PT Were the cameras used on 2 and 3 really that bad?

Discussion in 'Prequel Trilogy' started by darkness0404, Sep 2, 2015.

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  1. darkness0404 Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Sep 2, 2015
    I was watching the Keanu Reeves documentary Side by Side about the digital vs. film debate. George Lucas was obviously a key figure in the documentary because the prequels really introduced high definition video into mainstream Hollywood.

    I was surprised that so many cinematographers and directors interviewed were so down on the camera used for Attack of the Clones. Were they really that primitive and low resolution? I have never seen Clones on a big screen so I've never really been able to tell. Did it look different at the cinema from other films shot on 35mm around that time?
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  2. Alienware Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 19, 2013
    star 3
    Read/download this article. It will give you a somewhat better understanding of challenges the filmmakers faced by shooting on digital with so much green/blue screen. The cameras weren't primitive, but AotC ones were particularly difficult to shoot with since they were often treading in unfamiliar waters. Whether you like the end result or not is down to each individual. The cameras were vastly improved for RotS, though the resolution remained the same (basically 2K).
    Last edited by Alienware, Sep 2, 2015
  3. Qui-Riv-Brid Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 18, 2013
    star 5
    Not in the least.

    AOTC looked amazing in IMAX.

    The thing is you have to appreciate that as with anything new there will be huge pushback.

    Also cinematographers and directors can have very specific technical reasons to object that have nothing to do with how they actually were used on AOTC for instance.

    Except that they aren't doing AOTC or Star Wars movies so their needs are different.
  4. Mindless Monster Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 4, 2014
    star 3
    I admittedly do not have a very keen eye when it comes to such things, so the low resolution has never bothered me. I'm glad Lucas used Clones and Revenge as an opportunity to push the boundaries of modern technology, especially since he's able to do it without sacrificing the integrity of the story.
  5. LZM65 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Feb 24, 2015
    star 4
    I wouldn't know the difference between digital, high definition, or whatever. But I cannot help but wonder why those directors failed to take into account that the cameras Lucas used for "Attack of the Clones" were something new and untested at the time.

    But this was new over a decade ago. Why are they still complaining about it now?
  6. Alexrd Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 7, 2009
    star 5
    Some (not many) of them were down because it wasn't the same as film. The cameras used for Attack of the Clones were 2K, slightly above Blu-ray resolution. But as explained in the commentary, it allowed doing things that were either impossible or more difficult on film. Most digital effects in movies are rendered at 2K. If a movie shot on film needs digital effects, a digital intermediate (essentially, a digital copy) of the movie needs to be made. Lucas basically jumped that step with digital, saving at lot of time and money in the process which made him able to focus on what most important: his story and vision.

    But no, it wasn't primitive. In fact, when George went to Sony he was very specific about what he wanted and wouldn't use anything below what he defined.

    In the DVD release of the movie, there was this featurette that showed how controversial and advantageous it was at the time.
    Last edited by Alexrd, Sep 2, 2015
  7. darth-sinister Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2001
    star 10

    Because many directors and cinematographers grew up on film print. Whether they cut their teeth on it like Spielberg, or just plain like the look of it like Abrams and Tarantino, then there will be resistance towards digital.
  8. Arch Stanton Jedi Knight

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    Apr 15, 2014
    star 1

    You don't know about high definition?
  9. Arch Stanton Jedi Knight

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    Apr 15, 2014
    star 1

    I believe the rough resolution of AOTC equated to 1.5K. The 1920 x 1080 image on the chip was downsampled because of the HD video tape used.
  10. Alexrd Jedi Grand Master

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    Jul 7, 2009
    star 5
    No, 1.5K would be below HD. Why would they use HD tapes to store low-res content?
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  11. Cryogenic Force Ghost

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    Jul 20, 2005
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    The definition, of well, "high definition":

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-definition_video

    High-definition video is video of higher resolution and quality than standard-definition. While there is no standardized meaning for high-definition, generally any video image with considerably more than 480 horizontal lines (North America) or 576 horizontal lines (Europe) is considered high-definition.


    And this was the tape they used on "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones":

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HDCAM

    HDCAM, introduced in 1997, is a high-definition video digital recording videocassette version of digital Betacam, using an 8-bit discrete cosine transform (DCT) compressed 3:1:1 recording, in 1080i-compatible down-sampled resolution of 1440×1080, and adding 24p and 23.976 progressive segmented frame (PsF) modes to later models. The HDCAM codec uses rectangular pixels and as such the recorded 1440×1080 content is upsampled to 1920×1080 on playback.
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  12. Alienware Jedi Master

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    Apr 19, 2013
    star 3

    Yes, HDCAM they were, but not with the exact specifications you quoted. The main difference was 4:2:2 YUV format, not 3:1:1. It's in the article I posted above (and even though it focuses on RotS, it also touches upon upgrades from AotC).

