Friday, March 05, 2004

I had to write the following for someone!

Why I prefer the look of interlaced video

I’ve been engineering in television since the eighties when I started at the Beeb working in television news. All the training efforts of the good folks at Wood Norton (the BBC’s own college!) were to turn out staff who could maintain the fidelity of pictures and audio from acquisition to transmission. As the nineties wore on and TV stopped being staffed by people who earned their chops and became the domain of “meeja skool” graduates the practice of film-looking increased – trying to make pictures acquired on tape look like they really came off film. It rarely works – making video look jerky and messing about with its colour grading is more an insult to people who work in proper film than those of us who think video looks better than film on television. One of the areas where video out-performs 35mm is in motion rendition, and so why spoil that?
The reason production types indulge in this kind of behavior is to do with the perception that film-produced TV looks more expensive than the kind that comes out of a studio. For my money I find clean, well lit video to be more engaging than film because it looks a like the world does. When I watch “Casualty” I can believe it a bit than, say “ER” because with the latter I can never quite loose the feeling that it has been shot on a sound stage and has gone through a much more elaborate post-process. Video seems more true, more honest.
Now me venting my engineering spleen about all this came about because of the “Give it the Bullet” article in a recent edition of Creation – “Make your cheap-skate DV production look like Super-16” or some such! My answer to this is the two episodes of Dad’s Army that Steve Roberts at the Beeb restored a couple of years ago. They discovered these missing episodes in a shed on reversal 16mm from a tele-recording (ask your Dad). Being aware that these gems would have gone out as video Steve set about finding a way of making them look like interlaced video again (it’s the honesty thing!) and he discovered VidFire – an AVX plug-in that turns film into video – it fills in the temporal blanks. It really does work – it produces smooth motion from jerky old film. Now that is a fashion I could support – video-looking film. If someone could produce a real-time unit and build it into my TV set then I’d be happy!

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