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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
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Old September 25th, 2004, 10:27 PM   #1
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XL2 vs 16mm

hi,
Just needed you guys to comment on this. I can't seem to make up my mind. If you guys had to make a choice of shooting a 2 hour feature on DV or 16mm film. Which would it be?
I can shoot this feature on 16mm which would be on a very very tight budget. No frills and no means of exploiting the craft.
Or I could shoot it on the XL2 and have around 20,000$ to enhance production value.
What would you pick?

Another question that I have: When I transfer DV to Film, do I get the softness that we aspire for when we shoot film? (pardon my ignorance please)

Thanks,
Zohar.
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Old September 25th, 2004, 10:39 PM   #2
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I'd take the XL2 and $20,000. $20k goes a long way towards gear and lighting rentals (or purchases!)
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Old September 25th, 2004, 11:25 PM   #3
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I'd say it depends if 1) you have any gear of your own and 2) if you would rather buy or rent.

If I had the money, even though I love what I've seen from the XL2 so far, I'd probably go with film for my next project (short film). But I don't. I have a $15 000 CAD budget and so far almost half of it went to buy gear, an other $6000 will be used to buy the body only XL2 and the remains will be used to either rent or buy sone glass to put in front of that cam.

Have I had $10 000 extra to put on it, I would probably have chosen Super 16mm. But this is moot since I don't have that choice.

Everything else being equal, I guess your best bet would be film. However, since everything else doesn't seem to be equal in your case, I would seriously consider DV. If you shoot with film but have no cash remaining for the crew or some quality gear, what's the point?

With DV, I just love the fact that I'll be able to spend months in the editing room without additional costs (all is done on a home PC). No need to develop the film either, you can shoot as many takes as you want since you're using DV tapes and not film, you can watch your footage instantly after the take, and you can get a depth of field similar to film if you use some cine lenses and a Mini35 adapter. Plus you can use your DV gear after your project is done to make a bit of money on the side too or sell it and regain almost all your investment.

On the bad side of things, you won't get the same resolution you would with film, so expect your movie to look softer when projected on a big screen. This is a key point that needs to be considered in light of your project's specifics. If you're shooting mostly indoors with controled lighting, and storyboarded mostly close and medium shots, this won't be too much of a problem. However, if you need to shoot in places where you can't control the light, especially outdoors, and will have a contrast ratio much greater than 3:1, or if you will be shooting very wide shots (landscapes, cities) with lots of detail in your image, DV isn't the way to go.

Also, one other thing to consider if you want to blow it to film afterwards is that this operation is pretty expensive. If you need to pay for it by yourself and insist on going in that direction, it might defeat the purpose of going DV in the first place.
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Old September 26th, 2004, 01:09 AM   #4
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If you can afford it, shoot film. DV is a wonderful medium but when it comes down to costs, there are a few things you may not have thought about:
1. You still need to light it like a movie and video shows everything. Lighting for video for a feature look can actually slow your process.
2. You will encounter costs when it comes to your final viewing product. Do you want the final on film? If you want your final on Digital print, that means blowing it to HD.
3. Color correction. Whether your final is HD or film, I would highly recommend professional color correction/timing.
4. If you shoot DV, you will need to rent a lens package (I wouldn't buy, too expensive and specialized) Often, for low budget projects, you can get rental houses to rent you complete camera packages at reduced costs (believe it or not, there are lots of companies out there that will help out with expendables, short-ends, even services).
5. As good as the picture looks in the XL2 (yes I have one), film still looks better.

Good luck.
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Old September 26th, 2004, 02:11 AM   #5
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Don't forget one thing you guys....
The choices are:
16mm film
or
XL2 miniDV PLUS $20,000.

That $20,000 go go towards hiring better actors, building better sets, lighting, sound, post produciont effects, etc... These are going to make a better movie than higher picture quality.

ANd you still have to light 16mm like film too. If he doesn't have the leftover budget to light properly or hire a DP, the film is going to look like crap compared to miniDV shot properly.



<<<--"4. If you shoot DV, you will need to rent a lens package (I wouldn't buy, too expensive and specialized)"-->>>

Do you mean renting a mini35? That's a great option if there is the money for it in the $20,000 left over from choosing DV. Of course, you don't have to.
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Old September 26th, 2004, 08:27 AM   #6
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Hi,
Thanks a lot for your input guys.

