Oppenheimer.

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Roy_Castle's_Trumpet
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Oppenheimer.

Post by Roy_Castle's_Trumpet »

The 2023 Christopher Nolan film.

With so much hype surrounding it, I would be foolish to not at least try to watch this three hour masterpiece. With it having been filmed in IMAX 70mm—PROPER IMAX!—I made the effort to watch a 70mm showing at the Manchester IMAX, one of the few true IMAX screens in the UK.

Generally I found the film to be very good, but it did have it's quirks. The first half an hour or so felt very much like an extended trailer (the way it was edited) but it eventually settled down into a well paced film, holding my attention. The film felt very definitely that it was a two-parter: the first two hours or so dealing with the factual events leading up to the development and deployment of that terrible weapon, and the second hour or so dealing with the post-war consequences. Before I saw the film I had noted social media complaints about the film not dealing with the Japanese perspective of the bomb, but this is a ludicrous thing to complain about. The film was about Robert Oppenheimer. And to shoe-horn in some mawkish, abbreviated story of the plight of the Japanese would have at absolute best been completely cringeworthy, in effect cementing the idea that their experiences as individuals and as a country were secondary to the bomb itself, but more likely it would have been a disastrous lesson in why such delicate matters deserve and require a film of their own. But of course the sort of empathetically stunted rage-merchants that fuel social media of this era don't actually have any regard for the focus of their solipsistic pseudobeneficence, rather they are caught up in their own self important role of Performance Sympathy for the consumption of their own dubious audience. Shame on them.

I felt the second half of the film was much more interesting than the first, although I enjoyed both.

As for the sound of the film... well it was not great. The IMAX screens have a formidable sound system accompanying them for good reason: you can feel the explosions, etc., of the film right through your body which undoubtedly added to my enjoyment, but the volume for the rest of the film—basically the dialogue—was way too high, regularly crossing over in to slightly-painful-to-listen-to territory which occasionally had me covering my ears with my hands. I can't help but wonder if the music world's "Loudness War" may be distantly influential here; with the idea that there must not be any compression on recorded audio, but this is false for speaking voices. I do not advocate that there is NO dynamic range in dialogue—that would be ridiculous—but it needs to be reasonably limited so that whispered voices are comprehensible but louder voices do not rattle your ears. This was a real let-down for me in the film. The audio could quite easily have been edited to keep the loudness of the explosions AND making the dialogue comfortable to listen to for three hours. One real misery of the volume being too loud was that there was noticeable distortion from what I can only assume is interference from the sound bouncing off the back wall of the theatre. The theatre is (or must be, from previous experience) well treated for sound deadening, but perhaps it just can't cope with such elevated volume? Luckily it wasn't a constant problem, it really was just during the loudest passages.

Image quality. Well, as I sat on the tram into Manchester I was truly excited to see a film in 70 mm just to see the potential quality shine through for my eyes to lap up. I have seen IMAX films on two previous occasions, one which was (if I recall correctly) a 3D digital projection, and one which I am not sure if it was analogue or digital, but was also 3D. The first was a Star Wars film seen from a truly sub-optimal seat on the left hand side of the FRONT ROW (sigh), and the second was an IMAX demonstrator film seen from the middle of the back row. I remember the Star Wars film having great image quality, but I don't remember much about the demonstration film as it included a lot of fast-movement content like rollercoasters and I basically felt sick for most of the showing and couldn't pay much attention to it. So this showing was going to be something to savour by what I had been told from various reviews I'd read. On the whole it was disappointing. I don't mind grain in images, analogue or digital, but I had built this up in my mind that the image would be as clear as, for instance, the Blu-Ray scans of Lawrence of Arabia, or Zulu. Zulu was shot in Technirama, which is a 35mm format, whilst Lawrence of Arabia was shot in 65mm format. LoA is rightfully regarded as a paragon of image quality, and Zulu is also seen as such even though it was shot on a much smaller negative. The format used for Oppenheimer is a 65mm negative (which is presented on 70mm for projection, hence the name) so I really was looking forward to this. But sadly it was underwhelming. There were a number of reasons for this, I think in hindsight. Mainly that the projection film wasn't as clean as it could have been, so occasionally there were stray fibres in the image, and the grain was way more than I had expected. I hope this was a stylistic decision though. Surely modern 65mm film is capable of very low grain. This was for the colour sections; the black and white sections looked great. But doesn't it always? Another point brought home to me was that really, for a feature film, the IMAX screen is just too big. I was constantly having to look all over the huge screen to pick up on details. On a 'normal' screen it is much easier to see what is going on without too much eye movement. Doesn't sound like a real problem, I admit, but it is a real drawback. The frame rate was also once or twice noticeable but nothing that was to worry about. All in all I am glad I saw the film in this format, but it really did convince me again that digitally shot and projected films are the format that I MUCH prefer.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Oppenheimer but next time I would like to see it on a smaller screen with quieter sound! Viva la home theatre!
I reserve the right to be wrong, and to correct myself as necessary.
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sharoma
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Re: Oppenheimer.

