Alt Images: Smooth Sorcery

 

In 1984, I was one of a lucky handful of people from the LA film festival who were invited to pay a secret visit to Douglas Trumbull’s anonymous, windowless special effects stage and laboratory. Located in an industrial area down at the marina, it was many miles away from the movie studios that paid Trumbull to create magic for films like Columbia’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and Warner Bros. Blade Runner (1982). Trumbull called us there to make a dramatic demonstration of his new process, Showscan, which he claimed would grow into much more than just a technical improvement, becoming a profoundly deeper artistic and psychological experience than moviegoing had ever known.

It sounded, I have to say, like an absurdly pretentious claim. But for weeks after that screening, whenever any of us got together, I heard Twilight Zone-like stories of the experience of having those hypnotic Showscan moments merge into their own memories and dreams. 37 years ago, we were among the first to experience the peculiar, uncharted subconscious world of HFR, high frame rate moving images.

Showscan’s main feature was it ran through a camera and a projector at 60 frames a second, two and a half times the speed of normal sound film. At that speed, viewers agreed, everything in front of the cameras became strangely hyper-real, more crisp, immediate, and somehow real-seeming than reality itself.

Today, Showscan itself is gone, the company long bankrupt, but high frame rate is a feature, if a controversial one, of some of the most elaborate fantasy and science fiction films, and an often-overlooked setting on most new TV sets. Yet we still don’t really know much about how or why HFR affects our perceptions at such a deep level, or what the long-term, mind-numbing effects of this new intensification of media might be.

Back in 1984, Doug Trumbull’s iconic, dystopian images of the far-off year of 2019 had already entered film history, like the project that first made Trumbull’s reputation as a special effects wizard, the Stargate sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The lights went down and the screening began.

This was made up of selected scenes from his film Brainstorm (1983), presented the way he originally intended them to be seen. The stripped-down premise is this: a married pair of North Carolina scientists on the verge of splitting up is part of a medical instrumentation team that’s discovered how to directly record and play back thoughts. Even while the earliest prototype is still a laboratory secret, it’s used and misused to record the actual, total experience of everything from sex to death.

The detailed plot of Brainstorm isn’t relevant to our theme, but the filming and presentation technique was. The original intention was to alternate dramatic scenes shown in regular 70mm at normal speeds, interspersed with the supposed “tapes” of actual human thought. This required switching to an alternate projector running at 60 frames a second, using Showscan’s subliminal effects to make the mind of the viewer perceive those minutes of the movie as being somehow realer than real.

This World’s Fair-like gimmick could have been done, but it wasn’t. They filmed it, but it was too expensive an experiment for most theaters. The film was already in trouble, pushing the limits of what could be done to fix a story whose leading lady, Natalie Wood, died in mid-production. Brainstorm was released to theaters with its Showscan scenes reduced in size and speed to regular proportions. Trumbull left feature filmmaking and went on to make special effects-laden short films for theme park attractions like Back to the Future—The Ride.

The lack of industry support for 60 fps was, naturally, a disappointment to Eastman Kodak, which looked forward to selling two and a half times as much film. But the idea came back in a different form when high definition television became a practical reality. Japan’s analog HDTV system, seemingly on the brink of world conquest, was struck down like Godzilla by a small laboratory in San Diego that created an all-digital system that became the universally adaptable HDTV that you have in your home today. As an afterthought, the standards included the later possibility of HFR, high frame rate video.

There’s little or no motion blur in HFR. We’re subconsciously used to a bit of blur in artificial media like film, though it isn’t as prominent a factor in live television. In Catch 22 (1970) the most intense scenes on the bomber are filmed with a short shutter opening, clipping, and “freezing” the most horrifying moments of the film in an almost stroboscopic way, heightening the reality by artificial but very effective means. This is a technique known to still photographers but rarely used in feature films.

