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Jesse Hanna

16mm Film Stock - 500T - Footage Came Back Noisy, Lighting Was Poor - Not Sure what I can do.

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I shot a short film wit 500t on one location. The footage came back noisy, and I tried to fix it in post (premier) and it did what it could, but the image is now blurry and a little out of focus. It was an older 16mm non-sync camera, not super 16mm too. I'm planning on shooting another film using super16mm but don't want to make the same mistakes. 

The lighting of the room was great. We shot indoors of a banquet hall and the room had dark curtains and streaks of light coming through the windows. We metered the actor and adjusted it somewhat, and the footage is viewable, which is a plus, but it's just bland. The contrast and colors are gone and the image is boring. 

I don't know what I am doing wrong. I didn't want to push/pull stock or under/over expose the lighting as I have done this before and gotten back black footage. 

Not sure if this is lighting specific or film stock, but I thought I would ask. Any advice, tips or help would be appreciated. 

The short is below, but I'll try to upload uncorrected footage/images when I get a chance. 

 

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I was expecting worse with the title of the post. 

Had you shot with this cam/lens before? 

Who did the transfer?

How did you rate the film? 

Did you use any filter, like an 85?

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You'd have to supervise the transfer if you don't want to color-correct later, otherwise the colorist will deliver the footage on the flatter side to not crush or clip detail.  Flatter transfers are not the worst thing if you plan on color-correcting later.

When you said you metered the actor, you didn't say what you read on your meter and what you shot at.

The room is mostly lit from the windows on the left, so if you want to maximize contrast and shadows, you should be on the other side of the table favoring the windows as a 3/4 backlit angle rather on the "flat" side of the window light.

16mm 500T stock is on the grainy side. You could rate it slower if you had more light or use 200T stock, again, with more light. At some point, you just have to embrace the look of 16mm film.


 

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FWIW I like the story. It could have been fleshed out a little bit more. E.g. why was the man in the room? What was he doing before? Whom was he texting, and what did he write? Etc. Nonetheless I liked it.

As for the footage, yes, it's too soft. 16mm isn't that soft. Even Super 8 can look better than this. So the softness and focusing errors could be the fault of the camera. The weird graininess could be the lab's fault, or it could be old stock. I would have to defer to more experienced people on that one.

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Some of the softness could also just be poor lens performance. You might have shot at, say, f2.8 whereas your lenses perform best in terms of sharpness, aberration, distortion, etc. at f5.6 or higher. The only way to really find these kinds of things out is with camera/lens tests.

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Hello Everyone, thank you for replying. I'll try to respond in order. 

Phillip - I had shot on the camera before, but only black and white. The camera was a Bolex H-16, with a pretty wide lens. I don't remember what it was, except that I think(it's been a while so I don't remember) that the 16mm lens is like half the normal measurement of a traditional camera.. It was very wide, I believe less then 10mm. I believe the lens was as old as the camera. 1950's I think

Yale did the transfer and sent it over as a .mov, I did  not use any filter. 

I don't know what rate the film means. 

David - I didn't supervise the transfer, Yale just did a telecine transfer. I believe best light is the standard, although I'm not sure. 

When I metered the actor it was pretty even regardless where we shot it, even with the windows shut. I believe it was mostly between 4 and 5.6, never brighter. The scene in which the character is at the door and has a small light on his face I had to open it up all the way and I believe it was a 1.4. It was shot at 24fps, but there was no sync. ISO was 500. I've experimented with film before and decreased the iso and pushed/pulled in development and the footage came back unusable so for this I just played it safe and shot 500. 

When you say the room was shot against the windows where the light is coming from, do you mean to say that the higher concentrated areas of light will give the film stronger contrast as it has more of a dynamic range, where as shooting further away from the window the light was more spread out and even, thus the blander lighting? I am also color blind so forgive my stupidity. 

I've heard that T is generally more grainy then D, and that 16mm is going to be more grainier then Super16mm, so I'm planning on shooting 250D for the next film, but I'm not sure how practical that would be for indoor scenes. 

Karim - Thank you for the critique, the story was thought up in a day with one actor, one crew member and me on two rolls of film. We shot it in about an hour. It was mostly an experiment in footage then trying to make an actual story. 

Part of the footage reason the footage is soft is because of how grainy it was, and the only way to get rid of the grain, in premier (or after effects? dont remember) was to blur the image. I'm including some screengrabs of what the raw footage came back as. 

