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Alright, where to start...

I'm a young aspiring filmmaker whose had a passion for making films ever since I was 6. Self-taught, I've made films all on the digital format, and recently, I've been shooting short films on the Canon Rebel T2i. I'm all for manual control, and I'm a pretty big hater of auto focus. Being that most of the filmmakers that inspire me shoot on film, and that it's (sadly enough) slowly dying, I've decided I want to move from digital to film.

Now I understand that a great place to begin is with film photography. I've signed up for a photography class (showing you how to shoot and develop film) for my Junior year, and I've also been reading through the web and these forums to understand the film process.

My first set of questions are: What still film camera should I begin with? What type of film should I use? Anyway to make a cheap DIY dark room setup?

After some practice with that, I wish to begin filming short films (after some more tests of course) on a motion picture film camera. I have in mind using a Super 16mm camera, however that may not be the right choice depending on your responses.

So here is my big set of questions for you guys:

Which Super 16mm (if I should even use a Super 16mm) should I shoot with?

Which film stock should I shoot on?

What are the differences between types of film stock?

I understand that there's the 'Ultra' modification to convert 4:3 to 16:9, is there any other way to do this
(2x anamorphic lenses)? Or could the gate be easily modified on my own?


Should I use light meters? If so, which ones do you recommend?

What's the best and affordable way of a HD DIY telecine?

I understand you can send in your film to get it processed and telecined, but which one is the most reliable and affordable?

How to properly light an indoor scene?

How to shoot at night (EXT and INT)?

Recommended books or websites?

__________________________________________________________________________________


As for my tastes and interests (as it could help you answer my questions more specifically):

I love Hitchcock, Welles, Nolan, and Kubrick. Film noir has always intrigued me, and I love the look of it. I guess you can say I love low-light photography and cinematography.

A modern DP that I dearly love is Wally Pfister, and I understand he shoots on film. If I asked him these questions, what would he say?

I also understand Chris Nolan shot Following with an Arriflex BL 16mm (don't know which model).


I love the community here, and I hope you guys can understand my switch to film as I think its the true magic of cinema. Thanks ahead of time for checking this post out and taking the time to respond to newbies like myself. I hope to deliver my style and form of storytelling with film. Thanks so much guys!


*do note that I own a Bell and Howell MS 30 Super 8mm (no stock)*




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There are many good answers to your questions, but let me start by giving you mine :)

 

What still film camera should I begin with? What type of film should I use? Anyway to make a cheap DIY dark room setup?


I suggest you buy as manual film camera as possible but preferably not rangefinder. Olympus OM-1 is a good camera with cheap but good optics (Zuikos). In addition to that buy an external lighting meter, possibly spot meter. Then read this: http://www.fredparker.com/ultexp1.htm

After that you'll begin to understand how exposure works: shutter speed, aperture, film speed.

 

Begin by buying some reversal film. That is slide film. While most film originating movies are these days shot on negative film, reversal film lets you learn to expose correctly. You'll see when you have exposed something correctly, and then it should be easier for you to move on to negative which is much more forgiving than reversal film. Buy this for example: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/181489-USA/Fujifilm_14883175_RDP_III_135_36_Fujichrome_Provia.html

 

If you want to you can also learn to work in a dark room. However, my suggestion is to start with slide film and process at a pro lab because then you can rule out your lab work when examining the first results. Later on you can experiment with processing color reversal film (E-6) or negative film (C-41) or doing black and white work. For building your own dark room please consult http://www.apug.org

 

Which Super 16mm (if I should even use a Super 16mm) should I shoot with?

 

If you want to buy yourself some cheap motion picture camera you'd better stay off super16 at this point. Mainly because they aren't exactly cheap even though they are a lot cheaper than say five years ago.

 

So which camera should you begin with? The question is, what features do you need. Is this a camera you want to shoot sync sound with? How long takes do you need to take with it?

 

16mm film cameras usually take two different kinds of loads: 100 feet and 400 feet. 100 feet of film is about 2½ minutes @ 24 fps. Low end cameras usually only accept 100 ft loads. Professional cameras usually have the ability to load magazines of 400 ft.

