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Matt Pacini

Switching from 16mm to D-SLR?

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The benefits are obvious - easier shooting (mostly) & post-production, costs, etc.

 

But what would one give up by switching from 16mm (super16, Ultra16) to a D-SLR format?

I have my own opinions, but I thought I'd get some from some of you guys as well, since this is something you don't hear discussed much.

 

Matt Pacini

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An ability to really manipulate the image in post. Respect from actors and crew. Ability to choose the right stock for the right situation. Ability to use cine lenses. Over-crank and Under-crank. Long record times (22 min). Not needing a laptop on set (and hard drives ect). And many other things I'm sure.

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archive-ability, probably the biggest benefit which ties into..... it is actually a greener technology. You don't have to constantly bump it up, down or over to the latest digital storage. and as far as garnering respect, it is true, not fare but true

Edited by Chris Burke

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forgot to add that the longevity of the camera itself. How many aatons and arris are still in use today that were made 15 years ago, how many that were made 20 years ago or 30? They can be overhauled again and again and are just as good if not better than when they were new and just as viable. How many 5Ds will be around in ten years or three for that matter with the F3 debuting. The Nizo I bought off of you Matt was made in the early eighties and is still purring along, shooting several shorts and music videos right now.

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"...The Nizo I bought off of you Matt was made in the early eighties and is still purring along, shooting several shorts and music videos right now.

 

Ahhh, I loved that Nizo.

OK, I want it back! ha ha!

 

Matt Pacini

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An ability to really manipulate the image in post. Respect from actors and crew. Ability to choose the right stock for the right situation. Ability to use cine lenses. Over-crank and Under-crank. Long record times (22 min). Not needing a laptop on set (and hard drives ect). And many other things I'm sure.

 

Adrian, you are wrong on a couple things.

 

– You can use cine lenses. The CP.2 lenses from Zeiss are made for the Canons. Also, you can have a DSLR modified to accept any PL mount lens.

– You can over-crank to 60 fps on most DSLRs.

– Having a laptop and hard drives on set is not mandatory; it's just that most people feel they have to because they read too many magazines and forums.

 

Plus, you are only listing the disadvantages. The advantages are you don't have to process the film or have it DI'd. You can see your footage right away. Small/cheap cameras afford the opportunity to use multiple cameras and to put the camera in small/tight places.

 

Film is awesome, looks awesome, etc. But it's not the end-all-be-all. Neither is the new digital revolution.

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All this is true.

 

However, pretty much every time I've shot film there's been some sort of QC issue. It's a bit grainy, or it's a bit soft, or it's a bit unstable, or it's a bit flickery, or there's a hair in the gate, or whatever. Not to be melodramatic, but it really is pretty much every time, possibly because whenever I do it, I'm doing it on a shoestring budget with old stock and a cheap transfer, and so on. And when it happens, you're screwed. You can't ever really figure out what went wrong and why, because it's a week later. Film gives you a fait accomplis; whatever it gives you, you have to put up with, and if there's anything wrong with it, well, tough. You can't find out what happened, and even if you could, it won't help you avoid some other sort of unrelated SNAFU next time on different gear with different stock and different processing. So, this idea that "film looks great" turns out not to be so true, in the sort of situations where we mere mortals are actually likely to encounter it. Down here in reality-ville, film all too often looks dull, grainy, flickery, unstable, dirty and scratched.

 

If you have all the money in the world I'm sure it's great, but when you actually shoot film the way people tell you to shoot film in order to make it affordable (oh, use short ends, use this cheap telecine deal, then you can afford 16mm!), it's an absolute minefield. On a film set people constantly ask "is everyone happy, did we get that?" My answer, when working with film, is a non-committal shrug and the words "I uhoh, ask me in a week."

 

It is a lot easier to get the best out of any sort of video, even if that level of "best" has issues that don't exist on film.

