picture films? Is the super8-transfered-to-video still images your speciality in still photography? Or do you just want to show a few clips out of your final motion-picture piece on the Internet?

    I just checked one of your sites, and here's what I think: As long as you're using the VHS copy for creating your still images, you won't be able to solve the problem that you are trying to solve. Your audience is seeing exactly what you're showing them... the video!
     
  3. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    What I meant was that a good video transfer shows film quality on any format you use for a copy, but creating video stills from a VHS copy like you did for photo.net (B&W) is never going to be any fancy; you are freezing a frame, originally a VHS video frame to make a new still image, and that's like the lowest quality...
     
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  4. Alessandro Machi

    Alessandro Machi Member

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    The black and white image was a job in which the director managed to give out some VHS copies to the crew before disappearing. I'm not quite sure why you are focusing on that one particular image when it is not a time-exposure image to begin with.

    The color images are from super-8 to betacam sp and then a color 4 x 6 print was made, then scanned. The jpg's are very tiny files of under a 100K each, some are under 50K.
     
  5. Alessandro Machi

    Alessandro Machi Member

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    I wouldn't mind posting actual moving clips but dropped frames seem to be the order of the day on the most well known sites such as YouTube or google, I think it completely changes the viewing experience. So for now I just pick out some of my favorite still frames and post them.
     
  6. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Well, everything else look more like designs to me. I think they are nice and you're quite skillful and seem very talented for what you do.

    But this goes into a different area of discussion: Since the premise of APUG is, from what I understand, to shoot film primarily and present one's photo images in the way he or she would do traditionally. So that so much of the touch-up with the computer software that you've done would be appropriate only if you could find a way to prove that you could do the same or similar thing with the analog material.

    I used to shoot 16mm motion-picture film for fun and do some digital-movie video now, so I know some of the cross-genre thing that you're trying to bring. But if I would get into using all the digital effects, more like special effects to make the video look something other than what it originally looks, I would't be asking my questions here. I don't think this particular forum extends to that far end of the spectrum.

    But if I was going to shoot the motion-picture film of any format first, trasnfer to video to view and edit, show somewhere, and want to discuss with other fellows about all topics related to the subject of motion-picture film-shooting, I would hang out here. It is possible and sounds very nice as some people including myself have applauded.

    Otherwise, I agree with you that it doesn't matter what media one uses as long as the end product is something appreciative enough.
     
  7. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    I'm not trying to give you a hard time, but I want to know what sort of guidelines there will be for the discussion. And I love to get back to shooting more 16mm motion-picture film...
     
  8. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

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    hi guys
    i've never made movies so i can't understand a lot of what you are discussing, so please elaborate

    why would you want to convert a time lapse into a still image?

    why would want to use movie/video/super 8 to capture material that will ultimately be used for still presenation?

    doesn't 'movie' capture and presentation have it's own (what's the French expression) reason for being?

    thnx
    Ray
     
  9. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    I don't and I wouldn't except for when I need some still images from my little movies for maiking a flier or something. My movie-shooting experience is only 16mm film and 3CCD miniDV formats, and there's not much I plan to do with these formats.

    But some people do what they do in their special ways. I used to know a guy who shoots off a TV screen with a 6x6 still camera to record on film while he's running a VCR playing a video tape carrying his own video footage...
     
  10. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    "One underlying theme that many may not agree with is the notion that creating a digital still image has an advantage over shooting a film still image in the sense that one can shoot a lot more shots digitally and instantly view the result, but perhaps there are naysayers here to that position."

    Yes, I'm one of the naysayers. This doesn't seem to me to be an advantage so much as evidence of indecisiveness and serendipity taking precedent over precision, vision and craft. Instant gratification seems to me to lead to disposability.

    Maybe, since you come from a motion picture discipline, the creation of multiple images within a span of time is the primary goal. Still photography's goal, at least in my jaundiced view, is removing and preserving a moment of time from that span. But I come from a background of still photography and admit to my ignorance of the motion picture discipline.
     
  11. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    I'd be curious to know what newspapers you read are playing fast and loose with their images in this way. Do you have a link to any doctored images that are not clearly labeled "photo illustrations?" Ever since National Geographic rearranged the pyramids these issues have been under a microscope and materially altering photographs and presenting them as real...happens...and when it does, it's generally a firing offense.
     
  12. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    The problem with formats like super8 is that, with some cameras or almost all cameras, the shutter doesn't always run at the very accurate speed, so you're not even getting anything you want to plan out or aim in the first place if your final goal is to get a few stills out of each shot. And it's heck a lot of a job to pick one frame out of... god knows how many, but a lot! You don't have much control, basically. So, from a practical point of view, it doesn't make any sense.
     
