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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Large Format Forum   » APOLLO 13 at the IMAX (Page 1)

 
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Author Topic: APOLLO 13 at the IMAX
Frank Angel
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From: Brooklyn NY USA
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 - posted 09-21-2002 08:43 PM      Profile for Frank Angel   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Angel   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
This month the New York Chapter of the SMPTE is showing a demo of the new IMAX blowup from 35mm process which claims to result in good resolution with no apparant increase in visible grain. We shall see.

The screening of APOLLO 13 will be on Sept 25th at 6pm in the Sony IMAX Theatre at Lincoln Square in Manhattan. Non-SMPTE members are welcome, but because of the limited seating, you must be involved with the industry and bring an ID card or identification of some kind that shows you are affiliated with a film industry company.


Frank

I have seen the Light.....and it is Carbon Arc!

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John Pytlak
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 - posted 09-21-2002 08:52 PM      Profile for John Pytlak   Author's Homepage   Email John Pytlak   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Here's a link to information about the meeting on Wednesday, 9/25:
http://www.mte.com/nysmpte/mtg0209.htm

The Kodak speaker, Beverly Pasterczyk, is the Kodak engineer who works with IMAX, DKP Productions, CFI, and other 70mm film customers. She works out of Kodak's Hollywood office, and has worked in our NYC office as well.

------------------
John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Worldwide Technical Services, Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Rochester, New York, 14650-1922 USA
Tel: +1 585 477 5325 Cell: +1 585 781 4036 Fax: +1 585 722 7243
e-mail: john.pytlak@kodak.com
Web site: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion


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Frank Angel
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 - posted 09-26-2002 12:37 AM      Profile for Frank Angel   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Angel   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The SMPTE New York section meeting included a demonstration of the IMAX proprietary DMR conversion process that claims to be able to transfer standard 35mm original material to the IMAX format. It was held at the Sony IMAX in Manhattan and sponsored by Kodak. A general, over-view discussion was given by an Eastman rep, Beverly Pasterczyk that was very informative and explained the many advances being made in large format systems that will allow first run features to open simultaniously in IMAX theatres.

Then a rep from IMAX gave a monologue in which precious little meaty informantion was discussed about the actual mechanics of the DMR small-format-to-large-format process; not unexpected given that this is a proprietary process. It was revealed that part of the proprietary IMAX system scans the original material upwards of 6k resolution to render images on the 15/70 IMAX format. Because of time constraints there was no Q&A before the film, just some SMPTE business and then the rest of the session was devoted to showing some 35mm clips from APOLLO 13 and then repeating them in the IMAX DMR version prior the actual feature in IMAX.

IMHO, the good news is: when they say they can blow up 35mm originals and make them look spectacular in the IMAX format, they are not kidding. There was no additive grain to this process, if anything, the process is able to REDUCE the apparent grain of the original. The picture did look excellent -- all the contrast and color saturation that you come to expect with an image which has the advantage of a geography 10 times that of 35mm.

This process will allow IMAX to produce prints fast enough so that they will be able to present day and date with major openings on the biggest studio releases. In effect, IMAX will become the new Roadshow theatres. Their presentation is top draw, bar none and this will give the discerning movie going public the chance once again to see major motion pictures in the best cinema environment for the best picture and sound. For those majority who couldn't care less, or so it would seem, they can still see films in their favorite assembly-line, grind-house multiplexes "near them."

This DMR process is great for those of us who remember what superior presentation was in the days of the movie palaces and who would love to have the ability to see major releases that way again. It will be like the return of the flagship theatres that used to present pictures in 70mm.

The bad news: there is STILL the problem of composition. APOLLO 13 worked fine because it was shot in super-35mm and thus this demo could skirt the issue of aspect ratio incompatibility. As it was, the APOLLO 13 image did not go to the very top of the IMAX screen, so I am assuming they were letterboxing a slight amount. Problem is, even though there was enough visual information on the original to produce a nearly full IMAX image height, the film was not composed to be seen this way. It was composed for wide screen, as was obvious from the 35mm demo. The composition in IMAX format showed lots of area above and below which you just knew in the wide screen version was meant to be cropped.

