Saturday, June 29, 2002

Some POV-Ray code (untested) that implements a quartic triangular Bezier patch.

// start of macro code
#macro TriBezier(pA,pB,pC,pD,pE,pF,pG,pH,pI,pJ,pK,pL,pM,pN,pO,cD)
  smooth_triangle {




// end of macro code

MicroBytes computer store.

Icons sorted by feast day.

Friday, June 28, 2002

Discussions based on Pope John Paul II's 1960 book "Love and Responsibility".

Freedom exists for the sake of love. If freedom is... not taken advantage of by love it becomes a negative thing and gives human beings a feeling of emptiness and unfulfilment.... [For] man longs for love more than for freedom - freedom is the means and love is the end.

Good summary of "Love and Responsibility".

Views of Nature and Self-Discipline: Evidence from Inner City Children

This study examined the relationship between near-home nature and three forms of self-discipline in 169 inner city girls and boys randomly assigned to 12 architecturally identical high-rise buildings with varying levels of nearby nature. Parent ratings of the naturalness of the view from home were used to predict children's performance on tests of concentration, impulse inhibition, and delay of gratification. Regressions indicated that, on average, the more natural a girl's view from home, the better her performance at each of these forms of self-discipline. For girls, view accounted for 20% of the variance in scores on the combined self-discipline index. For boys, view from home showed no relationship to performance on any measure. These findings suggest that, for girls, green space immediately outside the home can help them lead more effective, self-disciplined lives.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

A team of Japanese engineers has come up with a way of blocking mobile phone signals using wood panels containing magnetic material. They work by sandwiching a layer of nickel-zinc ferrite between thin slices of wood. The magnetic ferrite absorbs much of the energy of the radio signal, cutting the phone dead in most cases.

ResPower, an animation render farm (50 CENTS per 1 GHz CPU hour, and they have 150 GHz of CPU processing power - i.e. $75/hour for total farm).

Map of spammers (a bit confusing).

Slashdot thread: Cinema Tools for Final Cut Pro


FilmAVID costs (since I last checked) $32k. Thirty. Two. Thousand. Dollars. American.

Hmm. Given that you can't even get a Media Composer for less than about $30,000, stripped, I'd say you're way off here. The Film Composer starting price is around $70,000, not counting storage.

your monitors (not cheapass NTSC teevees, we're talking real-live production monitors, they run about $500 each, and you need at least one)

Again I must say hmm. Maybe you're talking about a used 14" PVM or something. A decent BVM will cost you at least ten times that figure. More if you get the SDI input option.

All in all, to edit film on an AVID system, you're looking at about $65k for a "good" system.

No, all in all, to edit film on an Avid, you're looking at a base, entry, can't-do-it-for-less price of $70,000 or so. A "good" system will run you around $200,000.


Here's the thing about the film business. Most of the editing and compositing work in Hollywood is done on a flat-rate contact. In other words, one house says, "Cut your film at my post house for $50,000," and another says, "Cut it at mine for $40,000." The second house wins.

The second house was able to under-bid the first one because they bought twenty G4s with FCP to do their off-lining, instead of 20 Avid Media Composers. The G4s cost about $8,000 apiece, while a Media Composer goes for somewhere around $100,000. So the second house kept their expenses down, under-bid the job, and got the work.

For film editing, yeah, quality costs. But quality only matters when you go to do the final edit. The vast majority of the work is done in the offline, and if you can cut costs there, you're doing it right.


If you're doing a 24fps film project you're going to need to be 100% you have a system that can track and play frames accurately. Editing film on a computer for eventual conforming back on film is a complicated process that involves 3:2 pulldown, maintaining audio sync, tracking keycode #s, duplicate frame usage, legal optical effects, etc. If any of these things are off, even by a little bit, you can be totally screwed as you will be physically slicing your film's negative to match what's edited on the computer. One mess-up means you're ...

I'd like to know what free software does that. I've looked, believe me. The closest I can find is Broadcast 2000, but it's still nowhere close for a film project.

If you're interestested in some of the issues involved w/picture & sound editing, see this site [] and especially this article [Editing Film Projects on Video or Computer].