 

P

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Gabe, while there are CP2 lenses for DSLRs, and those are good lenses, it's not quite the same as having the ability to pick the right lens sets you want. AND, as far as I know there are no Zooms yes.

I have never seen a stills camera over-crank aside from through tricks such as shooting 60i and then interpolating that to 60p and putting it into a time-line. This is not nearly the same as setting a film camera to 60 fps. Nor have i seen a stills camera which allows you to pick your own frame rate (such as 32 fps, or 48). If there is one great, but I doubt it.

I totally disagree about not needing a laptop. Unless you have a lot of cards, and even if you do, it is good practice to back up your footage, and while there are stand-alone solutions for this, it is better/easier to have a laptop around as on top of your back-up station it also becomes your playback station for things you need to check. And furthermore, the question on this forum was to list the disadvantages, not the advantages.

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For 16mm

- Great Latitude - 2 stops of latitude on a DSLR can be a headache.

- Over cranking - you can pretty much shoot at any frame rate you like up to 70fps on most cameras and 150fps on high speed cameras. High speed on DSLRs is a joke.

- Deals with movement infinitely better.

- A global shutter obviously, none of the horrible jelly affect.

- Lenses and accessories that are made to fit together from the ground up.

- Accurate engagement of over and under exposure through a light meter - till DSLRs do colour bars, who knows what monitor to trust when shooting with them.

- Super fast lenses

- Limitations encourage discipline, which is often beneficial for shoot.

 

For DSLRS

-Cheap to shoot

-Cheap to buy kit

- So cheap you can use as crash cams.

- Look meets current trend.

- What you see, tends to be what you get.

- Fast light sensitivity, you can pretty much always achieve some image under any light or lack of.

 

Everything has its place!

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Just for clarity, film does not have a global shutter. It has a rolling shutter, but doesn't jello like a DSLR does. However, you will see bendy vertical lines if you pan too quickly...

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I actually wanted to hear the negatives when I posted the question.

 

That's usually what I ask when I'm looking for advice - if I'm interested in buying a particular type of car, I will ask someone who owns one "what do you NOT like about it".

Otherwise, it's easy to get excited about something, then find out the negatives later, which I want to avoid!

 

If I can afford it, I'm going to do both.

I have a killer CP-16R/A kit, but can rarely afford stock & processing, which is endlessly frustrating.

I know nothing is going to look better than film, but I'm wondering if the compromise will be worth it, at least temporarily, for a couple shorts I want to shoot in the near future.

 

Matt Pacini

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Just for clarity, film does not have a global shutter. It has a rolling shutter, but doesn't jello like a DSLR does. However, you will see bendy vertical lines if you pan too quickly...

 

What camera are you using!? ;) Film doesn't have a global shutter technically, but film is still stationary when its being exposed. If you really push it you may get the tiniest amount of skew from the way the shutter spins, but motion blur kicks in long before that - after all people have been making beautiful swish-pans for the last 50 years +.

 

With a dslr even a moderate pan can exhibit examples of bending verticals.

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They certainly are there. I believe the rule of thumb is the 7 second rule, though dependent upon focal length as well as shutter angle. It is nowhere near as pronounced as with digital, but the rolling shutter artifact on vertical lines does pop up on film as does on a DSLR with jutter/strob and bend.

As for the film being stationary, that doesn't matter the sensor in a DSLR is stationary too, but the shutter is moving OVER the film much in the same way as a digital sensor is read in a linear fashion. This doesn't apply as much to swish pans where, you're right, motion blur overrides, but rather for "normalish" speed pans, hence the 7-second rule.

 

See pg 815 ASC manual 9th edition.

 

http://www.cinematog...showtopic=44555

 

and

 

Hate to quote filmmakers handbook, but all I can find right now:

 

http://books.google....epage&q&f=false

 

Anecdotal-ly, watching every which way but loose last night on net-flix you can see the tilting of vertical lines during the first chase sequence between Eastwood and the "Black Widows."