 

Regarding the sync sound, many 16mm film cameras are rather loud. In addition to that, if a camera doesn't have crystal sync motor, the speed will vary a little and might change after a while so that the picture isn't in sync with the recorded sound. Amateur cameras rarely have this feature, professional cameras usually do.

 

There are also amateur cameras which to do not have reflex viewfinder. I'd suggest you don't buy one of these even though they are cheap.

 

So which camera should you buy? Which features do you need. Here's a little list, from the cheaper end towards the more expensive professional end:

 

Cameras with reflex viewfinder and 100 ft loads, no motor (unless later installed):

Krasnogorsk-3

Bolex H16 REX-3, REX-4 (some suggest not buying older REX versions because they have so dim viewfinder)

 

Cameras with reflex viewfinder and option of 400 ft loads

Bolex H16 REX-5, SBM (400 ft loads with an external motor)

Bolex H16 EBM

Arriflex 16S, ST

 

Cameras with reflex viewfinder and option of 400 ft loads and crystal sync (blimped for more silent operation)

Arriflex 16BL

Auricons

Eclair NPR

Eclair ACL (400ft with better motor, 200ft with the first version)

Arriflex SR, 2

Aaton LTR

 

Cameras with super16

Arriflex SR3

Aaton XTR

Arriflex 416

 

Which film stock should I shoot on? What are the differences between types of film stock?

 

Black and white or color? If color, buy Vision3 negative film (available in both 100 and 400 ft lengths). There are daylight and tungsten balanced films available. The faster the stock usually more grainy it is. So if you have lots of light and shoot outside, use 50D. If you shoot inside with little light, use 500T.

 

Or, if black and white is your thing, you can shoot either neg or reversal. Kodak and ORWO both supply these films.

 

I understand that there's the 'Ultra' modification to convert 4:3 to 16:9, is there any other way to do this (2x anamorphic lenses)? Or could the gate be easily modified on my own?

 

To question number one, yes. To the second question, depends on the camera. According to some people Krasnogorsk-3 can be quite easily modified to Super16. (Just for the record: there is regular 4:3 16mm, then there is super16 (1.66) and then there is ultra16 which is set somewhere between those two (it is usually easier to modify to this format than to super16 which is the professional format).

 

Or you could also just crop the 16:9 from the 4:3 when doing telecine.

 

Should I use light meters? If so, which ones do you recommend?

 

Yes. Buy some spot meter, it'll make things easier for you.

 

What's the best and affordable way of a HD DIY telecine? I understand you can send in your film to get it processed and telecined, but which one is the most reliable and affordable?

 

Unless you wish to use your time building equipment instead of shooting, I'd suggest you to just buy the telecine service from some company. The end result will be much better and the cost won't be too bad. There are many post production companies in the US who offer discounts to students for telecine and might make quite good offers. I have only experience of Cinelicious (I live in Finland, Europe) but there are also others such as Cinelab and Alphacine and many others I just don't know about.

 

How to properly light an indoor scene?

 

Depends. What kind of mood do you want to have?

 

How to shoot at night (EXT and INT)?

 

Use fast film and have some lights at your disposal (And if you don't have the latter, get creative and shoot with a lower frame rate and have your actors move half the speed.)

 

 

Hopefully these help a bit! :)

Edited by Heikki Repo
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Welcome to the slippery slope of film. Good news is that it has NEVER been cheaper to get into film and it will rock your world once you see the quality and look you'll get if you've been in digital (love digital too but film is it's own thing.)

 

Great ideas from Heikki.

 

If you are looking to save some money, I would suggest looking at a Scoopic MS as well. It's very easy camera to load and work with and is great for run-n-gun type situations.

 

If you're serious then look at Arri SR's. They were the work horse of 16mm production for 25 years and there are lots of parts and lenses available. I just had an Arri SR1 with a French motor worked on by Arri NY! They got the thing purring like a little kitten. I use an exclamation mark because that's the first model from 1975 or so and Arri will still work on them (as well as tons of other Arri techs around the country/world.)