Are there any decent open source video tools? [Linux]

Kino for DV editing

Then there was Broadcast2000 (which mig still be availble via sourceforge). Check with Linux Media Arts :
I Think they maintain Broadcast2000 now...

and for the non-OSS stuff check out :

Cinema Tools for Final Cut Pro enhances Final Cut Pro 3’s 24fps editing capabilities with support for film cut lists and 24-frame edit decision lists (EDLs) for high-definition (HD) video.

There is no "standard" aspect ratio for movies. They come in a variety of aspect ratios.

From IMDB:

* Casablanca - 1.33:1
* Godfather pt. I - 1.85:1
* 2001 - 2.1:1
* Lawrance of Arabia - 2.2:1
* Crouching Tiger,Hidden Dragon - 2.35:1

Final Fantasy film stats:

* Number of Sequences = 36
* Number of Shots = 1,336
* Number of Layers = 24,606
* Number of Final Renders (Assuming that everything was rendered once) = 2,989,318
* Number of Frames in the Movie = 149,246
o Average number of shots per sequence = 37.11
o Average number of rendered layers per shot = 18.42
o Average number of frames per shot = 111.71
o Estimated average number of render revisions = 5
o Estimated average render time per frame = 90 min
* Shot with the most layers = (498 layers)
* Shot with the most frames = (1899 frames)
* Shot with the most renders [layers * frames] = (60160 renders)
* Sequence with the most shots = (162 shots)
* Sequence with the most layers = AIR (4353 layers)
* Sequence with the most frames = (13576 frames)

Using the raw data (not the averages) it all adds up to 934,162 days of render time on one processor. Keep in mind that we had a render farm with approximately 1,200 procs.

...and that's just final renders. Including test renders, revisions, and reviews, it's much more. SQB (the render farm software) ran ~ 300,000 jobs, w/ an average of 50-100 frames/job (depending on the type of job). For storage, we have about 4TB online (and pretty full, most of the time...).

ARRI and IMAGICA announce development of 65 mm digital film chain
System specifications of the IMAGER XE 65 scanner:
Film Format: 65mm, 5, 8, 10, 15 perfs
Resolution: maximum 6k x 8k (15p) , down resolution to 4k x 5.5k (15p), 3k x 4K (15p)
Speed: depending on format and resolution, from 5 sec @ 4k/5perf to < 15 sec @ 6k/15perf
System concept: based on Imager XE and Bigfoot 65 scanner
Development schedule: Prototype available for beta test by end of 2001, Production release mid 2002.
Target price: 400,000 US$ + movement for each format

System specifications of the ARRILASER 65 recorder:
Film Format: 65 mm, 5, 8, 10, 15 perfs
Resolution: 6k x 8k (15p) @ 8,7 �� Pitch, changeable to 4k x 5.5k (15p) @ 12 �� Pitch
Speed: depending on format and resolution, from 5.5 sec @ 4k/5perf to < 15 sec @ 6k/15perf
System concept: based on ARRILASER 35
Development schedule: Prototype available for beta test by end of 2001, Production release mid 2002.
Target price: 475.000 US$

From the FAQ of the Imager XE film scanner (below):

Q. What is the best recommended recorder ? [to write back to film, after scanning film and editing it, presumably]

A. Arri's laser film recorder. Besides that it has a stability and the best quality, you can record it out to 5244 intermediate film.

Movie Critiques at the Visual Writer site.

IMAGICA Corp., Tokyo, Japan, announced today that its IMAGER XE® scanner was utilized by Weta Digital on Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.

Pete Williams, Head of Digital Imaging at Weta Digital said, "With over 600 multi layered visual effects shots, two and half hours of digital lab grading and a tight post production schedule, the IMAGER XE® proved itself invaluable in the production of The Fellowship Of The Ring. It is a true pin registered film scanner, capturing the full contrast range contained within the camera negative. Its reliability, performance and true color reproduction were all essential in this process."

The IMAGER XE®, designed as a true scanner, scans 4096 pixels across a 35mm Academy frame and provides true bit depth of FIDO 10-bit with a full RGB color space (14bit A/D), as well as consistent color and density, frame after frame. It scans 4 seconds/frame for 2K and 8 seconds/frame for 4K resolution. In addition to 35mm, the IMAGER XE® also supports 16mm and Super 16.

