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Adam Frisch FSF

16mm dying...

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I can only speak for myself, but in less than a year my music video shoots have gone from pretty much all shot on 16mm to all shot on Red, D21 or Phantom (but mainly Red). Out of the 4 last ones, only one was done on 16mm.

 

As an old film dog, it's obviously a bit sad, but also inevitable. The fact is that I find myself recommending some of the bigger chipped digital cameras over 16mm these days. It's just so nice to be able to get that 35mm DoF and be able to use anamorphic lenses and all the other lenses available in 35mm. 16mm always suffered from the fact that you could pretty much only get one set of lenses for them.

 

16 won't die completely, of course. It's still the fastest and nimblest way to shoot anything (the digital cameras a still bloody nightmare when you want to move fast). And it has a look that suits certain ideas. It's just that it's reached its zenith, I think.

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Hi-

 

I'm trying really hard to remember the last time I shot 16 for any job...

 

Smaller spots, TV stuff, music vids and even some better-budgeted corporate stuff that would have naturally gone 16 several years ago are all some flavor of HD now. 16 doesn't even enter the conversation anymore.

 

I wonder who still shoots S16 (or even regular16) on commercial jobs (not personal projects)? Somebody must.

 

Although on the flip side I did just see "Wendy and Lucy" which was shot S16 and was a great little movie.

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I just got paid to shoot two shorts on 16mm for a local production co. -that would have otherwise gone to HD. They want to do a 10 minute short that requires a lot of chroma key work, so after considering 35mm -and realizing the registration problems I could be bringing on by going with film- I think I will have to recommend using HD (RED?). They also have other shorts in the works that will go to film, I hope.

 

16mm must not DIE!!! :(

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I don't think 16mm is dying at all. What I do think is that the digital image is accepted, with all of its flaws and fallacies as a "film alternative". There are also many many new producers who may have never been around film in their life, they think that 16mm is an old gritty format because they don't know any better- but s16mm if destined for the small screen is visual superior in every way to the Red or any HD camera (in my opinion anyways). If you want to be shooting 16mm, you need to show more 16mm film originated material with a decent transfer to your clients- I just had 2 production companies "switch" from HD and Red to s16mm actually just after I showed them some pretty footage- and they aren't going back anytime soon.

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I was talking to a lab person yesterday who told me that for television production, 16mm footage counts dropped by 2/3's in 2008, nearly 70%, compared to amounts processed in 2007, with the same number of TV shows shooting in town. That's pretty dramatic.

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Can the cinematographer decide on which format he wants to shot a TV-series? Or is that given by the studio ("all our series are now filmed on...")?

 

Super16 is a bit grainy on HD-resolution and even while the maximum resolution might be comparable to 1080p 4:4:4-cameras the sharpness perception is not (I think that's because of the lower contrast at high frequencies?) the same. I don't like it as an audience-member for theatrical releases (especially in 1:2,35). But for TV I really like it, on our "tiny" 1-2m-HD-LCDs/Plasmas it looks like "small cinema", you see the daily news (filmed on video) but when the TV-series starts you instantly see it's film - I hope you understand what I mean.

 

I recently watched "Jekyll" (BBC) and after a few seconds I noticed how "artificial" it looked (especially hand-held camera) - sharp? Yes. Good looking? Not a bit, even other family members (which are not into photography/cinematography) noticed that.

 

Somehow, more and more people (especially those who didn't grew up with film) start to think of film as an "old", "grainy", "dirty", "unstable" medium - shich is simply not true.

 

They want an artificial "videoish"-documentary-look? Well, use HD, I'm absolutely fine with that - if it fits the story. But using digital and trying to imitate film "good enough" is something I propably will never understand (not at these expensive productions).

 

Is "good enough" really what we want? Is this the direction we want to take? I think we have to be very careful how to react to these subtle changes, a little less DR here, some artifacts there - these are hard times, we have to cut costs... And one day we notice that even 100Mio-$ projects are shot on the same equipment as a sitcom...

