What's up with deleted scenes?
January 22, 2011 1:04 AM   Subscribe

Why do deleted scenes on DVDs always look so degraded?

I went through film school at NYU, and worked in all aspects of production, including post-production, afterwards, but I still don't understand why deleted scenes in DVD extras always look as shitty as they do. Beyond not spending the money on color correction, they just always appear to have been shot on 8mm film and then transferred to early VHS. They also almost always still have time code attached.

Why would this be the case? Help please?
posted by Navelgazer to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I think some are just un-color-corrected film. But the really shitty ones are not from the real movie camera at all- they are from the "dailies camera" - which I think is basically a shitty video camera strapped to the side of the real camera for quick review of footage.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:31 AM on January 22, 2011

This is definitely the case in the infamous David O. Russell/Lily Tomin/Hucakbees clusterfuck footage.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:33 AM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Most likely because the deleted scenes you are referring are lifted from a second-generation source that is either a daily or a workprint. Both have time-codes on them and are going to be of a shittier quality than the original negative.
posted by phaedon at 1:34 AM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, if the follow-up question is, why don't the producers pull the deleted scenes from the original negative, the answer is that is that the relative cost of doing this is prohibitive, especially on the indie level.
posted by phaedon at 2:27 AM on January 22, 2011

most deleted scenes are taken from dailies. anything with timecode is definitely taken from dailies footage. up until recently, almost all dailies were done at standard definition, so while the feature portion of the DVD was created from either direct transfer from film or film scans the deleted scenes are created from the video footage that never got past the dailies stage. it's not just lacking color correction, it's lacking proper final telecine or DI processing.

if you're familiar with the difference between offline and online editing, the idea is basically that the deleted scenes never get past the offline editing step.

recently, many films are starting to do all their dailies in high def, so you'll probably start to notice better quality deleted scenes. still probably not on par with the feature content, but certainly better than deleted scenes of the past.
posted by dogwalker at 2:33 AM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

What dogwalker said. Layman's version, as I understand it: When the film is shot the image gets split by a prism in the camera -- one part goes to the film and the other goes to a CCD which outputs a standard-def video signal (with timecode). This video is used as a reference when editing (edit the film using the video and an Avid system, then cut the negative to match once you have a final edit), and this is what you're seeing on these DVD extras. This was standard practice in big-budget Hollywood films beginning about 20 years ago, as far as I know.
posted by neckro23 at 2:53 AM on January 22, 2011

Another point -- even if the production is using digital cameras that record very high quality video files straightaway, the editors aren't always working at full resolution. They may be using very highly compressed proxy files instead, to reduce the system requirements in the edit room, and historically those can look lousy. (Once all the edit decisions are made, the cut is then "conformed" using the high-quality footage in place of the proxy on a frame-accurate basis.)

The nice thing is that, as dogwalker explained, technology and bandwidth are increasing so that even the proxies look pretty good. Many projects use something like Apple's ProRes or Avid's DNxHD for dailies/editorial, and any deleted scenes sourced from those should look pretty darned good, even though they haven't been through final color-correct.
posted by Joey Bagels at 7:29 AM on January 22, 2011

...and it depends on when the scene was deleted. Plenty of dvds have deleted scenes that were put through full production, maybe even including effects, and only deleted after a test screening or to trim time. These can look as good as the rest of the dvd.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:40 AM on January 22, 2011

Another factor that hasn't been mentioned yet: limited space on the DVD.

DVDs are digital discs, with finite space. Video can be encoded at virtually any bitrate, so you can fit virtually any length of actual video time on a DVD, but you will want the highest bitrate you can get and still fit it on the limited space of the disc. When footage is mastered to a DVD, the mastering company will encode it at a bitrate that will allow all of the footage to barely fit.

Now, they will naturally "spend" most of the bitrate on the primary material, the main movie in this case. They will likely spend a lot less bitrate on the extras, since they are less likely to be watched and aren't in the direct flow of the movie. Often the extras will be in 4:3 SD even though they were shot in HD, and might even have the quality of completed footage (through the whole production process as described in posts above) but were just left out of the movie in the end.
posted by intermod at 8:46 AM on January 22, 2011

the answer is that is that the relative cost of doing this is prohibitive, especially on the indie level.

This. Shooting, developing, processing, transferring, and then correcting color film stock costs on the order of thousands (if not tens of thousands for large frame sizes) of dollars per minute.
posted by schmod at 2:17 PM on January 22, 2011

It's actually even worse than noted above - Dailies until quite recently were edited in standard def and at a highly compressed rate.
posted by mzurer at 2:53 PM on January 22, 2011

Thanks guys. I was confused because somehow in all my scattered time working in the industry, dailies were never a part of it. That makes sense.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:57 PM on January 22, 2011

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