 

All that being said, it is not nearly as bad as on a DSLR, but this does not mean it is not present. For the most part it goes unnoticed unless you look for it.

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All this is true.

 

However, pretty much every time I've shot film there's been some sort of QC issue. It's a bit grainy, or it's a bit soft, or it's a bit unstable, or it's a bit flickery, or there's a hair in the gate, or whatever.

 

-Houllahan edit...-

 

It is a lot easier to get the best out of any sort of video, even if that level of "best" has issues that don't exist on film.

 

P

 

 

Oh Phil.... I guess we will never agree.... maybe you should get a better camera... like a Bolex or Aaton... I have shot tons of 16mm and really not had the above issues. I have shot DSLR too (I am shooting a spot for a medical company in a week) and the DSLR video (as opposed to raw still data in timelapse) just looks flat, soft and blurry to me. There is no real resolution to a 5D it is just sort of like 35mm but not really with ektachrome like (or worse) latitude and no way to really judge focus which leads to soft buzzy focus unless you have a PL mount cam and real glass...

 

16mm film I shot...

 

(I don't know 18 stops of latitude...??? Paul is going to scan this on the Scannity in a month or two and we will see.... complete darkness at the bottom and hot as the sun at the top) all the DSLR photos from this event (5D Mk2 RAW) completely clipped and look like poop.

 

Pure 80iso beauty from 7231:

 

 

That has been a big seller....

 

And then this...

 

A Medical 5D Mk2 spot I shot, looks flat to me with focus issues and totally clipped highlights... the idiots at the agency love it... because they can pretend it looks like 35mm when they look at the 7" monitor on set...

 

http://www.vimeo.com/21327663

 

I know that people love the dslr 'look' but I don't get it... I am happy to take their money though.

 

I tried grading that 5D footage in my Resolve (5D to RGB app to DPX) there is nothing there... 4-5 stops, maybe, falls apart really quick, poop.

 

Happy to use both, I know which I want for my own films though... and it is photochemistry...

 

-Rob-

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If you're shooting a short for festival play or an indie feature or something, consider that while 16mm used to be seen as a cheaper alternative to 35mm, now that red and the 7d have monopolized the "cheaper than 35mm" market, 16mm is seen as something of an aesthetic choice and not a budgetary one. So in terms of promoting whatever it is you're shooting, you've got an advantage right there shooting film. It's going to look different and more expensive than video. It may also get more respect on set.

 

The dSLRs have more like 8-9 stops of dynamic range, much better than most prosumer video (similar to the ex-1 and a bit less than the red, though, maybe?), and the resolution is poor but not dreadful (about 720p but good micro-contrast). Skew is really, really bad and if you want a handheld camera or a lot of camera moves with longer lenses just consider that a deal breaker. I went for it with lots of camera moves on a t2i and it's not so good. Aliasing is bad but generally manageable. The footage is very difficult to grade nicely. Skin tones and foliage (memory colors) are substantially better than with the red, worse than with film, but the lack of flexibility in post sort of offsets the nice colors out of the camera. In terms of aesthetics, of course you won't get any unbiased opinions here, but I think dSLRs produce nice video. A lot of very nice major ad campaigns are shot with them so if you're getting terrible results it's likely a matter of approaching the medium wrong. Yes, Rob's footage looks soft, low contrast, and sometimes out of focus, but it seems to be shot almost entirely wide open. And 35mm glass with be hazy, soft, low contrast, and more likely to go out of focus when shot wide open. I do, however, think the dSLR look, like the red look, will become increasingly associated with cheap content and that will hurt you in the long run. But really it depends on what you're shooting. For a short with no budget, a dSLR buys a lot of production value, especially when you consider how the light sensitivity and superior highlight handling (relative to other cheap video only) lets you skimp on lighting a bit compared with other inexpensive video.

