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Overview

Benefit from information developed in response to frequently asked questions regarding this new medium, The perfect aid to making decisions relating to format and costs. High definition cinematography has revolutionized much of the theatrical film world, and perhaps television even more. This authoritative reference demystifies the technologies of high definition and 24P cinematography and provides directors of photography, producers, directors, and camera crews alike with a good grasp of the technology, as well as the procedural and financial implications behind choosing a format. This new edition of High Definition Cinematography has been completely updated to keep up with the changing equipment and technology. It includes more information on how HD will affect preproduction and postproduction. There are reviews and information on ten key cameras from Arri, Dalsa, Panasonic, Panavision, Sony and Thomson, and an updated discussion on interlace and progressive scanning as well.

About the Author:
Paul Wheeler is a member of the British Society of Cinematographers (BSC)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780240520360
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 5/14/2007
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Wheeler BSC FBKS was trained at the BBC rising to become a Senior Drama Film Cameraman. Paul Shot one of the first BBC Drama Series to be photographed using the then new Digi Beta cameras, by which time he was freelance. He is a renowned cinematographer/director of photography and trainer, he has been Head of Cinematography at National Film & Television School and still runs courses on Digital Cinematography there. He has also been Head of Cinematography on the Royal College of Arts MA course. Paul was invited to become an associate of Panavision in order to help them introduce the Panavised version of Sony's HDW 900f camera which meant he joined the HD movement 3 days before the first Panavision camera arrived in Europe. Despite all this he is still very much a working cinematographer. He has been twice nominated by BAFTA for a Best Cinematography award and also twice been the winner of the INDIE award for Best Digital Cinematography. His previous books, "Practical Cinematography” and "Digital cinematography”, are both published by the Focal Press.
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Read an Excerpt

High Definition Cinematography


By Paul Wheeler

Focal Press

Copyright © 2009 Paul Wheeler
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-08-095212-3


Chapter One

Why Shoot on HD?

If you want to make quality films, whether for the big screen or for television, then you should always consider High Definition (HD) as a serious option.

If you are used to shooting on 16 mm film or Digi Beta then you will see a considerable increase in picture quality.

If you are used to shooting on 35 mm film you should, with the right approach and the right technicians, see no loss in image quality. Indeed, in certain circumstances, you may see an improvement.

Again, if you are used to shooting on 35 mm, you should see a substantial drop in the cost of your recording medium.

That's it! Enough said!

1.1 What Do We Mean by High Definition (HD)?

High Definition is an electronic recording medium that takes on two challenges. First it should be able, either in a purely digital way or by printing the recorded images onto a conventional piece of film, to give the audience in a cinema, even the largest cinema, pictures with which they are familiar and that appear to have at least the technical quality, mainly assessed as definition, that they have come to expect. If it does not, or cannot, then the audience will not bother to go to buy a ticket. Secondly, in the television arena, the requirement is to provide economical recording formats that give stunning picture quality on any of the new television HD transmission formats and their associated widescreen televisions, otherwise no one will buy the new TVs.

My belief is that, handled with care and knowledge, all the above is easily achievable.

1.1.1 The Knowledge Base

Originally many people moving into HD hoped it would look like film. This is not difficult to achieve. We have been shooting film, and admiring the results, for well over a hundred years; by now we ought to know how we have been doing this. Forgive me if you find this a sacrilege, but the process of recording moving images on film is far from perfect. It is very good and, until around the year 2000, was the only medium that could successfully suspend our disbelief in a large cinema. Then HD arrived. Initially almost everybody wanted HD to emulate the film look and I was lucky enough to be, almost from the start, one of those people advising them how to achieve this. My first advice then, as it is now, was to hire a film-trained Director of Photography (DP), for with that person comes around five generations of handed-on knowledge and experience. Someone trained in film will always be able to give you those kinds of image, it's in their blood, and they can hardly help it.

Now, some 8 years on, we are beginning to see a new kind of image maker – one who is prepared to take on the images that only HD can produce. Some of these DPs come from a film background, some from television and some are so young they are finding their own way in this new and exciting medium. More power to their elbow, I say!