Catholic Defenders - a Catholic Apologetics site (based on this, I believe).

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Independents Day - Digital video is smashing the celluloid ceiling.

Inexpensive consumer models like Sony's miniDV cams are the secret behind both below-the-radar Net flicks and critically acclaimed feature films. Thomas Vinterberg's indie hit The Celebration, for example, was shot using a PAL-format Sony that retails for less than $3,000...

For his feature-length documentary Buena Vista Social Club, Wim Wenders shot between 100 and 150 hours of footage with a rented digital Betacam - the Sony DVW-700 - and two consumer-level cameras that use the miniDV format: a palm-sized Sony DCR-PC1 and a larger DCR-VX1000. By using low-profile miniDV cams, the German filmmaker could capture the everyday lives of Cuban musicians without the distraction - or expense - of hauling around a big production crew. The director of photography didn't require lots of lighting equipment, and his subjects were at ease. The crew brought plenty of videotapes, so there wasn't the same pressure to conserve film as on a traditional set. ...

Though the same miniDV cameras are available in the United States, Wenders chose models that use the European PAL format, which is more convenient for transferring to film than the NTSC format used in the US. PAL has 100 more lines of resolution than NTSC, and its 25-frames-per-second speed is closer to that of film, making it easier to sync individual frames. A number of Stateside productions are now boosting their image with miniDV cameras from Europe.

While a lavish production shot on traditional film might use 15 times more footage than makes it to the screen, Wenders' virtually unlimited DV cache allowed him to shoot roughly 100 times more than he aimed to use. Brian Johnson calls winnowing down the footage for Buena Vista "one of the hardest things I've ever done."

The amount of footage aside, the editing process was fundamentally the same as for any feature film: nonlinear offline editing on an Avid system, followed by final online postproduction.

First, the miniDV footage is transferred to digital Beta, a high-end format compatible with postproduction equipment. Fed a compressed version of the digital Beta footage, Avid tracks the time code for every frame of video. While the movie's editor arranges scenes on the onscreen timeline, Avid sequences the time codes, making what is effectively a digital blueprint for the final movie. (This nonlinear process is called offline editing because typically the Avid never actually touches live footage.)

Finally, Avid spits out a small file called an edit decision list, or EDL, a rundown of which piece of footage should be cut and where; this, and the original digital Beta footage, are loaded into a high-end online editing suite.

In Wenders' case, online editing was done at Encore Video in Hollywood. The EDL was fed into an Axial, basically a workstation that controls the suite's various tape decks and mixers to create an edited master tape. The master then went to a telecine bay, another special tape-to-tape deck at which a colorist adjusted the onscreen hues. Titles were added at a third online bay.

Back out on digital videotape, the completed Buena Vista Social Club - to this point an all-digital production - went to a transfer company to be burned onto film. Most movie theaters and film festivals haven't bought expensive digital video projectors yet, much less pure digital projection systems, so they can accept media only in the form of big old cans of celluloid. ...

The breakthrough of DV is the accessibility of quality," says Bennett Miller, whose The Cruise tracks a motormouthed tour guide around New York City. "You can keep the film digital throughout and create something worth blowing up to 35 mm."

Miller shot the entire movie solo on a Sony VX1000; the Cruise crew of one was made possible by a camera so small that Miller could simply carry it along like any New York tourist. "The size of the VX1000 contributes to its ease of use and its inconspicuousness," he says, noting that another DV production, The Saltmen of Tibet, used a small digicam to elude the attention of Chinese and Tibetan officials. "With film, you'd need a boom microphone and a DAT audio recorder, and you'd have to change reels every 10 minutes," he says. "Besides, film is heavy."

Audio, says Miller, is a big part of DV cinema. Sound quality has to be on a par with what moviegoers are used to, since the image quality still looks a little different. Some filmmakers record on a separate digital audiotape recorder, syncing soundtrack to image later. Miller chose to use the camera itself as the recording device. With the right attachments and equipment, he was able to realize professional sound - all the better to capture the brilliant yammering of his subject, Timothy "Speed" Levitch.