 

You can probably find a friend or local studio that has one so just try it out. Don't judge it by the first video you shoot. Video is free and instant so test the hell out of it. Start with neutral mode and with highlight priority on (what I use, ha) then try other settings or whatever. Shoot under lots of different light. See what works and what doesn't.

Edited by M Joel Wauhkonen

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I've just watched a short film competition ( yet another one ) and was truly impressed by the scripts...however they all had the same look, presumably they each chose to use the canon 5d as there was usually no depth of field, and to be quite honest I found the sameness very distracting...almost spooky.

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That depth of field issue is why I'll almost certainly be using a 7D, not a 5D.

Not to mention all my 20D lenses will work, and of course, there's the cost...

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"I actually wanted to hear the negatives when I posted the question."

 

Well, I did a 2 camera shoot with the Canon 7Ds a while back and I am editing the footage now. I am very much a film snob, but I admit that in some situations the aesthetic qualities of the CMOS DSLR image are wonderful. Here are some negs.

 

1) If you hadn't already guessed the on-board LCD can't be used for precise focusing and the Canons don't have continuous autofocus in video mode(if you need that).

2) We found that the cameras would sometimes just cut off in the middle of a take for no reason.

3) The look is a bit inconsistent, some shots look like beautiful 24p HD, while others have a more muddy/flat SD 29.97 look to them, and yes our settings were always the same. Its just that the camera is not forgiving in the same way film is. It loves some light and hates other light and it will make you pay for this is a way that film tends not to. Also note that the amount of video noise can end up being significant even in situations when you think it shouldn't.

4) In post transcoding is a pain, and there is not very much color information in the signal, granted this is a problem on all prosumer digital video, just know that it will stick with you on this camera.

5) The image takes color correction pretty well, I am pleased with what can be done but was hoping for more.

6) Also note that if you are working in FCP for multicam work you must transcode all your dailies if you want to use the multiclip feature inFCP. As an aside we also shot dual system sound, and it turns out that you can't use .WAV files in multiclip mode. You need to marry the audio to some sort of video such as text prior to including it in multiclips. This is not in the FCP manuals but no one I have asked to test it can make it work with .WAV files.

 

A couple of positives:

 

I was shooting rock climbing and I have to say the texture of rock tends to look very strange on most video formats, the DSLRs, for what ever reason, do a far far better job of rendering the texture of rock than any other format I have used including 35mm stills, and super 16 (even with good glass).

 

Let me also add that despite the negatives listed above I still really like the 5D and would use it again now that I have an understanding of how it works, what it likes and doesn't like. I am also drawn to the Nikon D700 for its continuous autofocus in video mode which I don't like to rely on but is really helpful when shooting while hanging in a harness tracking a climber in tight shots.

 

I think if you bring the mindset and precision that you use when shooting film to a DSLR shoot you will find ways to get the results you want, but I would also suggest doing more testing that you might normally do.

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IThe dSLRs have more like 8-9 stops of dynamic range, much better than most prosumer video

 

Out of curiosity, how do people calculate these dynamic range tests, it just feels like the figures are very high, when lighting for a DSLR I find anything more than two-stops ratio and it starts to fall apart?

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Douglas' advice is more-or-less spot on. I would only add that the t2i (and presumably t3i and 60d) have significantly better LCDs than the 7d and pulling focus is a lot easier with them if still imprecise.

 

The ratio concerns are real. You get eight meaningful stops, maybe, of dynamic range, and if you go over the clipping looks a bit digital (but still not that bad), if you let things go too far under and push them the noise is chunky, and if you light flat there's not much information bit-wise and it gets veiled in noise and compression artifacts. So you need to light to the medium. The dSLRs are nonetheless much more forgiving in this regard than most digital video except maybe the really high end stuff. They have approaching two stops more highlight detail than the hvx200, imo, but certainly way less than film.

