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Patrick Cooper

16mm transfer options in Australia?

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Just wondering if anyone had any recommendations for companies who can transfer Super 16 negative film in Australia? Ive never had 16mm transferred before and I'm curious about the costs involved. I know it will be expensive but just wondering how expensive it would be. Also in Australia, there is Nanolab who can do a 4k transfer of 50 feet of Super 8 negative for AU$50 with light colour grading. I'm betting that it's probably going to be considerably more expensive to do a 4k transfer of S16?

And that brings me to a dilemma. Because of the nature of my shoots, I would only be exposing 100 feet of film at a time every once in a while. I'm guessing that a lot of transfer houses would require a minimum amount of footage for a job. I hope that some would allow 100 feet. 

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Posted (edited)

I guess one way of reducing transfer costs is to find another individual (or a bunch of people) who are also getting their footage transferred and submit them all together and split the bill. Though does that really work out much cheaper and do many people organise such  ventures? And if that went ahead (either as a group or two individuals), would the amount of colour grading and finished frame rate of the transfer preferably have to be the same for all films to keep the costs down? In other words, would everybody have to agree on the same stylised look (with regards to colour grading) and the same frame rate of the finished files (24, 25 or 29.8fps)?

Actually, that's another thing I'm curious about - the frame rate. Even though I'm discussing transfer companies based in Australia, do they offer options of other frame rates for the finished file other than the native 25fps? I also shoot stock footage and Ive been informed a few times that it's preferable to use 24fps or 29.8fps for stock videos as apparently, it's harder to convert 25fps to 29.8fps for markets that use 29.8fps natively. 

 

Edited by Patrick Cooper

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In Australia all the professional post houses got rid of their film scanners when the labs closed, all that’s left are the little companies that transfer old home movies to DVD or hard drive using whatever rig they might have, sometimes home-made, although there might be some BlackMagic scanners around. Always worth asking what a company uses, if they start going on about their custom-built machine and won’t tell you what it actually is you know it’s probably something home-made. The only pro-grade scanner I know of for commercial use in Australia is a Golden Eye II at Cameraquip in Melbourne. They also sell film, and it’s worth checking their pricing compared to other sellers.

I used to work for Cameraquip, but have no affiliation nowadays. I did get about 40 cans of 16mm transferred by Malcolm recently though (shot by my wife’s grandfather from the early 30s to the late 50s) and was very happy with the results. 
 

 

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Posted (edited)

Dom, thankyou for your reply. I didn't realise that the film situation in Australia had gotten so dire. It was only so many years ago that I was an extra on McLeods Daughters who were shooting on Super 16mm. And a similar situation being on the set of the Hey Hey It's Esther Blueberger movie (shot on 35mm.) I guess things have gone downhill since then in terms of motion picture film usage in the industry.

Thanks for the recommendation for Camerquip. I was actually considering renting a Super 16 camera from them. I see that they scan up to 2k. I was hoping for a 4k transfer but still worth asking them about pricing. Guess I could also consider transfer houses overseas. Ive also considered the option of putting together a DIY transfer setup. Though I was planning to shoot on negative film largely because of the generous exposure latitude and more film stock options. With a DIY setup, I would be worried about dust so I'd probably be forced to shoot Ektachrome instead. Reversal would probably be more expensive to shoot on in 16mm but at least I'd be saving $$ with transfers. Though bit of a downer that if I tried projecting Super 16 reversal, the sides of the picture would be cut off. Actually once at a camera market in Adelaide, I saw a 16mm projector with the words "Super 16" but that may have been in name only.

By the way, I do remember Atlab as one of the places that did motion picture film developing. I did a search for them online tonight but only came across other businesses using the same name.

Edited by Patrick Cooper

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1 hour ago, Patrick Cooper said:

Guess I could also consider transfer houses overseas. Ive also considered the option of putting together a DIY transfer setup. Though I was planning to shoot on negative film largely because of the generous exposure latitude and more film stock options. With a DIY setup, I would be worried about dust so I'd probably be forced to shoot Ektachrome instead. Reversal would probably be more expensive to shoot on in 16mm but at least I'd be saving $$ with transfers.

Overseas scanning is an option but always try to get the film developed near you so that you are only shipping developed stock overseas. That way no one can ruin you footage with x-ray scans and heat and such. 

Dust is much easier to handle in DIY scanning than excessively contrasty image like the one Ektachrome produces. I would advise making some kind of positive pressure filter system for the DIY scanner instead of trying to handle the more contrasty stock with it. Some kind of blower system which first filters the air and then directs the filtered air to the scanner enclosure so that the air flows outwards from it and no dust can dust get inside. 

I am currently making a prototype DIY scanner for 35mm, it uses still camera as a pickup and transfers the films slowly through at about 1fps or a little lower speed. This is for doing film test scans for 100ft rolls and the color negative I will still send for proper scanning if it is longer rolls

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I believe there will be a 6.5K Xena running in Australia soon if it isn't already.

I will try to find out more info.

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8 hours ago, Patrick Cooper said:

By the way, I do remember Atlab as one of the places that did motion picture film developing. I did a search for them online tonight but only came across other businesses using the same name.