1.1.2 What Does It Mean to the Producer – Saving Money!

If you work in my world, or wish to, you have to accept that it is driven by a four-letter word – cash! This may not necessarily be a disadvantage, particularly if the work you have previously been known for has been recorded on film. But don't take that as a raw statement, it gets better.

If you are thinking of moving from film to HD then savings in the budget are obviously going to be an influencing factor, but more can be made of the changes than just reducing the bottom line. For example, a little of those savings can be spent on production values, thus upping the perceived quality of the product. The extraordinary international compatibility of HD should assist the producers in making money, as HD is both an origination and post-production medium. When the film is completed it can be output in almost any delivery format (cinema), any Worldwide Television format (the Net), even digital phones, and all this with an incomparable asset – no loss in quality.

1.1.3 What Does It Mean to the Director?

Confidence. With modern HD monitoring, the Director is seeing rushes (dailies) on set and in real time. Large-screen monitors can give a Director a real sense of how the picture is going to look in its final venue.

A closer working relationship with the DP, something I was nervous of when I first started using HD but have come to love. A good director does not want to be a DP, if for no other reason than they are, or should be, too busy with all the other problems, primarily their actors. A decent monitor is a wonderful communication tool.

1.1.4 What Does It Mean for the Director of Photography?

First, for me, it means I have a new and exciting toy to play with. I admit to liking toys.

Secondly, because of the cost savings involved, I may get to shoot more movies because more producers will be able to afford to get their production off the ground.

Thirdly, when shooting for television, I will be able, at a very small increase in cost, to deliver a significantly higher picture quality.

Fourthly, if the producer is sensible, and it is our job to convince them, I will be able to work with my normal film crew who, with only the slightest of training, can become HD experts almost immediately.

And last, perhaps, by embracing this new, excellent and exciting recording medium and its cameras, I can become more popular with productions and therefore busier.

1.1.5 What Does It Mean to the Other Crafts?

Very little. If they are good enough to work on 35mm film then they are definitely good enough to work on HD. Most of the heads of departments I have worked with in high-end television would have little or no problem working on HD. For instance, I have held Make-up workshops for HD and it just isn't a problem. If the Make-up Supervisor and the DP work closely together, as in my experience they always do, then those worrying lace caps on a wig, the prosthetic nose job and all the rest present the same problems and require the same solutions. No problem!

1.1.6 Editing and Post-Production

Herein lies a very slight rub, and if there is a problem it should not necessarily be laid at the door of the DP or the post-production house. In my experience problems in this area, which are mercifully rare, nearly always follow inadequate planning, and incorrect decisions being made during the pre-production run up to principal photography. If post is going to go smoothly then you have to get the prep right. Because HD is still relatively new, it is prudent to bring together the Producer or Production Manager, the Director, the DP, the picture editor and all the post-production personnel, including Visual Effects (real-time effects) and the Post-Production Effect Supervisor for a significant meeting, or several meetings, before principal photography starts. They should not leave the room until agreement has been found and notes should be taken. I always do!

All of the above must be taken even more seriously now that we have cameras coming on stream that do not record a fully processed image, the data from the camera therefore requiring some manipulation before a fully formed image is ready for conventional postproduction. The RAW data coming from a RED camera comes to mind, but provided this and other cameras using RAW data are treated with respect and the additional post-production layer is fully understood, this way of working can render very good pictures indeed – in the right hands, of course.

1.2 Context

When I came to lay out this book for the third time, I realized that there was no "right" or "wrong" approach. Wherever I started I would have to refer to topics to be explained later, so should I discuss the technology first, or should I consider HD from a Producer's perspective?

I decided to start with production decisions for two reasons. First, I believe that until we are all more familiar with the HD workflow, reaching correct production decisions will be an essential prerequisite to success. Secondly, if the sales and cost advantages of using HD are not understood then there is little point in worrying about the technology anyway, as no one will be using it. Getting bums on seats at a reasonable cost is the name of the game, and always has been. Nothing new there!

Chapter Two

Which Formats to Shoot On?

The problem, as I see it, is that there are a bewildering number of decisions to be made and they must be made before you start shooting or there is a very strong probability you will inherit some terrible problems when you get into post-production.