How do you think did 65/70mm vanish? It was "good enough"...

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P.S. I'm sorry for coming up with the same story over and over again. But I go to the cinema, watch TV and everybody screams "HD", "Digital" but the results look disappointing and I start to feel that something is terribly wrong, that decisions are made right now, that we will regret in the future (like accepting plastics instead of metal, VHS instead of Betamax, Windows instead of...) :unsure:

As long as we have the choice, it's fine, but I fear that won't be the case...

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I was talking to a lab person yesterday who told me that for television production, 16mm footage counts dropped by 2/3's in 2008, nearly 70%, compared to amounts processed in 2007, with the same number of TV shows shooting in town. That's pretty dramatic.

 

Yeah. I heard that somewhere too, but I can't remember where at the moment. I don't know if this adds to the topic or not, but I've also heard rumors that film is becoming extinct in the still industry. I don't know if that's true or not, but if it is... That's quite a whammy!

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P.S. I'm sorry for coming up with the same story over and over again. But I go to the cinema, watch TV and everybody screams "HD", "Digital" but the results look disappointing and I start to feel that something is terribly wrong, that decisions are made right now, that we will regret in the future (like accepting plastics instead of metal, VHS instead of Betamax, Windows instead of...) unsure.gif

As long as we have the choice, it's fine, but I fear that won't be the case...

 

 

I never heard you say it Georg before but I believe what you say here wholeheartedly. If you look at any of Joel Brinkley's work involving HD you'll see the truth. Joel is son of famous broadcaster David. Joel followed the introduction of HD and the subsequent politics and law making. He wrote numerous articles over the years for the NY Times and eventually a book. When you look at the core of what he writes as to why HD came to be, you find it wasn't to make better movies, or better TVs, but simply to sell more TVs. See, manufactures hit a wall in the late seventies with how big they could make a tube TV. At forty inches it was nearly impossible to get the picture to retrace. As a result the 14 manufacturers came together and created the The Advanced Television Systems Committee, Inc whose job on the outside it was to device standards for a new TV system.

 

But in reality they simply were setting in stone the need to use HD so that they could sell new TV sets. The first production HD cameras were not welcomed. (Sony 700s). Everyone said, great the picture looks sharper, now what? And the ATSC went to Washington to convince them that digital TV needed to be the new standard, selling them on the idea of being able to make 2 billion dollars selling the old analog frequencies. Broadcasters hated the idea. They didn't need HD. They were making more money than ever, why switch now? Eventually after fighting, they gave in to government mandates. (Yea millions of dollars were given to lawmakers by the ASTC to make sure they got their way).

 

Oh yea, so the first HD cameras were a joke to most. But Sony's dream since the early seventies set forward by Akio Morita was to have all film made with Sony equipment and have Sony be the name in making movies, not film. Thier first attempt at that was Betacam. Obviously only in their minds was this going to work. But with HD they saw the potential. Problem was the first HD camera was merely a line doubled video camera. It sure looked sharp but after a while the sharpness wore off. It needed more. I know I personally experienced this shooting some of the first HD stuff and having folks look at it say wow!, now what does it do.

 

So Sony came up with the gimmick of 24p. 24P was what would make a video camera act just like film. And it made the owner of Film Look rich since he patented 24p 15 years earlier and to this day is paid a licensing fee by every manufacturer for every professional 24p camera made. In the end 24p worked and we are where we are. 24p made a video camera ‘just’ like a film camera. So HD came to be first as a concept to sell more TVs. On the production side it was to fulfill a dream of Sony's creator. And on a broadcast end, was forced upon broadcasters. Anyway you slice it, HD had underlying agendas that made it what it was, not necessarily simply to make a better TV, movie, or viewing experience.

