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Documentaries on 16mm


Pavan Deep
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XTR from 1998 that to this day works flawlessly and will forever

 

No, it won't. Trust me. Every piece of mechanical engineering breaks down over time. There is no such things as an eternal machine.

 

and everyone talks about how great film preservation is: While I agree it will last longer than digital files, the reality is - even celluloid film has an expiration date. Last I heard, the shelf-life of film, when kept in a secure facility that is climate controlled - is around 100 years. But just like every other piece of organic material, it WILL break down, become brittle, colors fade, yellow, etc. So what happens then? You are stuck doing the same thing as digital files: finding a way to keep preserving the content. The biggest issue here is that since the content is already mastered on an analog format, any attempt at future preservation WILL degrade quality. You could always scan to another film print, but that will degrade quality as well. With any analog source, there is only so many copies you can make.

 

And so while digital does have to be more carefully managed in terms of storage, its often stored as a lossless digital format - you can keep making copies as long as you want - 1,000 years from now it'll look as good as it did day 1. In 1,000 years, that film print will either be dust, or have gone through at least 3 or 4 transfers - taking a marked reduction in quality.

 

Which brings me to everyone griping about digital preservation: It's not as dire as many want to paint it. Yes, you will have to keep several backup copies of digital files, and you will have to transfer them to newer technologies as they become available. The reality is though, by the time you take into account the storage requirements to keep film prints good for as long as possible, the work required to transfer digital files seems rather small to me. Film prints require massive warehouses, where climate control is prime - and you better hope nothing happens to that film print, like a fire or some other form of vandalism or natural disaster - which has happened in the past.

 

The bottom line is: People give WAY more stock to film preservation than they should. We haven't yet fully seen just how long film can last. I can tell you that film prints from 100 years ago, even if they are capable of being played back without breaking - will show marked signs of organic decay. So film is not the eternal storage format many want to make it out to be. There is no such thing.

 

I'm not saying that film is worse than digital for storage, I'm just saying that it is FAR from perfect, and will also face its own set of challenges.

Edited by Landon D. Parks
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Ohh and Im sure quite a few of those dps who have high end digital are kicking themselves in the ass when they have to upgrade every two years instead of pulling out the XTR from 1998 that to this day works flawlessly and will forever.

Do you really believe that it's the DP who get to make the decision what the Doc will be shot on? I shot docs all over the world for the BBC, Nat Geo, and Discovery. Production always specified the format. If there was ever any discussion about shooting film, I certainly wasn't involved in it.

 

As Robin says, if you're a doco cameraman who only owns a 16mm camera, you will not work. No-one in the broadcast documentary world is remotely interested in shooting on film. I'm sure there are hobbyists and people working in niche markets for whom the process is as important as the finished product, but they are a tiny minority these days.

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I wouldn't use digital for preservation arguments, currently it doesn't hold up that well, even in it's short life to date, it's also unlikely to be transferred endlessly for a 1000 years, I suspect they may come up with a passive method, but technology does become obsolete and reading the data becomes more difficult with time, as happened with the BBC Domesday Project, which required a lot of effort after just 25 years. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-13367398

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I wouldn't use digital for preservation arguments, currently it doesn't hold up that well, even in it's short life to date, it's also unlikely to be transferred endlessly for a 1000 years, I suspect they may come up with a passive method, but technology does become obsolete and reading the data becomes more difficult with time, as happened with the BBC Domesday Project, which required a lot of effort after just 25 years. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-13367398

 

Okay, but then would you presume to suggest that film is a perfect storage medium? How so? Just because a single copy of the film can last a long time (100 years or so), how does that make it a perfect storage format? It's still subject to the availability of equipment to play it back (does anyone even make film projectors any longer?), it still suffers from what all organic things suffer from: decay and degradation. It's still an analog format, meaning that once that film print expires (only an idiot will assume a film print will last forever) - you need to find a way to transfer it to something else, which WILL result in a degradation of quality, which is going to happen with any analog format.

 

A lot of the film prints we have archived from the early days of film are gone now - they either degraded, where burned up in fires, or etc. How many 'original' films from the early 1900's are still around to be watched?

 

I'm not saying digital is better - I'm saying film isn't perfect for storage. Many on the pro-film side would have you believe that a film print will last a million years, and will always be right there - ready to be played back. It's a false hope. Film is subject to the same issues digital is, just on a longer time scale.

 

Feel free to disagree, but that doesn't change fact - film is far from a perfect archival format. Just because something lasts 100 years vs 10 years, does not make it perfect - it just makes it a little better. Film prints STILL have to face the reality of what is going to happen when they fall apart from organic decay, or rely on the availability of a film projector to play it back.

 

We need to develop a NEW way for long-term storage. Film is not a long-term storage option, its simply a 'longer' term option. And given the way digital technology has increased, I would suggest it'll probably come in the form of digital technology.