Evan, You said " You still need to light it like a movie and video shows everything. Lighting for video for a feature look can actually slow your process."
--Yes I do need to light video for a feature. To be honest my knowledge is quite limited when it comes to lighting and will be relying on my DOP for that.

"You will encounter costs when it comes to your final viewing product. Do you want the final on film? If you want your final on Digital print, that means blowing it to HD."
- yes I would like the final to be on film, but that conditional to my film being picked up be a distributor.


- The good part about shooting in India is that costs are way way lower than what it costs you guys in the US. Rental is far cheaper here. I do plan to rent a lens package.

Have any of you guys used the skycrane BTW? I know I'm digressing, but am curious.

Dylan, David, Evan...thanks a lot you guys. Would love to hear from other members as well.
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Old September 26th, 2004, 08:59 AM   #7
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I am gonna throw this out there, how is the industry out there in India? Lots of smaller film investment action, or is it pretty rugged.

Back to the show.

Dean

P.S. Shoot on the Xl2. If you have a DP that knows his stuff its gonna look fantastic, and depending on the situation/tale your telling, you can really exploit the medium for all its worth.

so, my two bits -- shoot on the XL2, then double your production schedule so you are doing like 8- 12 major set-ups a day with the money you save.

Another option is to rent an HD package, down covert your footage to miniDV, offline edit on an NLE, then head back into ye old HDTV online suite and bust out your master.

signing - off
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Old September 26th, 2004, 09:21 AM   #8
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Zohar, if you will leave the transfer to film to the distributor, and have a competent DOP, then by all means, go for the XL2.

Lots of smaller advantages that add up to (IMO) overweight the resolution factor of film, especially if you don't have a big enough budget to shoot 16mm and get similar quality gear and crew to surround your camera. The DOP will be the key, as he has to know how to work around the limitations of DV (resolution, color, dynamic range, etc.).

If you plan to rent your lenses, I would suggest to find a nice set of high quality 35mm cine lenses like the Cooke S4 or Zeiss high speeds and use them with the Mini35 adapter. You will probably get fantastic results. You're lucky to be able to rent for cheap in India, take advantage of it. Here in Montreal the prices are ridiculously overblown.
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Old September 26th, 2004, 10:13 AM   #9
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> You still need to light it like a movie and video shows
> everything. Lighting for video for a feature look can
> actually slow your process.

Sorry for the OT but I just have to comment on this point which is --I think-- something much overlooked. You will see film DPs boasting about how cool they are all the time but, because of the limited lattitude of video versus film, video is actually harder to light for. Of course with video you can haul around a monitor and check the results in real time, whereas in film if you mess it up you will only know after processing and transferring, so the DP has to know what he is doing. Still, there is something to be said about people who DP for video, something usually not said: they're cool too :-)
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Old September 26th, 2004, 10:22 AM   #10
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Very true. It is more difficult to light properly for video to get the nice dramatic look you probably want. People do it every day, but it's easier in film (assuming people are experienced and know what they're doing).

The initial question is a tough call. Shooting 16mm will definitely look better. However, on a limited budget I personally don't think it's a good idea. Back in the days when I shot 16mm, film and lab costs were a lot cheaper than they are now, and I always shot at around a 5:1 ratio at least, even on tightly scripted things. Recently, though, I edited a film shot 16mm, and the director wasn't able to do the kinds of things you should do because he was so concerned with film cost. There were numerous instances where the kinds of normal cutaways you do in a scene would have saved his butt whan an action cut didn't work right.

