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Harun Güler

Removing black area from scanned 16mm footage

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Posted (edited)

Hey everyone,

I just shot a new video on 16mm film which has been scanned to a 2K Apple ProRes mov file and I was wondering how easy or difficult it is to control the dust and scratches on this scanned footage.

Especially at the right bottom corner there is a much bigger black area that kind of concerns me.
See below:

215079616_Screenshot2019-04-20at01_00.thumb.jpeg.fa4b7fd6f1daf60aeaa7479fc7bf3091.jpeg

951995143_Screenshot2019-04-20at01_02.thumb.jpeg.b707c8edd80537e43fd59ba2b6cf6d55.jpeg

Is this something that can be fixed with some kind of a plugin maybe for After Effects or DaVinci Resolve or would I just need to live it and crop the entire footage?

Looking forward to hear from you!

Best Harun.

 

Edited by Harun Güler

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Super 16mm is 1.67:1 aspect ratio, so unless you're going to deliver in 1.78:1 (standard HD aspect ratio) with black bars on the side, you're going to need to crop the image no matter what. I always crop my 16mm footage, it's just par for the course since it's not a native aspect ratio. I edit my show and then apply a zoom effect to all shots which is like 1.080 on DaVinci, so not much. That alone will help crop that bowl of dust out. The scratches and dust particles are a different story. You need the paid version of resolve to do scratch and hair removal, but it can do it. 

This is why cleanliness is the key to shooting on film. Camera gates need to be cleaned after every roll of film, no matter what. I shoot documentaries mostly, so I'm very quickly changing loads, but I always have time to get my container of air out and spray the gate really good before swapping rolls. At the end of each days shoot, I clean the gate really good. 

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14 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

This is why cleanliness is the key to shooting on film. Camera gates need to be cleaned after every roll of film, no matter what. 

In narrative work, it’s common practice to check, and if necessary, clean the gate after every good take.

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I agree and think cropping is the only thing to do here, I am not sure what software is available to remove that, especially if it's on every frame. As said there's no scratching just a dirty gate, the gate should be cleaned before and after every roll of film, as said it's all about cleanliness. I saw the film 'My week with Marylin' set in the '50's about Marylin Monroe and Lawrence Olivier where they're making the film 'The Prince and the Showgirl', the film crew seem to be c leaning the gate before every take.

Pav

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I agree with Stuart on this.  And further, the required final result, clean vs dirty, in the face of the environment, clean vs dirty, should determine how one proceeds. Having the pre-set notion of only checking the gate at a mag change is a bit perilous. Having the mental pre-set that this is how a documentary should probably be done may also be perilous.

Why not avoid the dirt and hairs in the first place rather than zooming in. Zooming in compromises the original intention of the photographer. Unless, perhaps he had no definitive intention in the first place, was just fishing around for a fuzzy possibility that an editor might later put a rectangle around for him.

White cotton gloves anybody..?

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9 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

In narrative work, it’s common practice to check, and if necessary, clean the gate after after every good take.

That is heavy duty. Had no idea. 

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Posted (edited)

Retroscan has a 'clean crop' option for saving film scans. It takes a little crop all around to fine tune the scan from ragged edges. But it wont crop what you got out.

You can get a frame by frame TIFF scan and clean up with Lightroom or Photoshop if it is that important to you. They got some crazy film restoration software that may do better, but the cost is astronomical. (from what I can tell.)

Edited by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

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You need to check the gate a lot more often than between each roll. It’s very easy to get tiny flakes of emulsion building up in the gate, even after rolling even just a few feet of film. Also, checking the gate after removing a magazine is pretty much pointless, as any dirt or emulsion that was in the gate may well have fallen out when the pressure plate was removed. Always check the gate from the lens side by removing  lens and inching the shutter out of the way. If you’re using a longish zoom, you can  check through the lens by zooming all the way in, focusing at infinity, and then shining a flashlight through the lens at the gate.

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17 hours ago, Gregg MacPherson said:

 Having the pre-set notion of only checking the gate at a mag change is a bit perilous. Having the mental pre-set that this is how a documentary should probably be done may also be perilous.

Why not avoid the dirt and hairs in the first place rather than zooming in. Zooming in compromises the original intention of the photographer. Unless, perhaps he had no definitive intention in the first place, was just fishing around for a fuzzy possibility that an editor might later put a rectangle around for him.

White cotton gloves anybody..?

Well, there is a big difference between being a hired gun and being a filmmaker. Most of the people on this forum or for that matter, people who make any visual media content, are not hired guns. They are people who make content for themselves or for other people as the role of a filmmaker; director, editor, cinematographer, etc. So when I'm talking about working on a documentary, I'm not necessarily talking about making $1500/day for 6 weeks on a doc shoot. I'm talking about making a documentary over 2 - 3 years, shooting once every few months and spending every penny on camera, lensing, film and travel. There is no money for an assistant and I also don't trust anyone with my cameras unless they know them as well as I do, which costs a lot of money. 

