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April 1991


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 8 Apr 91 11:07:43 CDT
text/plain (51 lines)
> Despite all the hype about HDTV being "Almost as good as 35mm" in
> reality HDTV only carries about 1/10 of the image information that a
> 35mm film print can.  The maximum resolution for an existing HDTV signal
> is about 1250x1250 lines. 35mm release print stock has about 10000x10000
> resolution.  Video still has a long way to go.
God, I never thought I'd end up defending video, but there are just some
pretty basic facts that are getting glossed over.  First of all, resolution is
measured in *horizontal* lines, not horizontal and vertical.  Second, 1250 ll
is one of many HDTV formats, and there are some with higher and some with
lower resolution.  The only HDTV standard with production equipment available
is an 1125 line system.  Third, Kodak-conducted tests indicate that the
resolution of 35MM 5247 negative is comparable to a scanned image of 2330
lines (Mathias and Patterson, 231).  NHK tests indicate that the human eye
cannot perceive a difference in resolution above 1600 lines (231)--under the
conditions of the test, which means super-ideal.  Still, the question remains
as to whether the technology reaches a certain point where its simply
> The other problem is that, due to the limitations of the small screen,
> (anything under 2 metres wide) the composition of the image needs to
> be different than on the big screen.  I have seen numerous examples
> of short items shot by crews who are primarily trained for video that
> have been projected onto a large screen with disasterous results.  I
> don't really want to see someone's front teeth blown up to 4 metres
> high.  Think about the composition of a film like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
> where there are numerous shots designed to show the vast emptiness of
> the desert.  Video just can't compete with that type of image due to its
> low resolution.
I agree there are stylistic differences between video and film, but the
implication here is that they are somehow innate to the technology.  These
differencesare culturally specific.  While they have a context arising out of
certain technological factors, there is nothing about the technology itself
that dictates television to be a close-up medium, or film to be panoramic one.
We have ascribed these differences to the media, without recognizing our own
expectations, by simply remembering what we have already seen and where we
have seen it.
According to your argument, a person trained in video could not shoot in HDTV,
since the aspect ratio of HDTV is 5:2.  There are really two issues here; one
involving composition that doesn't have anything to do with the resolution of
video and the resolution of film, and the resolution of a 70MM print like
Lawrence of Arabia.  Under current standards, video would not compare
favorably to such a print.  But that doesn't mean that a similar effect can't
be created with a similar aspect ratio.
Steve Carr
Dept. of Radio-TV-Film