There is also the fact that films like APOLLO 13 were not composed for a screen THAT huge. Many shots which in a regular theatre would be considered medium shots, in IMAX they become extreme close-ups and close-ups become, well, nearly macroscopic -- the close-up images almost decompile into components instead of being seen as a "whole image." You wind up looking at the pores and moles and drops of sweat on Tom Hanks face or the lines and slight bags under Karen Quinnlan's eyes -- all of a sudden you loose the face itself because you are so close and it is so BIG. Original anamorphic conversions probably will have less of this effect because they will not be a full 100ft high and will play a bit more tamed in their height. But still, because of the size of the IMAX screen, letterbox will not harm the experience -- it still will remain a HUGE image (the width will still be 60ft -- no slouch of a size) but with awesome clarity, contrast, brightness and THX level or better sound.

Unfortunately for the SMPTE members, the presentation by the IMAX rep was more of a sales pitch that any hard factual information -- she went on and on about how much better IMAX was than 35mm, and for a time it almost sounded like 35mm bashing -- she kept referring to 35mm in the worst scenarios. SMPTE can't be faulted for what the sponsor's people say, and I am not sure how much control we had over the clips that were shown, but the 35mm clips were filthy -- again a kind of 35mm bashing; it had black rain for days. It was quite apparent that they purposely tried to make the comparison more dramatic when they showed the same clips, sans dirt, in IMAX -- unfair, unscientific and VERY unbecoming a scientific society of the stature of the SMPTE. I would even venture that the 35mm run was purposely dimmed down to highlight even more the impressiveness of the IMAX image. They didn't have to do that -- the quality of IMAX speaks for itself and needs no sabotage help from the peanut gallery. And the IMAX image wasn't so perfect either; instead of spending time messing up the 35mm print, they should have sent their time eliminating the hotspot in the IMAX image. It was quite severe with fall-off in the corners, almost as if it were being shown on a silver screen.

The sound was also sabotaged in the 35mm print. It sounded to me like they were playing SR, not D. Well, up against IMAX's digital sound, SR isn't going to stack up. Let's play fair and run DTS for the 35mm soundtrack. That would have provided the same sound impact that was heard when they switched to the feature in IMAX. They also seemed to have the level of the 35mm print set lower than the IMAX version -- an old dirty trick that goes way back....shame on SMPTE.

To summarize, this definately is a giant leap for movie-going kind to be able to get their 70mm quality presentation showplaces back. Now that IMAX labs can turn over printing faster than before, they will be able offer the major Hollowood releases in the IMAX theatres at the same time they open in conventional theatres. Two thumbs up for this eventuality!

Now if someone could only convince the IMAX people to install curtains on their giant screen....wouldn't THAT be a hoot!!

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Dick Vaughan
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 - posted 09-26-2002 02:44 AM      Profile for Dick Vaughan   Author's Homepage   Email Dick Vaughan   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Frank

I believe the approximate aspect ratio of the DMR version of Apollo 13 is 1.66:1 . The full screen IMAX ratio is about 1.43:1. I say about because the actual ratio of the screen varies from theatre to theatre dependent on design restrictions.

The "grain reduction" aspect of the conversion is impressive. One interesting comment made by someone from IMAX at a similar comparison screening of the 35mm versus 1570 footage that I attended in July was that for one sequence they had to detune the grain reduction.

The sequence in question is when the capsule is flying over the intended landing site and Hanks is imagining being on the surface. When he bends down to scoop up a handful of moondust the software apprently interpreted the individual grains of dust trickling through his gloved hand as film grain and tried to smooth them out!

BTW some IMAX theatres do have moving masking but I don't know of any with full close curtains. they would cost a load of cash.

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Martin Brooks
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 - posted 09-26-2002 02:30 PM      Profile for Martin Brooks   Author's Homepage   Email Martin Brooks   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I was also at the SMPTE meeting and I agree with almost all of Frank's comments. I also felt that they must have "cheated" on the 35mm test print: the print looked really faded to me even considering the magnification to almost the full width of the 90' IMAX screen. The sound on the 35mm clips had all the earmarks of bad digital sound - very peaky in the midrange and very brittle sounding, but I concur with Frank that they were probably using the analog tracks.

