View Full Version : are TV series shot on video or film?
01-09-2005, 05:41 PM
I just got the Charlie's Angels Season 2 boxset, and I was wondering if TV series such as this one were shot on film or video? This one at least looks like it was shot on film, and if it was shot on video, why don't shot on video movies look this good?
01-09-2005, 05:57 PM
both. some on film of varying stock and 16 or 35mm, some on video, some on HDvideo.
Richard W. Haines
01-09-2005, 06:35 PM
Video has a very limited contrast ratio and resolution. Modern T-grain emulsion has a four stop leeway that enables cinematographers to
light with nuance and creativity. Not much you can do with video.
Low key lighting is difficult to impossible and the depth of field is
not as great as film.
Through the eighties, many TV shows were shot in 35mm and then
transferred to video. Not too many were shot in 16mm although Lucas'
Young Indiana Jones was an exception. Prior to the eighties, most
that were shot on film were also produced in 35mm then reduction
printed to 16mm for syndication. The networks broadcast 35mm
prints on a film chain and the syndication stations aired 16mm.
Today, many TV shows are still shot in 35mm (for the superior resolution),
then transferred to digital tape, edited and aired on that format.
I feel it's a mistake not to conform the negative to the cut show
so that it exists in 35mm for preservation and/or future video formats
it can be transferred to in the future. There are no archival video
formats. Only motion picture stock properly processed and stored
can be considered archival.
Anything shot on Eastmancolor negative stock (TV or for theatrical exhibition) prior to 1983 is subject to fading since the stock was unstable
at the time. Modern low fade color stock (post 1983) has better image stability.
The only 'no fade' stock used professionally was the Technicolor dye
transfer process which was utilized for network broadcast premieres in the sixties and early seventies
("Wizard of Oz", "Music Man", "Rear Window", "Vertigo" etc.) and for Walt Disney's "Wonderful World of Color".
Everything else was shot and aired in quick fade Eastmancolor through
01-09-2005, 08:00 PM
Thanks for the explanation Richard, now it makes sense why TV series look different than say soap operas on TV now.
01-09-2005, 08:10 PM
Excellent answer, Richard W. Haines.
I'd always understood that CHARLIE'S ANGELS was shot on 16mm film. It certainly looks like 16mm to me.
Soaps used to be shot on analog videotape, switching between mult-cameras.
Today soaps, talk shows and news are all digital betacam now.
Reality programs and programs like 24 and Shield are shot HD digital.
01-10-2005, 01:18 PM
Many sitcoms(starting in the 1970's) were "shot on tape in front of a live audience", starting with All in the Family.
Maybe Richard Haines can answer this one--In TV sitcoms of the 1960's that were shot in color and on film, the colors seem much more vibrant(I am talking when watched on DVD or off of videos made from original masters or negatives, like when Columbia House put out Beverly Hillbillies episodes onto VHS years ago) than a filmed 1970's(or later era) sitcom. The colors really stand out when watching Columbia House VHS copies of Beverly Hillbillies or MGM's DVD of Green Acres or the Rhino DVDs of The Monkees TV series or Shout Factory's DVD of Here's Lucy as opposed to watching DVDs of Happy Days or Laverne and Shirley or Mary Tyler Moore. Did it have something to do with changing to more "drab" color schemes or what? (Note: I am not referring to prints shown in syndication or on TV Land, which tend to look like they have been run through a projector far too many times.)
Richard W. Haines
01-11-2005, 06:42 PM
Okay. This is a rather lengthy discussion. Both movies and TV shows did have vibrant colors prior to the seventies because the Technicolor process set the standards that everyone was competing against. When Technicolor abandoned it's process and switched to Eastmancolor, the standards disappeared and everything began looking drab and colorless. Everything started fading too which caused the 'color fading crisis' of 1979.
On the other hand, it wasn't only the demise of Technicolor but a visual trend implemented by what's referred to as "New Hollywood". What was 'New Hollywood'?
