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Andrea Matranga

Differential impact of Digital on Cost of Hollywood vs Location shoots

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Hi All,

this is my first posting. I am an economics researcher at Chapman University, and I am in the early stages of a research project on the impact of Digital on the creation of new filmmaking clusters.

The basic idea is that when film was the only option, it might have been a lot cheaper to shoot within easy reach of a processing facility, so you could get dailies developed overnight. If instead the shoot had to take place in the boonies of e.g. Arkansas, the director might have to wait longer to see if he got the shots he wanted or not, and meanwhile they presumably would have to keep paying for the locations, keep guarding the sets, actors available etc. My idea is that digital decreased these constraints.

Most of the comparisons I've found online of Digital versus Film costs focused on the cost of the equipment and processing itself, but seemed to assume that the shoot was taking place within easy reach of a processing facility, so these problems are not accounted for.

I would appreciate any insight you could provide on these matters, and specifically:

Big Question:

1.  Does digital make an outsize impact for lowering production costs in locations away from major film centers, specifically Hollywood?

More specifically:

2. Which cities in the US (and if you know, worldwide) can you get dailies processed overnight at Hollywood quality, today? How is this different from 20 years ago?

3. Do directors typically keep sets assembled, and cast and crew available until they have been able to verify with their own eyes that they got the shot? Would this have been a significant constraint in using film out in the boonies?

4. Would the expense (and presumably risk?) of sending dailies with couriers every day to Hollywood, or other major film center have been significant in driving up costs?

5. Did the rental cost of film equipment go down now that digital is available (presumably the existing stock of film cameras is still in working order)?

Thanks a lot!

Chapman is in Orange County, so if anybody closeby would be willing to talk about this stuff I'd love to buy them coffee! 

Best,

 

Andrea

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I can't believe that the cost of sending film to be developed was a large of the budget of a major studio production. But the cost of re-accessing locations for re-shoots could be a problem. With digital you know when you've got the shot and keep on until you have.

Btw - I think "dailies" were delivered daily, but often lagged several days.It was more a question of going to a location or re-building a set to shoot if there was a problem.

I'm not a professional, but I'd suggest that the biggest change to costs with digital is lighting. Modern sensors need a lot less of it than film.

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On 5/23/2019 at 6:40 PM, Andrea Matranga said:

5. Did the rental cost of film equipment go down now that digital is available (presumably the existing stock of film cameras is still in working order)?

 

Given how complex film cameras are and how precisely they have to work, I'd be careful about making assumptions here. They're very different beasts to 35mm stills cameras and do a very different job - think how much film they need to expose and how carefully the exposures need to be synched with the film advance. To be reliable they will need regular maintenance. And even a basic clean and lube can be $500-$2000 of skilled work:

 

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On any professional production - your main cost is cast and crew salaries, its more then half the budget.

Personel, logistics, Kit hire and locations cost similar on both film and digital shoots. 

The cost of film vs digital only really has a significance on low to micro budget productions. So sub $1million would notice the cost benefit, above that it becomes moot. The cost of a film workflow on Mission Impossible, would be dwarfed by the catering.

I do think location does play a factor e.g shooting far away from the lab. Cost would be an potential issue.

But to be honest security and damage would be a bigger issue. Productions are nervous about shipping exposed film between countries. The last Star Wars (number 8?) didn't shoot 65mm because it couldn't be processed in Europe at the time. International travel does potentially risk  x-rays etc..

For production teams that are used to getting dailies quickly, waiting on film to be sent away and getting dailies 3-4 days later would be nerve wracking and frustrating.

I imagine most large productions wouldn't want to shoot film if they were more then 24 hours from a lab. Less about cost more about speed and security.

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Posted (edited)
23 hours ago, Phil Connolly said:

The cost of a film workflow on Mission Impossible, would be dwarfed by the catering.

Unless Stanley Kubrick was shooting it... (I'm sure everyone knows his reputation for re-takes, but according to Paul Thomas Anderson, he also used very small crews. It's funny, trust me...)

..Does anyone know often Super 35 film cameras had to be serviced to be safe for production use? 20 meters of film per minute times a c. two hour production times a shooting ratio of ten to one is, what, 20km of film? Or 100km with St Stanley directing. That sounds like a lot of work for a camera.

Edited by David Mawson

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