"My microphone cost as much as the camera," Miller chuckles. He bought an attachment for the Sony, the BeachTek 160, which provides balanced inputs, along with a high-quality Lectrosonics wireless setup and a Sennheiser microphone. The result speaks for itself. Onscreen, even though Levitch stands a good dozen feet from the camera in one scene, you can hear loud and clear every detail of his argument with a bus-company dispatcher.

Miller shot more than 80 hours of footage for The Cruise. He transferred all the miniDV tapes to analog Beta SP using a rented DVC PRO video deck. Then he offline-edited the film himself on an Avid suite rented for eight months for about $20,000. (While Avid dominates the professional market for offline editing systems, cheaper suites from Media 100 and Pinnacle Systems are also popular with independent filmmakers.)

Most of the remaining postproduction duties for The Cruise took place at New York film boutiques: Spin Cycle Post helped edit the sound and Sound One mixed it. Then, with Avid's EDL on floppy disk and the stack of Beta SP tapes in hand, Miller mastered the final film to a digital Beta tape at Sony Music Studios. Once the film was in good enough shape to show investors, he secured the financial help to bump the work up to HDTV tape and put it before the electron-beam recorder for film transfer at the Sony Pictures High Definition Center in Culver City, California - the same facility Wenders used for Buena Vista Social Club. ...

With today's advances in speed and memory, it's possible to do online editing on your desktop, bringing the entire film into the computer in its highest quality before editing. Any hard drive that runs at 7,200 rpm can handle the 3.7-Mbps flow of information from camera to computer. And many computers ship with 10-plus Gbytes of memory on the hard drive. Installing a FireWire card in the back of your PC requires nothing but a screwdriver and a pair of clean hands. Or use the FireWire already on a Macintosh G3 and start moving footage from the miniDV tape to your hard drive. Since digital video uses about 13.5 Gbytes per hour of footage, you have space for about 40 minutes of film on a healthy drive.

But you're out of luck if, like Bennett Miller, you have more than 80 hours of digital video: That kind of footage would take an impossible 1,000 gigs of hard-drive space. "Not even Bill Gates has that kind of storage," quips Miller. One solution is to whittle down footage to the scenes likely to be used before capturing it with a computer. Many filmmakers, like The Trouble With Perpetual Deja Vu's Todd Verow, edit in 20-minute sections, piecing the whole thing together seamlessly on the camcorder at the end.

Apple's Final Cut Pro, Digital Origin's EditDV [now CineStream], or Adobe's Premiere (CNET review) make desktop film editing as straightforward as word processing. Final Cut Pro lets you edit anything captured on hard disk with simple drag-and-drop moves. One effect, called Chroma Key, is like a stripped-down bluescreen, letting you relocate foreground images by making the background transparent. Another pulldown from the effects menu lets you create professional titles and credits. The last step in the process, rendering, is basically a one-button operation that weaves all the layers together, applies effects, and produces a finished digital file. The computer can then spit the film back out to your camcorder through a FireWire connection.

On Digital Origin's EditDV for Windows, faster software means less rendering time than on the Mac. A PC running a 600-MHz chip - say, the AMD Athlon - will boost your speed further.

Scott Stewart is working on a film adaptation of the Raymond Carver short story "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." He used a PAL-format VX1000 camera for principal photography, and he has already captured all his footage into a 350-MHz Power Mac. The QuickTime movie files almost fill the four 16.8-gig ProMax hard drives he installed. Stewart plans to edit with EditDV and then use Adobe After Effects for compositing. He wouldn't bother with Premiere, he says. "I'm not into the word-processor style of cut-and-paste editing. I like the traditional feel of a flatbed editing machine you get from EditDV."

With the price tag for a well-equipped home moviemaking suite still hovering around the $10,000 mark (starting with $4,000-plus for a respectable DV camera like the Canon XL1), the democracy angle is clearly being oversold. But prices have already begun to drop. Apple has begun bundling a consumer postproduction program with its new iMacs, aiming to make desktop cinema as user-cuddly as desktop publishing. Inevitably, Apple's iMovie software will be used mostly to add titles and dissolves to wobbly vacation videos. But if it's democracy you're after, this is a step in the right direction. ...