By the time 21st-century flatscreens were capable of HFR, the movies were back in the game, with Peter Jackson one of the leaders of new experiments in the medium. “Films” and television are now made with roughly the same kind of digital equipment.

Jackson’s cheerleading for HFR (The Hobbit was made at 48 fps) was influential. Ang Lee’s making films like Gemini Man at 120 fps is more controversial, because more filmgoers, especially not-so-young ones, complain of the “soap opera effect”, a paradox: the more real it looks and feels, the more obvious that it’s a fake. If you see even a conventionally made film like Star Wars: A New Hope on an HDTV at high frame rates, you are seeing the same movie you’ve always known, yet it’s strangely different. Instead of being immersed in the Star Wars story, you’re aware of watching three young American actors spending the summer of 1976 horsing around on an English sound stage.

Younger viewers seem to have less resistance to HFR. They haven’t spent decades growing accustomed to the way movies have traditionally looked in theaters. Ricochet member @misthiocracy, who knows pro cinematography, suggests that HFR’s effects on human consciousness may not be built-in, but acquired, subconscious training in distinguishing between fiction and reality. Fellow member @hankrhody, the best explainer of scientific mystery on Ricochet (and just about anywhere), speculates that the human mind stitches together moments of perception in such a way as to create an artificial continuity. That sounded reasonable, which in this context means “Damn, that’s good. I bet I could steal that idea”.

There’s an arena of film where that you-are-there sensation is riveting, not distracting, and that’s nonfiction film. I don’t (necessarily) mean documentaries, whose narration and selective point of view would show up under HFR as being as artificial as fiction, but the unedited raw footage that documentaries are made from.

The 16mm movie cameras that accompanied Apollo to the Moon ran at only 12 frames a second, to save film and weight. That’s slower, more flickery, and blurry than old-time silent film ever was, which ran at least 16 fps, usually more. When the lunar film was processed, it was double-printed to run at a normal, if stuttering 24 frames a second. Today, using modern graphic technology, we can do a lot better than that. We can insert four artificially created in-between frames between each original one, giving those Apollo films a vividness and an immediacy they never had before. At sixty frames a second, you are no longer even looking at old film, but through an invisible window at something live and unique, something real: mankind’s few precious moments on the Moon.

It’s not crazy to wonder if direct, immediate access to alternative reality would make the whole canon of the dramatic arts up through now, from Sophocles to Cecil B. De Mille to Aaron Sorkin, seem strange, remote, too old fashioned to matter, like the way we now think of musty 1890s stage melodrama, or soap opera on old-time radio, or quaint Forties musicals where farmhands spontaneously burst into song.  Altering the whole perception of “watching something” in ways we didn’t anticipate, creating movies with a reality so heightened they don’t feel like movies anymore: if this phenomenon somehow turned against us, would we even know the difference in time?

Altered Images (aside from being the name of an ’80s band) is a short series of posts revealing how motion picture images can be altered, with a specific emphasis on changing reality. 

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  1. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Though I have said it before and perhaps it’s common knowledge, there is one way in which cameras and the human brain are certainly alike.

    Slow-motion video is achieved by cramming more images into the same timeframe. Similarly, adrenalin sends brain processing into overdrive, resulting in slow-motion and more exact capture of vision. That is why memories of traumatic or harrowing events, though gradually distorted by replay and retroactive interpretations, are often very detailed and prolonged. 

    The adrenal system is always active and is treated in connection with various maladies, both psychological and physical. So I wonder how commonly it plays a role in exciting and horrifying entertainment. 

    • #31
  2. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    One thing about visiting Trumbull was he strategically left “souvenirs” around as silent reminders. It was an impressive place. The elaborate miniatures of Blade Runner’s towering, pyramidal Tyrell Building, and its retrofitted futuristic cityscape had been built and filmed right here, on plywood sheets resting on sawhorses, like the world’s most expensive model train layout. Later I learned from special effects masks and makeup wizard Rick Baker, a seven time Academy Award winner, that the ownership of these artifacts was something of a gray area in Hollywood. The production company owns the models/props/costumes they paid for, no question about it, but…if the artist who created them can claim trade secrets, or proprietary methods of construction, then the studio usually lets the guy keep physical custody of the stuff. 

