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Jay Young

Complete photochemical process - 16mm project

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Greetings, I've been searching this site for days trying to dig up information on the best practices of doing a photochemical project.

 

I would like to do my next project on film, start to finish. I would like to edit workprints, and learn to conform a negative. I would like to go through the process of optical audio on answer prints. I understand that in this day, it is a practice that is generally not done. I am familiar with the D.I. process and how those types of edits get back out to film, but I am less familiar with the analog side of the art.

 

If there is a book (surely?!) or other resource that could help me along, that would be welcome. Please see if my understanding so far is correct:

 

1. shoot principal on film

2. send to lab for processing

3. get one-line/timed print (this is the workprint) <-- Audio is recorded to 16mm mag stock at this point from origial source?

4. edit workprints to make a complete project

5. create internegative??

6. create answer print? I don't really understand this A/B roll thing

7. conform negative to final answer print using edgecodes

8. release print struck from conformed negative?

9. I can always have a conformed (or original for that matter) negative scanned if I want to go digital...

 

I'm sure thats wrong. But it's a start. I have access to 2 Steenbecks (16mm), 4 gang syncros, hot splice, tape splice, rewind tables. I own a 16mm projector with optical sound, but it may be mono only?

 

Finally about the cost; processing and workprints seem to be about $50 more expensive than scanning. Thats fine with me.

Am I dumb for trying to learn this stuff hands on?

 

Thanks for your help.

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Sounds like fun!

 

Yea making a film in 16mm with a photochemical finish, isn't really a good idea for the following reasons:

 

- The smaller negative degrades tremendously through the printing process.

- 16mm projection is limited to 4:3 w/sound track

- 16mm print is only mono optical, which sounds like crap

- The cost is exorbitant without garnishing a quality image

 

If I was shooting 16mm, I'd do the following..

 

- Shoot in S16 with low ASA stocks to reduce grain

- Telecine the material to digital

- Edit on Avid

- Conform the S16 negative onto A/B rolls

- Make a 35mm blow-up internegative

- Produce a dolby digital sound track master

- Strike an answer print off that combined master

- Strike a theatrical print off the answer print

 

Then you've got an EXCELLENT quality master, something that will blow the doors off a 16mm print. You've also got a widescreen aspect ratio matching the S16 source. You've got unlimited audio tools and can print a stereo optical track if you can't afford the dolby digital licensing.

 

I love editing on a steenbeck, there is nothing like it. So you could simply make 16mm work prints, edit that way then telecine the A/B negative, fix up the audio digitally and do the same workflow I mentioned above with the 35mm blowup.

 

If you really, really, really want something that will project on a home 16mm projector, that's a different story. I had a friend who spent all that money building a 16mm print for her film and never once projected it. She really regretted spending all that money and looking back, would rather have a digital cut for safe keeping. The great thing about my workflow where you edit digitally is that you can show people your movie in a decent quality without having to worry about the film aspect. In today's world, that's kind of important and scanning a finished print into a computer isn't smart, far better to scan the original A/B negative.

 

Ohh and standard photochemical workflow?

 

- Process negative

- Make 1 light work print

- Transfer Audio to mag stock

- Cut shots out of camera rolls

- Edit shots

- Take cut work print and write down keycode/frame numbers for negative cut

- Cut A/B negative

- Make internegative of A/B rolls with color timing

- Make optical audio track

- Make answer print (combines optical track and picture)

- Make theatrical print

 

The A/B roll thing is for cross dissolves and blind splices. With 35mm, you simply throw dissolves/effect shots into an optical printer and splice them into the cut negative. With 16mm, they generally don't do that, using A/B roll instead to save cost.

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Thanks for taking the time to respond in detail!

 

Let me put a little more detail:

 

I wanted to shoot 16mm and not super16 because I plan on shooting anamorphic (2x), final output to 2.66:1 - real cinemascope.

Now I realise the final product will not be able to be shown in a theatre, and I did plan on getting the final negative scanned for digital consumption.

 

The audio issues are interesting. While I would love to have stereo sound, I'm not entirely sure this particular project would be all that harmed by mono audio.

 

Blowing up to 35 would be interesting, however I don't believe there are any projectors left in my imediate area...

Well, there's two SuperSimplex e-7 Peerless MagnaArc's at the old University, but they won't let me use them because they "don't know anything about them"... wimps.

