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Old 04-30-2018, 04:13 PM   #1
peep6543 peep6543 is online now
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Default difference between noise and grain

Please help me understand the difference (visually) between them, and why noise is generally bad and grain is generally good?
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Old 04-30-2018, 04:18 PM   #2
Cremildo Cremildo is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peep6543 View Post
Please help me understand the difference (visually) between them
I'd like to know more about this, too.
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Old 04-30-2018, 04:22 PM   #3
peep6543 peep6543 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cremildo View Post
I'd like to know more about this, too.
We are on thin ice with this one! Have your shields up because any topic using the 'g-word' on here brings on a hellstorm (for reasons unknown).
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Old 04-30-2018, 04:38 PM   #4
Al_The_Strange Al_The_Strange is online now
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Natural film grain will be inherent to 35mm, 16mm, and other masters from film strips. With a proper, clean, pristine master, the grain will look very fine--even to the point where it's barely noticeable unless the film stock, lighting conditions, lenses, etc. brings it out more. Sometimes, grain can be added into a movie as an aesthetic effect.

Noise, as I see it, would involve some bad combination of dirt, specks, scratches, weird lines, and nowadays, blocks generated by digital compression. Bad or weak encodes will be especially noticeable around existing grain or noise, seeming to make them look worse. Edge enhancement could make all of these stand out further yet, in addition to forming a halo around all the things.

How do you differentiate the two? Noise is something that can be removed and will improve the picture--either through a good restoration, good encoding, less application of DNR and EE. Grain can't be removed without smudging up the picture with DNR. For casual viewing, grain will fill in spaces, but won't be noticeable around the fine details (and details will be very fine on most 4K remasters/sources). Other things will fudge up those details and make them duller or just get in the way.

Good examples of good, healthy film grain: well, there's lots, so I'll just name Saving Private Ryan as one of the most blatant examples.

Good examples of films with bad noise: the worst I can think of right now is One Hour Photo. So much macroblocking, it's quite distracting.
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Old 04-30-2018, 04:56 PM   #5
peep6543 peep6543 is online now
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Thank you for the simple and informative response, I appreciate it. I will look at samples of both of those and see if I can detect differences myself.

I understand the '300' situation so I won't touch it. But as another current example, lets take the 4k release of Groundhog Day. It opens with a cloudy/blue sky during his weather report that is heavily grained. Is this grain in the film or noise? If I'm understanding your response correctly, the grain here is more noticeable because it was remastered in UHD and the original film grain 'helps' increase the resolution? A lower-resolution version would not show the same heavy grain in that scene?

Maybe making connections here that don't exist but I want to try to understand it more. Cheers.
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Old 04-30-2018, 06:27 PM   #6
Al_The_Strange Al_The_Strange is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peep6543 View Post
Thank you for the simple and informative response, I appreciate it. I will look at samples of both of those and see if I can detect differences myself.

I understand the '300' situation so I won't touch it. But as another current example, lets take the 4k release of Groundhog Day. It opens with a cloudy/blue sky during his weather report that is heavily grained. Is this grain in the film or noise? If I'm understanding your response correctly, the grain here is more noticeable because it was remastered in UHD and the original film grain 'helps' increase the resolution? A lower-resolution version would not show the same heavy grain in that scene?
Yeah, the funny thing is the higher the resolution the more noticeable things like grain (or the lack thereof) becomes. A lot of these troublesome masters we always gripe about (regarding DNR, EE, encodes, etc) would have looked so darn perfect and clear on a DVD outputting to a CRT screen.

Groundhog Day should be a solid example--I haven't taken the chance to see my UHD copy, but I watched the old Blu-Ray for it in February and found it rather gaudy (too much DNR and such, everything looked soft, fewer fine details or textures). Always heard the UHD was a massive improvement--chances are good that the natural film grain wasn't noticeable on the old BD.

One big leap in quality I noticed was between the UHD and BD for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. The older Blu-Ray master had a fair amount of chunky noise (probably digital), maybe even some dirt and white specks if I remember right. In 4K, the grain is a lot finer, so you can make out the textures of skin, stone, props a lot better. I also admire that some of the transitioning scenes (like the time-lapses of Venice) look a lot sharper than they ever did on DVD or BD, but the HDR might have helped those a bit.