US company Deluxe acquired the Australian owned Atlab and Cinevex labs in 2012, promptly shut them down, destroyed all the equipment and then shut down their last remaining lab in Australia in 2013. We haven’t had a professional “film” industry since. Thanks Deluxe!

A small lab re-opened in Sydney a few years later (Neglab) and is now the only place professionally developing 35 and 16mm neg, but it’s run by a single man who is close to retiring. It’s also too small to cater to most feature film requirements, so very few (in fact none that I’m aware of) features are shot on film here anymore.

There is a strong film culture thriving in Melbourne though, thanks to the AFW (Artist Film Workshop) and companies like Nanolab and Cameraquip. Melbourne also has the last film camera/lens tech in Australia familiar with Bolexes, Arriflexes and the like still working (me). But it’s a very DIY scene, no short ends go unused.. 🙂

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2 hours ago, Robert Houllahan said:

I believe there will be a 6.5K Xena running in Australia soon if it isn't already.

I will try to find out more info.

I’d be interested to hear more about that Rob.

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Dom, that really sounds like a grim situation here regarding film. That is crazy what Deluxe did. Sounds like they're anti-film. 

Aapo, yes I would only send developed film overseas. Even so, there's always the chance of films getting lost in international mail. Actually, there's also a high risk of items being lost in the Australia postal system as well. Ive had a number of things go missing over the years including a super 8 Kodachrome 40 film I exposed but never got to see the developed results.

Interesting idea about the air blower system. Though I wouldn't have much of an idea how to build something like that. The other things is I wouldn't be able to capture anywhere near the full dynamic range of negative film. I would be photographing the individual frames with an M4/3 digital camera. I just wouldn't be able to do the medium justice. One option could be shooting in HDR (three or more photos of each frame at different exposures and combining them) but that would be way too much time and work for hundreds of frames on a reel of film. And then there's colour grading - something that Ive never done before and don't really know how well I'd go with that. Ive seen various peoples attempts at colour grading transferred footage on youtube and the results are very mixed. Some samples look very lacking and dull while others look quite nice. I do process digital Raw photo files in Lightroom so I guess there might be some similarities to this type of work. Though the really good colourists are amazing in what they can produce.

Yea the contrasty nature of reversal film is one challenge but I think overall, it would be easier to get decent looking results with reversal than negative with a DIY transfer system. Paying careful attention to exposure and lighting during shooting should help somewhat with contrast issues.

Robert, that sounds very impressive about the 6.5k scanner. I hope that somehow large scale film production in Australia can make a comeback to utilise such resources. I guess we need some brave, adventurous people with lots of money to start up some big labs.

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15 minutes ago, Patrick Cooper said:

Interesting idea about the air blower system. Though I wouldn't have much of an idea how to build something like that. The other things is I wouldn't be able to capture anywhere near the full dynamic range of negative film. I would be photographing the individual frames with an M4/3 digital camera. I just wouldn't be able to do the medium justice. One option could be shooting in HDR (three or more photos of each frame at different exposures and combining them) but that would be way too much time and work for hundreds of frames on a reel of film. And then there's colour grading - something that Ive never done before and don't really know how well I'd go with that. Ive seen various peoples attempts at colour grading transferred footage on youtube and the results are very mixed. Some samples look very lacking and dull while others look quite nice. I do process digital Raw photo files in Lightroom so I guess there might be some similarities to this type of work. Though the really good colourists are amazing in what they can produce.

Yea the contrasty nature of reversal film is one challenge but I think overall, it would be easier to get decent looking results with reversal than negative with a DIY transfer system. Paying careful attention to exposure and lighting during shooting should help somewhat with contrast issues.

I think it would be much easier to transfer the negative. Even professional scanners have lots of trouble handling the contrast of reversal film and the results from mid range machines lack all the quality of the reversal which one sees if the image is seen in projector.

Colour grading is pretty easy to do but one will get much better in it the more one does it. The good colorists have done it daily for 20 years or more so they have incredible amount of experience and that's why they are so much better in it than the average edit guy. A beginner starts to see usable results in couple of weeks and it gets better and better all the time, you should start learning Resolve to get better in it :)

A single 100ft roll would be couple of thousand frames and you would probably first run the raw settings in single batch to them in a program most practical to you. Then you could do a prores file out of them and edit and grade that. Working with long raw stills sequences is PITA and programs like Resolve don't like them at all so it would be easiest to get the basic raw adjustments done and then convert to a video format which can be edited and finished more easily.

A diy scanner would be mostly a mechanical device with just a little bit of electronics to drive the camera's image capture and film transport. Some kind of sensor which triggers the shutter via the camera's standard remote connector. The biggest problem when doing these is that one needs machining tools because the axles and some of the rollers need to be custom made. I am doing this type of project by myself at the moment but it is not sure if a DIY scanner would be a suitable solution for you unless you are actually interested in the scanning part and manufacturing mechanical stuff and not just want to shoot and edit material. For me the motivation is that I want to be able to do the whole process by myself from start to finish so that it is much easier to shoot camera tests and documentary shorts. Developing and transferring a single 100ft b/w roll in pro lab would be prohibitively expensive compared to developing and transferring it by yourself. It is also much quicker, a couple of hours compared to couple of days. I am also interested in doing mechanical stuff and have the tools needed so it is much more for me than just shooting and editing material.

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