- 1Introduction. What Camera to Choose? What Story To Tell?
- 2Ch. 1. Creating a New Paradigm: Behind the Scenes at Digital Bolex
- 3Ch. 2. What’s the Deal with Raw? The Advantages (and Disadvantages) of Shooting Compressed versus Raw
- 4Ch. 4. Filmic at 16mm: In the Field with Ikonoskop's A-Cam dII
- 5Ch. 5. Looking Sharp: In the Field with Blackmagic's Digital Cinema Camera
- 6Ch. 6. Rich Textures and Skin Tones: In the Field with the D16 Digital Bolex
The following film are referenced in my Cinema Raw book (with excerpts from the book):
Introduction. What Camera to Choose? What Story To Tell?
When RED announced their Scarlet camera in the spring of 2008 at NAB with a projected price of $2,500 the independent film and professional video world went into a frenzy as they dreamed about cinematic possibilities with an inexpensive camera. Because RED developed most of their technology in-house—including the creation of their own type of compressed lossless raw and lenses—their R&D skyrocketed and the production of the Scarlet was delayed until late 2011 with a base cost of $11,000 (not including required accessories and lenses)! By the time the Scarlet came out, it was the rename of the RED One—the original design, concept, and price point of the Scarlet, scratched. (p. xxi)
“Like film stocks, sensors all have distinct looks to them, and the CCD sensor in the A-Cam dII has a strong retro look while also retaining the clarity of digital. The image also has a look reminiscent of some great older European cinematography. I haven’t found a comparable sensor in any camera that looks at all similar. I have yet to try the Digital Bolex, but the sample footage I’ve seen so far, definitely has a different character to it.” -Jonathan Yi (p. xxvii)
Ch. 1. Creating a New Paradigm: Behind the Scenes at Digital Bolex
The differences may be subtle—and even undetectable by non-cinematographers—but you must remember Rubinstein isn’t trying to create a digital camera by comparing it to other digital video cameras. His baseline is 16mm film. “The ethos behind the D16 Bolex is to look at what made 16mm film format in the 60s appealing,” he says. Then you could buy, he explains, “the same film stock as the professionals. It’s just a smaller format than 35mm film. But you’re shooting the same thing. And the camera is just the carrier for the film stock. It doesn’t really affect the image quality. Maybe you could argue the angle of the shutter or something like that” (p. 7).
Ch. 2. What’s the Deal with Raw? The Advantages (and Disadvantages) of Shooting Compressed versus Raw
Kurt Lancaster and Kent Wagner’s Blackmagic Cinema Camera and Canon C100 Comparison:
“… but there’s a distinctly different feel to each image. The C100 feels sharper, a bit more clean, with a slight industrial plastic-like feel to it (perhaps a bit of a cold science-fiction feel), while the BMCC feels like it has more film-like texture, warmer in its presence onscreen—this feel drives not from the difference in resolution, but from a difference in bit depth” (p. 29).
“There’s film and there’s digital. Film’s all about the shadows. Digital’s all about the highlights. The reason a lot of people have had trouble transitioning to digital is because the mentality is 180 degrees from film—you’re protecting your shadows, when you should be protecting your highlights in digital.”
-Andrew Chochrane (p. 36).
Film grain in postproduction by Michael Plescia
My recommendation: grain in your post pipeline while the image is flat, so that the grain acts as a dithering mechanism allowing for color corrections that can be much more aggressive in the DI. Also, by doing so, you avoid weird color banding and color blocking that I’ve seen in badly color-corrected RED footage. Footage originated on film is grained from the beginning because grain is the image which helps dither any non-linear color correction curves and that’s why film shot images can be pushed to such degrees of saturation and richness—where digitally originated footage usually falls apart. -Michael Plescia (p. 41).
Ch. 4. Filmic at 16mm: In the Field with Ikonoskop’s A-Cam dII
Playing back the results, Holmdahl felt that the Ikonoskop A-Cam dII delivered a “more cinematic look than the other digital cameras I’ve used, and I understand that’s the whole purpose of this camera—it was made by filmmakers for film- makers.” Holmdahl feels this is a key difference when shifting from the 8-bit experience of prosumer video cameras and DSLRs to 12-bit raw of Ikonoskop’s camera.
