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The $60,000 question.


Dave Bourbois
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Is shooting a motion picture on Super 16 still viable? Everyone keeps on talking about shooting DV, but quite frankly I'd much rather prefer the look of Chasing Amy or Leaving Las Vegas to that of The Blair Witch Project.

 

If one can't afford to shoot 35 or on 24P Hi-Def, I figured the next best thing would be 16mm. I read in an Article in American Cinematographer that in the Film Festival circuits there are less and less independent movies shot on 16mm, most are DV or 35mm. Is this True?

 

At this point I could invest in an older 16mm camera modified to S16, such as an Eclair ACL or a Cinepa Products CP16. I am thinking this would be a promising start, get used to the different stocks get some hands on experice lighting, and make some bread on the side doing commercials and small films, then work my way up to 35mm.

 

I was just curious cause you guys know what works and what doesn't, have you ever had problems selling a product on S16 that might otherwise would have worked?

 

-David Bourbois

 

-P.S. This was not an attempt to start up that whole digital vs. film debate, this is simply the neurotic concerns of someone who made some promising little films in college and stopped after being frustrated with the equipment, i.e. a few Panasonic S-VHS camcorders and a 16mm Canon Scoopic.

 

-P.S.S. I also realize that in an ideal world the format shouldn't matter if the story was good enough, but why not make some beautiful images while you're at it? :)

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Firstly, I would use 16mm over HD...so my order would be 35, 16, HD, DV...but thats just me. I think now with the flood of crap being produced on Video ( and no just because you can make a movie, doesn't mean you should make a movie) that shooting on film makes ones product stand out. Of course the investment being greater would warrant working harder to bring it to the screen, this in turn would mean (hopefully) better stories. I personally think 16mm is the way to go, and with Kodak putting out new stocks in this gauge, I suspect they do too. You should try some of their new 16mm Vision 2 stuff, it has made me personally question whether or not I will have to shoot 35mm! The stuff looks fantastic and blows up great for theatrical release.

 

You ask if there are any problems in selling 16mm...I would say no, on the contrary. Distribuitors are more likely to look at your film (in my experience) if they know it was shot on film as opposed to video. I believe that many festivals still also prefer film prints to video for screenings. Besides that fact, film (well shot and lit ) in my opinion, looks better than video( HD or DV ) in almost every instance. If you can, get a decent camera, like an NPR, ACL, or CP16R and some nice glass and do go and shoot, you'll see what I mean. And once you see these new 16mm stocks it will become even more clear. Consider Ultra 16mm if Super16mm isn't in your budget. Take a look at the forum for more info on that.

Happy shooting

 

Oliver Gläser

 

PS. I guess to be fair there is a lot of crap produced on film also... just better looking crap :D

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I would wait for NAB. At present cheapest HD camcorder, Varicam, costs $60K, without a lens. It has an effective transfer rate of only 40 Mbps at 24p, although it records 60p@100 Mbps.

 

There is also the worthless JVC $3K HD camcorder (HDV) with the same resolution but with 19 Mbps.

 

There will be camcorders that will be filling this gap available within a year. There is going to be improved HDV with 50 Mbps transfered rate which should look as good as Varicam, although it would not have the slow motion capability. Both Sony and JVC seem to be coming out with this type of product.

 

Super 16 is probably the way to go now, but you should keep your eyes open for new products.

 

My 2 cents

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Super-16 is actually making a bit of a resurgence in the last year. A lot of people got starry-eyed over HD for awhile but the dust has settled a bit and use of S-16 has increased. This is not Kodak PR, I've talked to numerous labs that have seen an increase in S-16 material coming through their facilities. With the new stocks reducing grain and the price of digital intermediates dropping to where they almost rival the costs of traditional optical post, Super-16 is a very viable shooting format.

 

I have a Super-16 feature coming out this summer entitled "West Bank, Brooklyn." It would have looked terrible shot in HD or DV, but photographed in S-16 and with the DI we're soon to do, I'm confident it will have a nice look. I would tell you what the production costs were except that it is not my position to reveal such info unless the distributor allowed me to. Suffice to say that in the end Super-16 was the absolute cheapest way to produce and complete this movie, even cheaper than HD or DV. And the results are far better for it.

 

If you cannot afford an Aaton or Arri SR, then I'd say the Eclair ACL is your next best bet for a Super-16 camera. Les Bosher, The Movie House, Visual Products and Optical Electro House all do S-16 conversions for the camera along with other upgrades and accessories. You should be setup with a good basic shooting package for around $7000. That's less than an HD package would cost to rent for a feature.

