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Old July 11th, 2009, 10:10 AM   #1
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Velvia 8mm Stock - Anyone used it?

Anyone ever used 8mm Velvia film stock?

I'm being tapped for a project as a field producer for a documentary and the exec. producer & director apparently want to use it for it's distinctive nostalgic, "trapped in time" look.

(Me, I think that the Velvia/Kodachrome look might be better done in post; because we can shoot everything on the same video stock and then decide later which shots best lend themselves to an 8mm look - as well as being able to crossfade seamlessly from "velvia" to "video" without too much trouble... while it's not my call, I'll make my case to both - but this is all digression.)

Has anyone here worked with 8mm film (or footage captured from 8mm film) in a video project? What was it like? What was the workflow?
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Old July 12th, 2009, 09:07 AM   #2
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I shot film for a number of years but mainly worked on 35mm or 16mm projects.
I never really got into 8mm, as it was considered more of a low end home movie format rather than a broadcast format, and lacked resolution when blown up to broadcast size.
As far as shooting a Doc on Super 8mm in this day and age, I sure wouldn't want the extra hassle & expense tacked on to my project.

Velvia is a color reversal stock in 50D ASA.
So you will need plenty of daylight balanced light, or an 80a filter on the lens with tungsten light, although you would loose a couple of stops using the filter.

You will also need a light meter, although some of the Super 8mm cameras had an exposure meter built in. I would sure want to double check the readings from a built-in meter in an old Super 8mm camera before using it for a shoot.

You will need to record sound separately, which brings up issues when it comes time to sync audio/video if for some reason your camera does not run at a constant speed.
Speaking of speed, Try selecting a camera that shoots at 24fps instead of 18fps.

Your shoot time will only be 2.5 Min for a 50' load at 24fps, and 3.5 Min shooting at 18fps.
So plan on changing film cartridges out every 2 1/2 minutes of shooting, which comes out to 24 rolls for an hour of video, or somewhere around $800 for stock.

There are a limited number of houses doing 8mm film transfers now, and an even smaller number that offer professional results.
You will need to have the film you shot processed, then prep'd/spliced together, cleaned, and then transfered to the medium of your choice like Mini DV or Hard Drive. Price might be somewhere around $1500 for 24 rolls.

So right off the bat you are looking at $2500 Min expense for an hour of Super 8 footage.
Compare that to the $10 expense for an hour long DV tape

I had used Velvia many times with my Bronica medium format camera years ago with spectacular results. But the grain pattern may not be what you expect from the 8mm blow-up.

Also if you are looking for a more shallow depth of field to highlight your subject, you will not get it by shooting Super 8.

If it were me, I would shoot high def with a 35mm DOF adapter if my budget were limited and my workflow needed to be quick.
Or
I would take that $2500 Super 8mm budget, and use it to rent a Red.

Like you said, that Velvia stock look can be emulated very easily in post if really needed.

I think the thing to do is ask yourself...
Do I really want to pay all that money so I can have my documentary "trapped in time"?
Or do you shoot in such a way that your documentary is timeless?


Good Luck!
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Old July 13th, 2009, 12:52 AM   #3
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Thanks.

I'm going to start a new thread soon enough on this... when I meet with the director, I'm going to talk about exactly what you described: that it's going to cost about as much to shoot 8mm as it would be to buy something like an HMC150. (We're already using a Sony V1U HDV cam.)

I really do want to talk him out of it, though I see his point.

Specifically, he wants to shoot in Cuba (yes, we'll have to get permission from the State Dept. and "Cuba Bureau de Documentarians Locos") and he wants to get a "vacation footage/pre-embargo" look for some scenes.

The arguments I can put forward is that:

* 99% of the audience won't be able to tell Velvia from Video if we do it right.
* The other 1% won't really care - they'll "get" what we're trying to show.
* We need to get the exposure EXACTLY right the first time, and since we're making a documentary, it might not be a great idea.
* I'd rather have 1 other person on the crew or a better camera for the same money.
* If the film stock goes through X-ray, it might be exposed, if you refuse to let the film-stock go through X-ray, it absolutely WILL be - when the TSA opens it searching for drugs. Film is much more delicate than HDV stock.
* We want to avoid attention from Cuban police on the street level. The more we can look like tourists, the better. 8mm cameras do not look like tourist cameras. Quite frankly, most of them look like funky Buck Rogers laser guns. We do not want to be seen with laser guns in Cuba.

I'm working on taking some of my old HV20 24p footage and making it look like Velvia film stock. Other than the fact that there's no jitter in the video (something I can add with Magic Bullet Misfire - a plugin I don't own yet) I think it comes out pretty good.

