Thursday 2 May 2013


o.k. to get the ball rolling,first we should establish what we are actually trying to do with a "calibration" and if there are anylimitations as such to the ethos.

In an ideal world there would be standardisation of picture from start to finish and by start to finish i mean how a movie is filmed,mastered and ultimately displayed.

Though I applaud greatly all attempts to setup all the links in the chain within a home setup..this is only part of the solution.

The solution SHOULD start at the beginning..when the movie is filmed.

Having previously worked at ARRI many moons ago,i have participated in 35mm movie camera setups,which though fairly stringent using various different test patterns etc.,were not to d65.
The lights that went on set invariably came from ARRI rental,originated at Manfrotto in Italy and were in all varying states oft age..again,no standardisation.

These cameras and lights..and process, have been particpant in about 80% of the major movies filmed in the last 50 years.
**Most Panavision cameras are rebadged ARRI.
So,there is no real adherance to technical standards when the camera is first setup or when the set is lit,the ONLY standard is the directors vision..***which of course we dont know when we do home setups...however accurate we try to be...
So in short,we are setting to d65 a projector to display a movie that hasnt ..NECESSARILY been filmed that way...i.e. filmed through a d65 setup camera .
So how do we know we are arriving at an accurate representation of what that director intended>?..We dont..
Think of calibration in the home as a leveller, an attempt to introduce some sanity within the madness of the medium,an equaliser,,but NOT necessarily accurate to the directors vision.,rather accurate to the technical criteria we are applying after the event.

I remember in one much discussed review of a JVC projector,Greg Rogers stated that the grass in Lord of the Rings didnt look like how he remembered>>>????

Was he there on set with Peter Jackson when that scene was filmed? Does he know how Peter Jackson intended that grass to look>?..Has he got Peter Jackson round during the review and asked him>?
The answers to all these questions is no..Greg Rogers hasnt the faintest idea how Peter Jackson intended the grass to look in the given scene.

Now,IF he doesnt know what the grass should look like..ANY setup is a best guess right>?

..And this is where it becomes somewhat radical...Because the only TRUE way to replay a given movie in ones home would be to setup to EACH and every movie with the director sitting next to you..and when he said it looked right..its right.

Of course this is impossible,but it raises a question,,IF we cannot achieve complete accuracy to what the director intended on a given movie..what are we actually doing>?

We are applying a technically defined,overall, best guess.

Of course ISF got it right when they proposed DAY and NIGHT setups,because when you view and light conditions also has a bearing on the picture.So does SMPTE mastered material and REC709 material..and how do we determine that?..there should be one setup for hd and one for standard straight away theres 4 setups...Older legacy sources should be tweaked accordingly as well.
So,its now becoming a setup nightmare with the customer having at least 4 different settings!
I would go a step further,ideally,you would have a setting for sport,one for games,one for movies..and with sdatelite channels and cable..some are nice and bold ..some your setup for one wouldnt work with the other and so on...

In the future,there may well be a projector that auto synchs to marker clues in the medium and self adjusts..assuming that the movie is mastered with the requisite **clues..

One very good setup guy said to me that ISF and THX video courses were teaching people to crack a peanut with a mallet,over complicating and over engineering a solution that didnt really solve the point of watching the movie as the director intended.

I can see his point,and though i applaud all attempts to teach folks the basics of display setup i kind of lament the course money making industry thats grown from it..where a layman is taken from the street and supposedly transformed into a video expert with the ability to cure all display ills.

I know from my own experience of many years of crt setups and camera setups long before i took an ISF course,that these courses are an assist,tools in ones kitbag and no replacement for years of experience obviously.

Personally,i have come across guys that could get a great picture up on the screen who have never taken a course and guys who had taken every course known to man and were still cr*p.

My view is that there is more to calibration than adherance to technical criteria that ISNT standardised throughout the industry or indeed employed when movies are made.

Many analogies come to mind,great fighters are born not made,Rembrandt didnt paint by numbers and so forth.

Its about getting a great picture,I would say a TRUE picture to the movie you are watching and a picture the customer loves..
Another interesting point was made to me by a member,and he said..**Let us not forget that movie directors are not ISF setup they look at a daily and as long as it roughly shows what they remember passes through....thats why a lot of movies look crummy in terms of picture quality..because we are dealing with an individuals perceptions of quality from the start..which can vary...In fact in some respects,we have gone backwards...70mm is rare..and take a look at some of the picture quality on old 70mm movies..superb...look at the picture quality on Zulu..or South Pacific..few new releases come near...look at the picture quality on Black Narcissus which was 4.3...the colours and shadow detail are fantastic...
For me though,the picture star of the show is How the West Was Won,the restored Smilebox version is a fantastic work and indeed improves opon how good this would have originally looked at the Cinerama Cinema...
..Remember,only now is Digital cinema getting close to the resolution of 70mm,which as a medium is close to 60 years old..and I strongly believe that the directors of yesteryear were more fastidious about picture quality and aspect ratio,certainly impresarios like Mike Todd sought to push the boundaries..
Indeed though sound has improved dramatically on soundtracks,only now are we really getting to a point where the picture can..   

