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Robert Hughes

Is 16mm Obsolete?

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I recently read that BBC is backing the Varicam as their HD image acquisition tool of choice. This announcement, coupled with the Discovery Channel's restrictive S16mm requirements, leads me to wonder if there is much point in shooting S16 or refurbishing existing S16 gear, if the HD channels won't show programs originating on it.

 

Any perspectives from inside the industry?

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Well HD is easy, you don´t carry lots of 16mm cans, load, telecine, etc.

HD is a easy way. long tapes and can be edited fastly, but S16 is a beautifull way to archieve great images for movies, docs, etc

i love S16, but HD is easy, simply

Edited by andres victorero

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I have a producer friend who just completed a project for Discovery. She can go on and on about how tight Discovery are with their budgeting. Obviously, they're just trying to scrimp and save as much as they can. Because really, in the case of Discovery produced documentaries, the image quality isn't as big a deal as the actual information they're providing, especially since nothing they produce will ever be shown on the big screen.

 

I just suppose they're just going Digital, just like most other documentarians in the country.

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I recently read that BBC is backing the Varicam as their HD image acquisition tool of choice. This announcement, coupled with the Discovery Channel's restrictive S16mm requirements, leads me to wonder if there is much point in shooting S16 or refurbishing existing S16 gear, if the HD channels won't show programs originating on it.

 

Any perspectives from inside the industry?

 

Robert,

 

Just curious: What are Discovery Channel's restrictions on use of S16? (Website access to their documentary production requirements appears to be restricted to production companies registered with DC.)

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They have origination format requirements for their HD programs; there was a thread here about this a couple months back. From what I recall, Discovery requires that less than 25% (?) of new camera origination material may be S16, and no R16; 35mm is the only film format they accept as source material for a new HD program. Note also they don't accept VHS or Hi-8 either. The reason, as pointed out by a contributor here, was that Discovery HD must bandwidth compress their transmitted signals (via Mpeg 2), and the random grain of film gives their codecs fits - almost every frame must be a keyframe because of the noise.

 

So, if S16 is "too noisy" for HD, is there any point to produce S16 originated shows for HD? Sounds like the current answer may be "no". Keep in mind that the issue is in HD compression codecs, which may be replaced in the future with more "film friendly" versions. Also, film remains a preferred archival medium (if you have the space and the patience to deal with it).

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I've spent the last 10 months or so working on one the most successful tv series here in Italy, and we shot on S16.

90% of tv series and mini-movies here are shot on 16mm. I don't have the official numbers, but I think 16mm is actually more used now than it was 10 years ago, so it's far from being obsolete.

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digital isn't always easier.

colleagues (and friends) of mine are shooting in the country of oman right now.

cold, wet caves and hot and sandy exteriours.

 

the first camera has already died, and since there is hardly any equipment available down there,

they had to have someone fly in with a replacement camera.

 

16mm would be cheaper already.. :P

 

 

 

on a sidenote: guess what 2 1,2kw par hmi's cost in oman ...

 

 

GUESS

 

 

THEN SCROLL DOWN

 

 

 

 

 

300 euros a day!

but considering that you get 2 lamps and 2 electricians for that money....

they really won't let those lamps out without one electrician per lamp!

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I've spent the last 10 months or so working on one the most successful tv series here in Italy, and we shot on S16.

90% of tv series and mini-movies here are shot on 16mm. I don't have the official numbers, but I think 16mm is actually more used now than it was 10 years ago, so it's far from being obsolete.

 

 

do you mind me asking you WHAT series?

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do you mind me asking you WHAT series?

 

Please don't laugh, Freddie....I said "most popular", I didn't say anything about its quality (although its cinematography is indeed better than most of the things you see on Italian tv these days) :D

 

Distretto di Polizia...

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I've spent the last 10 months or so working on one the most successful tv series here in Italy, and we shot on S16.

90% of tv series and mini-movies here are shot on 16mm. I don't have the official numbers, but I think 16mm is actually more used now than it was 10 years ago, so it's far from being obsolete.