Carson - The lens was very old and the film was shot at 5.6 and below that so I wasn't aware that higher produced sharper image. I'm including images of the raw stills. I was hoping with the close up shot that the image would be somewhat like Gordon Willis, but instead it's just washed out and out of focus. 

I appreciate all the comments and advice everyone is giving. I've had made shorts before and had lots of technical problems so this is really helpful to me. 

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Do you have access to any lighting? 200T or 250D is fine on interiors if you light it properly. If you could get a couple of HMI's (maybe 2.5KWs) that would give you a lot more options, e.g punching though windows. It would also help you give your shots a bit more shape and contrast.

The footage naturally will look sharper if you light it in a more contrasty way. Your example footage suffers from flat available light. If you had some larger film lights, you could use the windows/blinds to cast strong shadows and put a bit more texture into the image

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Posted (edited)

Few things. 

1) Looks like you underexposed on set. The H16R needs around half a stop more light due to the loss of light in the beamsplitter (1/80th shutter). However, I don't think that's your issue, you're several stops under. I think you've got an issue with the way you're reading the meter. 

2) How old is the roll of film?  If it's either over a few years old and/or has been stored at over 75 deg F, than you'll need more light to push through a layer of fog that builds up on the emulsion over time. This makes the film look less exposed and henceforth more grainy. 

3) How long did you wait before processing? Many people don't understand that speed of processing makes a huge difference in noise floor. In my tests, film that has sat for over 3 days, even when refrigerated, starts to have a more faded image. If you wait weeks or months, the density of the image will slowly reduce, making it more noisy when you scan it in post.  

4) Light! Doesn't matter what camera you're shooting with, you still need light. When you shoot without light, in shadow, you're going to get a pretty sad image, especially if you have to push the stock in post due to underexposing. 

I hope some of that information makes sense! 

Edited by Tyler Purcell

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11 hours ago, Jesse Hanna said:

When you say the room was shot against the windows where the light is coming from, do you mean to say that the higher concentrated areas of light will give the film stronger contrast as it has more of a dynamic range, where as shooting further away from the window the light was more spread out and even, thus the blander lighting? I am also color blind so forgive my stupidity. 

 

Karim - Thank you for the critique, the story was thought up in a day with one actor, one crew member and me on two rolls of film. We shot it in about an hour. It was mostly an experiment in footage then trying to make an actual story. 

Part of the footage reason the footage is soft is because of how grainy it was, and the only way to get rid of the grain, in premier (or after effects? dont remember) was to blur the image. I'm including some screengrabs of what the raw footage came back as.

I think David meant moving the camera to the other side of the table so that your subject is either sidelit or backlit.

I checked out the raw screengrabs and sure enough, everything is soft. So I think the lens is the culprit. And in fact the grain doesn't look too bad, it's just more prominent than one would expect. So maybe you massively underexposed? Maybe the stock has expired? I wasn't there so I'm just guessing.

In a previous comment, I stated that Super 8 could look better. I should have provided some evidence! So, here are three videos to illustrate the point:

 

 

 

Just know that a lot of people have no idea how to shoot Super 8 and their footage looks like it was developed in dishwater.

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18 hours ago, Jesse Hanna said:

 Carson - The lens was very old and the film was shot at 5.6 and below that so I wasn't aware that higher produced sharper image. I'm including images of the raw stills. I was hoping with the close up shot that the image would be somewhat like Gordon Willis, but instead it's just washed out and out of focus. 

It's not that higher stops always equals a sharper image, it's that lenses have a "sweet spot" of optimal sharpness and diffraction that's usually somewhere in the middle of the aperture range. It's always a good idea to do some camera tests and find out all the unique properties of the particular combination of filters, lenses, and stock you're using.

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I mean this is all the way open (T1.3), 500t, unmetered because it was way under for most of it, even some stuff on the stage. Yet, new film, fast processing and decent scan provided by Cinelab Boston, and it came out pretty darn good. This is a 3k scan, upresed to 4k. 

 

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A sharp image in a lower resolution format is the culmination of a lot of little things -- better lens, shooting at optimal f-stop for sharpness on it, decent exposure, slowest film that is practical, lighting with enough contrast, and framing and lighting that creates some visual lines and edges.

If you are in a room where all the light is coming from one side, then shooting towards the windows in more of a backlit angle creates more shadows, more contrast, it creates more edges around objects, and it probably will get you enough exposure because you can let a face go darker if it is framed next to a bright window.

