Star Wars- Digital v.s. Film Screening?

I just saw “Star Wars” in the movie theatre. My second go-round for it. I figured, maybe it’d improve with age like a fine…vinegar.

Anyway, this was a theatre in NYC and it was showing as a digital projection, not a film print projection. It was odd. Some sequences felt like I was watching my kids play one of their computer video games. Other sequences didn’t feel quite so “digitized”.

Who else has seen it both ways, and what did you think? I am aware that digital theatres are quite the rage. Will Smith even spearheaded a huge digital distribution project that started in Philly. Dunno how far that got.

I enjoyed most of it. I hate to admit it, but given the immense density of the digital layering especially in the high up “in the city” shots that has so very much information packed in, I actually thought I was seeing more detail than I had when I first saw it screened off of a film print.

I just hate to admit this is the future of the movies.


From the forums, re: AOTC (Ep2)…

Given that a version of the film had to be “set” in time to generate some internegatives that would be the source for the X-thousand film prints to be distributed throughout the company, the deadline for that version would be several weeks earlier than the deadline for the digital version, which Lucas could continue to work on until virtually the last minute.

I don’t see any reason why the post-production process would be any different for Ep3, which means that in some cases, the differences you saw weren’t merely perceptual, but actual. Of course, depending on when you saw the film print version (opening night vs. 6-weeks later), the print may often be subjected to damage that might impact a certain sequence. Also, the photo-chemical process isn’t flawless, and a difference may have stood out due to a small anomoly in the particular print you saw.

Similarly, digital projection isn’t immune to artifacting, either, and digital projection itself has not been standardized–depending on where you see the film, different systems (all proprietary) will be in place that may have their own idiosyncratic hiccups.

I do know that I was a SMPTE conference a few years ago where a day long symposium gave us an opportunity to see film projection and digital projection side by side, and there was absolutely no comparison–the film always looked much better–particularly in the rendering of black tones and in detail resolution.

Of course, that was a few years ago and the technology has improved substantially since then. Plus, in the non-side-by-side demonstrations, it was more difficult to distinguish the two (though not impossible). We even saw a feature film alternating between film and digital reels, and every time you got used to the digital, the change over to film was quite jarring (in that the image quality improved dramatically).

I’ve seen Ep3 both ways, and the only real difference I noticed was a slight flutter (lasting a second each) 3 or 4 times throughout the film print. The digital version didn’t have this. For all I know, this may have simply been a threading problem, but I can’t say for certain one way or the other.

Oops, that should read “for the X-thousand film prints to be distributed throughout the country,”

I saw AotC in both a standard film print and the DLP version. The clarity of the digital version was amazing. Since seeing AotC in DLP, I have bought a HD Samsung DLP TV. After following the THX setup, watching AotC at home was the exact same as watching the digital version in the theater.

IMO, this will probably be George Lucas’ legacy more than Star Wars will be.

I saw ep III in both film and digital and, to tell you the truth, I didn’t really notice a huge difference. I don’t know if I went to a good film place or a bad digital place, either. The only difference is that the digital one had “skips” where it looked like it cut out a few seconds. One example is

Obi-Wan’s speech as Annakin is burning. It cut the first couple of lines and kinda ruined the impact of the whole thing.

Maybe there was something wrong with the digital projector at the Star Theatre I went to, but I hated the digital. I saw a lot of pixelation, most notably on the robotics, or a small piece/line of light against dark. It was seriously bad enough to pull me out of the movie.

Granted, we did have to sit only a few rows back, so I’m not sure how it would look if you could sit in the middle or back of the theatre, but dammit, that doesn’t matter to me. The point is that the pixelation was really distracting.

Have you seen Maxivision?

Exactly. Pixelation and overall richness of color are Digital’s main defects. While first impressions might tell you color is brighter, this does not translate into better quality. At the moment there’s simply no way of replacing film. Digital’s advantage is that it’s less blurry and it doesn’t skip (or jump), though this is also greatly reduced in Maxivision due to a reduction in space in between frames. It seems more sensible to explore other options in film before crossing to Digital, which is way more expensive and not that impressive.