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In my experience, people focus too heavily on the equipment used in production, and fail to grasp that what you put on screen is what is important. If you want Super 16, shoot on Super 16! If that is the quality you want, the look you want, use it! I've seen beautiful movies shot on Super8. I've seen crap done on HD. The Camera is not the important part, you are! The Camera is just a means to an end. A great story, a great script, and beautiful shots will be more noticed than weither you'd shot it on a super-high-end Panavision or some cheap Kodak Brownie.

 

Now, my more practical side is that with more and more being done with DV/HD, those of us that do stuff on film stand out more and more. I'd classify something done on Super16 as more marketable in today's market.

 

That reminds me, I need to get my 16mm cameras modified to Super16. (I have 2 of them modified already, 2 still have to be.)

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To me, it's more a matter of the look you are trying to achieve, assuming you have enough of a budget to allow choices above consumer DV. There are a lot of things I like about the look of 24P HD but I can also see projects where the look of Super-16 is more appropriate. It's sort of like the difference between sculpting in marble or wood versus casting in bronze, etc. Different formats have different textures. I don't think it's an issue of "it doesn't matter what format you shoot in". Obviously a pastel drawing by Raphael is art, just like an oil painting by him is art -- but I don't think Raphael would have said it doesn't really matter whether he uses pastels or oil paints. But I understand the gist of what you are saying. Certainly it's not the tool that makes something into art -- it's the artist.

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Just to add my two cents. I was on the team for Kodak Digital, France that interviewed 4 different producers of theatrically released and made-for TV movies. The main question was, "Is it really cheaper to shoot digital for fiction? All four unanimously replied "No...".

This was true for various reasons including increased need for lighting, technicians, higher camera rental costs etc. with digital.

As a footnote I will add that these interviews were filmed in super16mm.

Again it is important to remember that it's the not the wand but the magic that comes out of it that really matters.

Pixelvision is just as valid as super35mm. Just don't have false expectations.

Gear can usually be negotiated, borrowed or whatever. Wheeling and dealing has always been a part of cinema and the budget often has a profound influence on the look for better or worse.

The Russian Constructivists like Eisenstein were forced to work with shorter shots and editing because the only filmstock available to them was short-ends from German productions.

The new Kodak emulsions are great and allow us to shoot things with less lighting than ever before.

The most important thing is to make the best possible film!!!!

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S16mm is far better than the best HD format.

Eclair ACL is a wonderfull camera. Very versatile.

It is tru that most people do 35 or dv even mini-dv.

to get a mini-dv film to print properly is not a cheaper way than going s16 and a blow-up to 35.

If you want a film look there only the film way.

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  • 2 weeks later...
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Just to bring this back to the subject of viability, Super16 is also ideally suited for video release, including HD (The 1.66 Super16 frame fits 16x9 very well).

 

I too have noticed a resurgence of S16 production, and you can see a bit of it on television right now. The OC, Scrubs, Gilmore Girls, Malcolm in the Middle. It looks like "Wonderfalls" and "Tru Calling" may be shot on 16 as well, but that's just judging by the look. The last two straight-to-video projects I gaffed were shot Super16 and transferred on a Spirit to HD. The SD downconversion looked very slick.

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  • 4 months later...

The JVC HDV camera has about the same resolution as the Vericam, But the compression is so tight that Its not the best for films. it only has like 30p, not 24 and also the cpmpression is 19mbps... which is so compressed the artifacts would be that of Mini-Dv (Which is what it records too).

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Hi,

 

> The JVC HDV camera has about the same resolution as the Vericam,

 

No, the original GR-HD1 and JY-HD10U HDV cameras both use single CCDs and are subject to resolution shortfall due to Bayer filtering. Sony showed a 3CCD HDV camera at CeBit and there are now ENG style cameras from JVC, but I'd contend that they're still not going to produce pictures comparable with something at five or ten times the price.

 

Phil

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What a strange ordering of quality we get into when we go below 34mm 16mm 24p hd....

then next is mini dv. whoaaaaa here

 

what about wide screen digital Betacam and 1080I HD I feel mini Dv is at the absolute bottom in terms of image quality.... more compression, tiny chips, low color space...

What gives??? what is this desire to film with low quality because it says digital on the side of the cheap camera.....

 

Heres mine S35mm 35m S16mm 16mm 24p hd 1080Ihd 760HD DigiBeta

BetacamSp, HDV, Dvcam with a better camere like the D35WS

and finally miniDv from the tiny chip cameras.