 

Anyhow, maybe shooting on film with a digital edit and release is the best option for something like this... That would sure fix the audio issues.

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Yea making a film in 16mm with a photochemical finish, isn't really a good idea for the following reasons:

- The smaller negative degrades tremendously through the printing process.

.....

- The cost is exorbitant without garnishing a quality image

If there are only a small number of exhibition prints, why not print from the original neg A, B rolls. In that case the work stream to a 16mm answer print should be quite cheap. Problems may come if he has no access to sepmag transfers and, probably most trickey of all, access to facilties for sound mix from sepmag.

 

Just saw the anamorphic thing in the latest post by Jay. Still worth me saying the above.

 

Sometimes Dirk DeJonghe jumps in. He could give a good snapshot of costs.

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If you do as much of it as you can yourself, it's not so expensive. Shooting, processing, printing.

 

Cutting the camera original (as an A/B roll) requires some bravery to do that, as there's no turning back. But that is also part of the art, or fun of it: making irreversible decisions. To say of the result:: this is the definitive work - that all other possible versions of the work are purely make believe. If only by virtue of the irreversible decisions being made..

 

Before cutting the camera original one will typically rehearse it. Whether in one's imagination, or by means of a work print cut on a steenbeck. But there comes a time when one can no longer avoid the required decisions. For better or worse decisions are locked in. One declares the film will be this way and no other way.

 

The camera original is cut.

 

Now one can certainly go down another generation (interpos/interneg) to facilitate mastering of an interneg for print production, but one can also make the A/B original the printing master. Means a lot of work each time a new print is to be made (since timings need to be reproduced each time) but it's a way of obtaining the best possible print.

 

16mm optical sound is very lo-fi (6Khz i believe), but there are hybrid systems one might entertain. Instead of printing a sound track on the film, one can print time-code on the film instead, which, during projection drives a separate sound system, be it a digital or analog one.

 

Or one might just exploit the lo-fi sound of 16mm for it's own particular qualities. Properly pre-filtered the low-fi sound can be absolutely awesome.

 

C

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Or you could just edit digitally and go back to your neg afterwards. Cutting the picture is fine, but how are you planning on handling the sound? Sure you can get the production sound on a mag track, but how about the foley, the sound track etc? All those prints add up you know.

Edited by Giray Izcan

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Whether and how much a foley process is needed will depend on what the project is. Have to say, a DIY low-fi foley sounds quite do-able, and a lot of fun.

"All those prints"...? How many is that? Which prints are we talking about? The exhibition prints.

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On Avid, one would create separate audio tracks, one for dialogue, one for music, let's say one for sound effects. It would probably be cheaper to do an MOS one light telecine than a work print and mag tracks. By the way, let me clarify, I am not much of an editor, but am just saying out of my general knowledge. In a way, I look forward to hearing from others who know more about editorial.

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If printing your sound (however you've prepared it) to the optical sound track of 16mm, just make sure to low pass filter it prior to printing. The galvanometers used in optical sound printing have a limited bandwidth so any frequencies above the bandwidth of the galvanometer will alias in the result: re-appearing as low frequencies in the result, ie. your sound will otherwise sound as if was recorded under water.

 

In most sound software there will be a low-pass filter you can select. Select 6 KHz as the upper limit. Apart from needing to filter it in this way you can also listen to any sound you've filtering in this way to give you a pretty exact idea of what the 16mm optical sound will sound like.

 

It can be quite a compelling sound. And you can tailor your sound design to fully exploit it.

 

C

Edited by Carl Looper

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I wanted to shoot 16mm and not super16 because I plan on shooting anamorphic (2x), final output to 2.66:1 - real cinemascope.

Anamorphic S16mm is a piece of cake. Hawk V-Lite 1.3x squeeze for super 16mm cameras. It delivers a 1:1 2.40:1 aspect ratio for direct 35mm blow up and anamorphic decoding. Larger the negative, the less noise you'll have within the image. Those older 2x anamorphic lenses have a nice look, but at a cost of them being slow and horrible close focus. I was going to shoot with them once, did a few tests and the quality was not there. I wound up shooting S16 and cropping to 1.85:1 which works great.

 

The audio issues are interesting. While I would love to have stereo sound, I'm not entirely sure this particular project would be all that harmed by mono audio.

