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First time shooting 16mm

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I'm a new cinematography student and I'll be shooting part of my next project on 16mm film. This will be the first time I'm using film on an arriflex SRII, I was wondering if anyone could offer some advice or tips for shooting on 16mm like good practices, metering, bracket testing, etc. I'm very new to this experience so any kind of tips or advice would be greatly appreciated it.


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Hey Robert,

I use 16mm for personnal project, and like you, I want to learn more about. Cinematography.com talks about everything on this topic, it's just to find the right thread.

At first, do you know how loading the mag?

Think about you workflow: film stock, scan (which codec, resolution, grading?), workprint...

If you are looking for a very specific picture, you'll have to test before.


Enjoy it, it's real fun!

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Welcome to the forum Robert!


I agree with Arthur said... perhaps the first thing is to research. There are some great video's on youtube going through each different camera and how to use them properly. Remember, film likes cleanliness, so it's important that your changing bag, magazines and camera body are very clean. Compressed air and lens wipes are your friend.


Having a good meter is important, something that does spot helps as well. I just got one of those new LCD meters, which does automatic bracketing, which is very nice. All of that depends on your stock however, so that's really the big deciding question. Black and White reversal is a totally different shooting style then modern color negative. With film, I tend to light a bit more then digital. Most important with 16mm is to make sure everything you want to see, is exposed perfectly. Grabbing details in the shadows is pretty easy with a digital post workflow, but if you have a grainy stock, it can become a bit noisy. So it's better to light and meter properly, so you don't need to "fix it in post" like most people do.


Focus is a bit tricky with film as well. You really don't know exact focus unless you use a tape measure. Zooming in with zoom lenses helps greatly, so does opening up the aperture, getting focus and stoping back down again. 16mm is a bit easier to focus then 35mm because it's harder to get shallow depth of field on 16 due to the small frame size. You really have to keep the lens all the way open or use longer focal lengths, which can be a different world for people coming from shooting with DSLR's with their much lager frame size.


There are a few tricks to save film which will help greatly. One of them is to call the slate before running the camera. So we call audio speed, slate in, call slate, camera speed, mark. This saves a few feet per start stop and it works well. Another trick is to shoot a few frames of the slate up front and use a hand clap for sync. Slates are super important with film because there is no time of day timecode or anything cool like that. So you're constantly using your slate to identify the shot for the editor. A timecode slate plugged into your audio recorder makes a HUGE difference in syncing as well. So that's one thing you could look into borrowing/renting if you are going to be recording audio.


On the back end, telecine is a great way to start your post production. Some people strike prints, but it's unnecessary unless you have a projector and wish to see what your film actually looks like. It's fun for experimenting with, but it's unnecessary if your finishing digitally. Syncing audio can be done by the lab if you have a timecode slate in each shot with audio. They will literally hand you back a Pro Res file with audio sync for each reel, which is pretty sweet!


If you want some hands-on training before you shoot, I have a school in the valley and would be more then happy to go through the camera with you and help get you started.

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