    • #32
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Excellent again, Gary.

    It brings to mind the great holy wars between the analog vs digital audio afficionados. A war once fought out in the letters sections of Stereophile, Hi-Fi, Audiophile, EE Times, the parking lots of Radio Shacks …”Your sound is tinny!” “Your ‘warmth’ is just finely tuned distortion!” – and it never really ended, not really, just faded away into individual listening rooms worldwide. In some cavern back in the hills, a robed figure bathed in the faint glow of his tube amp gently lowers the diamond-tipped stylus onto Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” atop a Technics SP-10 and smiles.

    De gustibus non est disputandum.

    As Jack Benny might have said, “Now, that’s intellectual.”

    (When he puts his mind to it, P. is among the best of our writers, at least in a sprint like this. Probably doesn’t have any wind, though.)

    He’s wearing a suit of armor. He can’t do the 500 yard dash in that outfit.

    You’re trying to goad me into hijacking your own thread with a dissertation on weight distribution, aren’t ya? Aren’t ya?

    • #33
  4. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    For decades, TV interchange between the US and Europe was complicated by different line standards: 525 at 30 fps in the USA, 625 lines at 25 lines in Europe. (In the HD age, this is no longer a problem). Any American who saw TV in Europe, 1965-2000, will admit that their TV picture just looked better. It had more detail, more lines. Yet the two systems generated almost exactly the same number of lines per second. Europe spent theirs on picture quality; we spent ours on smoother motion. If you see older UK video like Upstairs, Downstairs, the motion difference is easily visible. 

    (Not that either continent had a lot of choice in the matter, once we’d settled on 60 Hz current and most of Europe had settled on 50 Hz.) 

    • #34
  5. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Everyone remembers the groundbreaking special effects of Star Wars in 1977 but it wasn’t all that different to techniques of the past, especially compared to today’s computer driven images. Lucas was still using matte paintings, which for the uninitiated, are paintings on glass that have holes to shoot live action through.

     

    The real leap forward was The Last Starfighter, a few years later.

    Didn’t the digital effects studio that produced its effects go bankrupt on the movie?

    • #35
  6. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    To this day, I can’t sit and watch 2001 – A Space Odyssey when it gets into all the weird colors, patterns and flashes. It’s so disturbing. I remember reading that in the advertising world, subliminal is common – example, drawing a tiny disturbing demon face into an ice cube in say, a liquor ad. A glance at the ad takes only a minute, but subliminally your mind will remember the face and then the product. 

    Where do you think the movie industry will go given the virus?  Movie theaters are still closed.  Will everything go digital?

    • #36
  7. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Thank you again for a gem! I shared with a co-worker who was key at Imax – he told me that the last project he did was Gemini Man at 120fps.

    There is so much that is counterintuitive about every field of enquiry and engineering – just delicious that higher frame rates make things look less real.

    Love it.

    • #37
  8. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Clavius (View Comment):

    Take a movie instead of a still shot and use Registax / AVI Stack / AutoStakkert or some other frame stacking software. Believe me, it is like magic.

    And that’s not bad, you can see Saturn. But here is Saturn with a web cam, almost 14 years ago:

    I’ve been wondering:

    Was this webcam shot of Saturn done on a sky-tracking mount?  And if not, is the stacking software good enough to compensate for the way things edge off so quickly?  At 800mm sky objects go out of frame fairly rapidly.

    • #38
  9. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    I hate HFR. But I agree the preference might well be an acquired thing. I don’t think it has anything to do with the way we perceive reality, though; I always thought it was simply because historically, video used a higher frame rate than film. Those of us who grew up before the era of digital TV were accustomed to the difference, even if it was subconscious awareness: cheap TV shows like soap operas were shot on video (with its higher frame rate), while movies and TV shows with higher production values were shot on film. That’s why some episodes of The Twilight Zone look cheaper than others (some were shot on video, but most were filmed).