Things have changed since the introduction of HDCAM in the year 2000. Prior to that the choices were very simple – if you were going to shoot on film there was really only a choice between two formats, were you going to shoot on 35 mm or 16 mm? All the other decisions for many of the heads of departments (HODs) on the production would fall into line quite simply once that decision was announced. If you were shooting on Digi Beta were you working in an NTSC environment or a PAL environment? Again a simple and easy choice.

In an effort to be all things to all people, High Definition (HD) has many, many options to offer. This is good but it can be bewildering. It can look frighteningly daunting but, truly, it need not be. There are eight, yes eight, different frame rates to choose from. However, as you will see, the decision is likely to come down to a simple choice between only two or three frame rates, the same number of choices we had in the old days – so how difficult is that?

2.1 Progressive or Interlace?

There is the thorny question of whether to shoot in Progressive scan or interlace. Again I do hope this book will help with that decision but, usually, choosing between theatrical production and factual, cinema or television and asking yourself what the audience is accustomed to will bring the answers naturally to hand.

2.2 How Many Pixels Do You Need?

How many pixels should I shoot with? The answer is simple: as many as you can afford. The middle ground is still HDCAM with its true 1920 × 1080 pixel array recording on HDCAM 1/2-inch tape. It works don't knock it. Handled wisely it can easily please an audience in the largest of cinemas. It can hardly fail to make television look better than standard definition pictures be they recorded on Digi Beta or 16mm film. Again, handled well, they should look as good as 35mm film when shown on standard definition television, which I believe are just about the best pictures we are used to seeing. It's called the quality headroom getting through.