So here you are, your subject is doing something and you shoot until you run out of film. You turn around, take the backpack with the film in it, off your back and quickly air spray the gate, throw another mag on and continue shooting. If your subject has downtime, you're collecting B-Roll, not worrying about the gate. In fact, I generally use the same lens 12-120 zeiss when I shoot doc because it gives me the widest range to shoot with. Most of the time when I'm out shooting, I'm with the subject only. We're out in a public place that's dirty, grimy and horribly dusty as well. I've literally walked miles away from my hotel or vehicle whilst shooting. Wherever the subject goes, I need to go as well and I can't be forced to remove a lens and check a gate. I'd rather not risk getting atmospheric dust and grime onto the backside of the lens OR inside the camera. Swapping film every 10 minutes is difficult enough as it is, checking gate between takes is just overkill. 

The way work has never failed me and it never will. I setup a workshop in the hotel with my tools and after a day's worth of shooting, remove all the film from the magazines and clean everything. Blow out the mags, clean the pressure plates of the mags and of course, clean the gate/rails and even ground glass. I clean the lens, filters and then load all new film for the next day. During the day, I barely have time to do anything but talk, walk and shoot. Downtime generally consists of eating and sleeping.  I wouldn't consider changing magazines downtime as it happens so fast. 

In terms of zooming in or cropping, with super 16 it's commonplace to zoom the image so the 1.67:1 aspect ratio native image, fits into a 1.78:1 aspect ratio 16:9 HD/UHD frame. In fact, quite a few people go all the way to 1.85:1 aspect ratio 17:9  of 2k and 4k. Reframing is just something you do, it's pretty commonplace even for narrative, where I'm constantly reframing based on directors notes. 

With documentary, things happen fast and it's rare you have the time to frame perfectly. It's almost better to have a slightly wider frame then you would normally, just to insure when the subject all of a sudden does something, you can still capture it. Sometimes I'll sit down to take a break and the subject will start doing something and I start the camera with it on my lap at first and then try to get a decent frame, but it's not perfect. So I constantly screw with my framing in post, that's just part of editing. The days of capturing something and having it 1:1 in the final release are long past. 

 

 

 

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6 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

You need to check the gate a lot more often than between each roll. It’s very easy to get tiny flakes of emulsion building up in the gate, even after rolling even just a few feet of film. Also, checking the gate after removing a magazine is pretty much pointless, as any dirt or emulsion that was in the gate may well have fallen out when the pressure plate was removed. Always check the gate from the lens side by removing  lens and inching the shutter out of the way. If you’re using a longish zoom, you can  check through the lens by zooming all the way in, focusing at infinity, and then shining a flashlight through the lens at the gate.

It depends on the camera really. Some cameras are worse at collecting emulsion build due to the design then others. Hairs are absolutely an issue with static electricity and in the 16mm world, the SR"s are the worst cameras for hairs in the gate. My Aaton's don't have those issues and if you keep the gate clean before each load, it will be fine throughout the load. Heck a bunch of guys just shot a feature with it and didnt clean it at all. When I got it back, I barely had discoloration on my white cleaning tools. You have a better chance of getting unnoticeable dust on your digital imager than you do emulsion in between rolls on my Aaton's. Obviously some cameras like the Panavision Gold II, does need a lot of looking after due to the design, but we're not talking about that in this topic. 

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7 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

It depends on the camera really. Some cameras are worse at collecting emulsion build due to the design then others. Hairs are absolutely an issue with static electricity and in the 16mm world, the SR"s are the worst cameras for hairs in the gate. My Aaton's don't have those issues and if you keep the gate clean before each load, it will be fine throughout the load. Heck a bunch of guys just shot a feature with it and didnt clean it at all. When I got it back, I barely had discoloration on my white cleaning tools. You have a better chance of getting unnoticeable dust on your digital imager than you do emulsion in between rolls on my Aaton's. Obviously some cameras like the Panavision Gold II, does need a lot of looking after due to the design, but we're not talking about that in this topic. 

As you say, you mostly shoot content for yourself, so you can choose how conscientious you want to be about checking the gate. Paid work for other people is a little more exacting, and having hundreds of feet of footage needing expensive fixes because of gate hairs won’t make you popular with employers.

In narrative work, gate checks are simply part of the process. Spending a few seconds checking is much preferable to expensive reshoots. In documentary work, it’s often harder to find the time, but it should still be done as often as possible and practical.

Gate checks are not done just to give assistants something to do, they are part and parcel of ‘best practice’ when working with film. However you choose to run your own camera, it’s probably not that helpful to be telling other people that they don’t need to bother checking the gate regularly, particularly when this whole thread was started by someone complaining about gate hairs and scratches on his footage.

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14 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

As you say, you mostly shoot content for yourself, so you can choose how conscientious you want to be about checking the gate. Paid work for other people is a little more exacting, and having hundreds of feet of footage needing expensive fixes because of gate hairs won’t make you popular with employers.

In narrative work, gate checks are simply part of the process. Spending a few seconds checking is much preferable to expensive reshoots. In documentary work, it’s often harder to find the time, but it should still be done as often as possible and practical.