 

Andy, remember that the difference between a black object and white one in completely even light can still be as much as four or maybe even five stops through a spot meter. So if you're lighting that at a two-stop ratio you're already getting close to filling that 8-9 stop range. I mean, is the red really giving you 14 stops of dynamic range and a dSLR two stops? No. In terms of latitude, that's a factor of camera dynamic range and scene dynamic range, so there's no hard fast number, but a stop or so of latitude is certainly all the dSLRs have, I would agree. Not much room to fix exposure in post. My figures aren't too much more scientific than waving around a camera and light meter, sometimes together, sometimes independently of one another, but I know enough about ratios to be relatively confident in them, ballpark-wise. That said, if you just stick to using a two-stop ratio you may get way better results than approaching things how I do, though that wouldn't say much given my recent work. Heh.

Edited by M Joel Wauhkonen

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Andy, remember that the difference between a black object and white one in completely even light can still be as much as four or maybe even five stops through a spot meter. So if you're lighting that at a two-stop ratio you're already getting close to filling that 8-9 stop range. I mean, is the red really giving you 14 stops of dynamic range and a dSLR two stops? No. In terms of latitude, that's a factor of camera dynamic range and scene dynamic range, so there's no hard fast number, but a stop or so of latitude is certainly all the dSLRs have, I would agree. Not much room to fix exposure in post. My figures aren't too much more scientific than waving around a camera and light meter, sometimes together, sometimes independently of one another, but I know enough about ratios to be relatively confident in them, ballpark-wise. That said, if you just stick to using a two-stop ratio you may get way better results than approaching things how I do, though that wouldn't say much given my recent work. Heh.

 

Hi Joel, thats a good explanation linking how manufactures claim their products and how we light, I've never really thought about the link before. The old adage of 3-stops up and 2-stops down for film seems along way away for these DSLRS, where its more like 1/2 stop up and 1 1/2 down.

 

Cheers

Andy

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I've just watched a short film competition ( yet another one ) and was truly impressed by the scripts...however they all had the same look, presumably they each chose to use the canon 5d as there was usually no depth of field, and to be quite honest I found the sameness very distracting...almost spooky.

 

I completely agree. The dslr look is getting old very fast.

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No one seems to want to manipulate the dslr look in post. They leave it with the super duper HD video look. 24fps yes, but so what? It's still digital footage and looks it, despite the high resolution. I shot two shorts on DSLR this year and am editing them now, but I cannot wait to f*** with the look to make them dirtier, less candy clean. I hate how DSLR looks.

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It isn't very gradeable, no. You can't go crazy with it. Yes, this does require extra skill at the point of shooting.

 

It can look plasticky clean. I find this is at its worst when - ironically - you have an evenly lit, well-illuminated subject, and you're shooting at low ISO. This is particularly true in the omniscient overcast here in the UK; it's technically great light for video, with the sky as the world's biggest softbox, but it just looks like junk - it has no style, no contrast or punch. This is particularly insidious if you have skies in frame which bleach out when you're reasonably exposed for people's faces. I'm being vague here, but hopefully you'll get what I mean.

 

Personally I find the way to take the curse off it is actually to reduce the exposure (via whatever means), and gain up to compensate, erring firmly on the side of underexposure. Some of the best-looking stuff I've ever shot on DSLRs (by other people's judgement) has been under these circumstances. This setup stretches the camera's shadow response out, making more headroom for highlight handling; avoiding clipping like the plague, even at the expense of really quite a lot of noise, is critical. Noise handling is a taste thing on DSLRs; you may like the error-diffusion effect it provides, or you may violently counterreact to the way it compresses, but it will certainly be less clean. I find that you can make noise less objectionable by using a transcoding tool that handles 4:2:2 upsampling properly, such as 5DtoRGB.

 

Big square film-like exposures will certainly make DSLR look like junk. Letting light fall on a DSLR sensor should be like blowing at a candle flame to make it flicker - without ever quite blowing it out...

 

 

I suspect all of this probably applies to any electronic sensor, to be honest.

 

 

P

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