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iPontificateDV To 35mm Film Blowup with the Panasonic DVX100A

by

- December 10th, 2004

I recently completed a short film as Director of Photography using the Panasonic DVX100A with the intention of blowing up the image to 35mm film for festival releases, and thought I might impart some insight into the recommended settings for such transfers.

The short film, titled Oh My God, has recently been selected in the acclaimed Sundance Film Festival 2005 taking place this January in Parl City, Utah. The festival requires that the films to be screened be delivered on either High-Definition tapes or on 35mm reels.

Since the short was to originate on DV, Director John Bryant wanted to be able to do the uptransfer in the event of a major festival selection. This required us to follow some guidelines during principal photography in order to maximize the DV image and streamline the uptransfer process by avoiding potential issues that would require extensive correction in post-production that would drive up the cost of the 35mm print.

We followed the guidelines found on DVFilm.com, a resource for video transfers to film. The Web site features tips for filmmakers using a variety of cameras including the Canon XL2 and the DVX100A, which was our camera of choice for this project.

One of the major problems when doing a blowup to 35mm from a DV image is having the correct aspect ratio for theatrical presentations. 35mm films when projected usually feature a ratio of 1:85:1, which means a DV film captured at 4:3 will lose part of the image in order to fill the screen it is projected on.

For our film, I borrowed the Panasonic AG-LA7200G anamorphic lens adapter from a fellow filmmaker in order to shoot the closest image to 16x9 without actually having to shoot in 16x9 mode in camera. The adapter does an optical widening of the incoming image to fit a 16x9 image onto a 4:3 native imaging chip.

There are several things to consider when blowing up to 35mm according to DVFilm.com, most notably lighting control and correct camera settings. We followed the list of internal camera setting for the DVX100A, which included:

  • Turning off the ATW (Auto Tracking White Balance).
  • Shooting in 24P Advanced (progressive scanning).
  • Selecting the V DETAIL FREQ to thin in the camera scenefile menus.
  • The master pedestal setting should be selected at -6 for ideal black representation, which is critical for blowup; otherwise the dark areas captured in-camera will not be represented properly when blown up, resulting in muddy blacks during projection on a large theater screen.

We followed the internal settings according to the DVFilm guide exactly, and shot the film in 3 days. The camera performed well during principal photography, and the settings provided high quality imaging for standard viewing from DV screener tapes and DVD copies of the short.

The images look clean and sharp, while the color space was a true representation of the scenes and lighting. The next process in the Oh My God story is the actual transfer to film. I will continue this particular column within the next few weeks while we begin the transfer process, and see if the settings were optimal for the 35mm film transfer.

You can see the full list if DVX100A settings at the DVFilm Web site.


With five years in the entertainment industry, and three years writing for The Mac Observer, works passionately on various genres of film, including documentaries, narrative features, and shorts. He has two feature films under his belt as Director of Photography and Camera Operator, and his current role at TMO is to cover digital media and the film industry.

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