    What I really hate, though, is the way most high-end TVs nowadays are shipped with their fake HFR feature (“motion smoothing” or whatever they call it) turned on. It’s distracting and not very convincing, at least to my eye; one of the first things I do when I get a new TV is to dig into the settings and figure out how to disable it. It’s one of those “features” that probably looks good in a demo, but I can’t imagine any self-respecting film buff would ever want it.

    • #39
  10. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Clavius (View Comment):

    Take a movie instead of a still shot and use Registax / AVI Stack / AutoStakkert or some other frame stacking software. Believe me, it is like magic.

    And that’s not bad, you can see Saturn. But here is Saturn with a web cam, almost 14 years ago:

    I’ve been wondering:

    Was this webcam shot of Saturn done on a sky-tracking mount? And if not, is the stacking software good enough to compensate for the way things edge off so quickly? At 800mm sky objects go out of frame fairly rapidly.

    That was done on an equatorial mount that is moving at the sidereal rate — so it is tracking the movement of the stars.  I’ve done other images where I move the mount manually.  

    The software does align the object in the image, compensating for the movement of the object in the frame.  But it doesn’t help if the object moves out of the frame.

    • #40
  11. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):
    It’s one of those “features” that probably looks good in a demo, but I can’t imagine any self-respecting film buff would ever want it.

    Similarly, when Cyberpunk 2077 was released, the first thing many players did was disable film grain and chromatic aberration in the game settings. I always disable motion blur as well.

    • #41
  12. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Clavius (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Clavius (View Comment):

    Take a movie instead of a still shot and use Registax / AVI Stack / AutoStakkert or some other frame stacking software. Believe me, it is like magic.

    And that’s not bad, you can see Saturn. But here is Saturn with a web cam, almost 14 years ago:

    I’ve been wondering:

    Was this webcam shot of Saturn done on a sky-tracking mount? And if not, is the stacking software good enough to compensate for the way things edge off so quickly? At 800mm sky objects go out of frame fairly rapidly.

    That was done on an equatorial mount that is moving at the sidereal rate — so it is tracking the movement of the stars. I’ve done other images where I move the mount manually.

    The software does align the object in the image, compensating for the movement of the object in the frame. But it doesn’t help if the object moves out of the frame.

    Any recommendations on a good mount?  There are a lot out there, and the pricing is all over the map.

    • #42
  13. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Clavius (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Clavius (View Comment):

    Take a movie instead of a still shot and use Registax / AVI Stack / AutoStakkert or some other frame stacking software. Believe me, it is like magic.

    And that’s not bad, you can see Saturn. But here is Saturn with a web cam, almost 14 years ago:

    I’ve been wondering:

    Was this webcam shot of Saturn done on a sky-tracking mount? And if not, is the stacking software good enough to compensate for the way things edge off so quickly? At 800mm sky objects go out of frame fairly rapidly.

    That was done on an equatorial mount that is moving at the sidereal rate — so it is tracking the movement of the stars. I’ve done other images where I move the mount manually.

    The software does align the object in the image, compensating for the movement of the object in the frame. But it doesn’t help if the object moves out of the frame.

    Any recommendations on a good mount? There are a lot out there, and the pricing is all over the map.

    Assuming you will be mounting a camera rather than a telescope, you might want to consider an iOptron tracking mount: https://www.ioptron.com/product-p/3550.htm

    I have an older model and it works quite well with a camera for long exposures.  

    I would also recommend calling the people at Oceanside Photo and Telescope (https://optcorp.com/collections/camera-trackers).  If you explain what you would like to do and let them know your budget, they will not steer you wrong.  This being an addicting hobby, they gain by helping you as you will likely be back for more.  And they really know the products.

