Sunday, April 19, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire: The Rolling Shutter Frames

Given the great deal of interest that has been expressed not only in the landmark film Slumdog Millionaire and its groundbreaking and technologically innovative director Danny Boyle, but also in the film's use of the Silicon Imaging SI-2K camera for some of the key shots in the film... will probably come as no surprise that there has also been expressed some interest and questions about the rolling shutter employed by the camera and its ramifications for the film itself.

With those questions in mind, I will say the following: there are some rolling shutter artifacts that do appear in Slumdog Millionaire, and while I myself am one of those who tends to avoid the use of a rolling shutter in potentially troublesome situations, I am also one whose eye has been trained to a ridiculous degree to spot these sorts of things.

So while I will state that the rolling shutter does reveal itself in a couple of instances, I will also state the following even more loudly: The film won the Oscar for Best Freaking Picture. The point is, that those on the technical side may obsess on the minutia of a given shot or film sequence, while even the voters for the Academy will be forgiving if a sequence or film works emotionally. This does not mean that you should abandon sound filmmaking principles - it only means that a couple of rolling shutter artifacts in a feature-length film are not going to be what the audience goes home talking about if you have done your job as a filmmaker.

With that said, here are a couple of frame grabs from about one hour and forty minutes into the film, as our protagonist is in a car, trying to make his way through a throng of camera-wielding fans.

As you will know if you have read any of my musings on the rolling shutter, camera flashes present a specific problem for this method of image capture. As you can see, only a portion of the sensor was active for the miniscule moment in time when the flash was active. By the time the rest of the sensor had taken in the image, the flash was gone. Likewise, we have a partial exposure in the frame below.

So I guess it all boils down to this. Even the pros -- even the Best Picture Winner pros can get some partial exposure artifacts in their work. But before you freak out, ask yourself... Did you notice when you watched the movie? I highly doubt it. So while I don't want to talk you out of being a perfectionist in your filmmaking, do also realize that some things are more worthy of your finicky obsessions than others. I, for one, am glad that Danny Boyle didn't cut these shots from the film.

Friday, April 3, 2009

JVC Everio HD: Footage with DIY DOF Adapter

The following is just a short clip of the JVC Everio (GZ-HD7 model) being used in conjunction with a homemade depth of field adapter. As you can see, there is a shallower depth of field than would typically be expected from three 1/5" chips.

The footage is a pretty rudimentary test, and as you can see, while somewhat filmlike, the footage does also have a bit of a 1970s porn or home-movie feel to it as well. This would actually make this combination of tools quite useful if you are going for either of these looks (your reasons are your own!) with an example being an insert for a film like 8 MM or the opening credits of The Wonder Years.

But for higher-end requirements or the bulk of a narrative piece, this may or may not be to your liking.

Canon XHA1: Panalook Preset

The following video clip is simply a glance at the "Panalook" preset in action. This is one of the many presets that have been developed by devoted users to maximize the performance and color rendition of the Canon XHA1. In this case, it is just a collage of outdoor shots.

One particularly noteworthy (and unrelated) aspect of the video is the creator's use of a rack focus between different titles that are on screen simultaneously (in the opening moments). This was an effective technique that also highlighted the relatively shallow depth of field used in the video.

Canon XH-A1 - Panalook preset from Pathelin on Vimeo.