The Mummy is also a good comparison if you want to see how DNR can wreck a movie--the old BD master is quite hideous in my eyes, because there's no grain anywhere and all the fine details are smoothened over. The UHD is a much-needed improvement that shows a lot more detail, even with grain (although the picture has so much detail to it I barely see the graininess in those movies).
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Old 04-30-2018, 07:11 PM   #7
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Another great, useful response to this discussion. I was very pleased with The Mummy in 4k. (My wife equally hates Nicolas Cage and Brendan Fraser so for her to enjoy it as well speaks volumes! I have to watch The Rock in another room...)

Maybe a sub-question to this topic is when is grain considered good and when is it too much? It seems to me those in favor of very fine grain explain it is as not noticeable and instead being able to refine textures on the display. That I am all in favor of. But how about Ghostbusters and Labyrinth in 4k? Both have very large 'dancing sand' elements to them that I find distracting.

The DNR that could potentially reduce that effect would also then reduce image clarity because textures and details would be smoothed over? I think I'm understanding a bit more, thanks to your layman explanation.
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Old 04-30-2018, 11:49 PM   #8
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I was kinda wondering if anybody else wanted to chime in and offer more insight, but conversation seems to be coming up dry. So I have a couple more thoughts...

Back in the day, Aliens caused a bit of controversy on the boards because it does use some level of DNR. But it's also a remaster that was supervised by James Cameron, so the assumption is he signed off on using it to reduce the grain. And Aliens is so dark and grainy to begin with--you can still see a fair amount on the Blu-Ray. Some would say that using any DNR is a bad idea. Personally, I'm okay with its use in Aliens because I don't recall it smurring up facial details or textures that much. That is a case where you could argue that the grain reduction worked in a film's favor.

Unfortunately, in most cases the DNR is applied too heavily, which does create the "waxy face" effect (meaning, skin textures, pores, etc are blurred over so much). I'd go on to say it makes some SFX look cartoonier and could ruin some good landscape shots. Edge Enhancement makes the effect worse by creating halos around sharp lines. You can see these effect very blatantly on films like The Mummy, The Longest Day, the first release of Patton, a bunch of the older Star Trek films, GoldenEye, the UHD for T2, and the Ultimate Hunter Edition of Predator. I think the Groundhog Day Blu-Ray has some DNR too. Aliens is probably the only one I know of where DNR levels don't look like that huge of a problem.

One of the worst and grainiest Blu-Rays I had was MGM's release of Carrie. It was just coated in thick, chunky grain and it didn't look natural or sharp at all. This would be a case where the grain is too much. Some years later, Scream Factory put out their CE Blu-Ray from a 4K source, and the difference is substantial. It's still grainy, because the film by nature was shot with certain filters and optical effects, so it might not be possible to have a perfectly grain-free image. But it is a much finer level of grain with a lot more fine detail, better color, and everything--I find it perfectly watchable, but it's more along the lines of the "dancing sand" effect you've spotted in Ghostbusters and Labyrinth.

And really, that's the effect a lot of us like because it's true to the original source negative--the actual texture of the film. Kinda like how some music fans prefer vinyl because of the analogue fidelity--same goes for film and grain.
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Old 05-01-2018, 12:06 AM   #9
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This makes the perspective of viewers loving grain so much easier for me to understand now, thank you. I falsely assumed purists liked the grainy presentation for the sake of staring at the sand but that is not the case. Instead, purists appreciate (most often) the best representation of the original source material as the creator intended it. When a film can increase clarity, resolution, texture, sound quality, etc. while still maintaining the presentation the director wanted, it's a grand slam.

Case-in-point: The Dark Crystal 4k (minus a few out of focus shots as noted). Grain remains, although not distracting, enough to know you are watching film and not a play in your living room. the 2160p picture showcases each garment and facial feature flawlessly, and HDR highlights the depth of color Henson originally intended.
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Old 05-01-2018, 12:31 AM   #10
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Check the screenshots in the review sections for each of the films mentioned below. You will be able to tell a clear difference between noise and grain when comparing them side by side.

Noise has been compared to watching a movie through a screen door, or through a swarm of mosquitoes. Django on Blu-ray is a prime example. The Blue Underground disc from the US has lots of noise, and it’s quite distracting. As annoying as the BU disc is however, it is currently the best presentation of the film. The Argent disc from the UK used the exact same master, but tried to “fix” the noise and created more problems by applying DNR which then also smeared out fine detail.

Darren Aronofsky’s mother! gives a perfect example of film grain. 4K or Blu-ray, you can see it on both. It was shot on 16mm film in low light conditions, and grain is very noticeable. You’ll also notice that fine detail is also still visible, and objects within scenes retain their sharp edges.
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