2.3 Recording Formats

What recording format to use? Difficult, but almost certainly the decision will be budget driven. As I said earlier, use the best you can afford. HDCAM is still the frontrunner for most productions, but if you have a really good budget there are hard drives to record on and cameras that originate their pictures at a much higher resolution than HDCAM, although they can be very expensive. One danger in going to higher formats is the amount of data you will need to record on set and the associated data delivered into post-production.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from High Definition Cinematography by Paul Wheeler Copyright © 2009 by Paul Wheeler. Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Preface     xv
About the Author     xvii
Introduction     xix
Acknowledgments     xxi
High Definition: A Quick Overview     1
Why shoot on HD?     3
What do we mean by High Definition (HD)?     3
The knowledge base     3
What does it mean to the Producer - saving money!     4
What does it mean to the Director?     4
What does this mean for the Director of Photography?     4
What does it mean to the other crafts?     4
Editing and post-production     4
Context     5
Production Decisions     7
Which formats to shoot on?     9
Progressive or interlace?     9
How many pixels do you need?     9
Recording formats     9
HDV - can you get away with it?     10
Picture quality     11
What does HD look like?     11
HD images compared with 35 mm     11
Anamorphic 35 mm     12
Comparisons with Super 16 mm     12
Comparison with Digi Beta     13
Display quality     14
High definition shown on television     14
HD written to film andprojected mechanically     14
HD shown on a state-of-the-art digital projector     14
Digital projectors     15
The Barco D-Cine Premiere DP 50     15
The Barco SLM R8     16
Delivery requirements     17
For delivery on film     17
Multi-format delivery requirements     17
HD projection     18
Encryption     18
Broadcast delivery     18
Convertibility     18
Picture     18
Sound     18
Time code     19
Sales potential     20
Multiple standard sales     20
Multiple venue sales     20
Additional sales to HD users     20
Future proofing     21
Cost implications     22
Savings     22
Origination costs     22
Stock savings     22
Insurance savings     22
Savings in print costs     23
Shooting for anamorphic release     24
Added costs     24
Camera kit rental     24
Editing costs     24
Writing out to film     25
A cost comparison example - Oklahoma!     25
Stock and processing savings     25
Camera rental     25
Additional costs     26
Overall savings     26
Competitive pricing     26
Crewing     27
Should the DP operate?     27
Do you need a focus puller?     27
Do you need a loader?     28
Naming the camera assistants     28
Do you need a clapperboard?     28
Do you need a dolly grip?     28
Sound     29
Electricians     29
Different shooting requirements     30
General considerations     30
Shooting in the USA     30
Theatrical productions     30
US prime time television productions     30
US commercials     31
Other US productions     31
What frame rate to choose     31
Potential cost savings     31
European productions     33
European feature films     33
European television     33
Performance shows     34
The Merchant of Venice     34
The Technology     35
Digital imaging      37
The history of digits     37
Digital tonal range     37
Linear and logarithmic sampling     38
Image resolution, why so many pixels?     40
Required resolution for HD     41
Data quantity     43
Scanning the image     44
A little of the history of television     44
Interlace scanning     45
Progressive scanning     46
Traditional cinema flicker     47
How are images captured by the two scanning formats?     48
Printing out to film     53
Line standards and definition     55
Line summation     55
Apparent picture quality     56
1080 versus 720 in television     57
Conclusions     59
Is HD worth the trouble?     60
Three chip technology     63
Additive color imagery     63
The three chip camera's beam splitter     64
The image sensors     65
The sensor chip     68
Single chip technology     70
What's available?     70
CCD sensors     70
CMOS sensors     70
CCDs versus CMOS chips     71
Color filtering in single chip cameras     71
Bayer pattern filtering     72
Sequential filtering     73
The effect of increasing the pixel count     74
The video tape recorder - the VTR     75
The HDCAM format     15
Helical scan recording     75
Mechanical considerations     76
The drum lacing mechanism     78
Operational considerations     78
A jammed mechanism     78
HD Cinematography     79
Lighting and exposing for HD     81
An HD camera's equivalent ASA speed, or ISO rating     81
Tonal range     81
Lighting ratios     82
Lighting to a monitor     83
Highlights and shadows     83
Exposure     83
Using a monitor     83
Using a meter     84
Auto exposure     84
Exposing using a waveform monitor     84
Setting the color balance     86
White balance     86
What is white balance?     86
Neutral density filters     87
A warning!     87
Setting the white balance using a white card     87
Setting the white balance using a colored card     88
Setting the white balance under fluorescent lighting     88
The outer filter wheel on a Sony HDW camera     88
Black balance     89
Lenses     90
How to choose a lens     90
Resolution     90
Contrast     90
Perceived sharpness with regard to contrast     91
Color rendition     93
Overall color bias     93
Color fringing     94
What is fringing?     94
Breathing     94
Setting the back focus     94
Setting the back focus: zoom lenses     94
Setting the back focus: prime lenses     95
Focusing the lens using back focus charts - Beware!     95
Back focusing using the oval rings chart     97
Comparative focal lengths     97
Depth of field     98
Calculating depth of field     99
Neutral density filters     100
Limiting apertures     100
Filtration     101
Color correction     101
Diffusion     101
Monitors and cabling     102
What kind of monitors are available?      102
Cathode ray tube monitors     102
Liquid crystal display monitors     102
Plasma screens     102
Lining up your monitor     103
An SMPTE line up     103
Lining up using EBU bars     104
