A keystone of the Giant Screen Cinema Association’s (GSCA)
strategic plan is to build a pipeline of quality educational and entertaining
content. To fulfill that plan, GSCA, through its Technical Committee, has
conducted a number of tests in the past four years to help filmmakers capture
the best images possible for the giant screen. It started in 2014 with two
iterations of Bring Back Our Wide Shots (BBOWS), with the main goal of testing
whether images from the latest 4K digital cameras could meet what could be
attained on 1570 film. Cameras used for this test were the Sony F65, Canon C500, Red Dragon, RED Epic, Arri Alexa XT,
and IMAX Film.
When the results were presented at the 2015 GSCA Los Angeles
Film Expo and Filmmaker Symposium and then again at the 2015 GSCA Conference
technical session in San Francisco, the majority opinion was that capturing in digital
was quite close to, and nearly as good as, images captured on film.
Next came Saving Our Aspect Ratio (SOAR) in 2017, which
tested how to best shoot 4:3 aspect ratio and preserve that ratio for the giant
screen. For this test, only digital
cameras were used: the Alexa 65 and Red 8k
Super. The results of this test were presented at the 2017
Conference in Chicago. Many in the industry feel the 4:3 aspect ratio is what sets
the giant screen experience apart from other cinema formats and that with 16:9
or 1.85 the vertical impact of scenes is lost. Additionally, maintaining this
aspect ratio is especially important to domes so that the image covers a larger
percentage of the screen and doesn’t appear as a rectangular window inset into
a dome surface.
The HRDCC Shoot
The latest test is the High Resolution Digital Camera Comparison (HRDCC),
which GSCA conducted in July, 2018, to demonstrate
the strengths of five higher-than-6K-resolution cameras: The Arri Alexa 65,
Canon 6700 Full Frame, Panavision DXL2, Red Weapon Monstro Vista Vision, and
Sony Venice. The goal of this test was to show filmmakers how each performs in
various shooting situations. Each camera may excel in different situations, and
filmmakers will be able to decide for themselves which to use in various
shots. This test included more cinematic shots than the previous tests, with setups
that included dynamic range, resolution charts, beauty shots with moving
detail, various lighting (sunlight, magic hour, nighttime, indoors), fine
detail performance in wide shots, different flesh tones, and aspect ratios for
cropped and with frame extensions.
We did everything we could to challenge the full range of
all the cameras. Los Angeles shooting locations for the HRDCC included the
Paramount Ranch, featuring bright sunlight with static and moving details,
shots of trees and tiny leaves rustling in the wind, high contrast and shadows on
the buildings, and bright reflections. A downtown LA shoot included a rooftop
terrace at magic hour with all cameras rolling simultaneously, a nighttime
cityscape to show low light and high detail, and interior high-contrast shots. An
early morning shoot at the Walt Disney Concert Hall captured the sunrise and architectural
details. Water features and high light activity against a dark background to
show dynamic motion and contrast were shot at Grand Park. The shoot at CityWalk
(the location for the GSCA 2019 Film Expo and Filmmaker Symposium) included neon lights, dynamic motion
and contrast, magic hour with all cameras rolling simultaneously, and night
shots with low light, neon, and detailed movement. All shots also included
tilt-up capture and set extension so we can do aspect ratio experiments. In
addition to the location shoots, we also shot indoors to capture resolution
charts and sharpness, actors for skin tone tests, and general interior shots
Click here for technical details about the HRDCC shoot.
One challenge of any digital system is fine detail. The high
frequency, fine detail of digital capture makes the viewer believe they are
watching something live rather than giving it the traditional motion picture
effect. And while 4K laser projection looks really good, if images are shot in 8K
and projected in 4K, they’ll look even better. The sides of the image can then
be cropped to bring it to a 4:3 aspect ratio, allowing it to maintain 4K quality
and be projected in classic giant screen theaters. Depending on the camera, the
image may even be 6K horizontally.
The team shot much more than will be included in the
technical session this fall, so this footage will be useful for a number of
future demos. The next steps for the HRDCC are to crop all the 1.9 images to
4:3 aspect ratio to produce 6K x 4K resolution; however, the crew captured shot
extensions for nearly every scene by tilting the cameras up and shooting above
the original composition. These can be composited in at a later time to produce
8K x 6K imagery.
The test results were shown at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX
Theater during the technical session on Saturday, September 22, 2018, and during the
digital dome presentation by Evans & Sutherland and Christie at the McWane
Science Center on Dome Day on September 24, 2018.
2019, GSCA presented a second phase of this test as a part
of the “Technology
and Art Tools for Giant Screen Filmmaking” session during the GSCA Filmmaker Symposium. In this case, five shots
from the various cameras have been selected and finished. The shots have
undergone further color correction, noise reduction, highlight reduction, and
converted to the 4x3 aspect ratio using a variety of techniques, all
maintaining the full camera resolution.
Click here for a list of people who worked on the HR Digital Camera Comparison.
Photos courtesy Maggie Storm, Mousetrappe