 

This story comes to me from two sources. One Joel Brinkley's fantastic chronicle of the history of HD in the US, and two, from a documentary I made about Sony for a History Channel series.. Many stories of Morita's dream for the company were told to me by ex CEO's of Sony. One told me personally the story of how Morita never let go of the dream of taking over the film world and set Sony's culture to accomplish this long after his retirement. He related the story of how Sony was internally making a "history of" film in the early eighties. They had a budget of a million dollars and had nearly completed all shooting. All that was left was interviews with Morita. One day, Morita walked into an office and saw the crew set up. They had all the lights, sound and a 35mm camera. He looked at it once, asked why they were using film instead of Betacam. And ordered them to re-shoot the entire film over on Betacam, which Sony introduced as the film killer.

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I was talking to a lab person yesterday who told me that for television production, 16mm footage counts dropped by 2/3's in 2008, nearly 70%, compared to amounts processed in 2007, with the same number of TV shows shooting in town. That's pretty dramatic.

 

As a percentage drop, yes, it's rather dramatic. But it should also be pointed out that the actual number of shows - especially network shows - that were on 16mm has always been rather small, despite the best efforts on the part of those supporting the format to make it seem otherwise. In the last few seasons, the main use of 16mm has been on cable, Fox, and the WB (now the CW) networks. There has been very little use of it on the "big 3," although the NBC series "Chuck" is currently an example. In the last few seasons, the WB had Veronica Mars, One Tree Hill, Roswell, and the first few seasons of Buffy all on 16mm. Fox had The OC, Point Pleasant, and a number of comedies on the format. On cable you had Monk, and that was about it. Today, nearly all of those shows are gone. The CW still has One Tree Hill on 16mm, but all new shows on that network are done on digital cameras, as is the case with Showtime. Even Smallville, historically a 35mm show, switched to the Genesis this season, leaving Supernatural as the only 35mm show on the CW. The fact is that there are digital choices that were not available just 2 years ago that go considerably beyond what the "traditional" F900 was capable of, and thus there is far less need for a "mini 35" film format - especially when the electronic alternatives are less costly.

 

And Walter, while it's amusing to read all of your conspiracy theories, the fact remains that today's digital production cameras are not your typical "HD" units. And one of the reasons they're being accepted in more and more production situations today is that they are not restricted to what was deemed appropriate for the television broadcast market. I don't think it's sensible to call a Red - or even a D21 - an "HD" camera, just as it's not sensible to say that 16mm and 35mm are equal just because they happen to use similar technology. We've long since moved away from the arguments as to whether HD broadcast is necessary, just as we're beginning to move away from the arguments that electronic cameras can't produce imagery appropriate for cinema presentation. So the conspiracies, while they might be historically interesting, are now quite irrelevant.

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And ordered them to re-shoot the entire film over on Betacam, which Sony introduced as the film killer.

 

Betacam did kill film in the market it was aiming for; tv news (remember their old ads in AC?) :)

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And Walter, while it's amusing to read all of your conspiracy theories

 

 

Thanks for the laugh!

 

Nothing historically inaccurate to what I said:

Betacam killed much of TV news film acquisition and later as HD a lot of the rest.

The Morita story was told to me personally by Michael Schulhof and can be heard in the History Channel program we produced on big business decisions of the 20th century that changed history.

Rob Farber gets a royalty for every professional 24p camera made.

The origins of HD were to solidify the broadcast and manufacturing industry.

HD in the production world initially suffered for acceptance until 24p was introduced.

 

We are now entrenched in HD thanks to saturation and acceptance. The history of it though and the original purpose wasn't about where we are today. If they could convince people in 1982 (what the ATSC set out to do) that we needed a new TV system the rest would fall into place. It did. All that has nothing to do with RED or any other HD gimmick going today. Just the real origins of HD.

 

I suggest anyone who wants to see the real reason why HD was invented and the revolution it caused read

 

Defining Vision: How Broadcasters Lured the Government Into Inciting a Revolution in Television, Updated and Expanded by Joel Brinkley

 

It's historical and not conspiracy theory but don't let that deter you.