Using an exposure meter     104
Cabling your monitor     105
Single coaxial cables     105
Triple coaxial cables     105
Termination     105
Serial monitors     105
Best practice     106
Playback     107
Don't use the camera for playback!     107
Using the Sony HDW F500 VTR for playback     108
Using digital video for playback     108
Using two DV recorders     109
Down converters     109
The Evertz down converter     109
The Miranda down converter     109
Sound delay lines     111
Playback packages     111
Shipping     112
It's not ENG!     112
Shipping lenses     112
Transit cases     113
Camera set-up when shipping     113
Size and weight     113
Batteries     113
Multi camera shoots     114
Synchronization     114
Time code on location     115
Lock It boxes     115
Script Boy     115
Time code in a studio     115
Genlock     116
Menu set-ups     116
The Sony RMB 150     116
Using memory sticks     117
Matching lenses     117
Hazardous conditions     118
Re-setting the trips     118
Water     119
Heat     119
Cold     119
Dust     119
Gamma rays     119
Camera supports     121
Fluid heads     121
Geared heads     121
Remote heads     122
Under water     122
In the air     122
Motion control rigs     122
How HD affects other crafts     124
Art and Design     124
Costume     124
Make up and Hair     125
Sound     125
Script supervision and continuity     125
The second assistant cameraperson or ex-clapper boy     125
Troubleshooting     127
Stating the obvious      127
Problems and solutions     127
Examples of Shoots     131
Some pictures shot HD, and why?     133
The Children of Dune     133
Rushes requirements     134
The extended playback facility     134
The equipment list     134
Birthdays     134
The studio shoot     135
The location shoot     136
Exterior tracking shots     137
Interior lighting     137
Adding gain     139
Editing Birthdays     139
Viewings     139
Post-Production     141
Post-production: an overview     143
Generations     143
How the choice of edit suite affects the generation game     143
The route to a film copy     145
Non-photographic distribution     146
An international standard     146
Where might it be shown?     147
Time code considerations     148
The Sony HDW F500 VTR     149
VTRs in general     149
An overview of the HDW F500     149
Editing and playback     149
Simultaneous playback     149
Slow motion replay     150
High speed picture search     150
Digital jog sound     150
Vertical interval time-code read/write     150
The control panel     150
Remote control     151
In/out capacity     151
Optional plug-in boards     151
Cassettes     151
Changing the frame rate     151
Available frame rates     152
Power supplies     152
Cameras     153
Cameras in general     155
The choice of cameras     156
My disclaimer!     156
The Arriflex D-20     157
The camera     157
The camera chip     159
Interface     159
Lenses     159
Recorders     159
The Dalsa Origin     163
The camera     163
The look through     164
The sensor     165
Interfaces     165
Conclusions on the Dalsa Origin     165
Currently available recorders     165
The Codex Digital Media Recorder     165
The touch screen     166
Monitoring via the Codex      167
Conclusions on the Codex     167
The Panasonic VariCam: AJ=HDC27H     168
The camera     168
Frame rates     168
Exposure times     169
The chips and the processor     169
The VTR     169
Time code     170
An overview     170
The Panavision Genesis     171
The camera     171
Menus     173
White balance     174
The camera sensor     174
Formats, outputs and interface     175
Viewing logarithmic images     175
The Panasonic HDW 900F     176
Introduction     176
External modifications     176
The top handle     176
The viewfinder support     177
The viewfinder     178
The camera front plate and lens mount     178
The camera base plate     178
The voltage distribution box     179
Internal modifications     179
The internal filter     179
Electronic definition enhancement     179
The Sony HDW F750P and the F730 HD cameras     181
Frame rates     181
The camera body      181
Add-in boards, etc.     182
Image control via the menus     184
Multi matrix     184
Auto tracing white balance     184
Color temperature control     184
Selectable gamma curves     184
RGB gamma balance     184
Variable black gamma range     184
Black stretch     185
Adaptive highlight control (auto knee mode)     185
Knee saturation function     185
The triple skin tone detail control     185
Level depend detail     185
Meta-data handling     185
The Sony Tele-File system     185
The optional HD SDI adapter     185
An overview     185
The Sony HDW F900R     187
The camera     187
The chips     188
The processor     188
Additional facilities     189
Menus     189
Overall impressions     189
The Thomson Viper HD camera     190
The camera body     190
Outputs from the camera     190
Recording a FilmStream signal     190
The Director's Friend     192
The beam splitter      194
The Vipers CCD array     194
The mechanical shutter     194
Frame rates     194
Resolution     194
The cameras processor configuration     194
The camera back     195
The arguments for a logarithmic recording format     196
Lenses for the Viper     196
Monitors for the Viper     197
Camera accessories     197
Shipping the Viper     197
Camera Menus     199
Menus in general     201
The HDW F900 menus     202
Using the menus     202
The layout of the menus     203
Using the menus: some warnings     204
The Operation Menu     207
VF Display page     207
'!'Indicator page     207
Marker page     207
Marker     208
Center     209
Safety Zone     209
Effect     209
Aspect Mode     210
Mask     210
Gain SW page     212
Zebra/VF DTL page     212
Auto Iris page     213
Batt Alarm page     213
Others page      214
Operator File page     215
Lens File page     217
The Paint Menu     217
SW Status page     218
Video Level page     219
Gamma page     221
Black Gamma page     222
Low Key Saturation page     222
Knee page     222
Detail 1 page     223
Detail 2 page     225
Skin Detail page     226
User Matrix page     228
Multi Matrix page     230
Shutter page     231
Scene File page     232
The Maintenance, File and Diagnostic Menus     235
Page M7     235
Index     239
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