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On 10/2/2019 at 5:09 PM, Tyler Purcell said:

Few things. 

1) Looks like you underexposed on set. The H16R needs around half a stop more light due to the loss of light in the beamsplitter (1/80th shutter). However, I don't think that's your issue, you're several stops under. I think you've got an issue with the way you're reading the meter. 

2) How old is the roll of film?  If it's either over a few years old and/or has been stored at over 75 deg F, than you'll need more light to push through a layer of fog that builds up on the emulsion over time. This makes the film look less exposed and henceforth more grainy. 

3) How long did you wait before processing? Many people don't understand that speed of processing makes a huge difference in noise floor. In my tests, film that has sat for over 3 days, even when refrigerated, starts to have a more faded image. If you wait weeks or months, the density of the image will slowly reduce, making it more noisy when you scan it in post.  

4) Light! Doesn't matter what camera you're shooting with, you still need light. When you shoot without light, in shadow, you're going to get a pretty sad image, especially if you have to push the stock in post due to underexposing. 

I hope some of that information makes sense! 

The film was purchased new, directly from Kodak, but it was already expired when they sent it. I think by two years. I was told that the film still works and that it's normal to use expired film. I had the film stored for probably six months or so, so it's a good 2.5 years expired by the time I used it. The lens was pretty old as well, but was processed right after.

When you guys use HMI's or Tungsten, do you worry about the light source being so direct/bright that it doesn't fit the logic of the space? If I put HMI's outside the windows and blasted them in, I could see narratively that making sense, but if I put them inside the room, it creates such a sharp contrast that it feels out of place. I've always preferred soft boxes or bounce boards to make the lighting feel more natural. I know this is the exact opposite for what I was asking about with regards to the high contrast for this short, but generally speaking, do you use HMI's for interiors/exteriors? 

Thanks for all the comments so far. 

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On 10/3/2019 at 10:29 AM, Tyler Purcell said:

I mean this is all the way open (T1.3), 500t, unmetered because it was way under for most of it, even some stuff on the stage. Yet, new film, fast processing and decent scan provided by Cinelab Boston, and it came out pretty darn good. This is a 3k scan, upresed to 4k. 

 

The footage looks really good, I can't believe you didn't meter it and was still able to get something out of it. Also thanks for the nightmares.  

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52 minutes ago, Jesse Hanna said:

The film was purchased new, directly from Kodak, but it was already expired when they sent it. I think by two years. I was told that the film still works and that it's normal to use expired film. I had the film stored for probably six months or so, so it's a good 2.5 years expired by the time I used it.

Kodak legally can't sell film that's over 6 months old. Maybe it wasn't stored cold? 

54 minutes ago, Jesse Hanna said:

When you guys use HMI's or Tungsten, do you worry about the light source being so direct/bright that it doesn't fit the logic of the space?

Sure, but that's what makes a great DP so good. You can't tell the entire room is brighter than it normally is. There really isn't ONE trick that defines this process however. I was just on a music video shoot for a big time star and we brought in 5, M8's to light the scene. You would NEVER know it was lit watching the video tap on the camera. It looked like natural sunlight bathing the star, but it was so bright in that room, we shot 250D with an ND .9 and were still at f8. 

So yea, its all about bringing up the entire space and than adding lights to tweak. It's really not difficult, it's just very time consuming and restricting because if there are any blocking changes, quite a bit needs to be altered. 

1 hour ago, Jesse Hanna said:

I've always preferred soft boxes or bounce boards to make the lighting feel more natural. I know this is the exact opposite for what I was asking about with regards to the high contrast for this short, but generally speaking, do you use HMI's for interiors/exteriors? 

I love HMI's and yes, if I have a budget, I will use them for any "mixed light" situations. Generally if there is no sunlight (5600k), then I'll shoot tungsten lights with tungsten stock. However if there is any potential chance of sunlight, I'll go right to HMI. They of course, still need to be diffused.

In the case if your shoot, I would have blasted HMI's into he window and then replaced the light bulbs in the practicals to something a lot brighter so it looks more natural. Than for the close up shots, I would have brought in a joker through a lot of filtration for the key light for the person at the bench and at the door. 

 

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I just discovered this: Super 16, but it's another example of how 7219 can capture a lot of detail with a better lens:

The ungraded version:

 

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Yeah that looks great. I've got a lot I can do to try and improve my image for the next film. Thanks for all the comments and advice everyone. 