 

EXCERPT

 

From Publishers Weekly

This is the story of High-Definition Television (HDTV)-its development, the corporations involved, and their manipulation by the federal government. HDTV is television with the picture quality of film. It was developed when TV executives feared that the FCC would distribute unassigned channels to mobile communication companies that specialize in such things as police communication systems. To stymie the FCC, the television industry latched onto-almost accidentally-the idea of HDTV, which needs two channels to broadcast its picture. The government set up a lottery for the best version of HDTV, and the race was on. NHK, the Japanese television network, already had a system in place and was the early leader. But what is interesting here is the scampering of American companies to compete and, sometimes, to survive. The Sarnoff Research Center-originally RCA-came back to life after a decade of failure only to produce an inferior HDTV; Zenith, on the verge of bankruptcy, joined with AT&T with almost disastrous results; and MIT, with academic arrogance, couldn't find the right stuff. But the most intriguing company of all was General Instruments in San Diego. It started out making secure cable boxes for HBO, but through the genius of basically one man, Woo Paik, found what was thought to be unattainable: digital, high-definition television. Brinkley, a New York Times political editor, takes us from testing to the trials, and from the cutthroat competition to the formation of the "Grand Alliance," whereby most of the companies banded together to create the final product. He has written a very complicated, though at times utterly absorbing, history that will appeal mostly to those involved with technology and the TV industry.

Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Defining-Vision-Broa...3821&sr=8-1

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Hi-

 

I'm trying really hard to remember the last time I shot 16 for any job...

 

Smaller spots, TV stuff, music vids and even some better-budgeted corporate stuff that would have naturally gone 16 several years ago are all some flavor of HD now. 16 doesn't even enter the conversation anymore.

 

I wonder who still shoots S16 (or even regular16) on commercial jobs (not personal projects)? Somebody must.

Although on the flip side I did just see "Wendy and Lucy" which was shot S16 and was a great little movie.

 

 

Hi,

I' m french. In Europe, a lot of low buget features are still shot in S16 (mostly with Aatons). Even though big labs in France tend to screw up the blow up to 35mm because they don't wish to maintain their machines (Sony and Kodak slaves, going for the all-digital), there's plenty in other european countries (Belgium or Germany, for instance) that still do a great job. I shot two 45minutes fictions in S16 and love the result in 35mm (I also love the incredible ruggedness and ergonomics of the Aatons on a set).

A lot of young film makers pushed by their deluded producers to go HD regret it:

- HD cameras are heavy computers that DPs and assistants don't master, since they're always shooting with a new one (rebate at rental houses for pioneering).

- It's not easier or faster to light a set.

- Post prod technicians, not the DP, are the masters or the image. Are they really artistically involved in the film?

- You don't control color balance of HD projection, since each projector is also a computer with its own settings and interpretation of given information (there is no "master" copy of your film). HD on a big screen is awfully cold and flat to this day. You need a 35mm print.

- There's usually not enough money left for post production (very expensive), so the 35mm print turns out mediocre.

- If you don't shoot ten mags a day, S16 is not more expensive than HD.

 

I have nothing against HD, but I hear a lot of nonsense and propaganda about it. I think the choice of medium should always be an artistic one, whether producers like it or not. As far as film making goes, artistic choice is the future.

Regards to all

Marc.

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I don't think it's right to predict the death of a medium that's been around for 100 years, based on the past 10 years of technology. I'm sure a lot of statisticians would agree. Yeah, things have changed a lot, but eventually something's gotta level out again or we will lose a lot of stability in this business. I left New York for six months and when I got back, I don't know if it was just me psyching myself out, but it seemed like everything had gone Red or some other HD camera. It seems to have affected the climate of the low-budget indie world pretty significantly and I feel like it's becoming an excuse to cut even more corners and totally cheap out. There's like this hysteria about how amazing HD is. While I don't think it's crap, I also think that to claim "HD will replace/be better than film" is ignorant and short-sighted. We're all caught up in the hype and the shiny new feeling right now. And cameras are changing faster than you can upgrade your Ipod. If HD is going to "replace" anything, it had better give us some solid ground to stand on first. Because this is where film will always win...they came up with the idea and after tweaking different camera designs and film gauges, they settled...and haven't changed a goddamn thing since.