The trend began in the mid-sixties when some young people began producing low budget independent films. One of the big differences was, these young (under 30)
directors redefined what cinema was. "Old Hollywood" (Hitchcock, Selznick, De Mille,
Lean etc.) defined cinema as an entertainment medium. Within this context, showmanship was integral. Cinematography was lush and artistic. The goal was to make the film look aesthetically pleasing to the eye whether it was in black and white or color. When the networks switched to color in 1966, they tried to replicate the film look at the time which was rich fleshtones, vibrant primaries and a creative use of hues. Basically, everyone was trying to make their movies or shows simultate "Glorious Technicolor". Indeed, Technicolor did a lot of the TV work at the time. Films like "Rear Window", "The Wizard of Oz" and "Vertigo" were broadcast in new Technicolor prints. Color consultants were used in both mediums and you can see their names in the credits. They were experts at what colors were appropriate for the mood of the scene or to use for dramatic emphasis (i.e. "Vertigo"). Disney's "Wonderful World of Color" used Technicolor and even had a catchy theme song noting the difference ("The world is a carosel of color....")
The young filmmakers who encompassed New Hollywood did not define cinema in these terms. They saw it as a medium for political activism and their films reflected the counter-culture/hippie/New Left/radical movement of the era. Titles like "Woodstock", "The Strawberry Statement" and "Sweet sweetback's baaad assss song" are examples. New Hollywood rejected everything "Old Hollywood" stood for including it's picture perfect visuals in Technicolor. A new breed of cinematographers
like Gordon Willis (aka the price of darkness) and Haskell Wexler created the 'cinema verite' look which was to shoot with as little light as possible with hand held cameras.
It didn't matter if the color was washed out or grainy, if the image was in focus or soft, if the camera wasn't sturdy on a tripod. That was derided as 'old fashioned' if not offensive. Thus you got movies like "The Landlord" filmed by Willis that looked as if it was shot in Super 8 even though it was presented in 35mm. A number of sympathetic critics gave accolades to each new level of image degradation. The grainier, the murkier, the darker the better as far they were concerned. Read the
raves about "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" which I find one of the ugliest looking movies ever photographed. I guess the climax of this New Hollywood imagery was "Heaven's Gate". As Roger Ebert noted, the film was so murky and grainy it looked like vaseline was on the lens and you wanted to wipe the screen off. However, in some circles this was considered great cinematography. As these new cinematographers replaced the classic ones who died off or retired, they became a voting block at the Oscars.
People of like mind tend to stick together so films like "Butch Cassidy" shot by Conrad Hall would win the Academy Award. Hall said in an AMC documentary that he wanted to change the Western from the rich blue skies of a John Ford picture and 'pale it out' which indeed he did. Year by the year the 'new look' continued to win the awards while movies shot in the 'classic style' would not even be nominated. Eventually, television adopted this look since that was the trend.
Personally, I hate it and prefer to simulate the Technicolor look in my movies.
However, there are some who like the muted colors and desaturated fleshtones rather than the dramatic use of color. I suppose it's a matter of taste although the tragedy is, if a director wanted to replicate the look of "Lawrence of Arabia", I doubt whether any contemporary cinematographer would know how to shoot in that style.
I was briefly in correspondance with Freddie Young (David Lean's DP) after he retired to England to paint. I asked him why no one had matched his visuals much less surpassed them and he commented, 'no one asked me'.
I figured out some of his technique. For example, to generate the infinite depth of field, saturated fleshtones and deep blue skies of "Lawrence of Arabia", Young put on a polarizing filter and exposed for the sky. That darkened the faces so he used a generator to put a high key arc light on their face so they had the same exposure as the sky. The result was a rich color image that was so sharp you could see a mile into the distance which made you feel like you were on location. Today, cinematographers would expose for the face and let the sky go bleached out. They either don't want to take the time to do what Young did or don't have the talent to
shoot in that fashion. If you look at production stills prior to the seventies you see enormous amount of lights on the sets because the DP's were 'painting with light'.
Current production stills will show very few lights on the sets. Most DPS are shooting with high speed stock with as little light as they can get away with...and it looks it in most cases. So many current movies have a de-saturated bluish tint (blue backgrounds, blue fleshtones) I wonder if the cameramen are color blind.
