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speed of film

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Jordan Whitespeed of film
by on May 26, 2010 at 2:32:25 am

When I look at a professional film made for cinema and on DVD, I see the movie moves slower than regular consumer camcorders. They move faster than professional movies made for cinema. Does it have to do with frame rate, slowing the movie down, or the way cameras are built. If so, then how can I make simple fade in fade out titles the way they did them back in the 1980s and 1990s? Slower than digital video, yet there's a bit of jitter, which is what I mean.

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Larry S. Evans IIRe: speed of film
by on May 26, 2010 at 7:40:11 pm

You seem to be asking a number of semi-related things.

First, "standard" film speed is roughly 24 frames per second, and this standard was established many years ago as the one giving fluid motion to most filmed actions. High speed cameras can go much faster, and when played back at "normal" speed can slow down actions. Visual effects like explosions are frequently shot this way in order to enhance their dramatic presence on screen. Film cameras can also be run at lower frame rates, with the result being a speeding up of the action when played back at "normal" rate. This can be used to make a car chase or similar action appear faster than it actually occurred. Film frames are also "progressive", meaning that each frame contains a complete picture.

Standard definition consumer video and NTSC broadcast video cameras record at 29.97 frames per second (roughly 30) and most do not reset to other speeds. They are also "interleaved" meaning that each picture is split into a series of even and odd lines of pixels that are played back in sequence on a cathode ray tube (CRT) display or older television.

Flat panel computer monitors, flat LCD TVs and HDTV monitors play back the complete images from top to bottom (at a much higher rate) so technically these are "progressive" frame formats. Likewise, HD cameras can capture progressive frames, and even on some consumer models the frame rate is selectable to 24 fps ("film look").

In the computer, you can change the frame rates of a composition in After Effects and render it out to whatever rate you want. The software will interpolate frames down or up as required.

Now, where I'm a bit confused is your reference to fade in/out title effects with "jitter" in the 80s and 90s. I'll try to describe some possible scenarios to see if this is what you mean. Once we narrow down what you are trying to create, I think there is probably a number of ways to create this with After Effects.

TV programs that were shot on video tape in the last century frequently had their titles created via technology like Chyron or Paintbox. These are inline systems that add imagery, titles, etc. to the live video feed as it is broadcast, rather than a post production technique that is commonly used with film (even today). In the early days the resolution these systems were capable of was significantly lower than the average computer monitor, so most superimposed titles tended to look jagged and flickery.

Bear in mind also that even though these were TV shows were probably shot on 3/4" beta tape stock, the largely analog technology did not produce images of the kind of quality we get from a fairly new home camera.

Up until about the mid-60s, there actually wasn't any reliable and affordable video tape method being employed for television, so if something was done live, and there was a record made of it, it was done with a process called kinescope. Kinescope basically consists of taking a film camera and pointing it at a TV monitor and filming a broadcast. Due to the fact that TV is interleaved and film is progressive, kinescopes can usually be spotted by the rolling bands moving from the top to the bottom of the image. It was only in the late 1980s and early 1990s that digitally controlled video monitors made it possible to shoot movies with TV or video screens that didn't have some roll in them.

If that's what you are talking about, the tutorial by Aharon Rabinowitz on "Old TV" will cover how to fake that. With some adjustment the methods might be used on your titles alone (instead of the whole comp)to simulate the effect of an old Paintbox or Chyron.

If it's something else, I'm afraid you'll have to describe it a bit more clearly or point me to an example before I can offer another suggestion.

Larry S. Evans II
Executive Producer
Digital I Productions

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Jordan WhiteRe: speed of film
by on May 27, 2010 at 2:29:43 am

No, you explained it to me very well. That was very thoughtful to point out all those things about video. I pretty much want to have something good come out it.

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Larry S. Evans IIRe: speed of film
by on May 27, 2010 at 1:02:43 pm

It's almost laughable how much time and energy are spent faking "old tech" artifacts to get that look in a film or video project.

There are a number of tutorials here and also at, that express methods of creating "the film look" on video footage. Aside from frame rate, film look also includes factors like motion blur (simulatable with After Effects) grain (also in After Effects), depth of field - the phenomenon where only a portion of the image is in "prime focus" (which can be faked, but not as effectively), and color and contrast. Fortunately video color and contrast can be graded very powerfully with the Color Finesse product (which ships with CS3 and CS4 - not sure about CS5 ) to conform with the color dynamics of a particular film stock. However, it is worth noting that since the introduction of the idea of the Digital Intermediate (DI) - a digitally scanned version of the film that is electronically manipulated -including color grading- that the use of color as a story element is much more subjective than just the "film look" that came from a specific stock processed by the lab for x amount of time.

My favorite example is The Lord of the Rings, where the overall color tone of the first film gradually transitions from a warm yellow/red/green to the middle movie with it's bleak grey/blue pallette, finally returning to the vibrancy of the first film only in the last few minutes of the last movie. Peter Jackson chose to use the digital color controls to subtly and almost subliminally influence the audience mood with this technique. It's used fairly extensively now, but LOTR is an easy place to spot it.

Of course, there are a number of plug-ins for After Effects that generate film looks for you (most of them I think are available from Red Giant or Boris FX these days), but they are expensive, and you can, armed with a little information from tutorials here and at similar sites, achieve most of these manually. If you are in a production environment with deadlines to meet and don't have the luxury of experimenting, then the cost of the pre-made film looks are certainly justifiable.

I hope that helps. I'm still not sure exactly what you are trying to duplicate, but good luck with it. -R

Larry S. Evans II
Executive Producer
Digital I Productions

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