Gate checks are not done just to give assistants something to do, they are part and parcel of ‘best practice’ when working with film. However you choose to run your own camera, it’s probably not that helpful to be telling other people that they don’t need to bother checking the gate regularly, particularly when this whole thread was started by someone complaining about gate hairs and scratches on his footage.

Had the OP followed my guidelines before rolling, there would be no problems with that roll of film. Again, with cameras that you thread through a door like normal 35mm cameras, hairs and dirt build up are a huge problem because you have this cavernous room the film goes through, touching all sorts of rollers, bending in all crazy directions, with huge build up of static electricity due to film speed. Where I would not be worried about emulsion buildup on a 1000ft roll of film on a clean 35mm camera, I would be worried about hairs and yes there is so much down time on a narrative production, you have PLENTY of time to check the gate, even if it's between lens changes which are quite common as you well know. Again, the OP was not shooting on 35mm and I have a hunch, they didn't have a professional team of assistants to take care of the camera for them.  

Most modern 16mm cameras are either 100ft daylight spools or coaxial magazines which are mostly loaded in a room that's not associated with the camera. Thus, things like dust and debris are very easy to control and keep down. In fact, I thread the entire magazine in my changing bag so it's really impossible for any dust to get in. 16mm cameras have the benefit of having a much slower speed, so less chance of static build up. Plus, since the film routing is generally very simple, there are less rollers touching the film, less bending, less film conforming to the mechanics, thus less chance of emulsion build-up. A brand new 400ft roll of film, running through a cleaned camera, should not have a single issue and likewise, in my experience there have been nearly no issues. I did get a hair recently in the gate on a long take because I was an idiot and let the magazine with the film protector cap off, sit in a very dirty room overnight and without looking at the magazine, slapped it onto the camera. Had I just followed my own practice, it wouldn't have been there and it's a simple fix in DaVinci, so no complaints. I've had far more issues with lab staples rubbing image away three layers deep on the wind up process when it comes out of the bath. Nearly every roll of film I shoot has this issue and it's destroyed some great shots at the tail end of rolls. I've had to do some heavy duty masking/matting to fix it. 

Where I appreciate your comments, I shoot film nearly every week. I shoot super 8, 16mm, super 16 and 35mm of various kinds. I've shot what I've owned; Arri 2C, Moviecam Compact, Aaton 35III, XTR Prod, LTR, Bolex EBM, Krasnogorsk - 3, Beaulieu 4008. I've also used the Arricam ST and LT quite a bit as a friend use to own them. Cleaning the gate between rolls, keeping the movement compartment super clean between rolls and on cameras that can, threading them in the changing bag. I even load my Bolex in the changing bag after I spend 10 minutes cleaning every square mm. Remember, these are the same practices I share with my renters and ya know what, not a single one of them have had a lick of issues following them. In fact, I've personally scanned 8 of the last projects shot with my cameras, both 35mm and 16mm, there isn't even a tiny bit of build up on the gate, nothing at all. No scratches, no hairs, no dust, nothing. IF YOU CLEAN THE CAMERA BETWEEN ROLLS VERY THOROUGHLY, you won't have a lick of issues, especially with 16mm cameras. Now if you've got a beat up worn piece of junk throw away camera from a rental house, I would be concerned and probably be more careful. 

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Just to answer the question about a software fix, gate hairs are virtually impossible for software restoration systems to effectively remove. This is because most of them work by pulling pixels from surrounding frames to conceal the defect. This works great when there's one or two or even three sequential frames, but when it's constant, there's nothing for a cleanup tool to lock onto except more dirt in the same spot in other frames. 

Really the only solution here is to crop it out. 

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3 hours ago, Perry Paolantonio said:

Really the only solution here is to crop it out. 

By far the easiest solution. 

I've had pretty good luck with painting it out in After Effects. The new DaVinci does have some great tools that should solve the problem as well, but I haven't experimented yet. 

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12 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

I've had pretty good luck with painting it out in After Effects. The new DaVinci does have some great tools that should solve the problem as well, but I haven't experimented yet. 

Paint tools only work in certain situations (such as when the background is mostly solid). The issue with painting out things like this where you're not incorporating pixels from surrounding frames is that the paint operation introduces its own artifacts, which can actually be even more distracting than the defect itself. It's really easy to paint out dust or scratches using clone tools in Photoshop or similar applications, and it'll look great on a single frame. but when you put it in motion the effect is called "boiling" -- where the image is the right color and perhaps even texture, but appears to be roiling like a pot of boiling water. 

There's a reason restoration systems are both expensive and require serious horsepower - they rely on analysis of surrounding frames to create seamless fixes. Painting out persistent gate hairs in such a way that you can't see them is insanely time consuming work, if it works at all. 

The tools in Resolve will not solve this problem.

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7 hours ago, Perry Paolantonio said:

The tools in Resolve will not solve this problem.

They will not resolve the problem the OP has, no. However, lines and scratches are easy, if the image moves at all. If it doesn't, then it's more difficult, but still very doable. 

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