    And to clarify:
    HD normally starts at 1280x720, but most often when somebody says HD, they're referring to 1920x1080 or Full HD or 1080p.
    Last edited by Alienware, Sep 2, 2015
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  13. L110 Jedi Knight

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    Oct 26, 2014
    star 3
    Well I watched 2 and 3 "several" times and the most honest opinion of my honest opinions is that they were an are awesome.
  14. Cryogenic Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 5

    Okay. Read that article before. Nice to encounter it again.

    But here's the thing:

    HDCAM tape only allowed for 3:1:1 recording. Meaning, the luma, or spatial resolution, was effectively cut by 1/4, reducing data capture to 1440x1080 pixels per frame. Then you have chroma sub-sampling on top of that, wherein colour information was only captured for every fourth pixel along (480 pixels per line). This is why, in part, AOTC looks softer, muddier, and more video-ish than ROTS. On the latter, they recorded to HDCAM SR (a format that didn't exist when filming AOTC: it was introduced by Sony in 2003), where they were able to retain all of the luma and chroma data (save for some mild MPEG-4 data compression).

    Did they get around that limitation sometimes on the AOTC shoot? Apparently. Some sources indicate that they didn't always use HDCAM on Episode II, but actually outputted the raw camera signal to a separate data recorder, capturing frames at a more generous 4:2:2 (but still short of ROTS' 4:4:4). That is the number given in the PDF file you linked to. Problem is, 4:2:2 implies no luma sub-sampling, which would only be true for the times they bypassed the tape and went straight to a recorder. That wasn't always the case. Indeed, in the very same extract, it is stated that they had "1440 for luma" on AOTC:

    “When so much of the movie is shot against blue screen or green screen, we rely on color-difference matting techniques,” says Knoll. That means the more colors the better.
    With the earlier equipment, RGB color from the camera was converted into 4:2:2 YUV format when it was recorded. This format effectively slices the color bandwidth in half because one color value represents more than one pixel. The result is fewer chroma (color) samples than luma (luminance). This chroma sub-sampling combined with spatial sub-sampling effectively reduced HD’s 1920 resolution to 1440 for luma and 960 for chroma, according to ILM HD Supervisor Fred Meyers.

    As for your HD thing:

    It's true, when people use the term "HD", they're normally referring to 1920x1080, or "Full HD", or 1080p, and the term is rarely applied for anything below 1280x720 pixels. However, since the term itself isn't standardized, it can be used to refer to video resolutions below 720p, in theory.

    @Alexrd flatly asserted that "1.5 K would be below HD", which simply isn't correct. As I've shown, and as the PDF that you yourself linked to indicates, AOTC was effectively recorded in 1.5 K resolution, and wasn't a pure 2K shoot. The overall production, however, utilized a 2K workflow. They just weren't always working with "true" 2K video data.
    Last edited by Cryogenic, Sep 3, 2015
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  15. Alexrd Jedi Grand Master

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    Jul 7, 2009
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    Obviously when I said to HD I was talking about 1920x1080, considering my whole commentary. The camera's sensor outputs at that resolution and the tapes used to store data are compressing a 16:9 picture into a 4:3 one (thus the anamorphic pixels when decoding). Sure, this affects the picture quality, but that's the true output, not the deformed 4:3 one.
    Last edited by Alexrd, Sep 3, 2015
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  16. LZM65 Jedi Knight

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    Feb 24, 2015
    star 4
    No. I'm not a cameraman or a filmmaker. I've heard about it.
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  17. Qui-Riv-Brid Jedi Grand Master

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    Apr 18, 2013
    star 5
    First you have to get past the rather bogus resolution argument because many are so fixated on it that they make it seem that that is all it's about.

    Basically AOTC and ROTS were done in HD which is slightly under 2K. 35mm film like the OT resolves to around something over 3K (some argue as much as 3.5K) no matter what scan you make.

    Now even then if you know what you are looking for and look into the behind the scenes information you will find that the HD of ROTS is much better than the HD of AOTC (not that even then 99% of people would notice or care anymore than they could tell without pointing out the difference between the movie via film grain and the lack of it in HD which has video noise instead)

    As John Knoll has said technical talking about technical lines of resolution in laboratory conditions are all well and fine but the real world performance is what really matters.

