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Most Affordable 16mm for Feature


John Walbolt
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I was curious about what it would take to make a decent feature film, using film. I know lenses are a huge factor, but what do you all think is the sort of minimum rig to make something that doesn't look totally amatuer or dated? Obviously it would need to be a camera with sound sync/crystal sync and a quiet motor.

My guess is something like an ARRI SR2, but maybe I'm wrong. I wanted to get opinions on this.

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Truthfully, you could make a feature with a Bolex if you didn't care about sync sound. With film cameras in general, it's all about the lens and film stock, rather than the body anyway. Your body only plays a role if it's out of calibration. If it's setup right and working properly, the differences between the bodies are very limited in the final piece. 

If you want your movie to look "professional", it's more down to lighting, art direction/set design, camera movement, framing and blocking. 

But most of all, if you care that anyone watches your film, the story must be really good and well acted. Most of the "technical" things go by the wayside if you have a great story. 

To answer the straight "technical" question. Yes an SR (1, 2, 3) or XTR  off any vintage would work fine. Unless your shooting in the dark, I'd just run with a zoom lens most of the time. For 16mm, your "prime" focal lengths are 9.5, 12, 24 and 50. 

 

Edited by Tyler Purcell
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If video tap would not be needed and one can manage without pl lenses, then something like the Eclair Npr or Acl or Cp16R might work as a bare minimum. 

In most cases a tap and pl is needed and thus it would probably be the Aaton Ltr or Arri Sr1 as a bare minimum.

One can save a lot if s16 is not absolutely needed and if tap and optical finder dont need to work at the same time. For example a N16 eclair or cp16r without tap can be very affordable in full working condition and crystal sync and a tap which can be added in place of the viewfinder. And if using older lenses.

One can save a little on arri kit if it is a bayonet mount model. But pl is preferred in any case and s16 would be expected for the camera body being so much more expensive compared to eclair or cp16.

If having a more expensive camera body you can try to save on lenses. I for example use a pl mount aaton ltr7 with Lomo 10-100 zoom (a cheaper soviet copy of the zeiss one) with kinor to pl adapter and wide angle attachment.  The zoom and adapter cost something around 450 or 500 total and seem to cover s16 on most of the range

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4 hours ago, aapo lettinen said:

If video tap would not be needed and one can manage without pl lenses, then something like the Eclair Npr or Acl or Cp16R might work as a bare minimum. 

............ Lomo 10-100 zoom (a cheaper soviet copy of the zeiss one) with kinor to pl adapter and wide angle attachment.  The zoom and adapter cost something around 450 or 500 total and seem to cover s16 on most of the range

Hey Aapo,

Plenty of ACLs have the PL mount and AZSpectrum video tap. Actually, an ACL kitted with PL,  Arri-S and Arri-B mounts would be really useful if one had access to some old lenses. Schneider and Cook Kinetal for N16 were Arri-S. MkI Zeiss superspeeds (S16) were Arri-B, and some MKII also. If you could find a private owner who will rent maybe it's cheap.

There are some good threads on the forum about lenses for 16/S16. I'm not sure which prime lenses Tyler is referring to with those focal lengths above. There are about nine Kinetals and the (MKII) Zeiss superspeeds go 9.5,12,16,25,50.

My feeling is that using primes helps culture a logical visual language on a narrative, and you can achieve that even with a tiny inexperienced crew, if the director or photographer is up for it.

Good luck with developing the electronics projects,

Gregg.

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5 hours ago, aapo lettinen said:

I for example use a pl mount aaton ltr7 with Lomo 10-100 zoom (a cheaper soviet copy of the zeiss one) with kinor to pl adapter and wide angle attachment.

Yea, I vastly prefer zoom's, especially the "faster" ones like the Zeiss 10-100 non-S16 version, because they're wide enough and you don't need to splurge on primes, which can be pretty expensive. I haven't seen the Lomo version in person. 

My go-to lenses are zooms. It's generally where I start on any given shoot. The only time I walk away from zooms is when I'm on Steadicam or where I need the speed. I think a lot of filmmakers "discount" zoom lenses and honestly, I have no idea why. 

 

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On 6/24/2022 at 11:52 AM, John Walbolt said:

I was curious about what it would take to make a decent feature film, using film. I know lenses are a huge factor, but what do you all think is the sort of minimum rig to make something that doesn't look totally amatuer or dated? Obviously it would need to be a camera with sound sync/crystal sync and a quiet motor.

My guess is something like an ARRI SR2, but maybe I'm wrong. I wanted to get opinions on this.

It really depends on the type of feature and how much you’re willing to stuff around with sub-optimal gear. But I think you’d need cine lenses for repeatable focus pulls, a decent head and legs and accessories like rails, matte box and some sort of follow focus (manual or motor). A decent video split with a mini monitor will definitely help. You could probably deal with a standard 16 Bayonet mount Arri SR1 or 2 if it was working well and had accessories, but bear in mind older Bayo mount lenses may have issues like image shift or focus play or scratched elements giving you low contrast etc. 
Personally I think renting something like an SR3 kit from a reputable rental house would be the best option, if you can film your movie in a short time. You get all the accessories you need, a camera you know is working and properly calibrated, and back-up if something goes wrong. There are affordable decent PL lenses around now, or you can rent those too, even just a single zoom.
People spend an awful lot of time sourcing old camera gear thinking it will save them money but it can be a real money pit, and the movie just never gets made. Focus on the script, getting good actors and collaborators, and just rent the gear when you need it. Make sure you get good sound too, that plays a big role in how professional a movie seems.

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