It's mono and it's low-fidelity, really sounds like crap. Sound is a critical part of modern filmmaking and having hi-fi stereo sound is really important in my view. There isn't any solution for 16mm, there are solutions for 35mm, but they can't easily be adapted for 16mm, so there isn't any solution to make that better. Plus, projecting without a proper decoder lens, kinda puts a nail in the coffin.

 

Blowing up to 35 would be interesting, however I don't believe there are any projectors left in my imediate area…

Ohh there are projectors, most theaters didn't throw all of them away. You just gotta ask, I bet most theaters have at least one still hooked up and functioning, especially the smaller houses.

 

Anyhow, maybe shooting on film with a digital edit and release is the best option for something like this... That would sure fix the audio issues.

Shoot film with the intent that digital is your master. When someone likes it, spend the money to make the 35mm master negative and present it on film. It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun seeing your movie ON film.

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Two-track (stereophonic) sound records are specified by ISO 71 and ISO 7739.

 

Decide for black and white and you can do very much yourself from processing to negative conforming. Combined (image and sound) printing is better left to a lab.

 

There are lots of books but personal experience weighs more. Welcome to filmmaking!

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Mag stripe on 16mm. is pretty decent but I wouldn't know who still does it.

Or there's the option of staying on mag film and showing on a double-head projector.

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Two-track (stereophonic) sound records are specified by ISO 71 and ISO 7739.

Yep but nobody has the equipment to print that onto film and it doesn't alter the dynamic range issues. They did magnetic stereo sound as well, but it's impossible to make those tracks today. The glue necessary to stick the magnetic track onto the stock is toxic, so Kodak stopped production in the 90's. This is why Super 8 sound film doesn't exist anymore and why 70mm prints have been digital audio ONLY since around the same time.

 

35mm is the only stereo optical format around today and with Dolby A encoding, it doesn't sound too bad.

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I haven't decided if I want to actually shoot on black and white, or if I would rather shoot color and then desaturate in post. I really like the look of a good contrasty black and white film. This project would work well in black and white.

I really would like 2-channel sound, and this DTS on 16mm is an interesting option. I'm game to buy a DTS machine....roadshow anyone?

 

However maybe I should do both. Make a real 16mm print with mono audio, specially mixed by myself to get the best out of optical audio within it's limitations. I'll have to check the alignment of the photocell in my projector.

THEN, I can mix a proper 2-channel track and do a digital release with that.

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Making a b/w print from a colour original would complicate things as an intermediate would be needed, with loss of quality.

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Perhaps not, panchromatic fine grain stock is still available. It’s on a thinner colourless base, 1000 ft rolls, perf. 1-r. 3000. Keyword Gigabitfilm, PM to me

 

Also, variable density sound tracks are license free. I can set up the sound camera for such, mono. Sound negative will be $0.86 per foot.

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For hi-fi sound, including stereo, surround sound, etc, the best option would be to print timecode on the optical sound track.

 

The bandwidth of 16mm optical sound is more than enough to facilitate this.

 

During projection a sound system slaves itself to this timecode.

 

A similar system is to tap some projector shaft, mechanically converting frame count to timecode. I did this on one project and it worked just fine.

 

C

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For the optical timecode method, distribution of the film is in the form of:

 

1. the film

2. a cable for connecting projector audio out to a laptop audio in.

3. software and soundtrack

 

Venue would need projector, laptop and sound system.

 

C

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I haven't decided if I want to actually shoot on black and white, or if I would rather shoot color and then desaturate in post.

 

If you are going to shoot Film film, shoot B&W, unless there is no other option... and in that case, I'd reconsider shooting on Film film at all...

 

To me, "The Artist"(2011) had compromised tones due to shooting on color and printing for 'desaturated' B&W.

Edited by John E Clark

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For the optical timecode method, distribution of the film is in the form of:

 

1. the film

2. a cable for connecting projector audio out to a laptop audio in.

3. software and soundtrack

 

Venue would need projector, laptop and sound system.

 

C

 

How about sending out a Victrola with each print... just like in the pre-early-sync sound days... when at least one method was to supply a record to be played 'simultaneously' with the projected image...

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How about sending out a Victrola with each print... just like in the pre-early-sync sound days... when at least one method was to supply a record to be played 'simultaneously' with the projected image...

 

Absolutely. There are all sorts of options - the early days of cinema providing all the inspiration you'd ever need.

 

My favourite is having live music. This has been done quite a few times here in Australia, where an otherwise silent film is projected with live musicians providing the soundtrack. The experience is quite exceptional.

 

C

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