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  • Amir Steklov

Moonfall - (2022)

Director: Roland Emmerich.

I needed a refreshment after watching a few good movies in a row.

But of course my cinephile brain can't have a rest when watching moving images. So here are some thoughts I have right now about HDR cinema:

tl;dr: HDR cinema is disgusting and unfortunately it's here to stay, hopefully it will get better overtime.

The movement towards HDR is a technological one: it's a combination of 32bit full float renders from 3D softwares and the new generation of cinema cameras that can shoot at 16-12bit raw with a very high signal-to-noise ratio.

As a post production guy, I know how difficult it is to make a decision about clipping the whites and blacks when you have footage with a wide dynamic range. I think that this technological part of the industry is pushing towards more and more HDR content. The audience seems to like it too, it's crisp, colorful and looks modern.

Another aspect of HDR is clearly seen in color grading: the use of localized-contrast algorithms, and hi-fi sharpness, Is almost necessary in order to give the image some depth after stretching it all over the histogram (HDR can look very flat without it).

On actors' faces, this gives a super-natural look, as if they are lit by bright-distant star lights or something like soft global illumination that is also directional, hard & crisp... It's very strange and unnatural looking.

The advanced technology makes it easier to manipulate the images in postproduction without introducing too much noise. At the moment there is a trend for over processing, to the point that every simple shot looks like a bad green screen composite - even if it's not a green screen shot.

The HDR workflow might have a style or a look of its own, but for my eyes it looks as if the creative aspect of cinematography and image design is being reduced: no artistic choice about lights is needed when we can capture everything and still make it look "cinematic".

I hope the future holds interesting developments in this area, I'd love to see how a great artist can make something ground braking with this workflow.

I'm still waiting for my quantum camera that would capture with 100% quantum efficiency. Then I could shoot under real star light without noise, and all this HDR business will look outdated.

Verdict: 2.5 / 5 ★ - Okay.

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