Post by sharoma »

The lack of understanding of a pleasant sound experience is why I now avoid the cinema. New TV shows are now suffering from this too. I often have to manually increase the centre channel when available, or boost the overall volume just to hear dialogue, only to get deafened when there are explosions. Now I have given up and I am using subtitles for a lot of shows and films. A film presentation is not meant to be realistic. This is why we have music during action scenes and lighting during night scenes. We need to be able to see what's going on! We also need to hear what's going on without suffering or having to keep meddling with settings. Cinemas have long been too loud for me. My first experience of 'that's way too loud!' was when I saw Jurassic Park at the Wigan Ritz (now demolished). I figured it was the cinema, but when I saw the film again a few days later at the Unit 4 cinema in Pemberton (now closed) the raptor scenes were painfully loud. Ever since, I've noticed they set the volume too high in cinemas and any nuance of superior sound quality is completey lost in distortion, whether from the speakers themselves or as you say, the sound rattling anything that isn't bolted down.

As for the film you reviewed, I have no desire to see it. I saw Nolan's Dunkirk and it was one of the most overrated and completely boring war films I've ever seen. Films these days have lost the plot. They go for an artsy realism which often makes for a dull spectacle. The most notorious example of poor cinematogrophy in TV is by Fabian Wagner, who made everything so dark that no one could see anything. Why go on a quest for realism when you're filming fantasy TV?

Wasn't Zulu shot on Super Technirama 70mm?

Finally, to further support my love of black and white films, this is how Roger Ebert argued for the aesthetic values of black-and-white photography and against colorization, writing:
Black-and-white movies present the deliberate absence of color. This makes them less realistic than color films (for the real world is in color). They are more dreamlike, more pure, composed of shapes and forms and movements and light and shadow. Color films can simply be illuminated. Black-and-white films have to be lighted... Black and white is a legitimate and beautiful artistic choice in motion pictures, creating feelings and effects that cannot be obtained any other way.
Robin
thatalex
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Re: Oppenheimer.

Post by thatalex »

Total tangent of course, but regarding B&W films - I agree with the Ebert quote and in fact he might have explained what it is I enjoy about film noir cinematography so much....

https://www.theguardian.com/film/galler ... n-pictures

^The above article has some nice portraits but doesn't fully "get" the feeling of the most iconic stills.^

I might start a film noir thread to swap stills and recommendations.
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sharoma
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Re: Oppenheimer.

Post by sharoma »

Yeah, I did go off on a tangent there. I've recently been getting into the Film Noir style. This summer's fave was Hell Is a City (1960), which I definitely pestered Roy_Castle's_Trumpet to watch for its scenes and sounds of Manchester. The only one I've seen from the posted link is Sunset Boulevard (1950).
Robin
Roy_Castle's_Trumpet
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Re: Oppenheimer.

Post by Roy_Castle's_Trumpet »

sharoma wrote: 25 Oct 2023, 16:15
Wasn't Zulu shot on Super Technirama 70mm?
TL;DR

Yes but that isn’t a 70 mm filming process, it’s a 70 mm PROJECTION format; the FILMING format is 35 mm but on its side.

I wouldn’t bother reading any of the following.

It’s a misleading name! Lots of things in film shooting and projection are not straightforwardly named.

Zulu was shot using the “Technirama” process.

A little basic history: The stereotype of a traditional analogue film camera is a lens on a rectangular box with two big mickey mouse ears on top, one behind the other so the Mickey Mouse outline is seen from the side.

