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My new cosplay documentary being shot on film


Tyler Purcell
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Shame you couldn't go the whole hog and cut and finish on 35 as well. Mag sound and everything. But I guess that ship has sailed.

Ohh trust me, if I shot standard 16 and 4 perf 35mm I would have contemplated a photochemical finish of some kind. However with Super 16 and 3 perf 35mm, there is an optical pass that requires a lot more work AND money. Laser out's have become cheaper and cheaper over the years and we own two recorders ourselves, so the cost to do it is simply film stock from my point of view.

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On 2/7/2019 at 5:37 PM, Tyler Purcell said:

Well, honestly I've only physically shot one interview so far. I just made a new friend with a great XTR Plus package, who is willing to travel with me to shoots. So we may use my other trick, which is to record audio of the interview and when they say something great, run the two film cameras for that one moment and then stop until another moment happens. It's hard to use that trick for emotional moments, but if we get the funding I'm expecting, we'll have enough money to blow some film on interviews as well, especially now that I have another camera/operator willing to help out.

 

We have Four huge interview shoots this year. First Portland in May. Then on the east coast in fall; Boston, New York and Connecticut. Arizona for a week somewhere in there and then up to Seattle to finish it off in the fall.

 

I plan on shooting around 20 400ft rolls of 35mm and around 40 400ft rolls of 16mm for those shoots alone. Then we have 3 more shoots at conventions on top of that... probably another 20 rolls for the conventions as well. So 60 rolls of 16mm will give me around 600 minutes of 16mm and another 100 minutes of 35mm, that should suffice.

While during an interview with the two XTR's, do you overlap/stagger the cameras to get full coverage? Do you start the second camera a minute or so before the first one rolls out? I have thought about doing this and want to know others experience.  I know that matching lenses and the frame is very important for this, but you can cut away in the edit and then cut back to the interviewee and no one would ever know. Do you try to match the frame and focal length with the two or are they different?

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Honestly, I generally don't do a staggered start on interviews. I will do a staggered start on the concert we're shooting in Reno. Staggered starts aren't necessary with interviews because 99.5% of what the talent says, is going to be covered up by b-roll anyway. The only reason you'd shoot film at all, is to get those moments where they're emotional and you can plan them if you're a good interviewer. I generally start the interviews with the cameras running, introductions and such. Then I'll stop the camera and talk with just audio for a while. If they say something interesting, I'll just say "can you re-phrase that answer for me" and then run the camera's for that answer. Generally we'll run the cameras until they're dead, do a quick swap whilst we still talk and keep at it. I can do a decent interview with mostly everything said on camera as "meat" for the piece with 2 - 3 rolls of 16mm. Ohh and the two cameras will have different focal lengths. Generally I put one on the side and one straight on. 

Here is an example of what I'm referring to. The interview in this piece is 7 minutes of on-screen time, but the full interview is 34 minutes long on audio. 

 

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  • 1 month later...
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Well it's been a while since I've updated this, so figured it was about time. 

It's been slow the last few months, waiting for the shoot that just wrapped up last weekend. Things went really well with the shoot. I only had a few things to shoot, mainly because the convention was indoor and I couldn't afford to go randomly shoot stuff this time around, my budget has been cut pretty hard due to personal financial issues. However, I was able to get what I needed and I'm excited to incorporate it into a 2nd teaser trailer soon and of course, use the footage in the final feature. 

My XTR Prod was dropped by a customer recently, so it was serviced by Abel cine and they wound up accidently blowing up my main board, which fried my video tap. So I helped Girvan re-build the camera from spare parts and It's working better than ever. I also tweaked my 35III for the shoot, making it a lot quieter which is nice. Both cameras ran great for the entire shoot, most of which was on steadicam. We only ran through 2 rolls of 16 and 3 rolls of 35, but it was very specific shooting. My friend Derek came out from Utah to shoot 35mm, where I stuck with 16mm on the steadicam, so we could get close up's and wide's on two different cameras. I hope it came out well, it's at the lab now. 