 

If any HD camera manufacturers really wanted to kill off 16, they would have to keep things simple, and make it able to be upgraded as needed, without a lot of expense or hassle. Maybe this is where Red is onto something...but I think it'll be another 10 years before anybody can really get an idea of where this industry's going.

 

Change doesn't make me uneasy. What makes me uneasy is all these people at the top of the game calling the shots in this biz based on trends that might be obsolete in 3 years. Film's not going anywhere. It might become more rare as a format, but let's not get dramatic about it. I'm so sick of hearing OMG 16MM IS DEAD. Give me a goddamn break, do you really think Arri would have made the 416 if that was true? I'm not trying to start anything, I'm just saying, I'm totally over hearing this apples-and-oranges hysteria about how we should start burying our Bolexes now and blowing our parents' money on Red cameras. Whatever, dudes.

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I can only speak for myself, but in less than a year my music video shoots have gone from pretty much all shot on 16mm to all shot on Red, D21 or Phantom (but mainly Red). Out of the 4 last ones, only one was done on 16mm.

 

Hi Adam, I'm wondering if this trend in the last year is largely due to the specific nature of music video production - it tends to be more focused on experimenting with new technology, using the newest, coolest gear etc....

 

Do you think there is any truth in that?

 

Cheers,

Andy

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Hi Adam, I'm wondering if this trend in the last year is largely due to the specific nature of music video production - it tends to be more focused on experimenting with new technology, using the newest, coolest gear etc....

 

Do you think there is any truth in that?

 

I think it probably has more to do with the tendencies of music videos to shoot an absurdly large amount of material. The more one shoots, the cheaper an electronic alternative becomes. Not to mention the fact that music videos never have to be concerned with a theatrical release.

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I think it probably has more to do with the tendencies of music videos to shoot an absurdly large amount of material. The more one shoots, the cheaper an electronic alternative becomes. Not to mention the fact that music videos never have to be concerned with a theatrical release.

 

Definitely concur here.

 

Shooting ratios have to be one the top pushing factors in an HD/Film battle for music videos, commercials and such. Just got off a 30 second Disney spot for the new American Idol Experience where the budget was available I'm sure, but was still shot on the Genesis.

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A 35-mm theatrical release print of 100 minutes is about 21 kg of material. The equivalent in 16 mm weighs the tenth of it and consists of two rolls. For the average screen height of three meters (10 ft.) 16 mm is perfect. Reduction prints and outprints from data look fine.

 

16 mm has always been a distribution format of the industry, it was George Eastman's choice of a 1919-20 Bell & Howell proposal (⅝"). He was in contact with Charles Pathé who went for Ferdinand Zecca's proposal of the third part of the Kok system (1⅛"). Both envisaged to conquer a giant dormant market: everybody at home.

 

So 16-mm film is one of a few alternatives if we need to break out from the costly burden of 35.

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A 35-mm theatrical release print of 100 minutes is about 21 kg of material. The equivalent in 16 mm weighs the tenth of it and consists of two rolls. For the average screen height of three meters (10 ft.) 16 mm is perfect. Reduction prints and outprints from data look fine.

 

16 mm has always been a distribution format of the industry, it was George Eastman's choice of a 1919-20 Bell & Howell proposal (⅝"). He was in contact with Charles Pathé who went for Ferdinand Zecca's proposal of the third part of the Kok system (1⅛"). Both envisaged to conquer a giant dormant market: everybody at home.

 

So 16-mm film is one of a few alternatives if we need to break out from the costly burden of 35.

