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Samuel Berger

So the indie producer springs a change of plans: what do you do?

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Most of you here probably don't even get out of bed for less than $10,000, but those of you who do, and work on low-budget indies, can you tell me what you'd do in this situation?

 

You've shot half of your indie feature film on S16 and the producer says there's been way more takes than expected, the money is mostly gone so now you have to finish the film with an Ursa Mini 4K.

 

Do you tell him there's no way the footage could possibly match and that the film should be concluded on film when he has the money, or do you deliver crappy digital footage and hope the audience can't tell the difference, even though your name is on this thing?

 

And yes the script is good, the actors are enthused because they had a chance to work on film. It's just a matter of matching footage.

 

Do you walk? :-P

 

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Showing the 16 footage would help people answer. If the script is good and you shoot with matching in mind then matching footage won't be the end of the world.

 

Well that would have to be up to the colorist, I have no idea how to do that. I can light the thing the same way as the film part but I know it's not going to match in terms of latitude, highlights, shadows, etc...

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Is it mini 4k or 4.6k? If it's the lower dynamic range model then the entire grade will need the latitude crushed in post in one way or another. Obviously that's defeating the purpose of shooting on film but budget is budget. Matching 2 identical shots/scenes is tough. Making 2 different cameras appear to be in the same universe is a lot easier.

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I would not try to match the Ursa footage with 16mm if you need to shoot the rest on digital.

But I would rather try to create a different look for the digital scenes which is motivated by the storytelling so that there would be 2 different looks in the movie.

Audience will accept this very well if you are not intercutting the different formats within a scene but are instead creating a consistent look within the scene + ignoring the consistent look requirement in the whole movie.

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Do you tell him there's no way the footage could possibly match and that the film should be concluded on film when he has the money, or do you deliver crappy digital footage and hope the audience can't tell the difference, even though your name is on this thing?

 

You tell him that there is a good chance that the footage will not match, but if he is ok with that, then you will deliver him high quality digital footage from the Ursa Mini. That's your job, and that's why your name is on it.

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how is your post going to be for 16mm, are all the materials developed and how will you do the telecine + scanning?

the film post is typically quite expensive compare to the stock costs so you could probably arrange more 16mm days if doing the post differently with more affordable telecine and more precise selects scanning

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Is it mini 4k or 4.6k? If it's the lower dynamic range model then the entire grade will need the latitude crushed in post in one way or another. Obviously that's defeating the purpose of shooting on film but budget is budget. Matching 2 identical shots/scenes is tough. Making 2 different cameras appear to be in the same universe is a lot easier.

 

Oh no, I can't edit the post. It's 4.6K. Sorry.

 

 

I would not try to match the Ursa footage with 16mm if you need to shoot the rest on digital.

But I would rather try to create a different look for the digital scenes which is motivated by the storytelling so that there would be 2 different looks in the movie.

Audience will accept this very well if you are not intercutting the different formats within a scene but are instead creating a consistent look within the scene + ignoring the consistent look requirement in the whole movie.

 

Yeah that seems to be the consensus. In BLACK SWAN they shot some subway scenes with a DSLR. I'm not sure how they integrated the footage, I'll have to take a look, it's been a while since I've seen it. I wonder how they did it.

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You tell him that there is a good chance that the footage will not match, but if he is ok with that, then you will deliver him high quality digital footage from the Ursa Mini. That's your job, and that's why your name is on it.

 

Thanks, Stuart. It will be a challenge, that's for sure.

 

 

how is your post going to be for 16mm, are all the materials developed and how will you do the telecine + scanning?

the film post is typically quite expensive compare to the stock costs so you could probably arrange more 16mm days if doing the post differently with more affordable telecine and more precise selects scanning

 

Yeah it's the lab bills that are going to be the other issue, not just the stock. It's getting scanned at 2k for a digital finish.

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Doesn't 4.6K have like 14.5 stops? That's pretty competitive with film.

 

Black Swan is a great film because is displays the general audience isn't going to lose their mind over it, let alone notice.

 

Sometimes you need to pull yourself out of the technical nitty gritty of worries and simply test it on someone with zero cinema knowledge. Even if you tell them what to look for they still won't always notice.

 

If this is an indie picture I assume it's resulting in online distribution? Even less people will notice in that case. Not because of the audience size but their screen size.

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Personally I agree that this is a pretty awful situation and the money should be found to finish it on 16mm.

 

Still, if you're stuck with this, and you can't figure out a way to justify it looking different, this may not be a disaster situation. The Ursa Mini will almost certainly be sharper, steadier and quieter than the 16mm, and probably has reasonably competitive dynamic range. Whether they can be matched will depend on the skill of the colourist and the sort of lighting that's been employed on the 16mm parts of the shoot. It would be a very good idea to shoot some tests with the Ursa Mini and figure out what needs to be done with lighting and exposure to achieve results you can live with.

 

If you can't achieve results you can live with, walk.

 

P

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If you continue with the project, you want to match your URSA footage to the film - and your primary weapon in that should be Film Convert.