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This new Steadicam is from Came, it's one of the Chinese ones. I'm amazed how good it is and everyhting works better than the standard lower-end Tiffen Steadicam product. The cabling, weights and even sled parts, are very universal and not proprietary. So far my skills as an operator have increased dramatically simply because the steadicam works so much better than the Zephyr I've used prior. 

This is my new fursuit of my character Renn. Last year I ran around the convention with the 35mm and Steadicam, this year I did it with the 16mm camera. 

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Derek on the left with the Aaton 35III and me on the right with the XTR Prod on Steadicam. 

This was the first time Derek used 35mm and it was funny to hear him complain about the camera weight, knowing the Aaton 35III is one of the lightest 35mm cameras ever made. I joked with him about the weight because he wants a 35mm camera and I keep saying, he ain't gonna get much lighter. I think he's gonna just keep his 16mm and roll with it. As a side note, notice the extended handle that Clairmont made for the camera, it's really helpful when running hand held. 

We shot all the interiors with 500T and simply set the stop all the way open. Even though there are occasions where it would hit F2, most of the time it would be below F1, so we didn't bother metering. I did use the zoom a few times, but MOST of the shoot was 9.5mm on the super 16 and 24mm on the 35mm camera. 

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I did a little bit of exterior work for the film because Ashaeda spends most of her life in a wheelchair. I blew an entire roll of 5207 on her and her wheelchair. It's a huge part of the story and I had no footage to cover it. I didn't want the footage to seem like it was part of the event, so I went outside near the hotel, to gather random shots of her in the chair.  

Here I'm using the 35III with an ND .9 250 ISO at around F2 in an awning leading into the hotel. 

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  • 6 months later...
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Well it’s been a while since I’ve had an update. I’ve been busy shooting my friends feature on super 16 and we just wrapped last weekend. So I could finally leave town and get back to work on my show. 

This is the 2nd year we’ve been at ANW in seattle and it went super well. Camera and steadicam worked flawlessly and I got some great shots that hopefully come out well. I actually lucked out on the film stock, I scored it as left overs from a few shoots I did during the summer. So my only hard cost is processing as I do my own scans. 

I’m really depressed though because nearly all of the 16mm footage we shot at BLFC was out of focus because the viewfinder on my camera was not calibrated. Easy fix, but I didn’t know since everything else I shot prior to the shoot was fine. Turns out when a renter dropped the camera recently, it somehow knocked that out of calibration. 

So in the end, valuable lesson learned and at the cost of some soft shots that will have to be used in the final film, I don’t have a choice. I hope a nice 4k scan will be able to retrieve some detail, as the current scan was done on the blackmagic cintel and its always soft in 16mm mode. 

I’ll post some decent scan stills soon! Until then, here is some BTS from the most recent shoot. I’ll be assembling a video of bts soon! 

 

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Well we finally scanned the most recent footage from Seattle. Sadly we found that every inch of it had a faint scratch, totally unnoticeable on the negative because it was so faint. I think the lab messed up because we had some 35mm stuff that had a similar scratch. Different scanners, similar date of processing. I'm kinda shocked, because I've never seen this before, but perhaps because we're using a new scanner, maybe it's just not good at handling slightly damaged film. I'm upset, but I know we can fix it with a wet gate come time for the feature films release, so I'm not too overly worried. We're getting it re-cleaned and re-scanned right now with a different machine, hopefully it will solve all these issues. 

Here is an edit I made of some of the footage specifically for the convention in Seattle. 
 

 

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3 hours ago, Stephen Perera said:

honestly.......the scratch it's super annoying obviously but.......doesn't detract from a very strong, interesting story......loads of great steadicam stuff.....I think it's great.....

Yep, I noticed the scratch for about 30 seconds and then zoned it out once the interviews started as I was focused on the story. It's looking great.

 

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9 hours ago, Max Field said:

Dude I would go insane if I went through all that effort of shooting film on location and my reel came back like that....

Oh trust me, I went insane. However, after physically examining the film, we think it's not an issue and a scan with a different scanner should fix it. If it doesn't a wet gate scan will most definitely. So where I'm upset the lab mucked up, it's as much of a setback as my focusing which is soft at best. 

