Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Eye Watering Experiments in Low D

I've been offline for a bit through extreme business - all self-generated. Amazing how if one is in charge of one's life one can still create stress. In this case I've been putting on a show and through this act investigating upscaling and downscaling of HD images. There is only one conclusion though and I'll say this now: There is only a High Definition image if you maintain the purity of pathways in dealing with the signal.

If you engage in wanton and ignorant channelling of the information - if you neglect to understand where the signal goes and what it goes through, then the claim that you are exhibiting HD images will be false.

As a Director of Photography who has always in some way been involved in post production, the new emphasis of exhibition is bringing an interesting overview of the entire HD process. I hear so many people say they are shooting HD when in fact they are shooting some small format that is a falsification of the term. For instance as far as I'm now concerned an Mpg based HD format is a nonsense. Any format that doesn't actually record 1920 x 1080 (the minimum) is a nonsense. Any format that doesn't record 4 4 4 is a nonsense.

A purists stance? Yes. But what else is truth but pure?

So - outside of this one has to deal with pragmatic truths - the blemished kind - and, because I've been putting on a show where I've been trying to raise the bar in terms of presentation of images - and given the lack of good cheap exhibition equipment - I have plunged mightily into the compromises available.

It isn't just exhibition, I found myself forced through budget to use the 960 pixel P2 Panasonic system to shoot on which like a lot of low HD is a smoke and mirrors exercise. But worse, in the passage through various bits of kit: editing, then outputting into a codec which is compliant with what is to follow - then play off computer, with it's hard drive read and write speeds (as a RAID was out of the question for a month and anyway the projector wasn't good enough to warrant this element) and the computers graphics card and its limitations, or via an HD DVD player (and all the Mpg stuff in terms of the authoring programme before that and it's level of encoding) then through the HD DVD players' own upscaling/downscaling system, then through a projector with it's pixel limitations and its own upscaling/downscaling problems or through an 'HD Ready' TV set with it's upscaling system - it's a wonder one can see anything with looking at after all of the mashing the signal gets - and after all of this to find that actually the best image I found though this awful pathway was a PAL Quicktime file played off computer - I really mean that - I also played a DVC Pro HD file and by the time it had been processed it didn't look as good as the PAL version.

Oh woe.

Anyway - the point is that there's a pragmatism that has to come into play after the pure thoughts and then, due to the earliness of the systems we have available we have to chose something that will in the end work.

All of this latest show is a test for February when I have to find the best option to tour an installation around the country - so it's been good to go through the mill so that I know what I'm going to do - but it's been tough on the eye.