 

 

 

TJ

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The little JVC camera is very poor in many different ways and has been discussed at length in the past here and elsewhere. Do some Google searching to learn more.

 

"Gilmore Girls" is indeed photographed in Super-16. I recently learned that the upcoming season of "The West Wing" is being shot on S-16 to reduce costs. That show's pilot was shot in S-16 before the show switched to 35mm when NBC picked it up. I defy anyone to be able to see the difference unless perhaps they are watching an HD broadcast.

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I defy anyone to be able to see the difference unless perhaps they are watching an HD broadcast.

Well, I don't know that I'd go THAT far. Even on standard def broadcast I can usually spot the difference between 16 and 35. Even the best 16 always looks a tad softer than average 35 to me. But yes, it can be pretty darn close, to the point where the average viewer probably wouldn't notice.

 

I vaguely recall the WW pilot looking a little soft, but I attributed it to the excessive net diffusion. But maybe it's my memory that's a little "fuzzy." ;)

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If you think DV is poor quality.. I once tried to make a movie from my $15 webcam!!!! :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :D

 

You can guess how that turned out :-)

 

I am planning to go tomorrow and see Open water.... just to see how bad DV really looks on the big screen :ph34r:

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Is shooting a motion picture on Super 16 still viable? Everyone keeps on talking about shooting DV, but quite frankly I'd much rather prefer the look of Chasing Amy or Leaving Las Vegas to that of The Blair Witch Project.

-David Bourbois

Just a note of trivia:

Blair Witch Project was shot on Hi-8 analog, not DV.

I've seen in print, incorrectly listed as anything from DV to Super 8.

 

Matt Pacini

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"Gilmore Girls" is Super-16: B)

 

http://www.cameraguild.com/interviews/chat...rook_grosse.htm

 

Turn down the sound, concentrate on the images and see if you can identify the production format. Answer: Grosse Pointe, like The Gilmore Girls, The Sopranos, Sex in the City and other cable and alternate network episodic series with tight budget boundaries, is produced in Super 16 format.

 

http://www.theasc.com/studio/index.htm?new..._world.htm~main

 

THE SUPER 16 REVOLUTION: Advances in camera, film and postproduction technologies are fueling a revolution in the use of the Super 16 format. Russ Alsobrook, ASC (Romy and Michele), Michael Goi, ASC (Red River), John Inwood (Scrubs), Michael Price (Gilmore Girls) and Steven Shaw, ASC, (Tremors), discussed their experiences and answered questions about shooting narrative films in Super 16 format.

 

http://www.kodak.com/go/16mm

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It's probably worth pointing out that the telecine transfer, post, and delivery of the signal have a lot to do with the quality of the image you see at home. These factors can help even out the quality difference between 35 and 16. Super 16 transferred on a Spirit to HD, then downconverted to SD for broadcast can look much better than say 35 transferred on a Rank, and then tape-to-tape color corrected. Don't laugh; both scenarios are in practice today!

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Actually its not that difficult for S16 to have all of the same attributes of 35mm, it may take a little more effort than if you were shooting 35mm in the first place, but it's not rocket science. You just have to add value at every stage.

 

First and foremost they are both film. They both have the exact same chemistry, sensitometry, gama curve, color reproduction.

 

It would be best to shoot with the slowest speed stock you possibly can. Shooting 7217, even pushed a stop will render a sharper image than shooting 7279 at proper exposure.

 

Shoot with the sharpest lens available, modern Ultra Primes will render a sharper image than shooting older Zeiss super speeds. Shooting slightly longer lens will make up for the increased depth of field.

 

I imagine a show like the West Wing will be shooting with Panavision S16 still using Primo's.

 

A slightly larger lighting package may be needed to make up for the slower speed stock, and it would be best to give shadow areas a good exposure, contrast can always be increased in post.

 

Telecine with a high quality machine to the highest quality tape format which at this point would be HDCAM SR.

 

Through these efforts it would be extremely difficult to impossible to tell 35mm from S16mm on current broadcast television.

 

Especially digital cable, because it especially sucks.

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I imagine a show like the West Wing will be shooting with Panavision S16 still using Primo's.

Acually, I don't think they are using primo's, and I doubt they're using the Elaine....although I guess it's possible. The operator on West Wing recently posted on the Steadicam Forum that he's flying an 8-64mm zoom all the time now that they've switched to 16mm.

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