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Why spend the money on a wet gate transfer? Now that you have it scanned, just remove it digitally.  I have had this sort of work done many times, a Flint or Flame will take care of it, plus a good operator.  Not sure it's a scan issue, it's on the neg if you ask me.  

May I ask why film for this project?  Of course I am a huge film supporter, but what is it specifically as a creator you hope to gain by shooting on film? Inquiring minds want to know.

R,

 

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5 hours ago, Richard Boddington said:

Why spend the money on a wet gate transfer? Now that you have it scanned, just remove it digitally.  I have had this sort of work done many times, a Flint or Flame will take care of it, plus a good operator.  Not sure it's a scan issue, it's on the neg if you ask me.  

I wouldn't spend a dime on a wet transfer, but since the lab mucked it up, it's now their job to resolve the problem.

This is the first time I've used this scanner and it's an older Imagica, I have zero experience with it and it found scratches on nearly all of my film that is not visible on the film. So we're thinking it's just hyper sensitive to scratches, so we're going to use another machine and see if that solves the issue, but yes it's probably a lab issue. 

Quote

May I ask why film for this project?  Of course I am a huge film supporter, but what is it specifically as a creator you hope to gain by shooting on film? Inquiring minds want to know.

It's a good question and I'm asked about it a lot. Here is what I've subjectively found and technical like about the process. 

1) Limited amount of footage. When you're forced to have limited amount of shooting and you can't re-watch shots, you wind up being more picky about what you shoot. Even when I'm under the greatest constraint, I still shoot 4x the amount of footage digitally then I do on film. This particular shoot had 50 minutes of footage total, that's 1 SD card on my blackmagic pocket camera and when I use to shoot these events digitally, I'd come home with 6 cards full of material. I will never find those precious moments that I shot digitally in 6+ hours of material, but I will when I'm shooting on film with a limited amount of footage at the end to look through. You could argue about being more disciplined with digital, but when there is nobody with a stopwatch to hold ya back, I find it impossible. Remember, I'm a one person crew 90% of the time. 

2) The look. I first started shooting this project on digital. I was very unhappy with the results, it looked like everyone else's digital video project. There is a certain feel of super 16, especially when hand held documentary style with a zoom lens, which just doesn't exist with modern digital cameras. I've tried to re-create it with the pocket cinema cameras no matter what lenses, steadi rig or hand held rig I used, it still looked way too clean, too crisp and looked like plastic. I wanted to make the images feel old school which is the polar opposite of what everyone else is doing. I wanted it to look timeless, like you have no idea when it was shot. Since I already own film equipment, it was a no brainer. 

3) Notoriety. When I was shooting the project digitally, I tried to raise money and nobody cared. The moment I started shooting on film, people flooded my facebook, twitter and instagram feed. Everyone was super excited about the project and that's without even showing anyone a frame of footage from the final project. The marketing potential of someone shooting a documentary on film in 2020 is huge, as nobody does it anymore. I have lots of support from Kodak, Gotham Photochemical and a few other vendors, they've been so awesome in helping me get it done. I don't think I'd get any support if I was shooting on a Alexa and it would cost more as I don't own one. Also, we plan on doing a 35mm print of the final, which also has drawn lots of attention. 

We're doing a fundraiser this year, hopefully it will make enough to finish the production. By the end of 2020, my goal is to have 30% of the film shot. Then with the fundraiser, we will shoot the meat of the project, which requires traveling to Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado and the north east. That trip is going to cost around $30k and I can't do it this year because I already have too many shoots. So we're going to fundraise $50k or more (30k for the trip 20k to pay off what I've spent so far), do the trips which will give us 50% of the film. Then the last 20% of the film will be weekend shoots here and there based on what we're missing when we do the cut. The speed of shooting is all based on fundraising and if we do well, maybe we'll be able to finish it by the end of 2022, but I fear with the way things are going, people won't be willing to empty their pockets. 