David, you've worked with Velvia, right? How does this look to you?

YouTube - velvia3
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Old July 13th, 2009, 07:38 AM   #4
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It looks over saturated in the colors with fairly high contrast.
If it were me, I would shoot/process/transfer a roll to find out if that is the look you want,
before I went out and purchased a couple grand worth of Super 8mm film stock and headed to Cuba for a shoot.
Many people have bought into the hype of Super 8mm shooting, only to be very disappointed once they viewed the results on video.
Remember the film grain gets huge when the little Super 8mm frame gets blown up to standard def size, and looks awful at HD resolution.
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Old July 13th, 2009, 08:34 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by David W. Jones View Post
It looks over saturated in the colors with fairly high contrast.
So... does that mean it looks like Velvia, or does it look more saturated than Velvia with higher contrast?

Like I said, I'm not the one who wants Super 8 Velvia footage; I'm the one trying to argue that we can do Velvia in post, and that we shouldn't bother with the pain and hassle.

The closer I can get my sample video to looking like Velvia, the better I can make my case.
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Old July 13th, 2009, 12:24 PM   #6
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Here is real Velvia super 8mm, I believe:
YouTube - Super-8 Spectra Velvia 50 at Disneyland

In my opinion, if the documentary is more than 30 seconds long, I don't think anyone will watch super8 -- it's just way too annoying.

This sounds like a perfect job for the new JVC GY-HM100. Then maybe edit with Cineform and the new First Light, and add whatever effects for whatever look you want with After Effects, Magic Bullet, Tiffen filters, etc.

Not to sound harsh, but if they want to shoot on 8mm in cuba and expect decent results, if it were me, I would convince them to shoot on video or I would leave the project. I cannot see a good result coming from this.

So far there is an executive producer, director, and you would be the field producer. Who will be shooting the film? How much experience do they have and how much experience do they have? This is an all or nothing deal, and a lot is riding on this person.

One test you can do is shoot a roll of 35mm still film in the kind of situations you anticipate. Then make some 8x10 prints at Costco, and cut out a section that would correspond with the 8mm negative. Is this the look you want?

One option is to take the 8mm camera for the nostalgic look in B roll -- but I wouldn't count on coming up with much that is usable.

And remember, even if you get great shots, perfectly exposed and color balanced on your film, the big and old x-ray machine at the airport will probably fry everything.

And Cuba is still Cuba. How much experience does the production crew have working in closed dictatorships or communist countries? A lot of things can come up that some experience can help out with.

Another thing, perhaps you have a special deal with the government, and you have a special deal that "guarantees" you will get out will all your film -- after the government has developed it for you and had a quick look. That might alter the final look you're going to get.

In reality, old-time looks go a long way in a documentary. These scenes stay with people when used sparingly. But I don't believe anyone will sit through more than a couple of minutes today.

No matter what the "look," a certain quality of sharpness is expected. The U.S. just changed to all digital TV. No one is used to seeing blurry, fuzzy pictures any more. The super 8mm is likely to be no better in the end bad Youtube. Imagine an SD transfer from 8mm upscaled on an HD home monitor. I don't think people would watch more than 10 seconds.

Anyway, not criticizing your project... just suggesting some ideas to discuss at your next meeting.

No matter what, I think a test is the first order of business. Shoot a roll of 8mm film in the kind of circumstances you anticipate, and see how it goes, remembering you are likely to get one shot at your pictures, will have limited time to setup, and everything must be done perfectly to get a reasonable result.

And check out the JVC HM100. (On the trip, you will want a second and a third camera. Perhaps the HV20, perhaps a flip camera, perhaps something in between.)
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Old July 13th, 2009, 03:02 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Jack Walker View Post
Here is real Velvia super 8mm, I believe:
YouTube - Super-8 Spectra Velvia 50 at Disneyland

In my opinion, if the documentary is more than 30 seconds long, I don't think anyone will watch super8 -- it's just way too annoying.
Actually, the Super 8 would only be used for 30 second clips, the bulk would be filmed on a Sony V1U. We may end up throwing all the Super 8 out if it doesn't work out, but I'd rather that they focus ALL their energy on getting good Sony V1U footage and THEN worry about how it's going to be presented.

Quote:
Not to sound harsh, but if they want to shoot on 8mm in cuba and expect decent results, if it were me, I would convince them to shoot on video or I would leave the project. I cannot see a good result coming from this.
Luckily, I'm not editing or post-producing, so if the director wants to shoot on Super 8 and the producer wants to shoot on Super 8, it's their money. My job is to make sure that we get the shots we need on the V1U, then, if there's time and energy and stock left, they can try for some Super 8 footage if they want to spend the money on Super 8 stock instead of, say, renting a Red, or buying a 5DM2.