 

SR's are generally quiet, ROCK STEADY, can take 400 or 100' loads, and most importantly can be worked on by many people if they have issues. There are a ton of them out there and can be had for $1500 or less with a lens. These are standard 16mm and usually have good meters built in so you simply adjust the aperture on the lens until the needle is in the middle. A proper 16mm converted SR 1 or 2 would probably be in the $2500+ range. An SR3 would be just about the best Super 16mm camera you can buy for about $5500. SR3's are super quiet and I have to put my hand on the mag to know if they are running.

 

i would suggest starting with some Vision3 50D negative in 16mm, shoot outside the summer and have it processed and transferred. This company has been discussed much recently as doing great work at an honest price. www.videofilmsolutions.com.

 

PM me if you are interested in an SR, I have three now in excellent health and only need one. It would come with everything you need to start shooting (including film).

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There are many good answers to your questions, but let me start by giving you mine :)

 

 

I suggest you buy as manual film camera as possible but preferably not rangefinder. Olympus OM-1 is a good camera with cheap but good optics (Zuikos). In addition to that buy an external lighting meter, possibly spot meter. Then read this: http://www.fredparker.com/ultexp1.htm

After that you'll begin to understand how exposure works: shutter speed, aperture, film speed.

 

Begin by buying some reversal film. That is slide film. While most film originating movies are these days shot on negative film, reversal film lets you learn to expose correctly. You'll see when you have exposed something correctly, and then it should be easier for you to move on to negative which is much more forgiving than reversal film. Buy this for example: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/181489-USA/Fujifilm_14883175_RDP_III_135_36_Fujichrome_Provia.html

 

If you want to you can also learn to work in a dark room. However, my suggestion is to start with slide film and process at a pro lab because then you can rule out your lab work when examining the first results. Later on you can experiment with processing color reversal film (E-6) or negative film (C-41) or doing black and white work. For building your own dark room please consult http://www.apug.org

 

 

If you want to buy yourself some cheap motion picture camera you'd better stay off super16 at this point. Mainly because they aren't exactly cheap even though they are a lot cheaper than say five years ago.

 

So which camera should you begin with? The question is, what features do you need. Is this a camera you want to shoot sync sound with? How long takes do you need to take with it?

 

16mm film cameras usually take two different kinds of loads: 100 feet and 400 feet. 100 feet of film is about 2½ minutes @ 24 fps. Low end cameras usually only accept 100 ft loads. Professional cameras usually have the ability to load magazines of 400 ft.

 

Regarding the sync sound, many 16mm film cameras are rather loud. In addition to that, if a camera doesn't have crystal sync motor, the speed will vary a little and might change after a while so that the picture isn't in sync with the recorded sound. Amateur cameras rarely have this feature, professional cameras usually do.

 

There are also amateur cameras which to do not have reflex viewfinder. I'd suggest you don't buy one of these even though they are cheap.

 

So which camera should you buy? Which features do you need. Here's a little list, from the cheaper end towards the more expensive professional end:

 

Cameras with reflex viewfinder and 100 ft loads, no motor (unless later installed):

Krasnogorsk-3

Bolex H16 REX-3, REX-4 (some suggest not buying older REX versions because they have so dim viewfinder)

 

Cameras with reflex viewfinder and option of 400 ft loads

Bolex H16 REX-5, SBM (400 ft loads with an external motor)

Bolex H16 EBM

Arriflex 16S, ST

 

Cameras with reflex viewfinder and option of 400 ft loads and crystal sync (blimped for more silent operation)

Arriflex 16BL

Auricons

Eclair NPR

Eclair ACL (400ft with better motor, 200ft with the first version)

Arriflex SR, 2

Aaton LTR

 

Cameras with super16

Arriflex SR3

Aaton XTR

Arriflex 416

 

 

Black and white or color? If color, buy Vision3 negative film (available in both 100 and 400 ft lengths). There are daylight and tungsten balanced films available. The faster the stock usually more grainy it is. So if you have lots of light and shoot outside, use 50D. If you shoot inside with little light, use 500T.