Edited by Tyler Purcell
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We had a little shoot in January to wrap up another short film project that has nothing to do with my doc. First time with the 35mm camera on my new steadicam and it's OK? The steadicam is such a piece of shit, but it works! Shots are smooth and look great. It's just such a piece of chinese garbage, but it was $700 bux used and BARELY holds my 35mm camera and mattebox. I'd love to upgrade the springs a bit and maybe add some more counterbalance weights, but I'm afraid the arm will break off lol. 

The camera worked flawlessly all weekend and the footage looks great. I'm getting better at guessing the focus, but that's been one of the most difficult aspects for me. I could really use a cinetape, but unfortunately it's not in the budget. I'm barely able to afford the film processing, let alone high-end accessories. 

 

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13 hours ago, David Sekanina said:

Love your January footage Tyler - hope they can fix the scratch 😞

Instead of a cinetape, have a look at the cinerangefinder. I've yet to use my pro unit on a shoot, not just an in house test - will let you know my experience with it.

Thanks, we can probably fix it. 

I have looked at cinerangefinder, but they don't have any inventory and I'm not really happy with the plastic nature of the build. It's not a very complex thing to do right, I'm shocked nobody makes a simpler unit. 

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The pro unit has a machined aluminum housing for both the sensor and the display housing. The horns can be replaced to a narrower angle as soon as they become available.

Some of the images on his website still show the old prototypes. Not sure if the all-in-one unit has a machined housing as well (I think it does, just because of the low volume manufacturing making an injection molded housing not economic). Edit: confirmed, you can see the machined parts of the all-in-one unit on his Facebook page.

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Edited by David Sekanina
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how about this...the Redrock MicroTape Sonar Rangefinder.....as recommended to me by a very knowledgable agent at BH Photo in New York in the online Pro Video chat....

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/835059-REG/Redrock_Micro_8_026_0001_MicroTape_Sonar_Rangefinder.html

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Are you pulling focus off the barrel for the shots? I see your friend Derek has a follow focus on the 35III but never see your 16mm camera with one. Is that because you're using a 9.5mm? 

Footage looks fantastic by the way! 

Edited by Dan Hasson
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1 hour ago, Dan Hasson said:

Are you pulling focus off the barrel for the shots? I see your friend Derek has a follow focus on the 35III but never see your 16mm camera with one. Is that because you're using a 9.5mm? 

Footage looks fantastic by the way! 

Thanks! Yea this shoot was tricky, but I think some of it came out decent. I should have wondered around more with my hand held rig and zoom lens, some of that stuff came out way better than the steadicam. 

So here is the problem... I'm by myself, I'm organizing stuff as I'm shooting and honestly, I forget to check my focus more often than not. Then you add that I'm running all the way open (T1.3) on all the interior shots,  you start to realize it's a recipe for soft focus. Sadly I don't have control over what I shoot and a lot of people get too close to the camera, then I start to back off and they keep their closeness. Having a wireless follow focus would help and I've contemplated buying one + cinetape of some kind. I was going to update the camera to an HD video tap, but you can't use focus peaking on film cameras due to the ground glass, so that wouldn't help either. 

So yes, as you said, I'm focusing off the barrel before I run the camera, on a guess that my action will stay within a certain distance from the lens. 60% of the time, my focus is good enough, but getting that last 40% has been illusive. What I do is look through the viewfinder, kinda get focus as best I can and then shoot. Sadly tho, I always seem to under estimate how close things are to the camera. Even with the 9.5mm lens (which you guessed correctly) I struggle quite a bit because it's just hard to tell anyway . With my 35mm package, it's actually easier to gauge/judge focus because it's clearly out or in. So even in very dark situations, I've been able to nail the focus 80% or more of the time. So quite a bit of my B-Roll for the doc will be 35mm for that reason alone. I'm just getting way better results. 

Edited by Tyler Purcell
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6 hours ago, Stephen Perera said:

how about this...the Redrock MicroTape Sonar Rangefinder.....as recommended to me by a very knowledgable agent at BH Photo in New York in the online Pro Video chat....

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/835059-REG/Redrock_Micro_8_026_0001_MicroTape_Sonar_Rangefinder.html

That's nice, I think that's the kind of thing I can get that will work. Thanks for showing me. 

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