My own personal favorite 'classic' cinematographers are: Freddie Young (David Lean films like "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Doctor Zhivago"), Robert Burks (Hitchcock films like "Vertigo" and "North by Northwest"), Ted Moore (James Bond films like "Goldfinger" and "Thunderball") and Winston Hoch (Ford films like "The Searchers"). Their cinematography are truly works of art. You can see much of this quality on DVDs although they look best projected on film. The imagery is so rich and sharp it's almost three dimensional.
You can actually purchase and own original Technicolor prints but they are extremelly expensive. Log onto ebay and type in 16mm Techncolor and you'll see a list of available prints which change weekly. Currently there's a lab mint 16mm Technicolor print of "Goldfinger" but it's going to ending up in the range of $1500 to $2000. You can get a Tech cartoon for $30 though.
The prints will last you a lifetime and will never fade and look breathaking on screen and continue to go up in value but you will need a whole lot of disposable income if you want to become a film collector. I was lucky. I started way back in the seventies when prints were really cheap. Now they're out of sight but I found most of what I wanted.
01-11-2005, 07:30 PM
Richard, you make a compelling and persuasive case. A lot of films look bleak when there's no need to look bleak, because that is the aesthetic taste of the director and the dp, because they don't know any better, because they have no taste, or because they have a limited talent. Also, they're not allocated the same amount time or money as the old masters, so they have to shoot lightweight and portable. No time for tests, no time for experiments. Standards have deteriorated because audiences accept it. Film makers also accept it: funding is so hard to raise, and there's so little of it, they just want to get their pictures made, and more often than not, that means accepting lower quality.
Freddie Young couldn't get the same look today if he tried. Emulsions, laboratory processes, and lights have changed. All the tools have changed, have evolved into something else, not always for the better.
If I had my way, I would retool the industry for 65mm. I would standardize 65mm for shooting and projecting. It's double the quality of 35mm film, as you know, and offers an image that television and digital technology cannot compete with. I would standardize 65mm so that the costs come down to what 35mm costs now, or lower. I would return to the dye transfer process, so that if my film had to look bleak, it would be a saturated bleak. Further, I would standardize stereographic processes -- that means every film maker, from the set designor to the director to the dp to the cutter -- would have to learn HOW TO THINK in depth. Every film should be shot in 3-D. That's just common sense. It makes no sense that we have two eyes and see life in depth, whereas our cinema is standardized to see flat through one eye.
I like the desaturated color that Conrad Hall brought to THE PROFESSIONALS and BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID: Hall told me he learned the technique from James Wong Howe. The desaturated look suited the hardscrabble stories being told. I also liked Zsigmond's work on McCABE & MRS. MILLER and THE LONG GOODBYE. Perhaps you under-estimate them. Give them another try. I'm not suggesting that every film should be shot in this fashion. Most are, and shouldn't be.
I was there for the Cinerama restoration of HOW THE WEST WAS WON projected in the Dome in Hollywood in September 2003. Three strips of film pulled through three projectors and thrown onto a huge screen in a half-circle. A genuine cinematic experience I will never forget. The audience was completely won over by it. If audiences could see today's films shot that way, they would never accept video again, and would walk out on bleak. Afterward I toured the projection booth, then I joined a tour of the lab, Crest National, who did the restoration (they also press Anchor Bay DVD's). They had to build their own Cinerama screening room in the warehouse to do the job. It's still there, gathering dust, awaiting funds for another restoration. Around the corner, I attended a World 3-D Expo at the American Cinematheque. 35 feature films, plus shorts and cartoon, shot in authentic 3-D. Many of them were in Technicolor's 3-strip process. Most of the films were beautifully restored. Even if they had been projected flat, the image quality surpassed every film being made today, without exception.
So far as I know, the last feature film shot in Technicolor's 3-strip dye transfer process was Argento's SUSPIRIA in 1977. It stunned everybody who saw it in a cinema, even if they didn't know why. Francis Ford Copolla used it only in post for the restoriation of THE GODATHER films and APOCLAYPSE NOW REDUX, and the upgrade was astonishing (even though Gordon Willis's original lighting values were inappropriately and unnecessarily altered without his participation or approval).
