Friday, 22 October 2010

The Technical Details

Its something I say often to anyone who has the misfortune of having to listen to me, but the most difficult thing about the world of TV and Film production is that it is simultaneously very technical and very creative. This is why so few people end up being masters in this field. It takes a very rare kind of brain to be both technical and creative.

Now, I'm the first to admit that I spend too much of my time and effort exercising the technical side of my brain and not quite enough on the creative side. And I think there are a lot of people like me. The technical side is more black and white, there are right and wrong answers and as a result its a little easier for me to navigate. The creative side is all subjective. You can pour all your effort into a script or an idea and still some people are not going to like it. I have a hard time being wrong and that probably why I spend more time trying to understand things that I can be right about, than I do creating things that people are either going to like or dislike. But I'm working on it. I've written scripts and am writing another now, I write this blog, I take arty stills images when I get hold of a camera. What has really been getting on my nerves recently though, is the lack of effort on the side of the creatives. Even people who claim to be technicians aren't delving deep enough into the technology behind the equipment we are useing to make a living. An example of this I heard yesterday on the Digital Convergence Podcast over at 16x9 cinema. Jeff Regan, who sounds like a pretty switched on guy, mentioned that the main reason we get Moire on a DSLR camera is not because of the line skipping, but because the optical low pass filter (OLPF) on the sensor is configured for high resolution stills rather than HD video. I thought this was pretty obvious and in fact had been teaching this to some students a few nights before. The other two guys on the show (supposedly pretty technical guys) suggested that this was something revelatory and no-one else was thinking about this in as much depth as Jeff. Now, this may seem like a pretty dull fact, but what it means in terms of digital convergence is that using present tech, we will not be getting a camera that works equally well for both high res stills and low res (relatively) video. So people waiting for the Canon 5d MKIII to come out and solve all the moire problems are going to be disappointed. What we need is a camera with a big sensor and an OLPF designed for video, and low and behold we have the Panasonic AF101 which has the 4/3rd inch chip from the GH1, with an OLPF designed for HD video. No you won't get the shallow DOF of the massive chips of the 5d or even the 7d, but you will say goodbye to moire and get a shallow enough DOF to control your audiences attention. So as we see, a very small technical detail will have a big impact on your images and this should concern you. Even if you are a creative.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you, but I also think that technical editors (and vfx artists) occasionally need to forget what they've learnt from Andrew Kramer and just zen it, you know? I've seen a lot of videos on youtube of people doing composite work and such and it doesn't look right, even though it's technically correct. Sometimes technical ability is no substitute for a good eye, and the best editors and compositors have both.