April 24, 2014

Post-Production Tools are Changing the DP's Role. Is 4K Affecting That Role Even More?

At NAB 2014, cinema5D introduced a video series called "On the Couch," which featured both representatives of manufacturers and filmmakers from all walks of life. Cinematographers Rodney Charters and Bruce Logan, as well as Steven and Jens from Zacuto were all featured in a terrific video near the end of the show. The conversation ranges from gear, to how DPs are being left out of the color suite, to how realistic 4K will be as a display resolution in the coming years, and how 4K is allowing for even more butchering of the cinematographer's original intent in post-production.

From cinema5D:

Another topic was color correcting and the amount of control a director of photography has over his images in this day and age – where 4K allows the producer, director or editor to reframe shots without the DP’s consent. Also, there is hardly budget for the DP to sit next to a colorist in grading sessions. Consequently, Rodney and Bruce talk about how they often try to apply looks to the footage they shoot (through filters etc.) simply to regain some of that control.

The conversation is fascinating and all involved offer a wealth of knowledge, so even though it's a lengthy video, it's well worth it:

I think in terms of 4K, Rodney says something that I've mentioned a number of times, that higher resolutions are not just about theaters and big screen TVs. Resolution actually makes a far bigger difference when you're looking at a screen close-up, the way many of us do on desktops, laptops, and smart devices. This may be where these higher resolutions come into play before people adopt larger TVs to take better advantage of 4K and before we actually get cable systems delivering 4K (and with devices, including TVs, all getting smarter, realistic 4K distribution may happen on the internet long before it happens anywhere else).

Read more over on the cinema5D website.

Link: NAB 2014 – ON THE COUCH – ep 6 – Zacuto, Rodney Charters, ASC & Bruce Logan, ASC -- cinema5D

Your Comment

38 Comments

looks interesting. i hope they have a mp3 download of all the episodes so i can listen to it in my car.

April 24, 2014 at 12:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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+1 Didn't even think of that yeah.. They should

June 7, 2014 at 2:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Archie

While I'm first in line at respecting the skills and training it takes to become a good/great DP, I've never understood why they, as a group, seem to feel their vision should be inviolate. For better or worse, actors get cut out of movies, directors don't retain final cut, composers come and go, and writers get the fuzzy end of the lollipop so often I doubt they remember what sugar tastes like. Why DPs still feel it's their right to whinge on about changes made in post -- to say nothing of actually getting a simple reverse lit in under an hour so the project can stay on schedule -- is beyond me.

Yes, I'm aware that all too often such decisions are made by no-talent asshats in a suit, but if any other group complains the response is inevitably, "Yeah, it sucks, but what can you do? It's [Hollywood], Jake." But DPs go on and on like somebody sold their children to the gypsies.

April 24, 2014 at 1:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Robert

Possibly the second funniest line on the forums ever.

April 24, 2014 at 2:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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True, in every capacity there's someone f***ing your work down the road.

April 24, 2014 at 9:26PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Marcus

It's the cry of all artists. It's not wrong . . . or right, but I understand the need.

April 24, 2014 at 10:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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JPS

Just because it happens, doesn't mean it should. It's not just business.

April 25, 2014 at 7:42AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Stel

I don't even know where to begin, that's so uninformed, or maybe you're just trolling or something, but whatever, I'll take the bait. In an era with only primary photochemical filmmaking, the DP was hugely in control of the image and that has eroded, they guided the look. Now there are too many cooks in the kitchen with...whoever coming up with whatever they feel like. With secondary color correction and digital post, as well as no budget or plan for the DP to be there in post, the person who has historically been chosen to control (for the most part) the overall look of the film, no has no control over that anymore. Using filters let Charters and Logan retain the look to some degree, but it's a primary correction, but at least it's shaping a look to the thing more than shooting it clean and having that look totally flipped 180° from the cinematographer's original intents.

April 25, 2014 at 7:42AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daniel Mimura

Actually, I'm neither trolling nor misinformed, and you demonstrated my point in two ways.

1) "In an era with only primary photochemical...". If I wanted to interject some snark, I'd reply with, "1999 called, and it wants its Motorola flip phone back". Photochemical days are looong gone, and just like actors had to learn to talk, the art of foley had to be created, and black and white film had to take a back seat to color, so too must DPs adapt to the fact that theirs will not always be the final look. As the man once say, "The only constant is change."