01-11-2005, 09:39 PM
[QUOTE=Richard W] So far as I know, the last feature film shot in Technicolor's 3-strip dye transfer process was Argento's SUSPIRIA in 1977.QUOTE]
Suspiria wasn't shot using the Technicolor 3 Strip process. It was shot on normal Eastman Colour Kodak 35mm film stock, but it was printed, utilising the 3 strip process, on one of the last (Infact I think it was the last) remaining machines at the Technicolor labs in Rome.
Jeffrey Allen Rydell
01-12-2005, 12:16 AM
I'm fw'ding this reply on behalf ov Vincent Pereira, who's having some trouble enabling his posting privileges. For those of you who don't recognize him from his posts on several other film/video boards, Vincent is known for his extensive knowledge of the history and technique of cinematography.
Vincent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
"Both GODFATHER and GODFATHER PART II were printed in I.B. Technicolor under Gordon Willis's supervision for their initial theatrical releases. In fact, GODFATHER PART II was the last film printed in I.B. Technicolor before Technicolor abaondoned the process in 1974- they actually kept the machines running just long enough to finish the G-II prints. It was NOT used for the "restoration" of GODFATHER or APOCALYPSE NOW- in fact, I'm pretty certain THE GODFATHER has not been restored at all. Paramount made new prints for a theatrical re-issue in the 1990s, but no restoration work was done, and I don't think those prints were I.B. Technicolor. APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX was PRINTED in a new version of I.B. Technicolor that Technicolor re-introduced a few years ago, and it was used for show-prints on some other films, too (I recall reading that THE THIN RED LINE and Oliver Stone's ANY GIVEN SUNDAY had some I.B. Tech prints, and perhaps even the first MATRIX), but I've read that they've up and abondoned the process yet again. But, making I.B. Technicolor prints of something is not the same as "restoring" something.
And SUSPIRIA was NOT *SHOT* in 3-strip Technicolor. It was shot on a very old, very slow single-strip Eastmancolor negative stock using Technovision cameras and anamorphic lenses, and SOME prints were done in I.B. Technicolor. It was obviously DESIGNED during photography to exploit I.B. Technicolor printing to its fullest, but was not shot in the cumbersome 3-strip process (I don't think ANY film past the early 1950s was, in fact most if not all of the 3-strip camera were converted to 8-perf Technirama format- i.e., Vistavision with an anamorphic lens or the process that SPARTACUS was shot in). The documentary on the Anchor Bay DVD clouds this issue when they have Luciano Tavolli talking about PRINTING in I.B. Tech vs. standard Eastman printing, and the editor of the doc incorrectly cuts to shots of a 3-strip CAMERA. If you look at what Tavolli is saying, he isn't discussing the filming process at all, he's talking about how the film was printed in the lab. They are entirely different things. Even STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE was printed in I.B. Technicolor overseas, and that film certainly wasn't "shot in 3-strip", and neither was SUSPIRIA.
Jeffrey Allen Rydell
01-12-2005, 12:17 AM
I've got some additional thoughts concerning Richard W. Haines' take on how the passing of the torch from Old Hollywood to New affected the art of cinematography, as I don't think it can be reduced simply to a vague political statement on the part of tyro directors.
That's certainly an element - in the case of a Hal Ashby or a Haskell Wexler, it's a big part of it. Also important, though, is the simple, non-political desire of filmmakers to shake off the constraints of studio shooting. The cameras and lighting rigs were simply not conducive to doing so - not at a reasonable cost. A big part of why the studios let young guys get a toehold at all was because their big productions weren't connecting with audiences the way they used to, and that desperation intersected with the rise of the film school brats, who were making low budget films that were. Old Hollywood gave them the keys to the kingdom, and they had learned their craft making student films in each other's dorms, in their parents’ basements. They couldn't duplicate the looseness of that sort of run-and-gun shooting with the cumbersome equipment that allowed for complete control in a studio, and that meant lighter cameras, and small lighting rigs that encouraged the development of faster film stocks.