  13. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Since this thread seems picking up some crowd, I would elaborate to ask you one question here: So, are you interested in making the images that you have shown without this digital process as well? I mean, video transfer is necessary for viewing, but not for the final output if you want to have a discussion here.

    So, are you seeking information about how to do that in an alalog way? Or do you just want to show your digital-end images here and talk about the motion-picture film? I think your images are nice, but they have to meet the analog-end somehow. My impression is that you probably are because you know the difference between the steroid users and non steroid users in a bike race...
     
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  15. Alessandro Machi

    Alessandro Machi Member

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    The Images you are speaking about have NEVER been put into a computer. They come from film originals. However, the process of transferring the film to video does allow one to optimize the image for video presentation.

    Those images were created in camera, on location. No compositing, warping, shrinking, layering, doubling or dodging of any kind was done. The black and white image is just to display a moment from a Super-8 music video, the shot of the three cameras was done on 35mm. The alphabet shots were done on location and haven't been in a computer ever.

    I explained in one of my follow ups that the primary reason I don't have my motion picture work posted on the internet is I cannot stand dropped frames. There are television broadcasting software programs that actually drop video frames every few seconds so the channel can fit an extra commercial or two over the course of the show, I flinch whenever I see a dropped frame, how could I possibly accept the much lower standards of the internet. Luckily, these outrageous attempts to milk more money while basically ruining the show appear briefly then go away for a long time from the broadcast world, although they do seem to crop up ever year or so.

    There are methods to prevent dropped frames during internet viewing, but apparently they require serious design and is not the kind of thing that is ever offered for free. Although I'm not looking for free, that is what seems to dominate the internet moving images market.
     
  16. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    Yeah, me too. I suspect that images may be blurred to obscure faces of "suspects" but other than that... you'll get fired for that sort of thing from any respectable newspaper.
     
  17. Alessandro Machi

    Alessandro Machi Member

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    I'm glad to hear this is considered a serious issue. I believe I have it seen it on two occasions in the sports section. I think it was done to dramatize the sports figure by blurring the objects around them.

    While it is possible that it simply was a long telephoto shot with a wide open lens, something about the shot seemed "off" to me. If the paper in question ever posts such photos in the internet version of their paper in the future, I will definitely provide a link to get some forum feedback.
     
  18. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    That would be great. FWIW "a long telephoto shot with a wide open lens" is pretty much standard for most sports photography.
     
  19. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    I understand you shot with your super 8 cameras and recorded footage on film. I understand that "in-camera" editing part of your production. But what about the seemingly very high color saturation that you have produced? How did you do that with your camera? What film stock did you use? I've never seen anything like that coming straight out any available film stock. I want to know more as a film shooter. You don't have to reveal your secret fomula, but could you tell us a little bit more?

    What about the flag image that looks like oil-painting? Does your camera really take a picture like that for each frame? What about the DJ booth(?) image? How did you make the color so vivid? It looks almost like a poster or something. Does the (normal) video transfer do that? Did you make any adjustment? What adjustment did you make? Did you turn the hue nob all the way? Did you boost up the saturation at any point of the process? Did you use other control devices to enhance certain characteristics of your original shots? Then why is the B&W image look so different from the rest? Is it just because it's from someone else's VHS copy?

    Seriously, could you elaborate to explain more on how you have created those color images? But the thing is, again you need to find an analog-end to even go further in this discussion.

    By the way, the drop-frame issue is there, but you get by okay during the transfer. And non-linear software allows you to adust even more. I don't shoot super8, so I can't speak for that particular format, but many people do that, and I have never heard them complain about the drop-frame issue any more than I should.

    If you're trying to show it online, you will probably have to make your file size smaller and that means you will have to compromise the frame number and quality a little. But that won't show in the viewing on someone's computer screen because the computer screen is not that sophisticated. However, if you want to take it to an actual movie theater for a video or film projection, then you will probably have a little problem if it's serious because you can see everything there. You gotta try a bit more to see exactly what technical issues you are running into.
     
  20. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    What I'm trying to say is that it would be great if you came up with a method to take film out of the super8 film cartrige, place it on an enlarger or a scanner, and printed a frame as a physical proof of what you've been doing with your video-transfer-plus-computer-use method. Or some funky method we've never even heard of.

    16mm is meanwhile easy to do both analog and digital; old Omega enlargers have 16mm film neg carriers for enlarging that format, and the high-end Nikon scanner has a 16mm film holder, also. So, you have both options clearly available to you, but I just don't know the technical limits as well as the trend of super8. And why am I the only one bothering to state all this here?

    Anyway the hybird users here are always seeking both ends. Or have you developed the film at home? That would be a great tip for the experiement.
     
  21. Alessandro Machi

    Alessandro Machi Member

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    Once Super-8 film is shot, the cartridge is turned into the lab, the lab develops it, and then it comes back on a movie reel. In theory it can be put on a magnifier of some kind and enlarged.