So, my feeling is that if you have to sacrifice production values to pay for the film, it would be best to stick with video. Twenty thousand dollars can go a long way in doing things like renting HMIs when needed, dollys, jibs, etc.; but it doesn't buy all that much film and processing.
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Old September 26th, 2004, 10:46 AM   #11
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My method, for what it's worth to you...
XL2- small dedicated crew- and pull the absolute best from the actors, without the added stress of listening to the sound of limited money being gobbled up at 24 film frames per second. If you need to push the "take" count a little, no problem on XL2 - unless you have very limited schedule. In that case rehearse for six months and nail the characters down cold. XL2 most likely will allow you options in visual nuances and direction. And when the final cut is done you should be in a decent position to secure finishing to film finances, if not, 16mm film would have made no difference.
The XL2 should allow you to push as hard as necessary to attain your vision. I have never felt at ease with set number of cans of film, but then I'm not Cassavetes
All the best with your project.
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Old September 26th, 2004, 11:34 AM   #12
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Zohar, is the feature ultimately planned for output to film? Do you have distribution already in place? These are important questions. If there is a chance that you will have to include the ouptut to film in the budget, that may significantly shrink the $20K gap (actually I haven't priced the film out vs the 16 to 35 blowup, that would be a good figure to see). And since you ask about the results of doing a filmout from DV (the "softness" that occurs does not, in my mind, contribute to a film look, only to a soft look!), I would strongly recommend that you investigate the a projected DV transfer to see if you will be comfortable with the results. That alone will go a long way to answering your questions. Otherwise, it's a bit of a loaded gun to ask "should I pick a medium that costs a lot less?".

I would also, as several others here have indicated, consider HD, especially if multiples takes are a consideration (the equipment will likely cost you more in India, but the tape vs stock savings is good). Then again, I understand that most productions in India are very frugal with the number of takes anyway?
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Old September 26th, 2004, 11:53 AM   #13
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" am gonna throw this out there, how is the industry out there in India? Lots of smaller film investment action, or is it pretty rugged.

Dean,
The smaller film segment is now picking up fast. A lot of small film hitting the screens. However I have not yet come across a film made on DV and blown to screen yet.



"Another option is to rent an HD package, down covert your footage to miniDV, offline edit on an NLE, then head back into ye old HDTV online suite and bust out your master."

- But won't that result in loss of quality due to the transfer.



"The DOP will be the key, as he has to know how to work around the limitations of DV (resolution, color, dynamic range, etc.)."

- hmm....now that has playing on my mind. The DOP I am in discussion with is fantastic. I was an asst. director on 35mm feature for which he was the cinematographer. Simply Brilliant. I've not seen someone work that fast. He really creates magic on screen. I also have a good understanding with him. He's shot a bit for television before, but he hasn't specifically worked with the DV medium. I plan to do a lot of test shoots with him and can show him all the references I have in terms of the look I want to acheive. I'll have to leave the rest to him.


"You're lucky to be able to rent for cheap in India, take advantage of it. Here in Montreal the prices are ridiculously overblown."

- Yup it is pretty cheap here. For eg- for a 35 mm feature an Arri 435 Cam + Lenses + Nagra package would come to around $300.
Not bad huh?
But more than technology, its the price of labour thats really cheap out here.


- Once again thanks you guys. I now feel a lot more sure of going with DV. But now am really concerned about my DOP. LOL
-Jeez I just hope he's not a member of this forumn....oh well atleast he'd know my apprehensions.
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Old September 26th, 2004, 12:09 PM   #14
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Charles,
Yes, I am planning this feature for final output to film.
No, I do not have any distributors in place.

I myslef am longing to see a DV film blown up in the theaters. But nothing been shown in the theaters in Bombay.


"I would also, as several others here have indicated, consider HD, especially if multiples takes are a consideration (the equipment will likely cost you more in India, but the tape vs stock savings is good). Then again, I understand that most productions in India are very frugal with the number of takes anyway?"

- Actually, We have all kinds of Film-makers. Some go over board while some are cost concious. It all depends ya.
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Old September 26th, 2004, 12:37 PM   #15
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Ah. I just worked on "ER" with a couple of actors who were apparently huge stars in India (sorry, can't remember offhand--they are married, the gent had a moustache...?!). They were amazed at the number of takes we did, said they had never seen such a thing.

Having seen a number of DV to 35mm blowups, I'd have to say that it depends on what kind of movie you are making. As much as I loved "28 Days Later" and admired what was being done visually, there were certain scenes that screamed "small format video". Much of it was fantastic visually, but of course that was well-budgeted production.

I have heard from several people who are not in the industry that they were unimpressed with certain films that were shot on DV after seeing them in the theaters, even to the point of finding the look distracting.

And the opposite could easily be said.

There is obviously a balance; if you are unable to put the elements in front of the camera that will flesh out the production properly, then having a lovely film image may not be justified.

I would recommend contacting labs that performs filmouts and seeing if you can arrange a demo; perhaps they can even send you a DV-35mm loaner reel that you can screen locally.
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