I’m not so sure it is the future. Still probably a distant future. There are still only a few dozen digital theatres. I don’t think any of the studios want to tell Technicolor that they are out of business. The studios are more and more concerned about pirates than ever. And althought it might not really make a difference, I think many of the top studio people percieve a digital print as easier to pirate than a standard.

Now there are some people who want to distribute first run films digitally to computers. The idea is that if you make ‘legal downloading’ as easy are illegal then people will do it the way you want. Just what the movie circuits need. Another reason for people to stay home.

As far as Ep III goes, once was enough.

I almost emailed you to play hookey with me. I was at Broadway and 67th. :smiley:

Oh, trust me folks, I’m not giving up on film at all. Too many years shooting it as a cameraman. But it was worth it to go see a film- especially a film that has this many digitally originated EFX in it, projected digitally.

I didn’t see any artifacts at all and I was half way back, so the overall pixillation was not an issue for me. I purposely sat half way back.

Trust me, I am NOT gonna be the guy to call up Vinnie, Louie and Joey and tell them that their lab is closing up. Nope. Not me. Not gonna do it. Few people understand the artistic input of a really first class timer in a lab. :slight_smile:

Vittorio Storraro travels his undeveloped negatives to Rome to be processed, because he has worked with the same color timer there for decades. He regards this gentleman as an artist with great creative input.

I saw AOTC three times – once on film and then twice digitally (at Lowe’s Jersey Gardens). I was totally bowled over by the digital superiority, esp. in visual clarity. I didn’t notice any late post-production tweakings between the two versions, although I don’t doubt they’re there.

So, when “Revenge” came out, I didn’t bother seeing the film version. Again, two trips to the Lowe’s. Both times, I sat in the middle and didn’t notice any problems with artifacts, green-screen lines, etc. – although I often don’t spot these things anyway.

See, this is where I think digital projection plays best–with films that either originate digitally, whether it be animation (Toy Story et al) or live action (Sith, which was largely shot with digital cameras), or films that have tons of post-production work with hundreds of effect shots.

The real key is when you watch something like Days of Heaven digitally projected. That’ll be the true challenge of any projection system.

I saw the movie projected digitally twice and projeted from film once. The digital projection was clearly superior. However, the experiment was hardly scientific. I saw it in two different theaters run by two different companies.

As someone who makes digital movies, I’m going to have to agree with ArchiveGuy. Movies should be seen in their native format for best results.

I went to see the film with a MOST critical bunch of people----projectionests.

We were in gape-jawed amazement over the fact that all of what is known as “Century Weave” was GONE.

The starfields were in perfect register, and stayed there.

No scratchs, dust or lab splices.

Of course, the theatre staff made up for the good presentation. You can’t have everything :rolleyes:

Totally, in fact. 100% recorded with Sony HDC-F950 HD cameras with full-bandwidth uncompressed digital 10-bit 4:4:4 RGB outputs, HDCAM SR portable and studio recorders and specially formulated BCT-SR series videocassettes capable of recording full-resolution HD digital RGB component video.

And the clarity of the effects and richness of the colour imagery (I saw it on film) was obvious.

Here’s my question: There’s a lot neat stuff you can do with lightning and certain types of film. Cinematographers have a blast with this kind of stuff. Shooting digital, wouldn’t most films look alike? To change the colors wouldn’t you have to pass it through the computer? Imagine Saving Private Ryan being shot on digital. Would it have worked the same (yes, the color draining process is just another neat touch done by a computer, but not entirely). Star Wars is almost all we have to base on. Star Wars is it’s own thing so it’s always going to look cool. However, look at the Spy Kids films. They may look great on digital, but the actual quality of what is being shown is crap, though I don’t know if Rodriguez intended it that way.

We’re walking on thing ice here, people.

I think what we’re walking on is the cusp of a new frontier.

It’s still very new, and as such is in a very fragile stage. It’s easy to leap on a bandwagon without the necessarily talents and skills to pull it off, a la Robert Rodriguez. But James Cameron is leaping into the all-digital realm with both feet, and I think he will be a great influence on other filmmakers.