In contrast, Peter Broderick, president of Next Wave Films, an arm of the Independent Film Channel that provides finishing funds for independent films, is a tireless DV booster. For over a year, he has been traveling to festivals and college campuses, winning converts with an impressive program of DV clips. "When people ask me how much they need to make a feature," Broderick says, "I ask them how much they have, because that will probably be enough." Viable feature films can now be made for as little as $1,000. Lance Weiler and Stefan Avalos supposedly made the clever thriller The Last Broadcast for $900, although budgets in the $10,000 to $20,000 range are more typical. According to a breakdown published in Res, The Cruise cost exactly $139,064 -- but $58,000 went for the celluloid release print alone. Blair Witch cost just $40,000 and has grossed over $140 million -- a ka-ching that echoed around the world.

Of course, it has always been much easier to make a movie than to get it shown, and the more pictures there are, the wider the gap will grow. The theatrical market for independent films has been shrinking steadily, from its high-water mark in the early '90s. Of more than 1,000 indie films produced last year, less than a dozen found theatrical distributors. Highly touted alternative pipelines, such as streaming media on the Internet, are still a pipe dream -- although filmmaker Lynn Hershmann Leeson (Conceiving Ada) warns that all innovative technologies look like stumblebums in the early stages. For the time being, self-distribution on home video, with an Internet e-commerce tie-in, may be a more practical alternative, Broderick says. "If you can make a movie for $1,000, you don't have to sell many DVDs to break even." If the DV movement increases the total number of films four- or fivefold, as many predict, the odds against success for a neophyte DV auteur will soon be astronomical. A dose of that harsh reality will quickly rein in the DV cinema bull market, if anything can.

Resource page on Ultra-Low Budget Production of films, using digital (DV) technology.

DV Resources Guide - lots of technical stuff on cameras, etc.

Next Wave Films provides finishing funds to English-language, feature-length (over 70 minute) projects from around the world. We consider non-fiction as well as narrative films.

Next Wave can provide up to $100,000 in finishing funds. Generally, the money is used to complete the film such as sound, cut negative or transfer from DV, create a print, produce a score or secure music rights. When Next Wave Films agrees to furnish finishing funds to a film, we also provide support during post-production, help develop a festival and press strategy, and serve as producer's rep to help secure distribution.

HDTV Again
More Hollywood sitcom producers have jumped on the 1080/24p production bandwagon. This may be bad news for the folks at Panavision, who are the main supplier of 35mm motion picture cameras for these shows (which typically use three to four cameras). Panavision saw the writing on the wall some while ago, and made a pact with Sony to develop Panavision-style HDTV packages using Sony's cameras.

The main reason why television producers are switching to High Def is not because of its high definition crystal clarity. It's that most important thing of all: money.

And ninety percent of the savings comes in shooting video tape instead of film stock. A fifty-minute HD tape costs about $80. Fifty minutes of 35mm film stock, developed and transferred to Standard Definition (SD) video tape would cost in the neighborhood of $2,000. For a four camera shoot of a thirty-minute live audience sitcom (two tapings), HDTV media would cost less than $500, compared to well over $10,000 for 35mm. Multiply that times a twenty-show series, and you're talking about a couple hundred thousand dollars difference.

This all means that more and more HDTV shows will be broadcast. That's good news. That fact that HD sets still cost $3000 and up, means that Joe and Jane Consumer aren't going to be rushing out and buying hi def any time soon.

Another development is going to have a big, positive impact on corporate and institutional use of HDTV.

JVC has introduced a high definition player/recorder not unlike the VHS machines we all have at home. These $2000 VCR is designed mainly for niche usersˆ the two million technophiles who have invested in first-generation HD. Film producers like Fox, DreamWorks SK and Universal have agreed to release films on this new format.

The machine, the HM-DH30000 (that's right, thirty thousand), uses MPEG-2 to work its wonders. It comes with its own built-in decoder, and because the device really only records zeros and ones, it can also record any type of HD, SD, digital or analogue signal. It can compress eight hours of HD on a tape, or twenty-four hours of SD.

Until the HM-DH30000 came along, a pharmaceutical company that wanted to display the roll-out of their latest drug in HDTV had to use a $60,000 deck, or, if the program was not too long, a $10,000 file server. Now, they can use the $2000 VCR. HDTV has suddenly gotten affordable.