2) Did you notice how your response was just a bit precious? As if the writer wasn't responsible for creating the character, the actor wasn't responsible for bringing the character to life, or the sound team responsible for the vastly more important element of, well, sound. All of whom get overruled. "But we're DPs!" You shout. "We shouldn't have to suffer the same fate as those *other* crafts. Our Purity of Essence must remain true!"

And I believe my, "asshats in a suit" comment pretty much covered your, "too many cooks" objection. Look, my lighting skills are rudimentary at best. I truly do respect the skills of a good DP. But Daniel, chicky baby! Ya ain't special no more, slim. You're gonna have to spend some days in the barrel just like the rest of us.

April 25, 2014 at 3:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Robert

Wow, you're a pleasant one to talk to.

Film is not dead...but anyway, that doesn't even matter...there is nothing "precious" about DP's wanting to retain the control that they were brought on to do---it has nothing to do with the infrastructure of whether it's shot on film or shot digitally, but it has to do with the way films are made, the basic production infrastructure. Yes, it changes and is always evolving, and those who don't/won't adapt become dinosaurs. This is brought up in American Cinematographer every single month in one way or another by, often in the column "From The President's Desk" by the current president of the ASC, Michael Goi, Stephen Lighthill, Richard Crudo (again)...etc... The switch to digital has eroded the control that was once there...by control, I mean, like a control group...a standard. A cinematographer used to be able to quantitatively make instructions with the printer lights. You can say, lighter a tad or warmer and if the cinematographer is not there in post, it's too subjective now----from post house to post house, and from each individual along the way. On film, a DP could specify the printer lights, so it wouldn't change around too much. They would get the dailies back with those lights and then know what is needed next to make for the answer print. This just one reason the ASC has started pushing for the industry wide adoption of the ASC CDL (color decision list), as a way to make objective again what was once objective so that they could make choices that don't switch around 5 different times when 5 different post production people do different things on it (the dailies, the main colorist, the effects people...whatever). When you say change is contestant, yes, of course...but when you can't make objective repeatable adjustments across different post houses and different personal, it's just going to be random. When you bake, you don't just hand it or to someone else halfway through the process and let them guess if you already put the salt or baking powered in it yet and just let them wing it and come up with something and expect it to be any good. There are lots of times where a DP will do something on set that's specifically to prep it for a change to be made in post. One example would be that you shot something that looks way too bright, but it's just a technique to suppress noise...another would be that something was lit with a weird color (either thru art department or lighting/gels) in order to isolate that particular object better in post. If the DP and production designer aren't involved anymore, no one knows what's going on...it's just some random...which has definitely been a trend with a lot of big movies...it's just sort of thrown together with a random flavor of the week and it cheapens the art. The reason you hire a DP is for that individual's ability to give you a look. Otherwise, why even hire that really expensive person anymore? Just let the DIT tell you if you need to open up or stop down...then just figure it out in post.

April 25, 2014 at 10:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daniel Mimura

Jesus Christ on a bike! You are truly a precious little snowflake.

First of all, punctuation, dude. Try it sometime. Second, you're *still* making my point. EVERYTHING you just wrote about the art of being a DP applies TO EVERYONE ELSE ON THE SET! They all have really demanding, really important jobs,and they all get screwed (except, of course, the writers who would love to get screwed because most of the time they just get fucked).

EVERYONE IS IMPORTANT, AND EVERYONE GETS SCREWED. YOU'RE NOT SPECIAL. Do you get it? I tried to be hemi-demi-semi amusing/tough lovin' about it, but clearly you just don't get it, so here it is plain and simple: Get the fuck over yourself. DPs are gonna get the pointy end of the stick from now on just like everyone else. Of course it's not right, but, "It's [Hollywood], Jake." If you don't like it, pony up your own bloody money, or quit the biz and get a job with the power company.

In any event, I'm done with this. You clearly want someone to stroke your ego and those of every DP, and tell you you're really, really, like, super talented artists, and those mean ol' know-knothings are ruining your perfect, infallible visions. So have fun stormin' the castle, bitches! I'm out.

April 26, 2014 at 12:35AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Robert

The last 10 minutes of this video is where they spend a lot of time talking about what the specifics of some of the problems are.

April 26, 2014 at 1:50AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daniel Mimura

I'm done too...cuz there's absolutely no point to talking to someone with such a negative condescending attitude.