This is a quote from David Mullen..

***It's easier to just talk about the resolution on the original negative and avoid bringing in the resolution of various printing and projection methods, etc. Red has tested Super-35 and generally found it to be, I forgot, 3.2K or 3.5K, something like that.

You could therefore say that if a 24mm wide piece of film negative resolves 3.2K, for example, a 36mm wide piece of film (VistaVision) would resolve 4.8K, and a 52mm wide piece of film (5-perf 65mm Super Panavision / Todd-AO) would resolve 6.9K, and a 70mm wide piece of film (15-perf 65mm IMAX) would resolve 9.3K. However, this ignores some real-world issues like the fact that older medium-format lenses used on large format movie cameras have a lower MTF compared to modern 35mm cine optics (because the larger negatives don't need lenses with high MTF's because if you have more millimeters overall, you don't need to resolve as many lines per millimeter...)

If you really want to be crude, you could say that you lose maybe half the resolution of the negative once it is printed through dupe elements and thrown onto a theater screen, which is why 2K projection seems on par with the best 35mm print projection, and 4K projection would be similar to 70mm projection, but it therefore also means that IMAX digital projection should be at least 6K...

Now don't confuse measurable resolution with optimal scanning, mastering, and archiving resolution -- if 35mm film really resolves 3.2K, then in reality you really should be scanning it at more like 4K to 6K to avoid aliasing, which is why most people round things off to 4K as being ideal for posting 35mm photography... but perhaps 6K would be better for scanning, and then you should finish at 4K.*****

To synopsisise only 50% of the capability of the original film stock ever made it to the though 70mm is capable of only ever saw about 4/4.5k.

Showscan 70mm was and still is..the best ever movie presentation..far better than IMAX in my view..                                     

Now,the reason i mention this is in order to understand what could be considered ideal,as calibration should not just be fiddling around with a colorimeter,looking at graphs..we dont watch graphs..we need to understand first what is ideal?..what should we seek to emulate?..What are our visual limitations?..Viewing ideals?..Indeed what are we trying to achieve?

What I suggest we should be trying to achieve is accuracy to real life..not the movie..the content within the movie,because thats what the director is trying to capture..what he really we should be trying to get close to a setup that is realistic..AND..beneficial by way of visual and viewing ideals...
Field of view is incredibly important,when you are looking at the screen center you should not see anything in your peripheral vision left or right..or top and bottom beyond the your location from the screen is paramount..too far away and that extra resolution in that 1080p image is lost-you may as well be watching standard definition.
Precisely why Cinerama screens curved at the left and right..and precisely why I favour curved screens,remember our eyes are curved,camera lens are curved,..

Nothing in real life is flat,everything has perspective and depth..and we perceive as 3d is of course a major step foreward and long overdue.
So,our picture setup-even IF not 3d should aim to capture that depth of field.
Bringing out all the detail in a picture by having brightness and contrast correct is key..of course you never know what degree of detail was MEANT to be seen,nevertheless taking the brightness control way up to expose all the detail,then reducing until you can still see but you have the best black you can manage is something that should always be done,contrast settings should have a nice dynamic without *blurring* subtle shading details..a good example is LOTR when Gandalf knocks on Bilbos the left are clouds,now reduce the contrast until you see all the shades of grey then increase up untill you still see these variations but have as *bold* a picture as possible.

Gamma settings come into play here as well,though on the better projectors such as Sony and JVC these are not too far off the mark...(*having said this,this is personal preference to a degree and their are no absolutes,though between 2.3 and 2.5 could be considered in the ballpark.)
Returning to brightness,the screen gain and brightness of projector and their relationship to each other,are key in establishing the right amount of brightness coming back from the screen..if its not correct..too dim for example,no amount of picture tweaking can all these things should be considered in setting up for a good picture..

As far as sharpness controls,in a lot of instances they should be off or used sparingly until one sees artifacting in the picture then back for example,if any artifacting is seen at 12,set your sharpness to 11...

I personally always aim for an accurate greyscale first,so take the colour right out of the picture and get looking as devoid of leaning towards any RGB hints as you can..and with RGB controls i hardly ever touch the Bias controls unless absolutely necessary..only the Gain..

Once you have an accurate greyscale..and nooooo theres no harm IF you are proficient enough to use your eyes..a fine calibration tool....reintroduce colour until the colours look bold and bright but not over all means use setup discs,colorfacts,probes,colorimeters if you feel more confident..

I always use a mixture depending on what i see when I first turn on the time,the best calibration tool will be YOU...and dont get super hooked into can be considered an industry *leveller* from post mastering thats cannot *know* what the director intended..and he may not have intended a D65 look..:-0)...I have my own set of criteria that builds on this as well to achieve what i believe is the best balance between directors vision and technical *safety* in picture setup..not 100% foolproof for everything..but a lot closer..I believe..                                         

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