    • #43
  14. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Clavius (View Comment):
    This being an addicting hobby

    Ummm……

    • #44
  15. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    To this day, I can’t sit and watch 2001 – A Space Odyssey when it gets into all the weird colors, patterns and flashes. It’s so disturbing. I remember reading that in the advertising world, subliminal is common – example, drawing a tiny disturbing demon face into an ice cube in say, a liquor ad. A glance at the ad takes only a minute, but subliminally your mind will remember the face and then the product.

    Where do you think the movie industry will go given the virus? Movie theaters are still closed. Will everything go digital?

    The theaters are already digital, so I think the question is, will people stop going to them? I don’t think so. Streaming has proven that it can reach most of the moviegoing audience and for a lot of films, that’ll be fine. But children’s movies, date movies, and spectacles benefit from the theater experience. They were already the mainstays of the business. 

    When silent movies went to sound, 1927-30, almost every piece of moviemaking equipment had to be (expensively) replaced, from camera to projector, and everybody was aware of the big change. When film went to digital, roughly 2001-2009, almost every piece of moviemaking equipment had to be replaced, but the public was almost completely unaware of it.  

    The ad business clamped down on subliminal ads; they knew a Congressional beatdown was on the way. 

    Douglas Trumbull’s contribution to 2001: A Space Odyssey was called slit-scan, the seemingly infinite “walls” of streaking light. (Trumbull is sometimes a little less than quick to credit all of the other specialists who made 2001’s effects so revolutionary). The technique comes out of experimental filmmaker John Whitney’s work, which used war surplus equipment. 

    • #45
  16. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):

    I hate HFR. But I agree the preference might well be an acquired thing. I don’t think it has anything to do with the way we perceive reality, though; I always thought it was simply because historically, video used a higher frame rate than film. Those of us who grew up before the era of digital TV were accustomed to the difference, even if it was subconscious awareness: cheap TV shows like soap operas were shot on video (with its higher frame rate), while movies and TV shows with higher production values were shot on film. That’s why some episodes of The Twilight Zone look cheaper than others (some were shot on video, but most were filmed).

    What I really hate, though, is the way most high-end TVs nowadays are shipped with their fake HFR feature (“motion smoothing” or whatever they call it) turned on. It’s distracting and not very convincing, at least to my eye; one of the first things I do when I get a new TV is to dig into the settings and figure out how to disable it. It’s one of those “features” that probably looks good in a demo, but I can’t imagine any self-respecting film buff would ever want it.

    I’d like to see one of the HFR human response studies to focus on 20th century Europe, because their TV system ran at 25 fps, and their movies, like ours, run at 24. American engineers had to develop a laborious workaround to show 24 fps films on our 30 fps system. The Europeans just shrugged and ran the movie 4% faster. In theory, they shouldn’t have the “soap opera effect”, but my hunch is, they did, to some degree. 

    • #46
  17. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD
    @DonTillman

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    To this day, I can’t sit and watch 2001 – A Space Odyssey when it gets into all the weird colors, patterns and flashes. It’s so disturbing.

    Well… I’ve always loved the Stargate Sequence.  It’s like, we’re going somewhere man has never been before, all alone, and I’m seeing all this crazy stuff that involves light and film, but none of it is recognizable.  Wow.

    The part of 2001 that I found disturbing was the aging Bowman, looking up and seeing himself older.  “This clever thing Kubrick did with that shot is confusing.  Is he being artsy?  Are there two of them in the room?  Three?  What’s happening?”.

    Later I understood that it was intended to be confusing and disturbing.   So I guess Kubrick did a great job.

    Wandered off topic a little.

    • #47
  18. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    namlliT noD (View Comment):

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    To this day, I can’t sit and watch 2001 – A Space Odyssey when it gets into all the weird colors, patterns and flashes. It’s so disturbing.

    Well… I’ve always loved the Stargate Sequence. It’s like, we’re going somewhere man has never been before, all alone, and I’m seeing all this crazy stuff that involves light and film, but none of it is recognizable. Wow.

