[Tig] Telecine type overview
David L. Tosh
Mon Oct 1 20:51:30 BST 2001
At 04:30 PM 9/29/01 -0700, Roderick Stevens (on the CML-Basics list) wrote:
>As in what kinds [of telecines] are out there, what brands, what
>reccomendations, etc. Why choose one type of telecine over another, etc.?
I put together a reply to this question on the Cinematography Mailing List
- Basics list but (after it was rejected as being too long) decided to
start a thread here on TIG.
Please feel free to correct my provincial view, add facts or point out
those forehead-slapping oversights that are probably present.
The Standadrd Definition Telecines:
Rank (the company is now Cintel) MKIII and various "Turbo" off-shoots:
The flying spot CRT standard of the 1980 decade. Latest machines with
the "4:2:2" Digital store should the be base line for this generation of
machine. Often these machines have been heavily modified by local
engineering and may be fitted with some really excellent after-market kit.
The Digital Deflection, FGR, Accuglow and AccuGrade bits from Dave Walker's
Digital Audio and Video combine to keep this generation machine productive.
(I don't work for or receive compensation from DAV but do have the products
installed on our remaining MKIII.)
The standard of the CRT telecine in the early 90s has nearly as many
after market enhancements. ITK TWIGI ( I refuse to try to write it as ITK
sales does ;->) is a particularly valuable development. Any URSA will turn
out standard definition work that is at least twice as good as can be
recorded on DigiBeta tape. (That's my opinion and I will stick with it.) A
good colorist on an URSA can give you anything you can get on any other
BTS (and other incarnations) FDL-60 and 90 and Quadra:
The line array CCD pickup telecine family before the Spirit DataCine.
This is a competent, workhorse telecine but not pervasive in Southern
California's commercial post production industry. Which is another way of
saying I don't have much direct experience with them. In 1993, I installed
one in a new post house and found it to make fine pictures. We had to pull
it out in favor of an URSA simply because we couldn't sell it to our
commercial clients. Nothing wrong with the pictures or the engineering.
High Definition Telecines:
The CCD line array high definition telecine that preceded the Spirit. I
don't know if any survive in operation today. There were fewer HD standards
Philips Spirit DataCine:
The line array CCD telecine that dominates HD suites today. It has Kodak
developed optics and is capable of both standard definition and HD transfer
in almost any format thought of. It scans film at (arguably) 2K resolution
and outputs to computer workstations as data files. It produces very good
pictures (with the requisite good operator) and is extremely reliable. (My
facility has two. My facility was acquired by a company that also acquired
Philips. That makes us involuntary "family". That's the extent of any bias
I have :))
Spirit-style line array CCD without some of the most expensive bits
from a Spirit. They are out there but I can't tell you much about the
differences. There may be less resolution in the (non Kodak designed)
optical pickup. I believe there is a data scanning option for this machine.
Ask the facility that has one for their summary on the differences between
it and the Spirit.
The flagship HD/SD telecine from the company that dominated telecine
suites in the last two decades. This is a flying spot CRT telecine with the
ability to scan up to 4K resolution images and output data. I don't have
one of these but believe it to be a mature machine that should be
considered for high end work. Cintel is showing some early demonstrations
of the OSCAR optical enhancement feature that does amazing (as seen on the
demo tape) things to remove surface dust and scratches (on either side of
A company that was responsible for the best parts of the flying spot
telecines (IMHO) has built their own from-the-ground-up telecine. I don't
have one of these but they look good. Many "neat" technical features that
intrigue me on these. This telecine also is based on a flying spot CRT and
will do data scans up to 4K resolution.
Sony's current HD telecine is a huge departure from the other telecines
in current use. It uses a three color lamp house that can illuminate the
film sort of like an optical printer can. The proportion of the colors can
be varied to "time" the film before it reaches the pickup. The pickup is a
TV CCD camera. No, that probably doesn't do justice to the engineering work
involved but my understanding is that the pickup is a fixed resolution CCD
array. There is (I think) some positioning and sizing capability in optics
before the pickup. There is some attempt at registration using the film
sprocket holes. The movement is intermittent. With all those departures
from the other telecines, The people who have this telecine have always had
positive things to say about them.
Why choose one telecine over another?
Don't assume one telecine (or technology) has a "look." You will find
very few real differences in the final pictures from any telecine. You will
find that some operators are more comfortable arriving at their signature
style on one style of telecine and will have to work harder on another
telecine. Your choice of operator will be more important in nearly all cases.
You might "really need" pin registration on the telecine. It's rare that
you would, these days. You either get very good stability on the latest,
well maintained machines or you can use software stabilizing in a
workstation after the session. URSAs have two pin registration options. On
a good day, 10 years ago, they were both good enough. (If you can't tell, I
am a sceptic on the suitability of mechanical pin registration in telecine ;->)
You might want optical sound pickup on the telecine. All Rank/Cintel
product shipped with optical and magnetic pickups. Niether of my Spirits
have that ($$$) option fitted. You will need to ask if any specific machine
has a (working) sound pickup if your work requires it.
Some types of radical picture distortions may be done on an URSA
telecine. Some simple size, aspect ratio and rotate effects can also be
done on a Spirit. I haven't seen much of this type work in telecine since
high end computer workstations became pervasive.
DATA. If you are sending film resolution scans to a workstation, you
will be using a Spirit, a Shadow, a C-Reality or a Millineum. If you must
work at greater than 2K resolution, you will have to use C-Reality of
Millineum. If you have to use greater than 4K resolution you won't be using
Non-standard transfer speeds are easy and repeatable on Cintel and ITK
telecines. Variable speed on a BTS/Philips line array CCD are easy but not
precise. I'm not sure the Vialta can do other than a fixed speed transfer.
Some shoots want 6 frame per second sync sound. I would attempt this with a
MetaSpeed equipped MKIII, URSA or ITK. The available transfer speeds are
all "crystal" locked at the same precision as regular 24fps.
David Tosh <dlt at earthlink.net>
Engineer, Complete Post Hollywood, CA USA
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