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Estimating cost for using FILM on a low budget feature???

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A friend of mine in NYC was so into the look of the actual film on my recent (still in post-prod) short that she is toying with the idea of shooting 16mm or Super16 on her third feature.


Her first was shot on a DSLR. Her second digitally (I forget which Sony, but it's a good camera and far better than any DSLR).


The subject matter and tone would benefit from a film look and she really loves the look she seen in recent 16mm productions.


She was able to shoot her last film with an average of two takes due to robust rehearsals. She is thinking a 3:1 ratio for the next feature. I told her 4:1 is more realistic.


We are talking about a romance/drama of around maybe 1hr 45 minutes. No FX. No car chases, etc. :)


So how can I help her get an estimate on what she might spend on film stock? Processing and grading?


Her budget will be around 100k if shot digitally, but she may be able to push it to 125k if she can shoot on film.


Any help in coming up with some numbers or estimates would be greatly appreciated.


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A mag a page is a good rule of thumb. That is a 400 footer. Normally that would equate into about 40k feet of film. It sounds like she could do it with 15 to 20k feet. Lots of smaller feature do shoot very low ratios, the question is, are the investors comfortable with that low of a ratio? For non action, non FX, not much dialogue material, you can shoot really low. If there is a fair amount of dialogue, you may want to shoot more.

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This is simple math which your friend could probably calculate better herself, since she knows how she works better than anyone else. Have her reference The Kodak Motion Picture Catalog and crunch the numbers. Using the numbers you provided, this is a very rough estimate:


  • Regular 16mm (color) x 400ft. = approx. 11 minutes of screen-time
  • 11 rolls of Regular 16mm (color) film x 400ft. = 121 minutes of screen-time
  • 4:1 ratio = 44 rolls of Regular 16mm (color) film x 400ft.
  • 44 rolls of Regular 16mm (color) film x 400ft. = $7,782.72

Of course, this all changes if she gets any discounts or deals, uses black & white instead of color, etc. Otherwise, I think those numbers are correct.

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I personally don't think you can shoot a narrative feature for less then a 5:1 ratio. You still need those medium and close-up coverage shots AND of course enough film to cover for flubs. The minimal ratio I'd use is 7:1 and even that is REALLY pushing it. All of my films we budget for 10:1 because it's what makes the most sense in the long run. It allows you to cover scenes in a more traditional theatrical way, making your movie look more like a professional production, rather then long takes with the occasional close-up.


I've budgeted for MANY feature films, most of them on S16 and 2 perf 35mm because they are the best bang for the buck.


For a 90 minute movie (which is a decent average) stock and processing with a 10:1 ratio is $18,700 RETAIL. So we're not talking much money at all. It's the transfer from digital to film which is the expensive part. A decent scan of all the material would cost an additional $20k. This would give you a decent 2k image to work from and you never have to touch the film again.


So all in all, doing it RIGHT would be around $38,000.

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We have run allot of S16mm indie features, typically between 50k ft and 150k ft. of film, with the scanners being faster these days a really competitive Develop. Prep and 2K scan "Package" can be put together.


Also a Develop, Prep and 1080p HD DNxHD or Prores with a selects scan can be done on a budget.

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I'd budget for a 7:1 ratio. if your conservative you can get it lower but you would have a cushion at 7:1. If it's really straight forward shoot, your not trying anything new and everything works out 5:1 is possible. 4:1 is risky. You would have to plan your cuts and shot progression ahead of time. You can save by not shooting an entire master shot, just where you know you will use it, but you'll lose alot of editing flexibility.


You can get processing and scanning to 2k for .40 cents a foot, with a bulk discount so I'd budget for


11,700 for 66 400ft rolls

10,500 for processing and transfer.

I'd add a cushion in case prices go up.


You can also buy a Super16 camera for less than a weekly rental of a professional 4k Camera rental. so you might save some cash from the digital budget that can go toward the film budget.

Edited by J. Winfield Heckert
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Actually you can get 16mm Process Paid Stock through Frame24 in the UK.




It includes:


The package includes:

1 x 400ft roll of Vision3 Negative of Your Choice.

Negative Developing

Ultra Sonic Clean & Prep For TK

Best Light Transfer to Industry Standard HD Edit Formats. (Apple Pro Res, or Avid Media compatible MXF files)

Transfer to FTP Site*, Disk or Hard Drive (hard drive not supplied by lab, can be purchased below).

Valid upto a Maximum of 20 Rolls Per Project

Post Production can be either done through Cinelab or idailies in the UK.



So if you were going to buy 66 x 400ft rolls you would pay £11500 + VAT for the 66 rolls processed and scanned, you might have to buy them through 4 companies though, I'm pretty sure that you could talk to them and get a deal for the 66 rolls though.


And once you have the final cut then you might want to do a proper 2K / 4K scan


Have a good day!

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