Re: getting the best out of digital projection

From: David Tetzlaff (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Jun 16 2009 - 10:56:46 PDT

Myron asked:

> Anyone have any experience transferring film to higher quality
> digital formats presumably for projection. What are these formats?
> Is Digital Betacam good enough? Which is best and still possibly
> within the budget of an independent experimental filmmaker. What
> types of higher quality formats are shown at this point in venues and/
> or festivals showing such films?

I'm guessing the price of a transfer has more to do with the quality
of the scan process than it's resolution. That is, the quality of the
target format is not the key factor.

Still, Digibeta is Standard Def. so i doubt you'd want that. Having a
digitized work is not not like having a film - you don't get a
release print and then send it around. Every festival or venue is
going to have different requirements. So, the first step is to get
your film transfered to a 'digital master.' This is going to live on
a computer hard drive. No matter what type of scanner is used and
what it's resolution is, assuming it's some variation of HD, you want
to save your master file as 1080P and I would suggest using the
ProRes 422 codec. From this file, you can generate any down-rezed
formats festivals or venues may ask for and dump them to whatever
type of disk or tape they request - none of this is cheap if you have
a post-house do it, but if you have a decent home computer and the
right software (preferably a Mac and Final Cut Studio) you can at
least do the file manipulation yourself.

In general, festivals and venues are behind the HD curve. The problem
is that there is no standard playback format or device. There's Sony
HDV, JVC HDV, Canon HDV, Panasonic DVCPROHD, XDCAM, Blu-Ray, HD-
DVD... The people running the festivals are tecnologically clueless
for the most part and the 'projection experts' available for hire in
most locations are incompetent fakers. I was at a festival that
required everything in Digibeta, and the projectionists couldn't
figure out the difference between 4:3 and anamorphic 16:9 and 70% of
the pieces were shown in the wrong aspect ratio. So it's easier for
them to just say 'give us a DVD' because there's a better chance it
just might work right. And FWIW, if they have an upscaling DVD player
with a component or digital connection to the projector, the visual
difference between HD and SD is going to be smaller than the variance
in the quality of the projector. That is, a 1080P 4:4:4 digital
stream is going to look like shit on a 1 chip dlp or almost any LCD,
and an SD DVD is going to look pretty nice on a two-lamp 3-chip DLP.

For folks who tour with their stuff and go to venues where you can
get in the booth and do a minimal setup of your own gear I recommend
acquiring a used Toshiba HD-DVD player. They're cheap since the
format is officially dead. You can get a 1080P model for $75 or less,
and a 720P model for around $35. (Few projectors can do better than
720P anyway). DVD Studio Pro will burn HD content onto a standard DVD-
R blank, and the HD-DVD player will play back this disk in HD. (You
can do a similar trick with BluRay using Toast, but BluRay players
are pricier obviously). There's a tutorial on

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.