 

Or, if black and white is your thing, you can shoot either neg or reversal. Kodak and ORWO both supply these films.

 

 

To question number one, yes. To the second question, depends on the camera. According to some people Krasnogorsk-3 can be quite easily modified to Super16. (Just for the record: there is regular 4:3 16mm, then there is super16 (1.66) and then there is ultra16 which is set somewhere between those two (it is usually easier to modify to this format than to super16 which is the professional format).

 

Or you could also just crop the 16:9 from the 4:3 when doing telecine.

 

 

Yes. Buy some spot meter, it'll make things easier for you.

 

 

Unless you wish to use your time building equipment instead of shooting, I'd suggest you to just buy the telecine service from some company. The end result will be much better and the cost won't be too bad. There are many post production companies in the US who offer discounts to students for telecine and might make quite good offers. I have only experience of Cinelicious (I live in Finland, Europe) but there are also others such as Cinelab and Alphacine and many others I just don't know about.

 

 

Depends. What kind of mood do you want to have?

 

 

Use fast film and have some lights at your disposal (And if you don't have the latter, get creative and shoot with a lower frame rate and have your actors move half the speed.)

 

 

Hopefully these help a bit! :)

 

Thanks so much for your response Heikki, it is deeply appreciated and what I was looking for.

 

I will definitely be purchasing an Olympus OM-1 (just OM-1 right, not OM-1n?) soon (want to get started as soon as possible), and will study film photography via books and the web (your links included). I'll try out the film you recommended as well. As for the spotting meter, I'm still unsure what kind (digital or older ones?) to get. I'll get the film developed through a lab, as I don't think I want to go through all the extra work to develop it myself (until my class).

 

As for the 16mm, I've been looking at some footage of each and seeing the different looks and techniques you can achieve with them. I won't be purchasing one for awhile (until I feel like I'm ready to). It seems you can achieve some beautiful things with all of them, and I guess it really comes down to the film stock and how you expose it, etc. As for sound, I'm thinking I would record sound externally. However could this lead to sync problems? If I were forced to buy a 16mm now, it may be the K-3 (with the easy modifications and affordable price), but the sync issue could be a problem. If someone handed me $2000, I would probably get the Arriflex 16BL (loved how Following looked) or the SR3. 400ft would be a plus for me.

 

I do love black and white, but it truly depends on the story if its appropriate to use or not. Once I get a 16mm, I'll definitely try out both color and BW stocks. As for the telecine, I'll definitely have it done at a lab due to what you've said.

 

As for the indoor scenes it depends on the story for the mood. It won't be for awhile until I have a 16mm, and I don't know which story idea I'll use for when the time comes, but I'll probably know what mood and lighting I want then.

 

Now when you say "use fast film", will it have that 20's silent look? And what effect does it have on night shots, less grain?

 

You're answers have definitely helped me, and like I said, I deeply appreciate them. Thanks so much Heikki for taking time to answer my newbie questions!

___________________________________________________________________

 

Will,

 

Thanks so much for your response as well, it is deeply appreciated too!

 

Thanks for the welcome, and I'm extremely excited to get started! I did check out the Scoopics, and have considered that and the K-3. I also looked at the different Arri's as well, and deeply crave them. But unfortunately, they're a little out of my budget for now (we'll see when I'm ready to start). I do add that their service for repairs and such is a very attractive quality.

 

That processing company looks great, I'll give the ones Heikki mentioned a good look as well and compare them together.

 

Thanks again Will for answering my newbie questions as well! Both of you are great!

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Guest Christopher Sheneman

Welcome to the world of real filmmaking, Will.

 

It is not easy, it will be expensive and nobody really cares but in the end, it's all that matters. Did you shoot on film? Of course- am I not a filmmaker! There will never be any doubt to the answer of that question.

 

Now would be a good time to adjust your attitude and expectations so that others might see the very real changes that are happening!