Eventually, as Old and New Hollywood got a taste of a new sort of success, profitable formulas began to re-assert themselves, and budgets began to climb along with studio confidence. The initially-freeing new technologies and new power in the hands of new directors led to more extravagant projects, and without the control and supervision of the studio environment to cap costs, there were several runaway productions that only confirmed to the old guard that risk and trust often didn't pay off financially.
And speaking of pay-offs - the industry was positively staggered by the money that could be made by the high concept event film. They didn't always understand going in why some of these films made the money they did, but they did become very adept at duplicating the outward trappings of a must-see film: marketing, mostly.
They fell back on tried-and-true "sell the sizzle, not the steak" campaigns, and discovered a HUGE new trick - saturation booking. This made for selling the audience on the immediate apparent success of the first weekend, and using that perceived success as word of mouth, rather than the audience response to the film itself.
I believe that if Hollywood had discovered this concept earlier, we'd have gone right from the bloated late 60's into the greedy 80's without much of what made the 70's so unique.
I'd also submit that the high-speed print duplication processes developed in the wake of saturation booking had at least as much to do with the apparent drop-off of image quality as the faster stocks and cheaper color processing did.
01-12-2005, 02:51 AM
Gentlemen, since some of your responses were to my post and not Richard W. Haines, allow me to reply. Perhaps I should have expressed myself with more spcificity instead of generalizing. I have no trouble conceding that SUSPIRIA wasn't shot in 3-strip. Don't get upset. My source was my memory of the audio commentary and extras on the Anchor Bay DVD set, which I haven't listened to in a couple of years, and as you point out, it fogs the issue. But I'm half right in that it was put through the process in post.
I know the difference between a restoration and striking new prints; I also know that new prints are struck from a restoration.
However, I beg to differ on the matter of THE GODFATHER films. According to a report in a San Francisco newspaper for the premiere of the restoration, both films were in fact restored. That was the purpose of the event in SF, to premiere the restoration. American Movie Classics aired a documentary in 1999 or thereabouts discussing the restoration and even showing Before and After samples. If you re-read my post above, you'll see that I never said Gordon Willis didn't supervise the processing originally (in fact, statements in his interview file at the AFI detail his methods), but I maintain that he was not asked to supervise the restoration or the new prints for the re-release. And one has only to look at the new prints to see with your own eyes how the light and color values of the orignals were brightened and otherwise altered.
Also, if you re-read my post, you'll see that I never said APOCALYPSE NOW was shot in 3-strip, I said that APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX was done in the process in post only. Again, I distinctly remember watching a news report in which Copolla himself mentions the new dye-transfer process. Further, I never mentioned STAR WARS at all, so there's no need to tell me off about that film. Mr. Pereira writes about this with more specificity, and I appreciate that, but lighten up, will you?
In regard to the new dye-transfer process being abandoned again, it was so labor-intensive and time-consuming that noone could afford to pay for it. It became cost-prohibitive.
Maybe the moderators could re-admit Vincent Pereira to this board? Ian? Troy?
Richard W. Haines
01-12-2005, 08:09 AM
Richard W and Jeffrey,
Well, it looks like we've sparked a heated debate. I've had these before in my lectures when I've demonstrated the different 'looks' to audiences.
The results were quite interesting. Playing 'devil's advocate', I would act as an appologist for the new style of cinematography and play a reel of a
film like "The Verdict" where there was almost no light on Newman's face (he was in sillouette at times) and virtually no detail in the backgrounds. Dark and murky. Then I would thread up a reel of "Thunderball" without comment. The response of the viewers was astounding.
Some whom had never seen a dye transfer print said it was like watching a movie for the first time. The most common comment was 'it looked three dimensional'. Everyone agreed that "The Verdict" was embarassingly bad in comparison and would've been more effective as a drama if you could actually see the expressions on the actor's faces.