Quote:
And remember, even if you get great shots, perfectly exposed and color balanced on your film, the big and old x-ray machine at the airport will probably fry everything.
Again, preaching to the choir.

Quote:
And Cuba is still Cuba. How much experience does the production crew have working in closed dictatorships or communist countries? A lot of things can come up that some experience can help out with.
Don't remind me... one of the reasons I really, REALLY, think it should be shot with either the Panasonic Lumix GH1 or Canon 5D Mark II is that those look like tourist cameras.

Quote:
In reality, old-time looks go a long way in a documentary. These scenes stay with people when used sparingly. But I don't believe anyone will sit through more than a couple of minutes today.
Mainly, if we can do that old time look in post, why bother shooting film in the first place? That's the trick though - I think I'm much more likely to convince the director that Super 8 isn't worth it if I can get the look he wants from video beforehand.

Quote:
And check out the JVC HM100. (On the trip, you will want a second and a third camera. Perhaps the HV20, perhaps a flip camera, perhaps something in between.)
We'll be taking a Sony V1U for certain, and we're likely to bring a Canon HG20 and Panasonic Lumix GH1 anyway - the latter two my personal cameras. If I can get them to ditch Super 8, we might actually rent a RED or buy a 5DM2 for the trip.
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Old July 13th, 2009, 05:25 PM   #8
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Sorry, I misunderstood your original post.

Using the 8mm sounds like a good idea for what you want.

If exposed correctly, the Velvia 50 will have nice colors. I guess you'll transfer it to digital anyway, so you can adjust it however you want.

And as you say, if you shoot the same stuff on a video camera, you can work with that instead in an emergency.
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Old July 13th, 2009, 11:20 PM   #9
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Imagine an SD transfer from 8mm upscaled on an HD home monitor. I don't think people would watch more than 10 seconds.
I have nothing of substance to offer as far as convincing this producer and director to shoot on video, but I think this thread is an appropriate place to link this clip: The power of Avisynth on Vimeo And its associated Doom9 thread: The power of Avisynth: restoring old 8mm films. - Doom9's Forum

It's a rather time consuming process, and perhaps not a practical choice for this particular project, but I think it's worth demonstrating that well treated Super 8 footage can be quite palatable.
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Old July 13th, 2009, 11:41 PM   #10
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I have nothing of substance to offer as far as convincing this producer and director to shoot on video, but I think this thread is an appropriate place to link this clip: The power of Avisynth on Vimeo And its associated Doom9 thread: The power of Avisynth: restoring old 8mm films. - Doom9's Forum

It's a rather time consuming process, and perhaps not a practical choice for this particular project, but I think it's worth demonstrating that well treated Super 8 footage can be quite palatable.
I would say you have a lot to add to the discussion. Just the transfer point of view, you make it look reasonable to shoot 8mm and use clips in a documentary.

And the restoration is quite amazing.

The film does have a much different contrast ratio and a different look than video, even with a lot of processing.

For the doc in question, I think it would be good to put together a small 8mm shooting package, and shoot some film to drop in. I would try to keep it simple with a fool proof dependable camera (even if vintage), and I would take care in transporting and storing the fresh stock and the exposed stock.

I would worry about synch sound. However, depending on how sound is recorded for the video (in camera or not), if a separate recorder is being taken (such as the Sony or similar), it would be easy to get some background sound discretely. Also, while videotaping, you can run the film camera next to it, for a bit of talking head (using the video sound), etc.
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Old July 13th, 2009, 11:47 PM   #11
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Talked to the producer; we're ditching Super 8.

:D

We'll probably be taking a Sony V1U and one, maybe two, Panasonic Lumix GH1s, and a Canon HV20 as a camera-of-last-resort.
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Old July 13th, 2009, 11:49 PM   #12
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For the record, none of that is mine; I didn't shoot the film, or have anything to do with its processing, and I didn't take part in the discussion thread on the Doom9 board. I don't even have an account over there, as many times as I've thought of signing up.

I have, however, done my fair share of noodling about with Avisynth, and would be happy to add what experience I've had--mostly upconverting DV to 720--if necessary. Brian said he wasn't editing or otherwise working on post for the documentary, however, so I don't imagine my knowledge will do any good here.

Any questions, though, don't hesitate to ask; if nothing else I can help interpret the Avisynth script used to restore the example I linked above.

Gah, sorry Brian, I missed that post while writing mine. Forget I said anything, and good luck with the shoot!
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