First, stop talking to people who talk and shoot digital, they are wrecking cinema and cheating their audiences. Did you ever wonder why these digital "losers" (my word) spend every waking minute talking about their favorite new camera, software, pointless lens accessories and endless coverage opportunities? Because deep down they know they are fakes and liars (my words) and that are too cheap and/or stupid and lazy to make real movies.

 

Real filmmaking is a continuous session of pain, routine humiliations and abject abandonment- the world hates you and wishes you to fail. These are the presets you cannot change. But we soldier on, because in the end, to shoot digital is to surrender to self-hatred. Nobody really wants to shoot digital.

 

You want it easy? Go to the movies, don't try to make them.

 

 

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Welcome to the world of real filmmaking, Will.

 

It is not easy, it will be expensive and nobody really cares but in the end, it's all that matters. Did you shoot on film? Of course- am I not a filmmaker! There will never be any doubt to the answer of that question.

 

Now would be a good time to adjust your attitude and expectations so that others might see the very real changes that are happening!

First, stop talking to people who talk and shoot digital, they are wrecking cinema and cheating their audiences. Did you ever wonder why these digital "losers" (my word) spend every waking minute talking about their favorite new camera, software, pointless lens accessories and endless coverage opportunities? Because deep down they know they are fakes and liars (my words) and that are too cheap and/or stupid and lazy to make real movies.

 

Real filmmaking is a continuous session of pain, routine humiliations and abject abandonment- the world hates you and wishes you to fail. These are the presets you cannot change. But we soldier on, because in the end, to shoot digital is to surrender to self-hatred. Nobody really wants to shoot digital.

 

You want it easy? Go to the movies, don't try to make them.

 

Those are strong and wise words. I understand its a very hard and painful process, and digital is the wimpy route out. I'm sick of digital and its artificialness. I'm willing to take on the multiple challenges of film, to fail; to be beaten. Even though I know there will be tons stress and frustration ahead, I'm willing to step out of my comfort zone and climb the vast mountain ahead, and over time, achieve pure beauty. I want to go through what countless of true filmmakers have gone through. I'm willing to do this.

 

Thank you for sharing your wisdom Chris, I will take this to heart.

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Guest Christopher Sheneman

If everyone could shoot 65/35/16mm they would. Digital is always the substitute, You hear them say it all the time.."Well if I could shoot film, I would." No one ever says "Well, if I could shoot digital, I would".

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if someone handed me 2000, I would not get a 16BL, check out ebay for a super 16 camera like an Arri SR or Aaton. You won't get a lens at that price, but those are an easy rental.

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Great suggestions here I don't know what more I can add, I very much agree that 'it has NEVER been cheaper to get into film', I do feel that many seem to exaggerate the costs of film and use it as an excuse not to use it. I would suggest borrow a 16nm camera if you can and try it out or buy a simple clockwork camera from the 1950's to get the feel. Even a basic, simple 16mm camera with a decent lens and modern film stock will produce amazing images, the camera doesn't need to be Super 16. I recently used an old Keystone 16mm camera from the 1950's with a Switar 25mm lens and some Fujifilm and have been amazed at the results.

 

Pav

 

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Where I began and still am is with CP16R cameras. They are a pain in the butt but I love these cameras for some reason. I think it is because I understand them and the design is pretty simple. They are the lowest cost PRO cam that can do whatever you could ever possibly want. 400' loads, crystal sync, multiple frame rates, lens mount adapters, a set of awesome primes made just for it (Ultra-T), AC adapter (which I finally have and LOVE), and enough heft that you could drop it off a building and only hurt what was underneath it.

 

I learned from Freya today that Mitchell made 1,200ft mags that work with this camera. Is there anything this cam cant do? Visual Products will convert it to S16, add a video tap to certain models, and you can even get a PL mount put on it!

 

Despite the evils and pain these cameras have caused me, I still strangely like them.

 

And I would recommend 500t stock for beginners because it is easier to stop down when you have too much light than it is to generate more light when your stock is too slow.

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Is there anything this cam cant do?