 

As for rather you're willing to walk, that is up to you. If you truly believe in the work, but also can't image working with nasty digital at all - then you're going to have to make that known to the producer. He will either say yay or nay. If it's nay, then you should do whatever your conscience tells you to do. If you refuse to work with digital at all, as it sounds like you are saying, then there is no choice but to walk away from the project. If it were me, I'd just shoot it on digital and then match it in post - which if you shoot correctly with the URSA, should not pose any problem at all. Blackmagic already has amazing, Arri-level film color science, so matching color and DR should not be an issue. Like I said, finding the same grain pattern might be a little tricky depending on how grainy the film stock was - but Film Convert includes grain scans for pretty much all major stocks.

 

Ultimately, its a bad situation all around. It's not a good time when you need to match any footage shot with other cameras. A project should retain the same format for its entirety unless there is a stylistic choice, since it makes the post process a lot harder. But as the old saying goes, 'You get what you get - take it or leave it'.

Edited by Landon D. Parks
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Thanks, guys, I'll have to think it over. At my age it's not really that easy to pick up on the latest technology, luckily I myself own an Ursa Mini 4K and it should be easy to use the 4.6K based on that. Possibly even easier.

I'll be watching BLACK SWAN again tonight to see how they dealt with the footage matching.

 

Thanks again, everyone.

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I think you need to look at the script and locations and work out if there are locations and situations that look different anyway that could be shot digitally.

 

For instance in might be possible to shoot all the night scenes on digital or alternatively to shoot scenes in some other context digitally.

 

You want to make sure that you don't end up directly intercutting the film and digital footage, so make sure that the digital footage is in new scenes. Even better if you can cut to black inbetween.

 

If you are lucky you might even be able to make the changes in look motivated in some way, for instance if there are flashbacks in the movie then the flashbacks could be shot on digital or visa versa.

 

If there are scenes that require more footage and they are already shot then it would be best if those scenes continued to be shot on film so that it is consistent and you aren't trying to match film and digital shots in the same scene which makes things even harder.

 

Good luck.

 

Freya

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Sounds like a less than ideal situation. But, if you gotta do it you gotta do it. While it would be best to finish on film (and speak with the director about this as well) if you have to go digital, what I would do is shoot it a stop or two deeper than normal (to get similar S16 DoF, if wanted) and then try to get a few feet of film, shoot it, just to get the "grain" and overlay that on the digital.

Truth be told, in today's world of D-Cinema camera, you can probably get away with that without too many people really noticing unless you told them.

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You might consider shooting the Ursa in its cropped sensor mode, which would give you something closer to 16mm depth of field, and might (might, sometimes) allow you to use the same lenses on a PL-mount Ursa. It also reduces rolling shutter issues and allows for higher frame rates. Check for coverage, obviously. This would cost you the 4k resolution, but you may not need it. You would almost certainly have enough speed to stop down to match depth of field on the full sensor, and you might reasonably choose to retain as much information as possible for later matching work, but it's an option.

 

P

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I don't think it's necessarily such a huge issue. Matching DoF, either by stopping down, or windowing the sensor, will help. Protect your highlights so that they don't clip, and you can massage a more filmic roll off from them later. In post, get a colorist who understands film primaries, how they differ from digital, and how to emulate them. Soften the image slightly. Add some grain. I think you'd be amazed how much difference just a little desaturation and a film curve can make.

 

Will it be seamless? Probably not, but cutting from 100asa film to 500asa film isn't either, and no-one seems to care about that.

 

Most of all, look on it as a challenge, rather than a disaster.

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Much appreciated, everyone. The film part is entirely Kodak 7213 200T.

I'm mostly concerned about highlights at this point.

 

The good news is that all the daylight shots and scenes in a sunny hospital are on film and so only indoors action in a bar and other interiors will need to be digital, which is okay by me as long as there is no FPN. I hear the FPN starts if you go beyond ISO 400. I was going to be lighting for 200T anyway.

 

I watched BLACK SWAN's subway scenes last night. The quality difference is jarring but made absolute sense, especially when Nina hallucinates that an old man is being suggestive towards her. The image is very soft and almost posterized. It's a good thing the whole film didn't look like that. But that was a 7D, shot some 8 years ago and makes perfect sense after the second viewing, when you understand the character's state of mind.

Edited by Samuel Berger

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I hear the FPN starts if you go beyond ISO 400. I was going to be lighting for 200T anyway.

 

Unless there is some horrible problem with BM's sensors that they haven't yet fixed, I'd be amazed if you had any trouble with FPN at any reasonable ISO.

 

Remember, the Mini is an 800asa camera. If you rate it at 200asa, you are sacrificing 2 stops of highlight handling, which is exactly what you don't want to do if you're protecting your highlights.

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Hopefully BMD have fixed the fixed pattern noise issue they have had on their sensors. I hear the 4.6K is less prone to FPN, while the original 4K (including the one still available as an URSA option) is still the king of FPN. That is one issue I have always had with BMD - why their cameras, in general, as so prone to this FPN issue.

Edited by Landon D. Parks

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the 4.6K is less prone to FPN, while the original 4K (including the one still available as an URSA option) is still the king of FPN.

 

Everything I have been able to research says the FPN problem was fixed via firmware updates in 2014/2015. Is this not the case?

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