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Rudy Velez Jr

16mm post tips: editing,noise reduction,sharpening,color grading,etc

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I have some questions regarding the following:


I have just acquired Final Cut Pro X ( I am aware that most professionals hate this new version but it is what I have..), Adobe After Effects, and Photoshop. I shoot Regular 16mm and Super8mm. My normal procedure upon unloading my film from the camera is to take it to my local processing place - PacLab over on 2nd Ave ( N.Y.C ) then when these great folks call me I then take my film over to Greenpoint, Brooklyn (actually I get off on Vernon Jackson stop on the 7 line in Queens and walk over the Kosciszko Bridge, so it kinda of feels like Queens but I digress) and head to DiJiFi to get my film telecined. This has been my process for a couple of years now since I have been experimenting with 16mm and super8mm. When I'm there I am faced with some options and I wonder if I have been making the right choices. From what I remember, I always go for HD over SD for all my footage, I always have it output to my portable HDD and I always choose ProRes ( I think its 444) so I can edit in Final Cut Pro which I NEVER do cause I do not really know how. I come from an in camera editing school, but most of what I have shot has no narrative, basically just shooting to see if I can get "good" exposures and experimenting.


So what are some things I can do using the programs I have listed and or other programs I may not know about to make my footage (A) Sharper (B) Reduce the grain © How do I play with the color/ color grade my own footage? (D) whats the deal with compression? I was reading another recent form and found it, informative but totally at a loss when it came down to the talk about compression and resolution. Since I always opt for HD, 1080p and my doing myself a disservice? Now I am shooting REGULAR/NORMAL 16MM. So far I like my footage when I get it back from telecine but feel since I am not doing any POST work, the stuff I have shot lacks in color grading/sharpness/grain compared to other folks who have shot with my cameras but are keen on doing their own color grading/post work.


What are some good programs, tips, and tools a person can use to make the most out of their super8mm/16mm footage?



---for fun I shot some footage of my buddy placing acoustic however the camera was not crystal synced...I did shot on 24fps but I am now aware that this accurate. I also made the terrible mistake of shooting w/o a wind cover ( on my h4n) so a violent hiss appears on some of the audio. I had my friend re-record the songs in a acoustic friendly setting and now have the task of trying to sync the audio to the image. Knowing what I now know my footage will not come out in total sync but can I manage to somewhat match?












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If you are in NYC your best option is MetroPost. Jack has the LaserGraphics Director, the big brother to the ScanStation. It uses a monochrome sensor and does up to 9 flashes (3 for each color, red, green and blue). You will not beat it's dynamic range and low noise results for 16mm and 35mm. The Xena at Cinelab in MA may be just as good or better, but then you'd have to ship it.


The ScanStation at Gamma Ray Digital would also require shipping. But, it's the best option I see out there right now for Super 8, especially for 2K and low cost. They can do 16mm too and I would say go with them if you were local. But, since you're local to NYC, the Director is technically a better machine and will give better results.


Also, if you are doing fully graded output, Metropost has some fantastic colorists that do great work.


You can get your results in multiple formats ( from either Gamma Ray's ScanStation or MetroPosts' Director). For archival purposes, the best output is raw DPX image sequence files. For full control of the grade, Prores 4444 is the best way to go if you don't want to use the DPX files for storage and overhead reasons. If you are willing to accept the grade as you get it from your scan house, Prores 422 HQ is sufficient. Either way, I would say to always go 2K with your 16mm AND Super 8. Then, down-res to HD 1080p for Blu-Rays or streaming media.


Neat Video is a great plugin for noise reduction. Just go easy on it. Remember, it is film and should have grain, especially 16mm or Super 8.

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Few things...


I think you were under exposing the material and thats going to give you a flatter image over-all. I always use a spot meter when shooting film outdoors, because ambient meters won't necessarily give you the subjects proper exposure. When exposed properly, the film will have less grain in the telecine process because the operator won't have to crank up the gain to get a decent image out of it.


What stock you use also plays a huge role. The lower the ASA, the more light you need, but the less grain you'll have. A nice modern daylight 50 ASA stock will work wonders for reducing grain. Vision 3 7203 is the vision 50 ASA stock. When I was shooting 16, I made my basement a "dark room" and would load my own daylight spools out of 400ft rolls using a simple rewinder. Its important to learn these tricks up front because you will generate better quality footage from the get go.


As mentioned above, if you wish to spend some money, you can have the film "scanned" vs "telecine'd". Scanners are much higher quality then telecine's and the output files are much easier to grade because they don't insert their own color table like a telecine operator would. However, the difference in price AND time can make a lot of people walk away from scanning. Thats up to your budget and time constraints. Plus, you'd have to be up to speed on color grading material coming from a scanner. Sure they can put a LUT (look up table) on it for you, but in reality, you wanna do that stuff in your color grading tool.


Learning how to edit isn't too difficult, you should just take a basic class in FCPX and go from there. In terms of color grading, DaVinci resolve lite is made by Blackmagic Designs and its a basic "film" coloring tool which will allow you to apply proper LUT's to film you've shot. Its a complex tool, but if you can take a class and learn it, the skills will be invaluable for the future.

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Looks like DiJiFi is using film chain, projector based transfer systems. While they can be pretty good for Super 8, I think you'd be better off with a professional telecine like a Spirit or Millennium or even better, a professional scanner like a ScanStation, ArriScan or similar for your 16mm. In addition to being better quality systems, they are usually operated by talented colorists that will make your footage really look great.


You have some of the best colorists in the world in NYC so check around. You will want to talk to those people, explain you are a student and try to work out a deal because it can be very expensive, but most post houses these days are happy to help someone learn about film. If you can sit in on the session that's even better because you will learn more in one hour there then in 6 months of school.

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Hi Rudy, If you want a crisper image and less grain, start using a slower film stock 50 asa and 250. I shot my feature on 100 asa and that was a perfect stock. Too bad they don't make it anymore.

The lower the asa the higher the color saturation and less grain. Also try to rent out a better lens. Lens make a BIG difference. I'm using schnider lens from the fifties and they look great. Crisp focus and saturation. Also, veer away from paclab. I think they do a horrible job with processeing. Use Colorlab. This may cost you a little more, but you avoid having to spend tons of dollars on a colorist. Use a colorist once you are finished editing a project because you will be broke before you can edit. LOL


Below is my trailer shot on regular 16 using slow stocks and a schinder and cookes lens


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