Archive for August, 2007

Comments Off on This movie is so grainy! 300, Miami Vice, Superman, Blu-ray, HD DVD…

 Reader question: “I don’t know if you can answer this but why are so many movies really grainy? I watched Mimi Vice (SIC) and Superman Returns and they’re grainy in the theater and really grainy on my BluRay (SIC) discs. Any ideas?” —-

Miami Vice has some very grainy images. It was shot on a digital movie camera, the Thomson Viper Filmstream Miami Vice. Grainy as hell, especially in night shots. 300 same thing. Superman returns. Grain hell!

These movies have something in common, they were shot (primarily) on digital cameras, not film cameras. Superman was shot in the Panavision Genesis, Miami Vice on the Thomson Viper, 300 has a mix of film and digital cameras (director Zach Snyder actually shot scenes with up to 3 cameras at once. He’s a god by the way.). 

Digital cameras, even with their latest technological improvements, still have some drawbacks, one of them being the fact that their image sensors (CCDs or CMOS chips) are more limited in the way they can capture footage than 35 mm film.

In short: digital cameras need more light to work. Highlights are blown out and dark areas are “crushed” more easily than with good film stock.

The grain you see in your digitally shot movies is referred to as Electronic Noise or Digital Noise.

In short: there will be no grain if the scene is lit well and shot correctly. The Electronic Noise (“grain”) comes if the sensor doesn’t have enough light to work with.

Film is grainy too, yeah. That’s a different type of grain though.

Each film stock has its own particular type of film grain and directors sometimes use this to achieve a certain look.

The grain you are referring to is caused by those sensor limitations – very generally speaking, the darker the scene, the more grain (electronic noise, digital noise) you see. On a small scale you’ll notice this when you fire up your consumer video camera. Shoot something in bright outdoors, then shoot something in a dark room. Boom, more fucking grain. And if you amp up your “gain setting” it gets worse.

The less light the digital video camera gets, the tougher it is for the chips. The less light, the more grain.

So why are some movies shot on digital video cameras not that grainy?

You’ll notice how some scenes are practially free of grain, even though they might be pretty dark.

There’s an evil secret you should know about: sometimes scenes that appear to be shot at night were actually shot well lit. The scene is made to look like night artificially in post production. Since the scene was originally shot with enough light for the image sensors to do their magic, little or no digital noise appears.  Neat huh?

This in a nutshell is why you see so many high profile movies with a ton of grain.

Other reasons for grainy scenes

– sometimes a scene has CG elements that just look too fake. Or the scene was shot with great lighting and the scene still looks too fake, too “plastic” and clean. By adding a bit of grain some directors feel it makes the final scene look more organic.

– some directors like to add fake grain to give the movie an aged look. Zodiac was shot digitally on the Thomson Viper Filmstream (digital camera so potentially more grain from the get-go) but AFAIK even more grain was added later to give it that 70’s look, whatever the hell that means. This is not verified however I believe it.

– Sometimes the grain/noise you see in theaters has nothing to do with the movie itself. It’s a shitty copy that’s running through the projector behind you. Get out and get your money back. (That’s right, most movie theaters run rolls of film through projectors. That film could introduce noise/grain that’s not in the actual movie. )

More reading

Miami Vice is soooo grainy!

Superman Returns is grainy! Whaaaa!

Side note: While others have pointed out the graininess, personally I’ve only seen Superman Returns on DVD and did not notice any significant grain. In fact I feel the Superman footage to be among the most pristine looking of the current batch of digitally shot Hollywood movies.

Hope this helps

300 The Movie DVD

Comments Off on 300 The Movie DVD

300 The Movie Gerard Butler Tonight we dine in hellThere’s a new definition for the word “futility“. Futility is trying to score a copy of the deluxe edition of the movie 300 one day after it’s been unleashed onto the masses.

Went to Target on Wednesday, all copies (deluxe, standard) already sold out, nothing in back stock either. Nothing at Blockbuster either. Nothing nowhere. Every once in a while there’s a lonely fullscreen edition version (fuck that) sitting at a shelf somewhere. I pass. This movie must be experienced in all its widescreen glory.

Same situation Thursday, all sold out. Well hell, what does a fan have to do to get a deluxe DVD edition of 300 NOW, not in five years when the popularity of this masterpiece might go down? Order it online probably but  since I loathe (LOATHE!) waiting the question is: is it quicker to wait until a local store has a copy available or wait for UPS to ring the doorbell with an order from Amazon?

Choices, choices.

Popular Posts