 

I think I have to disagree there, though back as a film student 16mm prints blew the socks off projected DVD and VHS (particularly with Black and White) it has real problems as a distribution format.

 

Firstly 16mm projectors vary in quality and reliability, and the worst of all 16mm killers is the dual 35mm/16mm projector will easily tear a 16mm print to shreds.

 

The 16mm distribution format only has sprocket holes down one side and only one hole per frame, meaning a torn perf in bad a projector causes havoc, destroying a considerable amount of footage. The best 16mm cinema projector Fumeo (as I recall from memory) has hooked sprockets so a torn perf will only result in a kinda Star Trek 'light-speed' affect with the projector hurtling through several frames. The smaller width also makes it a lot less durable in the hands of lazy or unskilled projectionists, which there are a fair few.

 

Its smaller size also means it feels a lot less sharp than a 35mm print, often acceptable when showing an Academy-ratio film, but if you start showing other ratios, imagine 2.35:1!, then you're using a tiny part of the print area which will just look incredibly grainy, soft and with even more magnified dirt.

 

Don't get me wrong Super 16 is absolutely wonderful as a shooting format, quality wise, ease of working with, cost etc, but the standard 16mm distribution format has already died a death with no signs of resurrection.

 

Just my two pence, regards,

Andy

Edited by Andy_Alderslade

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I love HD it's given me the opportunity to make films faster and better than ever. Thanks to HD cameras and workflow. Thanks to HD I can now make real 16MM films. HD is great when helping to learn. Not so great when you want professional results. Many have fallen for the hype. Many love LCD and Plasma screens over CRT. In all this the emporers new clothes abound everywhere. In the sixties 16mm was largely replaced by new massive studio cameras that gave awful pictures. Today a similar thing is happening. When HD falls out of fashion then 16mm will again be popular. What I find worrying is how people follow each other without really having their own intellect decide.

 

I hope that because so many make the switch to HD that film manages to survive. If we end up with just HD as the only choice then quality in the end will nosedive. Cinemas will become a thing of the past as HD projectors are already affordable for many and set to get cheaper. What a shame that such a fine art as film making is unravelling because of great sales tactics mostly based on stretches of the imagination. Today many take pot shots to help HD finish off film This thread is an example of such mischief.

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What a shame that such a fine art as film making is unraveling because of great sales tactics mostly based on stretches of the imagination.

 

 

Great line!

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"Thanks to HD I can now make real 16MM films."

 

That is a really strange line!

Depends how you read it Dan my inference being that 16MM is real film making and HD is not. I regard film as essential for film.

 

Thanks Walter!

Edited by Mark Williams

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Is "good enough" really what we want?

 

 

Well, it sure seems "good enough" is a real life question as far as delivery and display goes. Plasmas with low contrast ratios, LCDs with slow refresh rates, abysmal DSS and other supposed "HD" (highly compressed) content delivery that is terribly flawed - so what's the diff? Apparently folks out there in real life TV viewer land can't tell good SD from bad HD anyway. I can't believe how many folks tell me they have these great images off their DSS (used here a s a generic example of sat delivery of HD - not picking on them specifically) dishes and when you look at a shot of the sky I still see the gawd-awful banding, etc... so really, how is that a better image in the first place?

 

What's the point of it all if the newest and best delivery methods and user displays are so bad you loose a vast percentage of the resolution, contrast range, etc? Yes folks, good enough seems to be a constant out there. And don't get me started on "is the content worthy" - reality television is apparently also "good enough" to pass as entertainment.

 

Last comment - don't ask me about digital display in a theater either. Given enough time I could count the individual pixels on a theater screen one by one. Yes, I am still biased toward film but only if the content keeps up and the viewers demand real quality at the end user display point. I'm no cinephile or great film shooter but I do play with 16mm and the old Bolex and my K-3 as well as regular 8 and Super 8, both still readily available. It's fun after all the years in television I spent wasting away.

 

S.

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