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-   -   advice on shooting with 16mm (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/techniques-independent-production/7909-advice-shooting-16mm.html)

Zac Stein March 21st, 2003 05:13 AM

advice on shooting with 16mm
Heya all,

Well it had to happen, (well going to) but i actually got a tiny bit of funding.

The cast and crew and everyone involved is chipping in some money, and we made some deals, and well my next very short 3 minute production is able to be shot on film.

We are trying to create a very 70's piece, and we have opted for 400iso reversal stock, to get that grainy look.

I have never shot on film before, so i guess i am asking all you pro shooters out there, any advice you can give me.

Think of me as a baby trying to walk with film, and i would rather avoid expensive mistakes.

Thanx all


Charles Papert March 21st, 2003 01:44 PM


The Eastman 7250 stock is, as you guessed, pretty grainy. It has an exposure curve not unlike digital video in that highlights will blow out fairly quickly, but it doesn't retain the shadows as well as DV. It's best to expose for the highlights and let the shadows fall where they may if you intend to retain information in the highlights, i.e. if you have a scene partly in sun and partly in shade, expose for the sun and try to fill in the shade as needed. And you will need it--just a couple of stops underexposure and you will start to lose a lot of information, so don't let your actor's faces go too far under if you want to see them!

Don't know if you are looking to emulate the gritty 70's feel of "The French Connection" or the more mainstream 70's look, but if it is the latter you may want to look at some diffusion filters of the type that were in vogue then, such as the Harrison & Harrison double fogs. They will give you the glow around windows and highlights that were popular then.

Generally, you may find that it is a whole different energy on the set if you are only used to shooting digitally where the cost of the shooting media is inconsequential. Rolling and cutting the camera becomes a much more regimented affair! I don't know how much you prepare before your shoots (shot lists, storyboards etc) but it can't hurt, especially when you are trying to limit your film expenditure.

I'm assuming you are going to transfer and finish on tape, and that you've worked out a deal with a local post house for the transfer: hopefully that includes a supervised transfer. Dialing in the look you want at this stage is very critical, especially with contrasty material. Unlike DV, where if a highlight is blown out to white it's gone forever, film will allow you to reclaim this information during the telecine (at the expense of the bottom end of the image), so it's very important to be able to give the colorist feedback at the time of the transfer.

Good luck mate!

Ken Tanaka March 21st, 2003 02:05 PM

I don't know dingle about m.p. film, but here's the Kodak tech page on the 7250 film stock Charles noted.

Perhaps it will be useful to you.

Jeff Donald March 21st, 2003 03:34 PM

Get a good light meter and learn how to use it.

Richard Alvarez March 21st, 2003 04:05 PM

Just a thought here.

If it's going to be a "three minute" production, shot on film for a "grainy" look.

You might want to think about shooting on Super 8.

Seriously, you can buy some decent cameras, or rent a really great one, and shoot super 8 film. (Pro 8 has excellent deals on negative stock with transfer included). The filmstock alone is about half the cost of 16mm, so that would double your shooting ratio on your stock budget. And shooting ration is VERY important when it comes to film. Remember, once it's exposed... it's exposed. No rewinding or re recording.

At the very least, you can "practice" shooting film, lighting, exposure and get a feel for the rythm of camera rehearsal and measuring distance. I assume you are shooting double system sound anyway. With a three minute project, you don't need to worry about crystal sync if your sound is recorded on dat or mini-disk, you can sync it in post tight enough by sight. (I assume your shots are going to be pretty short any way.)

You might just want to shoot a single test roll of super 8 anyway, just to get a feel for shooting film. I can attest to how good it looks, once it's transferred. Plenty of fun too.


Simon Plissi March 21st, 2003 05:43 PM

Just to follow on from Bill's suggestion, Super8 would also lend you that 70s feel.

You might want to check out Kodak's technical publications. They used to be available as handbooks, but now looks like they're only available online.


Zac Stein March 21st, 2003 09:25 PM

Ohh wow,

I think i should give some more details.

This short production will have no sound, infact it is a collection of situations. It would be similar to a music video, but again no synching, it is a faux promo for a television show that never existed.