 

One of the best TV productions i've ever seen came from Italy, The Best of Youth - (La Meglio Gioventu) shot on super 16 and I saw it at a cinema with a 40' screen, and for the most part was completly unaware of the format, only engroced in the story and amazing images before me. Occasionaly shots felt pixelated, perhaps there wasn't a proper digital intermediate and the 35mm print was made from a standard definition master, I don't know, but for much of the part the quality was sufficent to let the story engroce you.

 

I recently read that BBC is backing the Varicam as their HD image acquisition tool of choice. This announcement, coupled with the Discovery Channel's restrictive S16mm requirements, leads me to wonder if there is much point in shooting S16 or refurbishing existing S16 gear, if the HD channels won't show programs originating on it.

 

The BBC always seems to want to push new technologies, shame they don't do the same for storytelling - but i'm supprised they are backing the Varicam, as a friend working on BBCs Torchwood told me, that production went through three HD cameras before setttling on the Sony, one was the Varicam. Apparently the first two camera set ups were just too unreliable.

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They have origination format requirements for their HD programs; there was a thread here about this a couple months back. From what I recall, Discovery requires that less than 25% (?) of new camera origination material may be S16, and no R16; 35mm is the only film format they accept as source material for a new HD program. Note also they don't accept VHS or Hi-8 either. The reason, as pointed out by a contributor here, was that Discovery HD must bandwidth compress their transmitted signals (via Mpeg 2), and the random grain of film gives their codecs fits - almost every frame must be a keyframe because of the noise.

 

So, if S16 is "too noisy" for HD, is there any point to produce S16 originated shows for HD? Sounds like the current answer may be "no". Keep in mind that the issue is in HD compression codecs, which may be replaced in the future with more "film friendly" versions. Also, film remains a preferred archival medium (if you have the space and the patience to deal with it).

 

This really seems inconsistant. First comparing film to digital is comparing apples and oranges. Any film format can be transferred to HD. Even Hi 8 can be pumped up to HD if the footage is compelling enough and important enough for the story.

 

Secondly, all film is not the same in terms of grain. If one shoots 7245 in the blazing sun with sharp lenses, you'll be giving 35mm a run for its money. If one shoots say 800 asa film at night wide open and pushed a few stops you'll have more grain than you can handle. But there may be a creative reason to shoot something like that.

 

I can't imagine why DC would limit productions to using 16mm at 25%. Is that 25% of the final cut or 25% of the raw footage?

 

Something doesn't sound right with this policy. Sounds like engineers limiting what the creatives would do whether originating in film or video. Does anyone have anything from them officially?

 

Best

 

Tim

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BB Who? does anyone watch? and the Discov-o-reality network? I suppose if you are in the business of making shows cheaply that for the most part do not go far beyond their first showing cutting corners and costs is just part of the game. Kidding aside both of these networks turn out decent shows from time to time but mostly they fall in the reality camp.

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Guest Film Runner
I recently read that BBC is backing the Varicam as their HD image acquisition tool of choice. This announcement, coupled with the Discovery Channel's restrictive S16mm requirements, leads me to wonder if there is much point in shooting S16 or refurbishing existing S16 gear, if the HD channels won't show programs originating on it.

 

Any perspectives from inside the industry?

 

The abomination of desolation will be an idolatrous act that will defile the Holy Place.

 

"So when you see standing in the Holy Place "the abomination that causes desolation," spoken of through the prophet Daniel, let the reader understand - then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains." (Matthew 24:15-16)

 

For me and countless others "the abomination of desolation" in the film industry is HD.

 

Time to flee.

 

F.R.

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A couple of months ago, I posted a thread about "homogenized video". It was about how most tv docs look the same nowadays.

 

I can't find that thread. Was it deleted?

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Guest Film Runner
A couple of months ago, I posted a thread about "homogenized video". It was about how most tv docs look the same nowadays.

 

I can't find that thread. Was it deleted?

 

Most likely the anti-christ known as HD or one of its minions deleted it.

 

F.R.

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Please don't laugh, Freddie....I said "most popular", I didn't say anything about its quality (although its cinematography is indeed better than most of the things you see on Italian tv these days) :D

 

Distretto di Polizia...

 

 

i know the show but i cant remember it visually as i left the country a few years ago, however i think its great we didnt give up the s16 format for tv shows

 

old fashioned italians....