Two professional articles on digital filmmaking:

Digital Cinema -- Projecting a New Market
"Digital cinema is much more expensive [for theater owners]. Today you can buy a top-of-the-line 35mm projector for $25,000-30,000 that will last for longer than 20 years. The best estimates we can get on a digital cinema system are in the neighborhood of $100,000 at the cheapest, and that may last two or three years until a new product comes along. So the basic cost model doesn't work for us," he said.

"The studios stand to save a tremendous amount of money in print costs, about $1,500 per print. Multiply that by the number of prints released by each studio. It's somewhere in the neighborhood of $800 million a year," said Fithian. "The studios stand to save a ton of money, and we don't."

DLP Cinema technology is an adaptation of standard DLP for the needs of the movie industry. It features higher contrast ratio, together with color processing designed to replicate the visual experience of film. At the heart of TI’s DLP Cinema technology are three Digital Micromirror Device optical semiconductor chips. The DMD switch has an array of to 1,310,000 hinged, microscopic mirrors, which operate as optical switches to create a high-resolution, full-color image.

But DLP isn’t the only game in town. JVC is promoting its QXGA Super Contrast D-ILA projectors for D-cinema. The QXGA projector features native 2048 x 1536 resolution, with a contrast ratio greater than 1000:1 and 7,000 ANSI lumens of brightness, 10-bit digital color processing and 12-bit gamma correction.

Earlier this year, JVC unveiled its Super High Definition D-ILA projector (developed in conjunction with NTT). The new projector, still in early development, delivers 8 Mega Pixels (3840 X 2048 Pixels), 5200 ANSI Lumens, 750:1 contrast ratio, 12-bit gamma, and 10-bit color processing.

Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC, on Digital Cinema
Film is recorded in at least 6,000 K. Today digital cinema is 1,900 K for 1080, it's eight times less. Film can record 16 minimum or even 32 bits, which means millions of color levels. HD cameras today can record in 8 to 10, which is only a thousand number of colors.

On cinematography:

Look at a truly great, well-shot film like *American Beauty*. Its cinematographer has had 50 years of experience behind a 35mm camera, and it shows--no scene is shot poorly, the lighting is so perfect as to generally not be noticed, and the effects that different film stocks and camera settings have have been used to great advantage. Digital (except of course in the scenes where a consumer-level DVcam was used to show the kids' use of that camera) would never have produced that richness and texture--things would have looked, well, more ordinary.

Another Slashdot thread on Lucas' digital projection system.


A 35mm print will offer much greater resolution than 1080 lines, although it is still projected at 24fps. I believe the figure is something of the order of approximately 4000x3000 grains per frame; although that depends on the print stock.


No doubt it's better than DVD quality, but there definitely some compression going on. To match the quality of 35mm print, you need something like a 5 megapixel camera. For 1/1.85 aspect ratio projection you're talking about a 3,000 x 1600 pixel image. Is the resolution on DLP that good? On the DLP website [] I couldn't get any hard numbers for what the resolution will be for digital projection (there's alot of info there, so be my guest). Even with DVD compression levels you're gonna have to put this thing on a 100gig hard drive, and the compression is quite noticable to film buffs (admittedly, I can only tell with poorely encoded dvd's).


Lucas isn't pushing DLP because of the great resolution. He is pushing it because a major release (3,000+ screens) means $33 - $35 MILLION in duplication costs. [or about $10,000 per copy] Digital distribution cuts that to a fraction.


I believe that Lucas is doing Star Wars in 1080p24 (1080 lines, progressive scanned at 24 frames per second). A good 35mm film will offer much better resolution than that.


I haven't seen 1920x1200 on a big screen--maybe it's really gorgous--but it is hard for me to imagine that this level of quality will still be in use 20 years from now.


DLP projectors only have 1280x1024 resolution... Lucas shot Episode II using special new Sony HD Cameras that shoot at 1080p, 24 fps, and use Panavision lenses. They are incredibly nice, the best DV cameras out there, but don't have the resolution that film does no matter how advanced they are.


Yes, a 70mm print can do better than 1080p24, but can a 5th generation print do the same?


As for the resolution of 35mm film, I've heard kodak research that says it's equivilent to a few million pixels - easily reachable by today's standards.


Advantages are clear:

Satellite distribution to the theaters. Prints are expensive ($5k), heavy (had to be 100lbs including the cans, maybe more) and fragile. (ever notice how badly beat up a print gets after a while.