I went on tour with "Space Avenger" in the early nineties and one college audience wanted to sign a petition to bring the process back. Without exception,
viewers preferred the dye transfer prints over the high speed Eastmancolor copies. So the question is...whom should cinematographers
and directors gear their imagery to? Audiences (who seem to prefer Technicolor) or critics who like the de-saturated imagery of post-1970 films?
Of course, I should add that the dye transfer process is superior as a printing process regardless of whether a film is shot in the 'classic style' of lighting or
"contemporary style". As I mentioned before, matrices were always derived from the camera negative so release prints were all first generation instead of third.
Also, the underexposed negatives of Gordon Willis and Conrad Hall retained more contrast and resolution when the IB process was used for release prints. Dye transfer tended to 'fill in the grain' of underexposed negatives since they had rich contrast and non-transparent blacks. That's why the IB prints of the first two Godfather films looked good and the prints made from a CRI (both types were made in the seventies on these titles) looked murky and awful.
That's one of the major problems with Willis' style of camerawork. Since the negative is so thin, the prints only look acceptable if derived from the EK. If you strike them from IN's three generations removed, the imagery falls apart.
Now in terms of contemporary film stock and equipment, if Freddie Young were alive he could surpass the visuals of "Lawrence of Arabia" with today's T-grain emulsion and improved lens designs. He could achieve his
results with less light on set because he was a visual stylist and artist. "Painting light on film" was a matter of talent and taste. You used whatever equipment was available to achieve the results. I simply don't believe contemporary cinematographers have his aesthetic talent to create the kind of visuals that absorb you into the story. I believe that poor resolution, shallow depth of field and de-saturated colors distance you from the narrative. Excessive grain calls attention to itself and is a distraction.
Sadly, fifty years of color development have been abandoned. Experiments with deep focus lenses that date back to Greg Toland's work in "Citizen Kane" haven't been used in decades. The creative use of color for atmosphere and dramatic effect utilized by Robert Burks in "Vertigo" seems to be absent from most contemporary films.
Shouldn't a color more have 'color'? Superior processes like 65mm and 35mm VistaVision (for negative print downs which generated a finer grain image in 1.85) have also been phased out. Rather than film in 65mm, directors like James Cameron shoot in Super 35 and blow up the image to anamorphic proportions by cropping half of the exposed negative out. This is retrograde technology since Super 35 was derived from the second rate SuperScope process of the fifties.
I also disagree that dye transfer printing was too expensive to use today. The budgets for many movies exceed one hundred million. Through the early nineties, distributors were willing to make 70mm blow up prints which cost twenty thousand dollars per copy. Dye transfer release printing was considerably less expensive than that. The real reason that the IB process was shut down again was indifference to the theatrical experience. Hollywood insiders are isolated culturally from the rest of us and don't seem to care what is shown in the megaplexes as long as they screen the camera negative prints at the Academy. Most exhibitors no longer care about presentation which is evident in the paltry weekly attendence figures.
They have cut corners in showmanship in turn due to the outrageous distributor demands which make it difficult for them to show a profit in their houses. Distributors get 90 % of the ticket sales of the first week or so for the big budget movies. What choice does the theater owner have but to hire minimum wage workers to run the platter projectors (as opposed to union qualified operators), raise ticket prices and show advertising slides. No one cares about the moviegoing experience any more.
Showmanship does exist but only in the home video mediums (DVD, cable) where top quality materials are shown. It's a complicated problem with plenty of blame to attach to the various factions (DP's, distributors, exhibitors).
However, I'll stick with my assertion that the quality of cinematography has declined for the reasons stated above.
It is possible to make top quality prints, even from intermediate materials in Eastmancolor as Bob Harris has proved but you have to care enough to make it
As for my own efforts, if I can produce and exhibit movies in dye transfer Technicolor and 3-D then budget is certainly not the issue. The lack of showmanship is the problem.