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Most likely the anti-christ known as HD or one of its minions deleted it.

 

F.R.

 

Quit it with the religious anti-HD poop. It's retarded and if you want a future working in the film industry (since I'm positive your DP tag here means nothing), you just need to get used to it.

 

 

Also, we use full, real names here. No monikers, please.

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Hi,

 

At Camerimage this year, ARRI did a talk about their new 416 camera. They seem to think that 16 is well and alive considering that the have come out with a new camera. I don't know if it was PR hype but they said that 16mm was going through a renaissance and that more and more people were using it.

 

Also you do have to admit it would have been crazy spending all that R&D money on a new camera design if 16mm was truely dieing...

 

http://www.arri.com/entry/416.htm

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Qualitatively, I think that 16mm becomes noticeably noisier than HD when you're shooting the 250 to 500 ASA stocks. I've seen some very good footage from the 50 and 100, with 200 being probably the fastest that I would shoot with 16 for 1080i. 720p you can probably get away with a lot more with> People keep saying repeatedly on this forum that there is no difference between 1080 and a 2K digital intermediate in terms of quality. Technically this is true, but when you look at how many people can actually afford a TV with the full 1080 resolution, they're still a small small fraction of sets out there. I doubt they'll become affordable and commonplace for a decade, because a lot of people have bought some of the lower res HD models. 500T is not bad in HD on my set, although I'm pretty sure it's not a full 2K resolution. You can definitely make out grain, and it definitely is a lot grittier than HD, enough that the average viewer *might* notice if you ask them. I think that nature series, shooting outdoors in the daytime with 7201 or the 100 or 200T are going to have no trouble with grain on the average HD tv. I'm pretty sure this is a cost-cutting measure. Isn't a lot of the poop on those channels still standard def. video? It sure looks that way to me. This is just my two cents though. I like 16mm and will continue to shoot it because I love the look of film, and cannot afford to shoot in 35.

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Guest Film Runner
I like 16mm and will continue to shoot it because I love the look of film, and cannot afford to shoot in 35.

 

I saw a 2-perf movement 35mm Cameflex/Eclair recently. The owner was selling it for $3K.

 

35mm short ends are cheaper than 16mm short ends.

 

If you get a hold of a 2-perf beast you coudl shoot 35mm for the price fo 16mm.

 

F.R.

 

Also, we use full, real names here. No monikers, please.

 

That is utter foolishness.

 

Like I said, if people don't like me using my "real name"... ban me.

 

I've contributed to this group.

 

F.R.

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Maybe Film Runner is a Drug Runner and on the lam...unless that's the case, I don't see why you would have a problem sharing your real name with industry professionals.

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Here's a reminder of the exact details of different film format sizes:

16mm

R16-S16_Size_Comparison.gif

 

35mm

filmformats.png

 

If you compare height alone, Super 16mm is 7.5mm to 2-perf's 9.47mm. This implies an absolute grain size relationship of 1.26 times larger in Super 16mm over 2-perf 35mm, or to look at it another way, the grain size of 2-perf 35mm is 79% that of Super 16mm images.

 

Comparing height alone between Super 16mm at 7.5mm and Super 35mm (3-perf) at 13.9mm, the grain size of Super 16mm is 1.85 times that of Super 35mm, or, inversely, the grain size of Super 35mm is 54% that of Super 16mm.

 

As long as I'm at it, the grain size of Super 16mm is 2.48 times larger than Cinemascope 35mm, or inversely, Cinemascope's grain size is 40% that of Super 16mm when comparing height alone.

 

So let's face facts. Comparing height of the exposed frame alone, 2-perf 35mm gives you grain that's 21% smaller than Super 16mm. And 3-perf Super 35mm gives you grain size that's 46% smaller than Super 16mm. Cinemascope gives you grain size that's 60% smaller than Super 16mm.

 

So 2-perf gains you 21% reduction in grain size, 26% increase in height and 77% increase in width over Super 16mm, and probably costs less for stock when shooting short ends, but costs roughly the same for process and transfer. Except that I can't get it transferred in Minneapolis because there are no telecines for 2-perf here.

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