The 35 mm film stock runs vertically past the lens and the shutter assembly, giving a maximum width of apporximately 22 mm (the 35 mm measurement is from the edges of the film stock, the actual film area between the film’s perforations available to record images is less). So this means the width of the picture area of the negative is 22 mm or there abouts. Depending on the aspect ratio of the image, and the type of lenses used, the height of the image area on the film could be anything from about 9 mm to 16.5 mm. This is quite a small area but can still (and did!) offer decent image quality on a reasonably sized screen.

So if the WIDTH of the film is the limiting factor of the image area, then surely if you run the 35 mm film horizontally through the lens and shutter assembly, you can get a larger image area on the negative and thus a potentially sharper image? Yes. This is the idea behind Technirama and VistaVision. The film runs horizontally.

So now the HEIGHT of the 35 mm film is the limiting factor of the available image area.

BUT!

If the film is running horizontally, isn’t that just still 22 mm? Yes. (but actually it’s a bit bigger at 25-ish mm because the image area was pushed further towards the perforations in the film.)

BUT!

Because the height tends to be the constraining factor, if the variable factor—the width is able to spread over more physical film—the constraining issues become less important when the overall resolution of the image area is concerned. Put simply, it’s easy to get a bigger picture from horizontally run 35 mm film than vertically.

OK, so if the aspect ratio is 2.35:1, then naturally 25 x 2.35 = 58.75 mm. Brilliant. Still not 70 mm though is it?

Correct! But also the negative is 38 mm x 25.2 mm, not 58.75 mm. (The 38 mm limit is due to the number of perforations used, which in this case is 8 perforations, “8 perf”.)

BECAUSE!

There are lenses available called ANAMORPHIC, a word which derives from a Greek word which roughly translated means “to form back to normal” (I am not a Greek scholar, do not ask any more of me) (“normal” lenses are known as “spherical” lenses).

These anamorphic lenses basically perform an optical alteration where the image being captured at 2.35:1 is vertically stretched to fully fill the 25.2 x 38 mm negative, which if you work out, is an aspect ratio of 1.5:1. If the anamorphic lens wasn’t used, then the width of the negative would be used, but the full heigh wouldn’t. It would be approximately 38 mm x 16.2 mm, so there would be black bars above and below the image, much like a widescreen film on an old 4:3 CRT TV. That would be a waste of the negative space, and ultimately a reduction in overall displayed resolution of the projected film.

This still doesn’t answer the question.

No it doesn’t!

Cinemas generally only have one or two types of projectors. 35 mm was the de facto standard pre-digital. But 65 mm projectors also became reasonably common.

65 mm film is 65 mm edge to edge, the film area available within the perforations is 52.63 mm. 65 mm film is run vertically, so that 52.63 mm is the limiting factor of the width. Still bigger than the 38 mm of Technirama. The height of 56 mm film is “5 perf”, that is 5 perforations tall. This works out to 23.01 mm. But that’s smaller than the Technirama’s 25.2 mm! Yeah, nothing’s ideal, get used to it.

But what this means is that horizontally-run 35 mm film and anamorphic lenses can be used to film something in much higher resolution than 35 mm film normally would, but then in the editing process, it can be printed for projection in cinemas on “normal” 65 mm film (which runs vertically), with spherical lenses.

Technirama specific projectors would be ANOTHER projector that each cinema would have to purchase or rent and frankly, who could be bothered?

The “Super Technirama 70” is the name given to this process.

VistaVision uses the idea of horizontally run 35 mm film is the same, but VistaVision used spherical lenses so the aspect ratio wasn’t quite as wide as Super Technirama 70.

VistaVision didn’t stick around for very long because the development of finer grain film simply made the extra film stock used by the process more expensive than the tradition 35 mm process for the perceived optical benefit. VistaVison was used as the basis for IMAX though. And when the first Star Wars film was being made, the increased resolution offered was used for the special effects, and so rather than coming back as a mainstream filming method, VistaVison sort of became the go-to system for special effects.

Personally, I prefer digital stuff. For many reasons. Doesn’t mean that analogue is rubbish; far from it. There’s something quite magical about analogue film, and in stills photography, there’s something almost untouchable about a well exposed kodachrom 64 slide. The colours are incredible. Digital displays are getting there though.
I reserve the right to be wrong, and to correct myself as necessary.
Roy_Castle's_Trumpet
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Re: Oppenheimer.