“Much has been written about how we subconsciously experience media differently depending on how it is delivered to us by book, magazine, paper, analog film, digital images, gramophone records, or mp3 files. There is a richness in color variation in the footage shot on the Ikonoskop which I think adds beauty to the project.” -Katie Holmdahl (p. 75).
Markman remarks that the “motion, the global shutter, all make what you shoot look very filmic. And just the way the camera was designed with a sensor the same size as a 16mm negative, and being able to use 16mm lenses, makes it all pretty neat,” he explains. (p. 77)
But it’s not the design that coaxes such filmmakers as Fabrizio Fracassi to state: “After conducting some video tests, I was instantly reminded of my early experiences with 16 millimeter film and its organic qualities.”4 Inside any digital camera lies a sensor—not all sensors are equal, and it’s not just the difference between CMOS and CCD. Some are designed with higher tolerances. (p. 67)
For Plescia—despite the fact he’s technically minded—”hearing a camera designer speak passionately and intimately about a camera as a conduit for making the types of ‘films we love’ was so unlike other camera designers and marketing that I’d been hearing at that time.” Indeed, Plescia gets annoyed about cameras being talked about as specs—resolution, frame rate variability, and stops of exposure latitude, “as if cameras were computers rather than paintbrushes. For me, filmmaking is deeply personal, akin to poetry, painting, or music writing, and it’s where I find my deepest form of self expression so I was deeply intrigued by Göran’s pitch” in that interview. (p. 79)
What stands out in the examination of the trailer to the film is how it looks like it was shot on 16mm film (see Figure 4.2). And it’s not just the vintage set that complements the look of the camera or just a postproduction trick (such as with an effect from Magic Bullet), although film grain/dust effects were added. There is a look put out by this sensor that exudes old-time 16mm film. (p. 69)
Olsson feels like the raw is very close to shooting film—at least in the process. It’s not just the quality, but you also have to “develop it in the computer or the post process. And then when you develop it, you have a lot of options. And you have another exposure latitude, and you can do things with the color and so on. So I think what we’ve actually done is to create the first digital film camera.” (p. 67)
Ch. 5. Looking Sharp: In the Field with Blackmagic’s Digital Cinema Camera
The BMCC is set up at the back of the house with a Canon 24-70mm 2.8L lens, set around 35mm at f/2.8. Color grading through DaVinci Resolve. Even from the back of the house, the BMCC image is sharp—much sharper than the Canon C100 or a DSLR from the same distance—which stems from the fact that the 8-bit compression does. (p. 98)
“Blackmagic actually came in quite handy, because the way I wanted him positioned was to have his back to the light, which isn’t ideal, but that was the light source. I had enough of a bounce from the wall back onto him to make his eyes still catch light, and I wanted this light on the wall behind him that was hitting it. And with the Blackmagic’s dynamic range I was able to actually use it, and not lose the light on his face. He’s also black and there’s a bright light behind him.” -Philip Bloom (p. 101).
“When we sat down and thought about how we wanted to approach creating Ray’s artist profile film, one of the most important considerations for us was to ‘do justice’ to his work and his passion. We knew we had to create something that at least matched his attention to detail and commitment to making beautiful, emotive work. We wanted to make sure that someone clear across the country (or clear across the world) could fully appreciate Ray’s craft by virtue of ours.” -Joe Kyle (p. 108).
Ch. 6. Rich Textures and Skin Tones: In the Field with the D16 Digital Bolex
… when I import the D16 files into my computer, the images contain as much depth as I felt when looking through the camera in the field. It remained alive. The shots felt “thick”, expressing the density of 16mm film. I didn’t want to put the camera down.
And the postproduction process—although more of a workflow hassle than what I was used to in the DSLR world—proved much better in latitude, as I noted with the Ikonoskop and the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. The benefits of 12-bit raw give us color depth that is unparalleled in the history of cinema—at least in its price class (p.123).
Additional short films shot with the Digital Bolex D16: