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Ultra 16 "health check"


Brian Rose
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Ultra 16mm versus Super 16 has been debated a dozen times or more on this forum, and I've gone through as many of the old threads as I could find to get informed. I'm well up on the pros and cons of each format, and based on my current situation I'm leaning toward Ultra 16 as the format for me to covert to (I own an Eclair NPR, in case that matter). The more affordable cost is enticing, and I like that I will be able to use my R16 primes, as well as the c-mount on my Eclair. And it is my understanding (please correct me if I'm wrong) that a camera converted to Ultra 16 can be further modified to Super 16 in the future, should the need arise.

 

However there is one thing holding me back from taking the plunge, and that is the future of the format. I'm concerned about investing money in a process, only to find it has been rendered unusable because the necessary facilities are no longer extant- "one lab" equipped to properly process it had gone bellyup, or the "one post house" with an ultra 16 telecine/datacine gate also went kaput. I'm not sure how many labs and post houses are equipped to handle the process, but I know it is few, with many others remaining suspicious of the format. Are the number of ultra 16 users justifying the maintainance of the facilities?

 

So what I'm after is a "health checkup" on the format, and how it is fairing in the industry. I mean, while Ultra is certainly no Super 16 in terms of prevalence in the industry, and probably never will be, has it made any further inroads toward acceptance? Have any more labs/post houses become equipped (or are in the process) to meet the demands of the process, or are Bonolabs and Cinelicious still the only game in town? Basically, is Ultra 16 a growing format, holding steady, declining...?

 

Any info, or other thoughts and opinions would be most appreciated!

 

Best,

 

BR

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Ultra-16mm is now fully supported in all processing formats we run at Cinelab!!! Color Negative, B&W Negative and B&W Reversal all run in Ultra-16mm safe processors right now!

 

We are currently offering excellent looking scaled 1080P transfer in our new URSA Y-Front/DaVinci suite with recording to Pro-ResHQ and DNxHD.

 

We are taking delivery on a 4K scanner form a new company in LA shortly which will be Ultra-16mm capable at 2K.

 

 

Cinelicious in LA also offers Ultra-16mm scaled 1080P transfers from their Ursa Diamond and 1080P and 2K from their Spirit.

 

Bono Labs in MD does 1080P transfers and may be offering processing again soon.

 

Alpha Cine in Seattle offers excellent processing of Ultra-16mm

 

It seems like Ultra is alive and the more people who shoot it the more places will offer it. I am converting my Bell&Howell Filmo to Ultra-16mm right now....

 

-Rob-

 

I am biased so send your Ultra-16mm to www.cinelab.com !! :rolleyes:

post-15580-077805500 1284488860.jpg

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Wow Rob, it's so weird you posted. I just wrote Cinelab asking about U16! Needless to say you've answered my question.

 

Honestly, your answer is a huge thing for me. While I haven't shot much film (I'm a recent college grad, so you know how THAT goes), but when I HAVE shot film, I've used Cinelab exclusively.

 

Initially, I was nervous about switching labs, or having to rely upon a separate lab and post house for my U16 workflow.

 

Your answer has, I think, just helped me make my decision!

 

Best,

 

Brian Rose

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Hi Brian, Over the last 2 years, my work in Ultra 16 has gone from 5% , in 2008, to 40% today. Cinelab, in Fall River Mass is also up and running with Ultra 16.It's hard to figure the progress of U16 when you're trying to find those labs going belly-up because of lack of film work in general, and those going south because of lack of Ultra 16 work. Of course, digital has made tremendous inroads into the film world, but we deal with many video people who want the classical ballet of film rather than the Irish jig of digital. Not that there's anything wrong with a good Irish jig !! There are those who want a basic, simple methodology of capturing their visual creativity on film. To some. that is a step backwards in time. To others, capturing images in digital is their bread-and-butter. For those who can choose to shoot film because they really like it's look, I feel they believe they are getting something more for their time and creative energy. To them, film simply helps them tell their story in a better way. Maybe time slows a little in film, and somehow creativity enjoys that more. It's very hard to put my finger on why these customers want to go the film path. But that drummer's beat is sure leading them on.

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Hi Bernie,

 

I got your email as well, and will reply. Actually, the reason I started this tread was in response to your quote. I was leaning to Super 16 initially, but your rates for U16 really made me reconsider that process, and having learned about Cinelab, now I think I've made my decision!