I sat in the 8th row (out of 12) and I felt like I was still much too close to the screen. As Frank wrote, closeups are a real problem. Actors are going to hate it. But when you have a vista, such as the long shots of the moon or the earth, it was quite impressive. (It might also be good for pornography <g>.)

I think that for existing 35mm material, if they projected 2.39 or 1.85 full width and reduced the height, it would be a better experience. You would still have the impressive sharpness and brightness of the projection system, 90' width of the IMAX screen, but you would maintain the director's intention and you wouldn't feel like you were sitting in someone's nostril.

I didn't notice the light falloff at the edges that Frank noticed. They projected a test film which was incredibly impressive in terms of the brightness, color rendition and sharpness. The image was rock-steady -- it was hard to believe it was moving film.

They also showed a trailer for Lion King which looked spectacular. Also, the sound on the trailer was quite good - it was much warmer and had more material in the surrounds than the other material shown.


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John Pytlak
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 - posted 09-26-2002 02:39 PM      Profile for John Pytlak   Author's Homepage   Email John Pytlak   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Martin Brooks wrote: "I also felt that they must have "cheated" on the 35mm test print: the print looked really faded to me even considering the magnification to almost the full width of the 90' IMAX screen."

If they were trying to fill a 90-foot screen with a 35mm print, I doubt they came anywhere close to the recommended 16 footlambert screen luminance. A dim projector will make the colors look desaturated and almost "faded".

Since that theatre shows 3D too, it's likely they have a high gain screen, which could account for the "hot spot" from some seats.

Martin also wrote: "They projected a test film which was incredibly impressive in terms of the brightness, color rendition and sharpness. The image was rock-steady -- it was hard to believe it was moving film."

That's the beauty of large formats and pin-registered projection systems. Size DOES matter!


------------------
John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Worldwide Technical Services, Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Rochester, New York, 14650-1922 USA
Tel: +1 585 477 5325 Cell: +1 585 781 4036 Fax: +1 585 722 7243
e-mail: john.pytlak@kodak.com
Web site: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion


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Scott Norwood
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Was the 35mm demo print a "standard" print or one of those "drive-in" prints which would have been printed a stop (or so) lighter for use in theatres with inadequate illumination for their screen sizes?

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John Pytlak
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 - posted 09-26-2002 04:06 PM      Profile for John Pytlak   Author's Homepage   Email John Pytlak   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Good point, Scott. Making a print that is a few printer points lighter will tend to desaturate the colors, wash out the highlights, and make the shadows more milky, which can look somewhat like fading.

------------------
John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Worldwide Technical Services, Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Rochester, New York, 14650-1922 USA
Tel: +1 585 477 5325 Cell: +1 585 781 4036 Fax: +1 585 722 7243
e-mail: john.pytlak@kodak.com
Web site: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion

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David Stambaugh
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 - posted 09-26-2002 04:17 PM      Profile for David Stambaugh   Author's Homepage   Email David Stambaugh   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
Making a print that is a few printer points lighter will tend to desaturate the colors, wash out the highlights, and make the shadows more milky, which can look somewhat like fading.

That's how the "Enhanced For IMAX" print of "Scorpion King" looked at the Edwards IMAX in Irvine. The only virtues of the presentation were the sheer size of the image, and the excellent sound. The actual image quality was not very good.

If more films are converted to IMAX in the future, I hope they retain something close to the original aspect ratio, even if it doesn't fill the entire height of the screen.


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John Pytlak
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 - posted 09-26-2002 07:46 PM      Profile for John Pytlak   Author's Homepage   Email John Pytlak   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Larger formats are needed to light huge screens. You can only put so much light and heat energy through an aperture the size of a postage stamp before bad things start to happen.