A lot of shooting will be outside in the open, being winter in Melbourne, i am not sure if many of you have seen winter here, but i will mostly be shooting on flat, low contrast, white cloudy days, while not beautiful it will most likely help me keep a good response curve in my ultimate picture.

I have a spot meter here lent to me by my university, that we were going to use, with a grey card especially aimed at actors face light, to make sure we always have their faces in exposure.

The entire 3 minute production has been storyboarded, infact i have done 75 different story boards already. It will still be a run and gun exercise, but i feel confident we can get something done.
The interior shots are a bit more problematic, but again actually mostly involve interogation room lighting and so on, so we have some 500w photo flood bulbs to nicely light up the desk.

The transfer house here said they will supervise it, since in the end we are mostly only transfering around 30-40 minutes of film, so for them that is a relatively quick process.

They also offered to put it uncompressed onto a hd at 720p, 24fps, which i found to be wild. Which then i can edit offline with after effects (since there is no actual synching) at normal pal resolution, then using an edl have a HD version completed. I have never done this with after effects, but they said many people have, and infact it is a normal thing to do.

This is all still up in the air, there are some shots we want, that we are not sure we can do with the film camera, like hooking the camera to a car roof, or down on its wheel arch, using video we were simply going to gaffa a lipstick camera down, since the quick cuts would hardly reveal the loss in the quality.

Btw, the most fun thing i think we have done is secured a poop brown 1971 dodge wagon, with a huge cage in the back as the undercover police car. Oh man this thing is totally ugly, it even has as an added bonus hubcaps that go flying at any turn over 40k/h heh he.

Anyways, if this extra information helps, would be cool to get further advice.


ps. we are trying to emulate more the look of "the french connection" than the diffuse blown out this, this short is for a hard hitting cop show.

Richard Alvarez March 21st, 2003 09:42 PM

No sound... Cameras in dangerous situations...

Definately give super 8 a go. You can buy camera's so cheap, they are practically disposable.

Al Holston April 6th, 2003 10:35 PM

shooting on 16mm
I also did a short film (about 5 min finished) on 16mm using a Bolex with a zoom lens. It was great, but you need to understand lighting and contrast of the film you are shooting. Overcast days are very good, however, I came from a strong still photography. background so I understood lighting and film limits.

The Super 8 idea is a good way to "practice" with film before shooting the 16mm which is more expensive to process. Also, do what the pros, do and have a video camera going too, so you can see how your scenes will look. You can edit the viedo and use it as a guide for editing the film, a great time saver, even when you have a story boad laid out (also a very good idea, glad to hear you are using one -- most movies shot in the 30's to the 90's used them.

Several years ago, I spent a day on location with a U.S studio shooting scenes for "Father's Day", a Robin Whilliams film. We were shooting outdoors, using fill lights and reflectors. I watched the same scene being shot and reshot 10 times, had the whole thing memorized. But the next day, when I saw the "video" rushes of the prev. day shooting -- it was totally different -- from watching the shot live -- you saw exactly how it would look on the screen. Good luck. Al Holston

Michael Carter February 19th, 2005 09:52 PM

Speaking of 16mm... anyone ever played with a krasnagorsk?? Seeing them for under $200 on eBay; I keep thinking it would be fun to learn the ins & outs of 16mm stocks, processing, alt. processing, etc. Jeezs, for that kind of cash, it seems hard to go wrong. I can afford to run a few rolls of 16 for "play".

In the still-world, I still have an emotional bond to film's "organic-ness" and challenges, that I don't get from digital media... could be nice for doing artsy stuff, to cut over to "real film" for sequences of flashbacks or dreams or whatnot.

Marco Leavitt February 20th, 2005 12:04 PM

If you don't already have it, I couldn't recommend this book enough.


I also think you're getting good advice on practicing with Super 8 before spending big bucks on 16 mm film stock.

Also, http://www.cinematography.com/ is an excellent site for information on film.

Ken Plotin February 20th, 2005 01:23 PM

Kodak 7250 is shown as being discontinued on their web page.
If you are buying existing stock, make sure it's been stored properly.

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