 

BR

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Hi Brian,

Not much more to add to Rob's excellent answer. Maybe just some background... At Cinelicious we pioneered the first Ultra 16mm workflow for post which included testing a bunch of film processing systems to find out which ones didn't scratch... then custom modifying our URSA diamond gate to be able to transfer Ultra. The post announcing this on this forum was titled "Ultra 16mm.... Finally!!" back in Nov 2008. Since then we've also modified our Spirit Datacine to be able to Xfer Ultra 16mm to HD/2K which took some serious doing but is producing stellar results as shown on our site. As we move forward into the 2K and 4K data world one of the requirements for any film scanner we'll buy is the ability to scan Ultra 16mm. We don't sink or swim on wether Ultra 16mm thrives as a format as most of what we do is 35mm... I'm just a film geek and am passionate about small & cottage formats like Ultra 16mm and Super 8mm so we try to support and innovate for them at a very high level.

 

One thing I'd also like to point out is that it seems to me that Ultra 16mm is entirely risk free for the filmmaker that already owns a regular 16mm camera. All you have to do is figure out how to widen your gate by at least 0.7mm to the Left and Right. You can either spend a day with some files & abrasive sticks yourself or go the route I'd recommend and pay a pro like Bernie to do it. What you're left with is just more information and the option to do an Ultra 16mm transfer, but it doesn't ruin your current regular 16mm setup in any way. Since it's fairly risk free and likely to be around for as long as film is around I'd say go for it!!

 

Best,

 

Paul

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Of course just like Super 16, you have to be more careful loading and unloading. Especially on the beach. :blink:

 

My last 400' of film shot on my Scoopic had a beautiful edge burn from lazy loading habits which wouldn't effect the regular 16mm frame but would effect Ultra 16 or Super 16.

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Hi Brian,

 

As someone who has used the talents and services of both Bernie O'Doherty and Paul Korver on my own foray into Ultra 16mm, I say it s a great time to jump into the water. Bernie modified my Canon Scoopic 16M for U16mm and Paul and his team at Cinelicious have allowed me to bring it to life with their telecine/DI process, with processing at AlphaCine in Seattle. Incidentally, I also have an Aaton XTR Super 16 kit, and find that I can combine the two formats to do what I need.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Bernie did my CP-16R, now U16.

 

Here's a screen cap (reduced from 1920x1024) telecined by Cinelab from a surrealistic SciFi pilot I did, not a fancy prime, just the stock 30 year+ old Canon zoom with "Flourite" spelled wrong ( "Fluorite").

 

This isn't even their best quality, it's the smart uprez option which is a lot cheaper. Actress Caroline Slaughter formerly of "As The World Turns", cinematographer David Mallin.

 

Both Bernie and Rob at Cinelab are fun to call up and interrupt to ask typical moronic director questions. They're both very patient

and explain everything so even I can almost understand it. As long as I'm kept away from the camera, you can see the images can turn out

quite good.

post-34466-026851700 1287228440.jpg

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Hello Mr. Rose,

 

Yes, I am somewhat aware of the debate going over Ultra 16 and whether or not it's even necessary. I have talked with a cinematographer in Canada (Oliver Glaser) who is very satisfied with his Ultra 16 cameras (one of which is also an Eclair). He told me that side by side with Super16 the Ultra16 is almost identical. I do know that Super16 offers a native 1.66:1 aspect ratio, whereas Ultra16 offers a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

 

As for labs covering the format. I know that Colorlab can handle some stuff in Ultra16 format, but not sure what all they can do, but just research their site: www.colorlab.com

 

Hope this helps!

 

God Bless!

Mark King

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"...the classical ballet of film rather than the Irish jig of digital."

 

Mr. O'Doherty,

 

You've just insulted Irish jigs. How could you compare something with so much life to those awful vacuous, vapid, atmosphere lacking, lifeless video formats! If we lose film, we lose all the beauty of cinema.

 

God Bless!

Mark King

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Bernie did my CP-16R, now U16.

 

Here's a screen cap (reduced from 1920x1024) telecined by Cinelab from a surrealistic SciFi pilot I did, not a fancy prime, just the stock 30 year+ old Canon zoom with "Flourite" spelled wrong ( "Fluorite").

 

This isn't even their best quality, it's the smart uprez option which is a lot cheaper. Actress Caroline Slaughter formerly of "As The World Turns", cinematographer David Mallin.