    The part of 2001 that I found disturbing was the aging Bowman, looking up and seeing himself older. “This clever thing Kubrick did with that shot is confusing. Is he being artsy? Are there two of them in the room? Three? What’s happening?”.

    Later I understood that it was intended to be confusing and disturbing. So I guess Kubrick did a great job.

    Wandered off topic a little.

    You know how it is. You wander off the path a little, accidentally kill a butterfly, then come back to 2021 and discover that Ariana Grande is president. 

    I think Bowman seeing himself age was one of Kubrick’s rare concessions to at least hinting at what’s going on. Really, if the White Room scene had been a little less cryptic–not much; just a little–the movie would have been accepted by more people. But I still love the film.

    When it came out, Variety had a wry joke: “This isn’t one for the Hadassah girls”. To get the joke, Hadassah is a Jewish women’s charitable and fraternal organization. The women are middle-aged to (very) elderly, and used to organize bus trips into Manhattan to attend group screenings of films like Funny Girl or A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. You can understand that the enigmatic 2001 was, indeed, not one for the Hadassah “girls”. 

    • #48
  19. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    You know how it is. You wander off the path a little, accidentally kill a butterfly, then come back to 2021 and discover that Ariana Grande is president. 

    A Sound of Thunder, by Ray Bradbury, IIRC.

    • #49
  20. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    You know how it is. You wander off the path a little, accidentally kill a butterfly, then come back to 2021 and discover that Ariana Grande is president. 

    I’d take the swap right now, straight up.

    • #50
  21. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Percival (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    You know how it is. You wander off the path a little, accidentally kill a butterfly, then come back to 2021 and discover that Ariana Grande is president.

    I’d take the swap right now, straight up.

    Imagine all the ego and tunelessless of Beyonce, with half the intellect.  Are you sure about that?

    • #51
  22. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    You know how it is. You wander off the path a little, accidentally kill a butterfly, then come back to 2021 and discover that Ariana Grande is president.

    I’d take the swap right now, straight up.

    Imagine all the ego and tunelessless of Beyonce, with half the intellect. Are you sure about that?

    Yes!

    • #52
  23. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    OK< here’s a great example of 60 fps and other image corrections that make a flickering old film into a vivid sense of being there. It’s also a much better than average example of the first Altered Images post, on colorization. 

     

    • #53
  24. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    OK< here’s a great example of 60 fps and other image corrections that make a flickering old film into a vivid sense of being there. It’s also a much better than average example of the first Altered Images post, on colorization.

     

    The same video popped up in my Recommended list just yesterday.

    • #54
  25. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    OK< here’s a great example of 60 fps and other image corrections that make a flickering old film into a vivid sense of being there. It’s also a much better than average example of the first Altered Images post, on colorization.

     

    That is wild! 

    • #55
  26. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    This seems apropos today, from Wired: 

    https://www.wired.com/story/no-good-very-nasty-remastering-the-lord-of-the-rings

    Not a new standard, of course; it began to show up in the mid-2010s. But “cocooning at home” during the pandemic, as one industry exec put it, “has accelerated interest in 4K.” Let’s recast the metaphor: HD was the caterpillar, and 4K the butterfly, bursting forth from its Covid chrysalis and crystallizing entertainment at quadruple the pixel density. The colors were dazzling, a truly heightened display. Classics like Lawrence of Arabia and the Hitchcock collection all the way down to every last Rambo and Resident Evil were 4K’d in 2020, not to mention video games, TV shows, and Top Gun to boot. Binge-watchers had been blind; now, they could see.

    So look. I get why Peter Jackson capitalized on the accelerated interest. Why he remastered his trilogies in 4K, and just in time for the holiday season of a year in which an acute crisis of seeing collided with a chronic resolution fetish to produce a new market for the illusion of reality. But let me be clear. Crystal, if I can: What a no-good, anti-human, un-optical thing for this man to do.