The footage you posted Karim doesn't look like it has any professional lighting, other then natural, and the house is just a house with plain white walls and not dressed in anyway and it looks great. Reminds me a lot of the look of 70's films, like Harold and Maude or The Long Goodbye. 

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I don't think your footage looks terribly bad. 16mm film is going to look soft if you compare it to digital specially footage from DSLRs with big sensors to begin with. When it comes to exposure I have seen a lot of people assuming that they have a perfectly serviced camera running at 24fps and a 180° shutter. Tyler already mention this, but I'll put it in a different way... If you are using a Bolex that hasn't been serviced you don't know if it's running at 24fps for real (Not a crystal sync camera anyways) so you may be losing or adding some light there.

You have to find what the shutter angle on your camera is. Shutter angle is different from one model to another. When it comes to Bolex cameras you are going to find numbers like 133, 144, 165, 170 & 190 degrees depending on the model, assuming you have a regular H16 Reflex bolexcolector.com states the camera has an actual shutter angle of 144° (1/60th) Now some people will tell you to meter at (1/80th) to compensate for the light lost on the prism. If you are assuming the camera has a 180° shutter (1/44th) you are losing a third of a stop there, if you are not compensating for the light that is lost on the prism, you are losing another third of stop there, so far you are underexposing by two thirds of a stop. Now let's say you are using lenses that are marked in F-Stops instead of T-Stops and you are not compensating for that (you typically lose another third there) you could be underexposing by a full stop at that point.

Shutter angles vary from one camera to another, the K3 has a 150°some S8 cameras have shutter angles of 220° Profesional cameras 180° for example. After considering all those factors I give film a 1/2 of a stop of compensation (overexposure) to keep grain low and to keep some info in the shadows.

Soft Image... You don't mention how you are judging focus. You may be adjusting the diopter to your eye and then focusing by eye, that's what you are supposed to do right? Well it's not a digital camera... What you see may not be exactly the same thing the camera is capturing, the Focal Flange Distance is very important and it it' not perfectly aligned you are going to get soft images, specially with wide angle lenses and small f stops. If you are sure the mount of the camera (FFD) is right on the spot then you can use a measure tape to set focus on a chart and then adjust the diopter to your eye. You can do this shoot some b&w film, process it at home and see the results. Some people will tell you to adjust the diopter at a point where you can see the "grain" on the focusing screen, but if the focusing screen is not at the right distance you are going to get soft images.

I mentioned wide angle lenses are more prone to show this problems, since this lenses project a very shallow back focus image. The viewfinder on the regular H16 is very dark, and focusing a wide angle lens on a 16mm camera is not an easy thing even with better viewing systems. You may try putting a lot light on your subject for a moment just to make sure it really is in focus, but again if you are not sure the camera is right on the spot it's going to be complicated. Are you using adapters? There are a lot of factors that you have to consider when shooting film.

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On 10/9/2019 at 4:37 PM, Ruben Arce said:

Soft Image... You don't mention how you are judging focus. You may be adjusting the diopter to your eye and then focusing by eye, that's what you are supposed to do right? Well it's not a digital camera... What you see may not be exactly the same thing the camera is capturing, the Focal Flange Distance is very important and it it' not perfectly aligned you are going to get soft images, specially with wide angle lenses and small f stops. If you are sure the mount of the camera (FFD) is right on the spot then you can use a measure tape to set focus on a chart and then adjust the diopter to your eye. You can do this shoot some b&w film, process it at home and see the results. Some people will tell you to adjust the diopter at a point where you can see the "grain" on the focusing screen, but if the focusing screen is not at the right distance you are going to get soft images.

I mentioned wide angle lenses are more prone to show this problems, since this lenses project a very shallow back focus image. The viewfinder on the regular H16 is very dark, and focusing a wide angle lens on a 16mm camera is not an easy thing even with better viewing systems. You may try putting a lot light on your subject for a moment just to make sure it really is in focus, but again if you are not sure the camera is right on the spot it's going to be complicated. Are you using adapters? There are a lot of factors that you have to consider when shooting film.

I used a tape measure to measure focal length, no adapters or filters and I used the sekonic L-398 light meter. Everyone has given me a lot of advice on what I can do, and I will try to do this when I make the next film. 

Hopefully there will be an improvement and I can show it here. Thanks again everyone .

 

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