A good 35mm film may offer more resolution than 1920x1080, but not much. And 35mm movie stock is not what I'd call "good." look, a 35mm film frame is 24mm by 18mm. I just looked up the specs for 5399, which is a common print film. It's rated at 80 lines/mm at 1.6:1, or 200 lines/mm at 1000:1. So for low-contrast scenes, 35mm is 1920*1440, at maximum contrast, it's more like 4800x3600.

Now, that's the print film. This is the highest quality the studio could hope to distribute on 35mm film. But what about the camera film? Looking at 7239, it's only 40 lines/mm at 1.6:1 and 100 lines/mm at 1000:1. So now we're talking about between 960x720 (720p, anyone?) and 2400x1800. And even if you print from the original camera negative (which nobody ever does) you still lose some resolution in the optics.

So...1080p24 is "as good as" 35mm.

Yes, if you want higher quality, you have to go to 70mm or Imax (which are not the same thing, BTW). At IBC in '00, I remember seeing 1920x1080 at really high (72p?) frame rates being discussed as the new "uber-format" since it could be downsampled to both HD and film easily.


First off the cameras Lucas is using shoot with a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels at 24 frames progressive. The format they use is Sony's own HDCAM. This is a compressed digital format. It is not however DV, which refers to a particular codec used most often for standard definition production at 25Mbps. Panasonic has a format called DVCPRO HD which uses the same codec at a 100Mbps profile. HDCAM is about 145Mbps.

Confusingly, many people for some reason think DV also means "Digital Video." This is probably because it does. Mostly video people say digital video and save DV for the codec. I tend to say DV25 or whatever when I am talking codecs, or say MiniDV when talking format...damnable words.

SO, back to HD...There is a huge lossy compression that happens before we can even examine the image. If the image is captured directly to a D-5HD recorder (not to be confused with D-5 which is an SD video format.) from the camera without going to tape, you get a much better product. Lucas has done this for at least some scenes.

What about the notion that 35mm offers more resolution ? It depends. Are you talking about acquisition or projection ? You'll be surprised that while 35mm has a resoltuion advantage, it is not the primary thing that you'll notice when looking at the projected images. Mostly I feel that color generated by these cameras as recorde on tape isn't smooth enough.

For projection HD video projectors using DLP at 1920x1080 are available, and they produce a STUNNING image. I saw one Jan 2001 at NIST's Digital Cinema conference. I couldn't bear watching 35mm projection with my friends later on after the conference.


3 years ago I was working on a project that took film, scanned it at 4kx3k resolution with laser scanners, did digital post production at that resolution, and then printed it back on film at 4kx3k resolution. The powers that be at this company canned the project, even though it's still the best in its class, because it was expensive and slow compared to the lower resolution competition. People who care about quality, like the people doing post production on all three Lord of the Rings movies, are still using our software even though we pretty much abandoned them.

3 years later, I'm back at the same company, and now we're working on a way of delivering digital movies to theatres, and presenting those movies on the screens. Guess what the resolution for the first generation is? 1280x1024. A resolution I consider barely adequate on a 17 inch monitor, and wouldn't even put on a 21 inch monitor, and they've going to blow it up to a huge theatre screen. Yuck.


Digital projection in it's current incarnation, DLP, is terrible. Theoretically the color depth should be fine, the spec is for 45 bits of color, though AoTC demonstrated well that apparently they don't use all those bits, because at least at the theatre I was at, the blacks weren't very black.

The real problem is the incredibly shitty resolution, 1280x1024. 35mm film is roughly equivalent to 20 million pixels, a wee bit more than digital. Watch a slow pan of a detailed scene carefully (the waterfall scene would work), and you'll actually see everything moving pixel by pixel.

Oddly enough, the digital projector should be able to get an equivalent or better contrast ratio than film. 35mm film is generally specced to get about 1000:1, but the Barco DLP Projectors can get up to 1250:1.

Another Slashdot thread on Lucas' digital projection system.

Slashdot thread on Lucas' digital projection system.