    But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that he seems to think he succeeded. That the look of these movies, pixels flashing in 48 hyperreal frames per second, is enough to justify their existence. So much so that he’d come to look back on Lord of the Rings with regret. Over the years, the “imperfections” in his original trilogy began, in his mind, to show.

    Hence the 4K remaster. “We got the opportunity to go back and to remove and paint out any imperfections,” he says in a promotional video for the new Blu-rays, as animators retouch the scene with the Balrog. “It’s fun to have all the toys now. I sure didn’t have all this stuff to play with in the old days.” Now that he does, all six movies consist, Jackson says, of “pristine,” “sharp,” “ultra-crisp” images.

    In her essay “In Defense of the Poor Image,” the filmmaker and media theorist Hito Steyerl defines an imperfect cinema as “resolutely compromised: blurred, amateurish, and full of artifacts.” She’s talking about underground, anti-elitist, anti-capitalist art, which Jackson’s cinema is, resolutely, far from. But the poor-ish, inconsistently color-graded, visually outdated images of his Lord of the Rings can be defended on similar grounds. The reason they work—in a very literal, but also cosmic, sort of way—is precisely because they look, by contemporary standards, imperfect. Because they look blurry and out of date: like relics from the past.

    • #56
  27. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Classics like Lawrence of Arabia

    A bit of trivia.  When Lawrence of Arabia was pulled out of the vault for its HD remastering, it was scanned from the negative, rather than from a print.  Apparently there was a noticeable improvement by using the primary source rather than one once removed.

    • #57
  28. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Clavius (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Classics like Lawrence of Arabia

    A bit of trivia. When Lawrence of Arabia was pulled out of the vault for its HD remastering, it was scanned from the negative, rather than from a print. Apparently there was a noticeable improvement by using the primary source rather than one once removed.

    Thanks, Clavius.  But this thread has already produced so many puzzling, intriguing  facts on the subject, so fast, that I can hardly stand one more.  If the R’s who know all this stuff have a meetup within 100 km of the Union Army hospital at Camp Dennison, OH, please let me know.  Policies:

    1. I’ve got the first round.
    2. Airfare is on you.
    3. Masks and anti-social distancing are strictly forbidden.
    • #58
  29. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Clavius (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Classics like Lawrence of Arabia

    A bit of trivia. When Lawrence of Arabia was pulled out of the vault for its HD remastering, it was scanned from the negative, rather than from a print. Apparently there was a noticeable improvement by using the primary source rather than one once removed.

    Thanks, Clavius. But this thread has already produced so many puzzling, intriguing facts on the subject, so fast, that I can hardly stand one more. If the R’s who know all this stuff have a meetup within 100 km of the Union Army hospital at Camp Dennison, OH, please let me know. Policies:

    1. I’ve got the first round.
    2. Airfare is on you.
    3. Masks and anti-social distancing are strictly forbidden.

    I think you’re only about 100 km from the Early Television Museum in Hilliard; if we ever get out there, maybe we can make a two city trip out of it!

    • #59
  30. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Clavius (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Classics like Lawrence of Arabia

    A bit of trivia. When Lawrence of Arabia was pulled out of the vault for its HD remastering, it was scanned from the negative, rather than from a print. Apparently there was a noticeable improvement by using the primary source rather than one once removed.

    Thanks, Clavius. But this thread has already produced so many puzzling, intriguing facts on the subject, so fast, that I can hardly stand one more. If the R’s who know all this stuff have a meetup within 100 km of the Union Army hospital at Camp Dennison, OH, please let me know. Policies:

    1. I’ve got the first round.
    2. Airfare is on you.
    3. Masks and anti-social distancing are strictly forbidden.

    I think you’re only about 100 km from the Early Television Museum in Hilliard; if we ever get out there, maybe we can make a two city trip out of it!

    Hilliard?  Half hour from my house.

    • #60
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