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Pete Raynell

First time shooting film

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Hi all, 

 I’ve had a lot of experience shooting digitally, primarily with Alexa and Red and have developed a large knowledge of this format and the nuances of digital cinematography over time.

Though I like the many attributes of film I have actually never shot on it besides the odd 35mm and 120mm stills when I was younger. I started shooting digitally at a time when film was no longer viable as an option where I live.

However It seems that there is bit of a return to film and availability of stock where I live again, and I’m getting interested in shooting on it myself. Though the thought of doing so is a little scary to me having never done so before!

 I have access to an Arri 435 or Panavision XL2 cameras, though not limited to these body’s I was considering shooting on one of them, I was also thinking of shooting on super 16 to cut my teeth.

 For the sake of the argument let’s assume I want to shoot on Kodak 500T 5219 in studio.

I do have a firm understanding of the different properties attributed to different stocks in terms of colour and grain, and how pushing and pulling can effect this. I also understand how to handle and store the film as well.

 But I do have a few questions (I’m sure some are pretty dumb! So bare with me)

 

Exposing the film:

 

I’ve found myself using my light meter less and less and exposing off my properly calibrated monitor also utilizing false colour when shooting digitally. 

 - Is this any sort of a guide to work off with the video tap on newer 35mm film cameras? Or should I solely really on my meter to expose?

 - To check my lighting and exposure one thought was to have my digital stills camera handy on set, is this a common practice?

 - How forgiving is modern film stock compared to say Alexa raw files?

 - As mentioned, when working with digital I really rely on my monitor to say slightly under expose certain parts of the image on purpose, is this something you can usually get a rough guide of off the video spilt? I imagine the split be treated as a framing guide only, (this is probably one of those dumb questions)

 

Developing and Scanning:

 - Once the film is exposed, am I correct that the needs to be processed in a lab to create the developed negative, then the negative needs to be scanned to a positive in the form of a digital file for post etc? If so,

 - Where do certain effects get applied if required? I’m assuming if I have exposed under or over on purpose in order to push or pull the stock, then this gets done in the lab developing process? And other changes that I would be used to doing in a normal digital grade get done once a digital scan is created?

 

Are there any other things you might suggest to someone with advanced knowledge of digital cinematography that would be helpful for their first time shooting with film?

Thanks,

 Pete.

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yes, you do have to get the film developed -  and the lab then can scan the resulting negatives to create  Digital files.  (often one lab will develop the film and another will do the final scan.)

 

and yes, if you do want to "push or Pull" the film, you have to make sure that the film for tose shots is on a different roll as the lab can only do Push or Pull on a roll by roll basis.  Discuss this with your lab to see how many stops they can push or Pull, and what extra costs are involved.  Normally the lab has to re-thread part of their processor or change temperatures or both to make  a push or pull, and so the fees will likely be higher, and the specially handled rolls may be delayed.

Film is generally good for a small amount of exposure error, and the general wisdom over the years is to overexpose rather than underexpose when dealing with colour negative.  As always, the closer to accurate exposure, the more latitude you have to "fix it in post".

while in the old days the lab was sometimes set up to provide sample images shown at various printer settings as part of the "daily"  images returned between shooting days.  that would again depend on the lab as to what they could supply you with the next day after the film is processed.

you might want to check out some of the textbooks on production from the pre-digital age , as current film based  production tends to be a hybrid between film and digital.

 

 

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You can't possibly rely on a video image as a reference for film exposure- you have no idea how much gain is being applied to the signal for a start. You must learn how to use a meter properly.

A DSLR may help a bit, but again the way it responds to light isn't quite the same as film.

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Film has more usable latitude in the highlights over digital. Where digital has better latitude in the blacks over film. So you can really push film hard with huge swings in the exposure and get away with it, which is nice. 

I don't think it's necessary to do any tests. There are so many great examples of digital vs film out there with comparisons on push and pulled stock, both photochemically and pushed/pulled in the scan. The expense of doing it yourself doesn't seem worthwhile, especially since you'd need to spend A LOT on the scan which is where the image is made these days. 

I would watch a few tests and then go out and shoot something for fun. I think it's better to get the experience in a narrative setting, then waste time on camera tests. Using a film camera is an entirely different beast and you can't use the monitor for anything but framing, so it requires a very different set of skills and trust with your crew, that doesn't exist in the digital world. 

 

 

 

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