 

 

 

 

I remember Coloring that, cool looking film! I am happier and happier with the quality from the Y-Front scaled to 1080P. That said we are closer to 3K (oversampled) 2K 10-bit log DPX scans which should be very very good.

 

-Rob-

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I remember Coloring that, cool looking film! I am happier and happier with the quality from the Y-Front scaled to 1080P. That said we are closer to 3K (oversampled) 2K 10-bit log DPX scans which should be very very good.

 

-Rob-

So you're taking the SD 4:4:4 output and scaling it to HD in an outside program or is there some mod to the y-front that gets you more information out of it? I always loved y-fronts for SD but haven't heard of this modification.

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So you're taking the SD 4:4:4 output and scaling it to HD in an outside program or is there some mod to the y-front that gets you more information out of it? I always loved y-fronts for SD but haven't heard of this modification.

 

 

I have a few tricks up my sleeve and it is hardware scaled in real-time.

 

-Rob-

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I have had commercial clients run comparisons of the scaled Y-Front to other solutions like the Flashscan and report back that the Y was much better. Resolution is only one spec. the Y has a much better ability to handle higher dynamic range film images than an inexpensive ccd or cmos chip with a few led's.

 

Here is a project of mine that is partially scanned on the Steady-Frame and partially on the Y-Front....which is which?

 

http://www.vimeo.com/16141348

 

Shot with my 35mm Eyemo/Nikon my 2C My LTR-54 and my Bauer 107XL. Obviously all film processed at Cinelab and transferred there and colored by me...

 

-Rob-

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  • 1 month later...

I wanted to revisit this thread as I have been monitoring the way prices 16mm cameras in general have been going for some time. I've noticed regular 16mm cameras, especially the old school beasts like I cut my teeth on (Beaulieus, Bolexes, Arri S, M, BL)have nosedived whereas converted super 16 and even ultra 16 cameras have held their place. A converted S 16 French Eclair ACL or Aaton LTR still commands between 7 and 10 G, whereas an unconverted model won't fetch over 4 G.That works out pretty evenly when you figure out that conversions run between 1800 and 3500, so that all comes out in the wash. I've heard that it's easier and cheaper to convert a camera to U 16 than super 16 and that virtually all regular 16mm cameras can be converted whereas only a handful of 16mm cameras are affordably easy to convert to super 16. I might consider investing a small amount on something to play with, like, say a Beaulieu News 16, Bolex Pro or Arri BL if it could be had converted to U 16 so that I could squeeze that extra bit of frame area and do it for much less than buying a super 16 camera. The only other alternative if you still like to play with old cameras is to shoot regular 16, modify your viewfinder to 1:77 and have it transferred accordingly, picking up the extra grain. I understand that there's virtually no difference in picture quality, all things being equal in going from a super 16 or ultra 16 original. Is this correct?Do magazines have to be modified for U 16 as they do in super 16?

Edited by Marty Hamrick
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Does anyone know if there are any labs that support Ultra16 in Europe?

Just call your favorite lab, describe what you are doing and ask them if the area between the perfs in 16mm remains clean and scratch-free during their processing. You can usually ask for a test to make sure.

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Developing should be the same, and most labs should be able to print edge to edge. They already do that for sound tracks and edge numbers. Testing for scratches would be the only issue, as the machines need to touch the film in the area that's now used for image. So, run a test thru your favorite local lab.

 

 

 

 

 

-- J.S.

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Okay, sounds good plan. Last piece on the puzzle: telecine? Are the only places doing U16 transfers Cinelicious, Bonolabs and Cinelab? Anything on this side of the ocean? :) Or would it be just easier to take the super16 route? I own two newer non-reflex Bolex H16s and primes for them, nice stuff for relaxed MOS work...

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Okay, sounds good plan. Last piece on the puzzle: telecine? Are the only places doing U16 transfers Cinelicious, Bonolabs and Cinelab? Anything on this side of the ocean? :) Or would it be just easier to take the super16 route? I own two newer non-reflex Bolex H16s and primes for them, nice stuff for relaxed MOS work...

Telecine is the problem. Anyone can handle S16 but U16 is very limited. No Spirit other than Cinelicious' can handle it that I know of... they were dedicated to the format and do a great job supporting it. Bonolabs has been supporting it for a long time too.

 

I would keep your Bolex's unmodified and look into a reflex S16 camera. Prices are coming down fast.

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