*AotC* was filmed with a special digital camera made by Sony especially for George Lucas--state of the digital art. Then the rendered scenes and characters and the digital film of the live actors were all edited together and then special effects where the live actors interact with the digital characters and scenery were added to that. The resulting "masters" are completely digital, and have been at every step of the process; IIRC the "masters" of *AotC* and *PM* are digitally preserved across a bunch of magneto-optical, optical, and magnetic media, redundantly, for posterity.

To cut costs, rendering is typically done at only a quarter or a half of film's full resolution. The result is usually not noticeably inferior, since that's still a decenmt resolution and if done well will look good even when printed back to 35mm. However, there are many exceptions--like Gladiator. Its digital elements, like the Coliseum background and its digital audience, looked very poor to people with a discerning eye when projected at theaters--muddy, indistinct, undersaturated, and not matching up seamlessly with the action in the foreground. It was all the more noticeable in the action sequences which were shot deliberately at a lower FPS (I think offhand 18fps) in order to produce that famous "tearing" effect during some fight sequences. And, a lot of films with lower-quality digital effects just look *awful* when projected onto a really huge theater screen, even if the effects were done really well and would have looked pristine on a smaller theater screen like you find at your average multiplex.

A whole lot of movies are using lower-res digital effects, or not using their 35mm capabilities to their utmost. But then again, I think we have to look to those few films that really do transcend anything digital has to offer today. Look at a truly great, well-shot film like *American Beauty*. Its cinematographer has had 50 years of experience behind a 35mm camera, and it shows--no scene is shot poorly, the lighting is so perfect as to generally not be noticed, and the effects that different film stocks and camera settings have have been used to great advantage. Digital (except of course in the scenes where a consumer-level DVcam was used to show the kids' use of that camera) would never have produced that richness and texture--things would have looked, well, more ordinary.


i'd like to argue one point: assuming standard 1080 high by 1920 wide digital dimension, i have studies which point out that 35mm is notably better at first generation - the negative. but at the distrubution level, which is at least fourth generation, 1080x1920 with 10 bit luminance far exceeds 35mm in all aspects: spatial resolution, evenness of illumination, evenness of color balance, color saturation, contrast, noise.


I do a lot of "hobby" work in the home theater field, and I have to say, a crappy old CRT-based video projector will run circles around almost any LCD, DLP, or other digital projector. Why?

Not resolution at all, but CONTRAST. The resolution factor is a must, but to say that 35mm film is "higher resolution" than the DLP's they use in high end digital cinema is flawed as well. Maybe the original masters are pristine, but the film we're watching is flawed because it could be 5 or 6 generation, and it's going to be old (scratches, warps, missing spliced frames, etc). Also, the film has a definite grain that can be seen even on 70mm prints. With digital, it's the same movie, every time.

The problem with digital is that the color gamut is not as great as film (although soon will be beyond what film can produce at the generations of film we watch). The other problem is the contrast generally sucks. The reason old low resolution CRTs (worth $500 used) that are properly calibrated can look better than LCDs that cost $50,000 is because the color gamut is better, the contrast is WORLDS away from digital, and there is no screen door effect.


Existing devices for communicating information to computers are either bulky, slow, or unreliable. Dasher is a data entry interface incorporating language modelling and driven by continuous two-dimensional gestures, e.g. a mouse, a stylus, or eye-tracker. Tests have shown that, after an hour of practice, novice users reach a writing speed of about 20 words per minute while taking dictation. Experienced users achieve writing speeds of about 34 words per minute, compared with typical ten-finger keyboard typing of 40-60 words per minute.

Although the interface is slower than a conventional keyboard, it is simple to use, and could be used on personal data assistants and by motion-impaired computer users. Dasher can readily be used to enter text from any alphabet.

Frames from Star Wars trailers.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

A nice metallic texture:

pigment {rgb <0.5,0.5,0.56>}

diffuse 0.85
brilliance 2.8

specular 0.8
roughness 0.05


Sunday, June 23, 2002

List of suppliers for McGill University.

POV-Ray media fire (set an appropriate max_trace_level):
interior {
emission 1
density {
poly_wave 2
density_map {
[0 rgb 0 filter 1]
[.5 granite
color_map {
[0 rgb 0 transmit 1]
[1 rgb <1, .75, .5> * 4]
scale <1, 2, 1>
[1 rgb 5]