P.S. The three strip camera was used through 1955. No Technicolor films were photographed that equipment afterwards. "Glorious Technicolor" was acually a method of making release prints. The final product shown to audiences was what counted. Different types of cameras were used to generate a variety of 'looks' accordingly. The three strip camera was one look. Films photographed in large formats (65mm 35mm VistaVision) was another look. Cinerama yet another type of Technicolor imagery. While
the process tends to be associated with the vibrant colors of "The Wizard of Oz", the method of making release prints was superior to any other mass production method and could be utilized in any style of camerawork desired including de-saturated hues as in "Moby Dick", "Reflections of a Golden Eye" and "Oliver!" In general though, most Technicolor movies from 1935-1975 tended to use color dramatically which is what set them aside from films in other processes. It was very rare to see a bad Technicolor print and very common to see a bad DeLuxe or Pathecolor copy.
As for the new Eastmancolor "Godfather" prints, they are not restorations.
The film was designed for the dye transfer process. That look cannot be replicated in Eastmancolor. I guess the word 'restoration' in this case means the prints are not faded to red. The contrast and rich blacks of the original IB's are absent from the new LPP copies and the soundtrack has been altered too.
01-12-2005, 03:30 PM
A number of good posts here. Richard Haines did also nail it right on the head. "The lack of showmanship is the problem." This is a large reason why I have (mostly) abandoned theatergoing. The nearest theater where I live is a 16-screen multiplex which programs films that cater to the lowest common denominator(for example, they have not played Sideways, Million Dollar Baby, or Phantom of the Opera). The last film I saw here was The Aviator, which when projected looked so dark it reminded me of an old TV set that had tubes going out. I much rather go to a well run theater where there is quality projection and sound(example: One of Allen Michaan's theaters like the Orinda or the Grand Lake--Michaan is an independent operator of 4 theaters) than go to a chain that has a "monopoly" presence in the marketplace where I live(Century). Yet Hollywood caters to the "chains".
01-12-2005, 07:41 PM
Not to drift from the subject, but you have to wonder how this lousy mess ever came into being. I have decided that the crappy presentations we see today are partially the result of film whiz kids getting control of the camera and the accountants grabbing the film industry. Not that I have anything aginst accoutants or whizz kids, mind you.
Recently, I had the chance to watch both the IFC's "A Decade Under The Influence" (about filmmaking in the late 60s to early 70s) and the extra disk to THX1138 ( a lot of which had to do with the early history of American Zeotrope Studio). Between the two you can see how the art film boys slowly gained control. They had a few hits and -presto!- they're in charge. I thought it might change years ago when "1941" bombed, but there is this thing called "inertia"....
01-12-2005, 11:42 PM
I thought it might change years ago when "1941" bombed, but there is this thing called "inertia"....
Is that what it's called?
Actually, the situation gets worse.
Theater owners are a large part of the problem. All the multi-plexes brag about their state-of-the-art projection, but the fact is, they're not throwing enough light on the screen. SMPTE establishes a standard of footcandles; I forget how many, but few theaters comply. Projection is generally dimmer than it's supposed to be.
If that's not bad enough, aluminized screens are all but replaced by cheaper opaque white screens. White screens don't have the luminosity to properly register color values and the nuances of subtle lighting. Aluminized, or silver, screens bounce back a clearer, sharper, deeper picture. There's no substitute for a silver screen. The expression, "on the silver screen" is now literally a thing of the past. Although silver screens can be rented or purchased from National Screen Service and other sources, theater owners don't want to pay for them. They'll spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on comfy seats and loudspeakers and digital audio systems, but they won't invest a penny in quality of image.
If that isn't bad enough, the projection booths -- or projection halls if we're talking about multi-plexes -- are manned by minimum wage kids who think it's cool to screw up. I've been in theaters where they forget to dim the house lights when the feature starts. I've seen audiences sit there watching a movie with all the ceiling lights on bright as day without anyone getting up to complain. I've seen "projectionists" yank the film out of a projector as if they were tearing girft wrap off a present. I've seen an entire reel go by out of frame because the projectionist is busy prepping three more across the hall and doesn't have time to come back and correct because he has to get the other movies rolling first. I've seen screens washed out by all the ceiling lights streaming out of the projection hall, and tinny monitors blaring out of the projection hall to bleed in with auditorium speakers.
I could go on and on, but you get the point.
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