    What you are talking about in reference to 16mm and it's flexibility is what I call "preset". What does an image look like if you simply let it "flow" from point A to point B without adjusting it? Most consumers are never taught this basic principle of preset because it can be perceived as being boring, but any editing system that cannot reproduce "preset" tends to be incompatible with other systems.

    You also raise an interesting point about how 16mm can be more easily handled right from the film original and in essence one can avoid the "video" stage.

    Super-8 seems to not be affected in the video realm to any great exteme if one has made a quality transfer from the film original and one goes to a high enough video resolution format. Super-8 to Video can pretty much still looks like the original film, only with color correction added in. I have seen Super-8 transferred to digital and then projected digitally and frankly, I wasn't sure that if the original super-8 film were projected via an Elmo Super-8 Xenon Projector that it would have looked any better. I actually had access to an Elmo Xenon Super-8 Projector for a few years and I recall being rather pleased with how decent the original super-8 image looked when blown up large, especially the Kodachrome 40, the projected digital images of a Super-8 film original transferred to digital video or betacam sp looked very similar in quality to what could be done with a super-8 Elmo Xenon projector.

    In the 90's I put together an analog videotape editing studio. Whenever I edited a video, I would color and video level correct every shot. (This is why I never made a profit, it took longer and I always took time off the sessions). Video Editing controls that I consider completely "normal" and "real time" are "set-up, brightness, chroma and hue". If I was working through an MX-50 analog/digital switcher, I also could control the video clip level, which was a huge advantage. But let me repeat, this is nowhere as manipulative as the hundreds of options that are available on Photoshop. The adjustments that I can make are what I call "the basics".

    I believe that once one exits an interior set that has been meticulously lit and is completely controllable, any type of film that is used can be adjusted even after the film has been processed. I am not of the opinion that raising the chroma level or brightness level on a videotape versus actually importing the signal into a digital domain where it can be manipulated in a myriad of ways is the same thing.

    So while I did adjust the still images on my still image page, the foundation beneath them hasn't been altered in any way. What I do for my images, I do for every project that I edit.
     
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  22. Alessandro Machi

    Alessandro Machi Member

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    Just to be clear, I didn't use any computer software to create the images. The nighttime images were literally created in public venues, all done in camera at the time of exposure.
     
  23. Alessandro Machi

    Alessandro Machi Member

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    The flag shot is explained on the first page of the super-8mm.net site. There is no DJ booth shot, I don't know which shot you are refering to with that description. Yes Saturation is boosted, but that was done because the original film to video transfer was done with the set-up level too high, and that tends to "wash out" the image.

    Color has to "hang onto something", if the "something" does not exist, than saturation cannot just be arbitrarily added on. I am using analog to adjust the color saturation, they are knobs and dials that allow me to adjust in real time, none of it is done inside of a computer. Although I do have to scan the print image to upload it, but once again, these are nominal adjustments, the lumience and contrast shadings have to already be in the original film capture otherwise the adjustments cannot be made without a severe doctoring of the image.
     
  24. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    I see. First the problem is my language: I meant, "analog" as a traditional photo-processing method, and not the nobs and dials for the video transfer. Analog photo process means, you shoot film, develop it, print with an enlarger or have a slide ready for the final presentatation, etc. That is the typical analog process of the traditional photography. Cut the video tranfer and show us how you can do it in a traditional way if you can, which would probably be a good start to run a forum for this area of film photography and cinematography.

    Secondly I understand your adjustment process with the presets, and I don't have any problem with it except when you said the saturation-boost is done by the the lab, but not you, etc. Right here, you're exactly talking about the video product that's not done iin the traditional process any more, but you're not indicating how you can come up with the similar result in the traditional way. What do you want to do with it ultimately? So, this is what I think is not appropriate to discuss on this forum because this is for the traditional photography.

    Third, it was my fault to call your "3 super8 cameras and me" photo as a DJ booth shot. It just looked like that to me. You are so in the picture, so in the atmosphere, which I think is kind of cool. But again it's hard to see what it is unless you're 100 percent certain and confident about the way the image is shown is what you wanted to do in the first place...
     
  25. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    What vintage equipment are you using that is all analogue? But why is it important? I've never heard anyone arguing that analogue processing is preferable to digital processing aesthetically or ethically for video. Audio? Yes - I've heard those debates.

    [Explanation of my question for the rest of the world: The box might have analogue in and analogue out, and knobs on the front but have an ADC, DSP and DAC* inside.
    * Analogue to digital converter, digital signal processor, digital to analogue converter.]

    Best,
    Helen
     
  26. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    I don't care if his process involves electronics...it's analog, not digital. So what if it's not "typical." It's unique and creative.