 

And using Domesday Project is a bad example: It's old technology. I'm not arguing that 25 year old video technology was any good for preservation. As technology increases, these incompatibility issues will disappear. I think digital storage is at a point now where a lot of it is software based - which is good.

 

Back in the days of old video technology - it was mostly all hardware based - which caused problems. Now, as long as you can keep the 1's and 0's intact, software should be able to playback any format.

Edited by Landon D. Parks
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I think the theoretical life span of b&w separations on polyester stock is 500 years (100 years for acetate stock). Nothing is perfect of course... As Mark says, the main advantage is that you can look at a strip of film and see the image, there is no decoding technology needed.

 

The age of a technology is not equal to its value -- newer technologies are not necessarily superior to older ones. How much has a hammer changed in a 1000 years? Or the wheel? In art, is a sculpture carved in stone less "archival" than one of plastic made from a mold? Newer painting technologies were not necessarily more archival than older ones.

 

I mean, when you go to get a haircut do you insist that electric sheers be used because scissors are "old" technology and therefore must be inferior?

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It is interesting that Super 16 as listed on Page 8 of the BBC's 2017 specifications is not considered to be HD or UHD no matter what processing or transfer systems used. So does this mean that all the hype in 2013 that Uk’s broadcasters will accept programmes originated on Super 16mm film for broadcast on high definition channel was wrong?

Pav

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And using Domesday Project is a bad example: It's old technology. I'm not arguing that 25 year old video technology was any good for preservation. As technology increases, these incompatibility issues will disappear. I think digital storage is at a point now where a lot of it is software based - which is good.

 

Back in the days of old video technology - it was mostly all hardware based - which caused problems. Now, as long as you can keep the 1's and 0's intact, software should be able to playback any format.

 

Given how various systems don't speak to each other, together with commercial protection and how earlier versions of software may not work with later operating systems, that would seem to be more of a hope rather than what has happened to date.

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Well its not a major worry in the Broadcast TV world.. there is not but being made that should be kept over night.. or even made in the first place.. there is only so much future generations need to know about baking cakes,stupid families with large bottoms.. or making fun of poor /ugly/disabled people...

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Well I am making an epic documentary on S-16. no one seems to be talking about it :rolleyes:

 

2 years in a boat and the marine environment consumed my MacBook Air, my iPhone 5, and one odd other electronics that wasn't 'marinised' enough for sea.

that vintage SR3 somehow keep running. I just wipe it with a moist cloth and then lick to check if any salt is there on the body. :)

 

some exposed and raw cans lay in the boat for months experiencing temperatures from -10 C to 38 C before I found a port from where I could ship them to Massachusetts.

 

Surprisingly a JVC handycam has so far performed well. I keep it wrapped in a plastic bag all the time. :D

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It is interesting that Super 16 as listed on Page 8 of the BBC's 2017 specifications is not considered to be HD or UHD no matter what processing or transfer systems used. So does this mean that all the hype in 2013 that Uk’s broadcasters will accept programmes originated on Super 16mm film for broadcast on high definition channel was wrong?

Pav

I think it means that a programme can still be commissioned on S16 but it won't be billed as HD even on an HD channel.

That said, archive is obviously an exception. Scans from originals can be extraordinary now. But the spec does say that archive shouldn't be over 25% of a show, or even in extended sequences.

Edited by Mark Dunn
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Does he BBC still have a dedicated HD channel? I am not sure but I think BBC HD doesn't exist anymore as it seems that both BBC1 and BBC 2 get transmitted as SD and HD simultaneously, I believe all the SD content is up-scaled.

 

Pa

Edited by Pavan Deep
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Well I am making an epic documentary on S-16. no one seems to be talking about it :rolleyes:

 

The BBC and other broadcasters are probably talking about commissioned programs, rather acquired ones, for the former you would have to discuss shooting on anything other than the usual acquisition formats with the broadcaster. They used to shoot the Deadliest Catch on HDV because the cameras were being wreaked. but they had a post workflow which wasn't the usual prosumer one. There are also tier levels of HD cameras.

 

From what I gather the BBC shoots everything on HD these days, it's the transmission that either SD or HD.

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I was watching Tokyo Ga and was wondering if that was shot on 16mm I have a feeling it was 35mm

 

I am always interested in any film shot on REGULAR 16mm and some of the best regular 16mm work is from Fassbinder - World on a Wire and Berlin Alexanderplatz

i believe Fox and Friends and ...HERR R AMOK and RIO DAS MORTES..

Baal and one more which escapes me

 

I wonder if Jean Rollin shot in 16mm?

Edited by Rudy Velez Jr
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one a separate note both Tacita Dean and Ben Rivers have shot films on 16mm with wonderful results

I am so intrigued by this format despite its inherent difficulties with focus etc..Its all worth it for the end results

 

 

I didnt like mother! but i enjoyed the cinematography a great deal, i believe it is one of the best looking films of the year and perhaps Matthew's best work - M.L is really a master of super 16mm

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