 

Register the film? :) They are great cameras, but for that one flaw (also, loop forming is pretty picky on them)

 

I will definitely be purchasing an Olympus OM-1 (just OM-1 right, not OM-1n?) soon (want to get started as soon as possible), and will study film photography via books and the web (your links included). I'll try out the film you recommended as well. As for the spotting meter, I'm still unsure what kind (digital or older ones?) to get. I'll get the film developed through a lab, as I don't think I want to go through all the extra work to develop it myself (until my class).

 

As for the 16mm, I've been looking at some footage of each and seeing the different looks and techniques you can achieve with them. I won't be purchasing one for awhile (until I feel like I'm ready to). It seems you can achieve some beautiful things with all of them, and I guess it really comes down to the film stock and how you expose it, etc. As for sound, I'm thinking I would record sound externally. However could this lead to sync problems? If I were forced to buy a 16mm now, it may be the K-3 (with the easy modifications and affordable price), but the sync issue could be a problem. If someone handed me $2000, I would probably get the Arriflex 16BL (loved how Following looked) or the SR3. 400ft would be a plus for me.

 

I do love black and white, but it truly depends on the story if its appropriate to use or not. Once I get a 16mm, I'll definitely try out both color and BW stocks. As for the telecine, I'll definitely have it done at a lab due to what you've said.

 

As for the indoor scenes it depends on the story for the mood. It won't be for awhile until I have a 16mm, and I don't know which story idea I'll use for when the time comes, but I'll probably know what mood and lighting I want then.

 

Now when you say "use fast film", will it have that 20's silent look? And what effect does it have on night shots, less grain?

 

 

The Olympus is a good choice. It's small (it's main selling point back in its day), and high quality. OM mount lenses can go on your T2 with an adapter.

 

Fast film won't have that 20's Silent film look. Most film stocks back then were really slow. You might be able to pull it off with something slower. Double-X will do a decent job. Hi-Con will have the right look, but it's hard to shoot with.

 

If you want to try your hand shooting movie film, try Super 8 first. For about $100, you can buy a cheapo camera (~$20 or so), projector or viewer (~$20 for a Bentley off ebay), a roll of film (Tri-X reversal off B&H: $17) and processing (I BELIEVE Cinelab still charges $15/roll). That won't include telecine.

 

For modern films, many B&W films are shot in color and desaturated in post (ex. The Artist). Double X is great stuff, but it does have its limits. Tri-X, I don't care for. I have yet to try ORWO UN54 or 74N.

 

An Arri 16BL was just used to shoot the sync sound pieces in Following. All the MOS scenes (most of the pretty scenes) were shot on a Bolex. Both are good cameras. If I was buying, however, I'd pass on a BL and buy an SR or SR2. Ideally one already converted to S16. A CP16R is a good choice. A Scoopic is a good choice. Most Aatons are good choices. It all depends on how important sync sound is, and other considerations.

 

Recording sound externally is tricky. But sync is overrated. ADR often has to be done regardless. It can often be freeing to not worry about it while shooting, and just do it in post.

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Register the film? :) They are great cameras, but for that one flaw (also, loop forming is pretty picky on them)

 

Funny that you think registration is necessary but you don't think crystal sync is. Many cameras still deliver quite steady images without the registration pin. Sometimes the registration pin can cause problems if not maintained right. My experience has told me that the fewer necessary parts on a film camera, the better. Hence less room for problems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recording sound externally is tricky. But sync is overrated. ADR often has to be done regardless. It can often be freeing to not worry about it while shooting, and just do it in post.

 

Sync is not overrated for 16mm with a 400' load. If you do a long take, your audio WILL drift. For S8 though, I partially agree. I shot a dialog heavy short on an Elmo 1012 that wasnt synced, kept the take short, and did head and tail slating and had ZERO problems syncing it up.

 

ADR does not always have to be done. Who said that it does? I am creating a sound stage for my next film just for the purpose of having a controlled atmosphere to do most of my shots and audio. Do you really think I will need ADR under such circumstances?

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