------------------
John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Worldwide Technical Services, Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Rochester, New York, 14650-1922 USA
Tel: +1 585 477 5325 Cell: +1 585 781 4036 Fax: +1 585 722 7243
e-mail: john.pytlak@kodak.com
Web site: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion

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Bobby Henderson
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 - posted 09-26-2002 07:50 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I think it would come as no surprise regarding "grain reduction". Any camera negative or slide positive can have any visible grain reduced with things as simple as Photoshop's despeckle tool (although I hardly ever use that since it actually destroys real pixels of detail and posterizes color). The thing I am wondering is just how much more sharp detail is actually being shown. I haven't seen the conversion myself, but I am still skeptical it can truthfully compare to any original 70mm material.

If "Apollo 13" was scanned in at 6,000 lines, that is a definite plus over the 4,000 line output I have seen with some CGI work in IMAX. Still, that is probably not as sharp as things could be.

While there are obvious advantages to IMAX being able to repurpose mainstream Hollywood productions for giant screen use, I am worried about 35mm killing off any and all future 70mm origination for IMAX as a cost cutting measure. I don't like it as it is with some giant screen movies being shot in 8/70 format and blown up to 15/70 much less have it come from 35mm. IMHO, such 35mm to 15/70 blow ups should not carry the "presented in IMAX" tagline. It is not the same as true 15/70.

Frank makes valid points about the composition of mainstream films in IMAX. The framing is all different. A better thing would be for a movie production to use a large format like 8/70 or 15/70 for origination and frame off a 2.35:1 or 1.85:1 safe action area in the lower center of the frame for theatrical 35mm reduction prints. You would basically be dealing with differences only in headroom then. Giant screen compositions need to be loose with lots of headroom. You could frame actors with that in mind and have what amounts to a cropped in close up for 2.35:1 or 1.85:1 35mm framing. Framing could be made to bridge giant screen and commercial screen methods much better. And you would have a movie really shot in 70mm format as well.

One thing the IMAX repurposing cannot get past is the differing styles of editorial pace. Commercial movie theater screens are smaller and can tolerate more rapid fire edit sequences. Throw a bunch of 12 frame and 18 frame edits on an IMAX screen and you'll just jolt the hell out of the audience with all those hard cuts.


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John Pytlak
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I'd love to see the IMAX DMR process used with a "classic" 65mm/70mm feature like "Lawrence of Arabia", "Patton", or "The Sound of Music". If a Super-35 negative of "Apollo 13" can look as good as reported, just think of one with three times the image area! I do prefer the image be "letterboxed" to the original aspect ratio to respect the original composition, however.

------------------
John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Worldwide Technical Services, Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Rochester, New York, 14650-1922 USA
Tel: +1 585 477 5325 Cell: +1 585 781 4036 Fax: +1 585 722 7243
e-mail: john.pytlak@kodak.com
Web site: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion


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Steve Kraus
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I don't see how those films need any help (!) but if IMAX has any sense at all they would explore the use of this process on 35 Scope and Super 35 films to generate better quality 70mm prints. Those could have a wider use than IMAX for theatrical releases and could lead to a resurgence of wide gauge releases with noticably better than 35mm quality to get around Hollywood's reluctance to shoot in 65mm. Of course IMAX's interest lies with the large format theatres but I'm sure whatever they're doing someone else can come up with something similar.

If it works, that is.

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John Pytlak
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 - posted 09-26-2002 08:29 PM      Profile for John Pytlak   Author's Homepage   Email John Pytlak   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Kodak has developed digital image enhancement technology that offers even more opportunities:
http://www.kodak.com/country/US/en/motion/students/onCampus/oct2001/dfm.shtml
http://www.kodak.com/US/en/corp/researchDevelopment/productFeatures/dCinema.shtml
http://www.kodak.com/US/en/corp/researchDevelopment/technologyFeatures/eri.shtml

------------------
John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Worldwide Technical Services, Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Rochester, New York, 14650-1922 USA
Tel: +1 585 477 5325 Cell: +1 585 781 4036 Fax: +1 585 722 7243
e-mail: john.pytlak@kodak.com
Web site: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion

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John Hawkinson
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I don't mean to sound anti-70mm, but it sounds to me like the more practical application of this technology would be for Super 16 -> 35mm, and Super 35mm -> 35mm Scope blowups.

--jhawk

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