April 26, 2014 at 2:09AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daniel Mimura

Film is not dead. But it's death is on the horizon. 6K has put film on its final destination to that horizon. And 8K, and K's beyond that, are soon on the way. It could be there will be some kind of innovation that will save film. But I don't see the vast majority of shooters making noise, not any noise whatsoever, for that to happen. Yeah, there's a few that want to stay with film. But I bet most of them are using digital for the same reasons everyone else is using it. Every form of video entertainment is going more and more to the internet. Digital is compatible with the internet. Film is not. No big deal. It's better to be happy about that and roll with the changes than dragging your feet in protest into it.

April 27, 2014 at 12:59PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gene

@Gene - Resolution, resolution, resolution! Geez, there is more than just resolution in the debate over film vs digital - I have never understood why people use this as an argument! - Film has a completely different texture, colour gamut, range etc... Not saying 6k out of the f65 isn't magnificent, I love it! But 35mm has a totally different feel.

Not saying you're wrong or right, but check out some interviews with Tarantino (a man who is obsessed with celluloid) he really makes you look at the meaning of shooting on and or displaying on film.

Might sway you a bit, might not.

June 17, 2014 at 4:40AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Damn Robert, you're not entirely wrong but you are an asshole.

April 28, 2014 at 11:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Muh

Creative sites are overrun with know it alls who live to bolster their own self importance by their negative and condescending attitudes to others who don't follow their own arguments in a discussion. It is usually the mark of mediocre or overrated talent.

June 7, 2014 at 4:26PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Max

I have a simple answer for that. Being the creator of the image I would guess that they worry about what others do to their work because when it's viewed most people who even bother to look at the credits will see the DP'd name
and future work could be offered or not offered to a DP on what people think of their work which affects them making a living but that's my theory. That would be my primary concern but I would have to ask others their reason.

April 26, 2014 at 1:02AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gary

As a DOP myself, I believe it is part of the fundamental role of the DOP to supervise the grade. Only the DOP understands all the ins and outs and complexities of the images. Only the DOP can remember and interpret the thousands of details and techniques applied during a project. These complex and often subtle techniques and adjustments are arrived at by sometimes months of research, testing and consultation with the director to achieve the very best possible imagery to serve the project. Many techniques are used on set with a specific plan for complimentary treatment in the grade. Grading without the DOP inevitably will result in much of this care and work being lost - to the detriment of the project. It really is about the continuity of the imagery - maintaining the themes and feels through to where it is 'locked in'. Personally, I have seen this while working in Asia shooting TVC's. The producers started balking at sending me for the grade because of the cost - it was done in another country and so involved airfares etc. After a few grades went not so great, I was sent to fix them and from then on, attended most grades. Producers were fine with it- they felt it was safer.

June 7, 2014 at 10:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gavan

This was great!! Kudos to B&H for doing this. It's like a little peak to what it's like to be at the ASC clubhouse with all the DPs sitting around talking shop.

April 24, 2014 at 3:29PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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tbonemain

4K will become the final delivery soon enough but the reframing (6K down to 4K) and color grading are here to stay. And, if a DP does something a director or producer won't like, that DP will end up unemployed.

April 24, 2014 at 5:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

you wish, maybe in 5 years, 4k may be the standard final delivery res for cheap TV content, but as long as you need visual effects in your film or TV show, you won't be delivering 4k anytime soon it's expensive as hell, hint, it's way more than editing 4k in Premiere, whoever says otherwise don't know the industry. All the movies been made right now to deliver within the next 2 years will be in 2k, it's a fact.

April 24, 2014 at 9:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Marcus

Doesn't really matter what the delivery format will be because people will just incorporate having to either blow up or down res to it. The final visual quality will be something that will just have to be "visually accepted" because at a certain point if not now, frame size will just be a number connected to the file.

April 25, 2014 at 12:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Yeah, it's always better to have the original footage better than the delivery format. That's why a black and white monaural 4:3 HD copy of Casablanca (or even further back to the mostly silent Charlie Chaplin film, Modern Times) looks awesome almost 80 years later on your television, but a television show from 2005 looks like sh-t.

I don't think enough people appreciate this aspect of 4k. It has very little to do with the delivery format and resolution.

April 25, 2014 at 7:50AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daniel Mimura

4k is here to stay in the mind of electronics companies trying to boost sales with 'the next big thing' and tech junkies who are fueling this ridiculous megapixel arms race, but don't actually have to deal with 4k in their daily professional work.

I have yet to hear one top DoP scream for more resolution. They all want more dynamic range and bit depth and are going out of their way to actually soften existing cameras with filtration, old lenses or in post to make the talent look their best.