I’m a cinematographer. 26 years with video cameras, 24 years with film. ( not counting Super 8 :smiley: ).

To be blunt, crap in-crap out. Mr. Rodriguez needed a camera department and D.P. who was able to handle the (new) medium and make it look good. Of course, they also needed the story and art direction and style and lighting and sets and blah blah blah…to make a film look spectacular instead of like a 2004 version of Tron.

vibrotronica, I agree with ArchiveGuy too but we face a future bereft of motion picture film stock. We do. Not in 5 years, but in 15-20, nobody will be capturing image on silver halide crystals embedded in an Estar-Based substrate. Nobody. IMHO, anyway. I find it very sad, but I think it may truly fade away eventually as more and more people embrace and accept the “look” of digital.

Look, I bought my first camera finally and it’s a digital camera. The images are remarkable and - in another thread- I’d be glad to talk about it in detail. But the point is, I see this level of digital videography as an acceptable medium these days and one that will be sought after enough that I can pay off the camera before it becomes obsolete. ( Never a possibility before ). I could and may well shoot a feature with this camera body this autumn. In 24P-Advanced. On tiny little Mini-DV tapes. But, with the same care taken on lighting, angles, framing, movement, set design, sound… all the rest of the chazzerei remain the same.

The system Lucas used is fair to say the gold standard for shooting High Def and high res digital video. Forget the EFX-laden shots…how does the good Princess look in a medium close-up? Do we accept that it is her? That she looks beautiful and “film-like” ?

I saw AOTC in digital and my main observation was that it was so crisp and clean that some of it felt very “cut and paste” put together.
Especially in a scene like the Jango/Obi fight in the asteroid field.
Softening the image like film does brings eveything to the same level and it all seems to blend nicely into the picture.
When in digital it was so sharp that it seemed you could tell the layering of the images, (layer 1 starfield, layer 2 asteroids, layer 3 spaceships, layer 4 obiwan moving around inside the cockpit).
It pulled me somewhat out of the movie.

None of which is underwater compatible (yet), so for any shot that occurs underwater (there are a couple), that wasn’t digital.

So, largely (virtually, almost, etc.) is the proper word.

Yes, totally. Film can look like crap, and digital can look like crap if you don’t know what you’re doing. We’ve had almost a century to learn how to light film, and less than a decade to learn to light for digital. There just aren’t as many people who know how to do it. The guy who is going to shoot my next movie is a total whiz with digital. You wouldn’t believe the color he can get out of a Canon GL2. When I saw his last short, I asked him what kind of film and camera he used, and he told me it was a GL2. I said “Damn, that’s what we used and our color wasn’t anything like that!”

And I have nothing but respect for people like you who know film inside and out. Working for about six years doing no-budget mini-DV movies in my spare time, I have found the medium very forgiving. Because we have virtually no film costs, we can reshoot everything a dozen or more times if we want to and try all kinds of different combinations until we find something that works. Film requires much tighter planning and is much, much harder to edit. You can’t edit film on a laptop in a coffee shop. I was watching Intolerance the other day with my S.O., who does movies with us. When one of the huge Babylon crowd scenes was on, I turned to her and said “Holy shit! They DID all of that! All of that REALLY happened. Those aren’t digital crowd scenes, those are thousands of real people, those are real sets that people really built. That’s not touched up in post–there was no post!” Amazing that people were doing that 80+ years ago. Digital people like me are totally spoiled.

With all due respect, nobody records on Edison cylinders anymore, either.

There will still be films made on film, just like there are still albums released on vinyl. It will just be a specialty market. And it will be expensive.

But why should we expect it to look “film-like”? Film isn’t perfect, we’re just used to its quirks and we know how to play to its strengths. Digital technology has now advanced to a state where the resolution is comperable to film, but it’s never going to be just like film. The differences are small, and the lay audience probably never notices. Take motion blurring in film, which doesn’t occur in digital (at least, not to the same extent). In computer parlance, is it a bug or a feature? Sometimes film people complain that digital has no motion blur, but then they often try to decrease the motion blur when they shoot. Digital isn’t better or worse than film, it’s just different.