Post by Roy_Castle's_Trumpet »

sharoma wrote: 25 Oct 2023, 16:15
The most notorious example of poor cinematogrophy in TV is by Fabian Wagner, who made everything so dark that no one could see anything. Why go on a quest for realism when you're filming fantasy TV?
I have a sneaking suspicion that this too-dark phenomenon is loosely related to the loudness wars in the audio domain. Digital gives the opportunity to do some quite technically remarkable things with the material, but that doesn't always translate properly when viewing (or listening). People who get wrapped up in making a "technically great" film are probably not going to produce a "watchable" film. There are many factors at work. Most viewing places are not perfect, so if you make a film which absolutely requires a perfect viewing location, it likely won't be received well!

The audio version to think of here is compression. If you have a decent stereo in a decently sound prepared room, an album won't really need much compression. But if you are listening in a moving car--or a moving car with the windows open!--then that album will sound like quiet nonsense. The audio must be compressed in certain ways so you can hear a fuller range of the music. THAT version would sound terrible in the nice room.

Horses for course, etc. The power of modern digital playback equipment is that an album (or film) can be produced for idea conditions, but when played on the right equipment in other places, can still make a reasonable attempt at better reproduction.
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Roy_Castle's_Trumpet
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Re: Oppenheimer.

Post by Roy_Castle's_Trumpet »

sharoma wrote: 26 Oct 2023, 15:03 Yeah, I did go off on a tangent there. I've recently been getting into the Film Noir style. This summer's fave was Hell Is a City (1960), which I definitely pestered Roy_Castle's_Trumpet to watch for its scenes and sounds of Manchester. The only one I've seen from the posted link is Sunset Boulevard (1950).
L.A. Confidential is a brilliant (neo-)Noir film.
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Roy_Castle's_Trumpet
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Re: Oppenheimer.

Post by Roy_Castle's_Trumpet »

thatalex wrote: 26 Oct 2023, 09:03 Total tangent of course, but regarding B&W films - I agree with the Ebert quote and in fact he might have explained what it is I enjoy about film noir cinematography so much....

https://www.theguardian.com/film/galler ... n-pictures

^The above article has some nice portraits but doesn't fully "get" the feeling of the most iconic stills.^

I might start a film noir thread to swap stills and recommendations.
Often when I am driving around looking for interesting things to photograph, I'll see a great scene, but when I photograph it, it results in an unremarkable image. It took me quite a while to work out that the difference is the motion! I would suggest that those picture which you feel don't get the feeling of "iconic stills" is because they are portraits done in a style to mimic Noir, but actually aren't true noir. It is my opinion that a big and important part of film noir--or rather any "iconic" film scene--is the motion, the dynamism created and captured. The resulting stills we see remind us of the fuller moving scene. I think it is probably easier to translate a great (for instance) landscape still into a moving image equivalent, but the reverse is quite difficult. I also think this is why Kubrick is lauded as such a great director; he (and his cinematographers, too, mustn't forget them!) managed to make stills which look just as good as movie scenes. Think of the misty landscape shots or candle-lit scenes in Barry Lyndon, for instance.
I reserve the right to be wrong, and to correct myself as necessary.
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sharoma
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Re: Oppenheimer.

Post by sharoma »

Roy_Castle's_Trumpet wrote: 30 Oct 2023, 13:01
sharoma wrote: 25 Oct 2023, 16:15
The most notorious example of poor cinematogrophy in TV is by Fabian Wagner, who made everything so dark that no one could see anything. Why go on a quest for realism when you're filming fantasy TV?
I have a sneaking suspicion that this too-dark phenomenon is loosely related to the loudness wars in the audio domain. Digital gives the opportunity to do some quite technically remarkable things with the material, but that doesn't always translate properly when viewing (or listening). People who get wrapped up in making a "technically great" film are probably not going to produce a "watchable" film. There are many factors at work. Most viewing places are not perfect, so if you make a film which absolutely requires a perfect viewing location, it likely won't be received well!
Aye, in fact HBO or some eejits (maybe even Wagner himself) even suggested we should all adjust the brightness on our TVs. That was the problem: millions of people's TVs and not his shoddy skills and amateurish approach.
Robin
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