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Top Of The Charts - Yuri Neyman



I have been observing the threads on this subject with some degree of
amazement. As I read this article by Russell Steen in March's "American
Cinematographer", DP Yuri Neyman seems to place the blame for his various
problems squarely on the shoulders of the Telecine Profession. Therefore, it
is not too shocking to characterize most of the responses posted in this
forum as somewhat emotional. This is completely understandable as the
collective honor of our profession has been placed in question by the tone
of this article.

Disregard for the moment that the process of transferring dailies has become
extremely complex and difficult, and that color correction is just one of
the many concerns occurring in a very short period of time. The dynamics of
the business being what they are, no colorist / telecine operator would
survive very long if they didn't have something on the ball.  This is not to
suggest that mediocrity does not exists in our industry - it certainly does.
However,  to lump the blame broadly over the entire spectrum is ludicrous
and unfair.

As I see it, Dailies transfers are largely educated guesswork at best! It is
a rare colorist that doesn't at least try to zero in on  the "look" of the
production. Yuri Neyman is concerned about what he perceives to be the
problem: The lack of any "Technical Standard" in this telecine conversion
process. I am not going to knock anyone that is out to build a better mouse
trap. But I am not convinced that Gamma & Density's  "Cinematographer's
Control Chart"  is the answer.  The problem is that Yuri is looking for a
film solution to a video problem!

Hollis M. Todd (a college professor I  was pleased to study under) once
characterized a photographic image as an approximation of the original
scene.  If one accepts this basic premiss (and I do), then a television
image originating on film can be characterized as an approximation /
approximation of the original scene. Then consider on top of all this that
35mm motion picture film out resolves NTSC television by more than 16 times,
and has greater than three 3 the contrast range. How can anyone expect a
linear relationship to exist in this situation?

How can any photographic test chart (designed for the telecine experience)
take in the entire range "From a Black Cat in a coal bin at midnight" to "An
Arab in the Sarah at high noon pushed two stops"? Please note that the Black
Cat is also photographed through a dirty basement window.  Anyone who thinks
that a logarithmic telecine test film  - even one shot under the proper
conditions - will allow the entire range of photographic possibilities to be
replicated in telecine with what amounts to a "best light" situation is
drinking the wrong water!

And while Yuri  is still grousing about his artistic endeavors being
destroyed by the careless technician, I will relay this amusing alternate
viewpoint.  Once, when I was young and/or foolish, I asked the DP on a car
session if he might possibly shoot the Macbeth Color checker  for a few feet
at the head of each situation. I explained, at length, my reasons for
requesting the chart.  After complaining for some time about the need to
perform such unnecessary work (after all, the lab did not request such
extravagant measures), he shot the chart through the windshield of his car
(the chart in shade in the font seat), then turned the camera into a bright
sun-light scene to shoot the cars. I guess he thought that he was saving
time.  As I recall, he complained about the color of the car in his running
footage.

 Now as I look back, maybe it's not so Amusing...

Tom

Complete Post Telecine
Tom Nottingham

"You pays your money...and you takes your choice."
S. T. Nottingham Jr.