    So anyone watching a transfer of AOTC or ROTS in 3D or IMAX or simply the movies now on a regular large movie screen (never mind the far smaller than movie screen size large HD TV's at home) isn't going to really notice anything or care at all about it save for the extreme technophiles who let their knowledge actually interfere with their viewing pleasures.

    In that case then they are never really watching the movies anyway.
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  18. Cryogenic Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 5

    Yes, but in your second post, you clearly equated 1.5K -- the resolution of the image held on HDCAM tape -- with "low-res content". And you asked that in an incredulous way, as if you didn't believe that that could actually have been the case. Now, you seem to concede, it was the case.

    Anyway, you make an interesting observation there. 1440x1080 is, indeed, exactly a 4:3 ratio, and this was stretched back to 16:9 for playback and editing. So, what you have in AOTC, in fact, is a telefilm masquerading as an epic work of cinema. I don't mean that as insult. It just means that the actual picture (which is, ultimately, where Lucas' storytelling resides) was captured on video, a television format, in 4:3, a television ratio (or captured in 16:9 and recorded in a television ratio), and then blown back up to something cinematic. "I think he's a she. And I think she's a changeling. "


    I couldn't agree more. In fact, it seems some want to find fault with AOTC (and the prequels) any way they can, and this resolution issue is just one more thing for them to occasionally flag up as an impediment, and/or an example of Lucas' commercial concerns reputedly exceeding his artistic credentials.

    Also, even if you zero in on technical limitations and somehow overlook the artistry of the film itself, the technical aspects of the picture don't tell the whole story. There's also the extremely immersive and three-dimensional (and crystal-clear) sound design, which adds a great deal of additional fullness to the experience, in my opinion.

    I understand that people have different aesthetic priorities, but going by the raw picture quality alone, or letting that obtrusively interfere with suspension of disbelief, in an intellectually-objectified way, is a fallacy, in my view.
    Last edited by Cryogenic, Sep 3, 2015
  19. Samnz Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 4, 2012
    star 3
    I'm not really an expert in technical terms but I read that AOTC was subpar in regular cinemas but looked brilliantly when projected digitally. They certainly weren't bad, but they were new and they were Beta tech so it was far from perfect - but more than worthwhile.

    George Lucas talks at length about them here ( "This is like the film industry in 1902"):http://www.theasc.com/magazine/sep02/exploring/

    Last edited by Samnz, Sep 3, 2015
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  20. Arch Stanton Jedi Knight

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    Apr 15, 2014
    star 1

    You don't watch HD TV channels? Or have a 1080p set?

    Sorry, seems odd. That's all.
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  21. rpeugh Jedi Master

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    Apr 10, 2002
    star 4
    If you were unlucky enough to not have a theater with a digital projector near you, it looked horrible. Unfortunately there were only a hand full of theaters in 2002 that had digital projectors. I live in a fairly big city and we did not have one. I was never able to see it in a theater with a digital projector. But it looked amazing on dvd when it came out the following fall. At that time it was easily the best looking dvd that had ever come out. I was astounded by the imagery. Its only in retrospect that it looks somewhat lackluster. Roger Ebert's two reviews of AOTC provides a lot of insight on the issue. The first link is the review for his viewing of AOTC on a film projector. The second link is for his review after the viewing of the movie on a digital projector.

    http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/star-wars-episode-ii-attack-of-the-clones-2002

    http://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-jo...al-of-digital-video-with-attack-of-the-clones
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  22. Alexrd Jedi Grand Master

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    Jul 7, 2009
    star 5
    AotC was the first DVD I ever bought and it definitely made an impression. The picture quality still holds up, even when upscaled on my 1080p LED TV. At a certain distance, you even forget it's the DVD version and not the Blu-ray (which I do own but the teal filter and shot swaps makes me prefer the DVD version).

    As for that Roger Ebert review, I really don't understand where he was coming from. Lucas wanted digital projectors available everywhere, not get rid of film projectors. But it's useless to argue about that now...
    Last edited by Alexrd, Jan 15, 2016
  23. darth-sinister Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2001
    star 10
    I only got to watch AOTC once in theaters and it wasn't a digital projector. But I don't remember it looking bad to me. I did notice a difference when I finally got to watch it on DVD.
  24. Alexrd Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 7, 2009
    star 5
    When I watched it in theaters it was also on film. It looked fine, I guess. At least I don't recall it looking bad or distracting.
  25. Slicer87 Jedi Master

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    Mar 18, 2013
    star 4
    First time I saw AOTC was on a digital projector, luckily my local theater had just got one at the time which was part of a expansion it did. ROTS I first saw in I MAX and it was awesome.
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