As was mentioned in the video your 4k and beyond revolution is going to run in to a brick wall as the talent both in front and behind the camera push back. I know first hand of at least two major stars who vetoed the Epic on a production, because it made them look bad, and the show went with a lower resolution camera.

Nobody in post is looking forward to having to invest huge sums of money in faster and bigger infrastructure to support the higher data rate and storage requirements.

Visual effects has absolutely no interest in 4k. It's hard enough to process and render at 2k, with shrinking deadlines, shrinking budgets and an increasing shot count.

My guess is that ultimately we will have 4k shoved down our throat, but in many cases it will be softened and blurred down to 2k resolution, but we will still get screwed by having to deal with the increased data. And it won't look as good as native 2-2.8k, because it will have been mangled to death.

April 25, 2014 at 12:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Sure

More resolutiion is ridiculous a lot of times. DPs go out of their way to DIFFUSE the image. All the time! No one wants to see every single zit on the lead actresses's face, or those lines around the actor's eyes. Or the makeup problems...it's why they shoot Walking Dead in 16mm, because it makes it easier to do the makeup on a budget.

April 28, 2014 at 11:33AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Muh

Where are you working? Neither 4k or 6k are the norm at any stage of the pipeline in features here in L.A

April 24, 2014 at 7:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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apl

+1

April 24, 2014 at 9:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Marcus

Well, the 35mm film is almost 4K, so once you scan it and grade it, you get a de facto 4K file capable of being delivered and that encompasses a vast majority of major feature releases. But, if you exclude everything shot on film, you still get a growing number of 4K cameras that is getting used on series like "Blacklist", new Amazon Prime and Netflix shows, etc. The 4K delivery is currently available via Sony, Ultra Flix, Neflix, Amazon Prime, M-GO, You Tube, (with others working on it).
.
Prime time TV has not delved deep into 4K for the 2013-14 seasons but all expectations are on the 2014-15 being very different. I assume most scripted TV will be shot in 4K from now on, with the 4K delivery upon demand and availability.

April 25, 2014 at 3:50AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

Keep reading press releases and spec sheets, it will take you to places. Look at this: http://www.amazon.com/Amazing-Spider-Man-Mastered-Single-Disc-Blu-ray/dp... They are selling as 4k, I worked on this movie and it was delivered in 2k, tons of rip off out there, be carefull, one thing is to shoot and stream 4k, but if you need heavy post work, forget about it, you'll be seeing upscaled material within the next 5 years. If you still want to believe your words, fine, just stop deceiving people in this forum.

April 25, 2014 at 10:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Marcus

Scanned 4k film is an entirely different beast than 4k digital acquisition. For starters 4k film has none of the visually offensive characteristics that people complain about with 4k or higher digital.

April 25, 2014 at 1:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Film

Exactly. DLD many of us work in the industry in post production or other roles and it is simply bollox to imply that 4k or 6k are routinely being used at any stage of the pipeline on most major productions. You can drink all the Kool aid you want from netflix/amazon/best buy but to me 4k is currently predominantly just a gimmick to sell products to consumers and hobbyists.

Resolution and image quality are not the same thing.

April 25, 2014 at 3:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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apl

Despite these guys mentioning a Macbeth color chart, it's been proven to not be accurate for color correction. The color chips are of very low quality and show up skewed on the vector scope. http://provideocoalition.com/aadams/story/what-good-is-a-macbeth-colorch... The DCS Labs charts are the best for video. You really don't need a large chart for color correcting either. DCS Labs makes a nice chart in a pocket version that's inexpensive (only $99) and is practical for any video production. It has a gray scale row, a flesh tone row, and standard six color rows. It's sold by the SMPTE http://store.smpte.org/product_p/dlab-smpte-pos.htm

April 25, 2014 at 6:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Razor

Digital is looking very good in movies. I'm not a fan of Transformers, per se, but I am going to go the next one, in 3D, just because it will be looking so good. :-)

Film is dying an ugly death for some people.

April 27, 2014 at 1:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gene

Ha ha, you're going to see a movie you hate just to whack off the the image.

April 28, 2014 at 11:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Muh

god, some of these comments about 4K make me laugh

April 27, 2014 at 8:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gene

hold to your hat kids. here come 8K.

April 27, 2014 at 8:03AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gene

better start reading spec sheets and get down to best buy then!

April 29, 2014 at 1:20PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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dems

...speaking about sound guys... where was the sound guy on this? ;)

It looks like everybody was having a lav mic, so why are the levels so awfully different? If they had just set every mic to auto it would probably have been better than this!

September 26, 2014 at 1:31PM

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