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16mm vs HDV - Practical Advice Please!


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#1 Jeremy Lawson

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 09:44 AM

Hi guys I'd like to know what your thoughts are on this.

I'm going to be shooting my graduation film next year. My film school has recently purchased a couple of JVC HD101 cameras and but also has an old Arton and Arri SL2 16mm cameras. I'm considering whether of not to shoot on film or HDV, so here are some of the considerations with specific regards to our shoot.

1 - We get 5 x 400FT rolls of 16mm stock, but if we shoot on HDV they'll give us the money equal to the cost of the film and processing which amounts to something like £800-1000 to add to our budget.

2 - Lenses. We have a reasonable amount of prime lenses available to use for the 16mm cameras, but only the Fuji TV Zoom supplied with the JVC if we shoot HDV. However, we could use the money saved on film to hire lenses for the HDV.

3 - If we shoot using the film cameras we have to hire video assist equipment using our already stretched budget.

4 - The film cameras are old and have been bashed around by students for years.

5 - If we shoot on HDV we can do more takes and longer takes.

Can anyone make any recommendations? What do people in the industry think about the film vs digital argument and what looks better on the showreels of the DOP, the Director, and Producer?
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#2 Stephen Williams

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 10:20 AM

2 - Lenses. We have a reasonable amount of prime lenses available to use for the 16mm cameras, but only the Fuji TV Zoom supplied with the JVC if we shoot HDV. However, we could use the money saved on film to hire lenses for the HDV.

3 - If we shoot using the film cameras we have to hire video assist equipment using our already stretched budget.

Can anyone make any recommendations? What do people in the industry think about the film vs digital argument and what looks better on the showreels of the DOP, the Director, and Producer?


Hi,

I don't think you will have much choice of lenses to hire for the JVC. Its a 1/3 inch chip. The best HD lenses are for 2/3 inch chip. Even if you could get the mount the focal lenghts would be on the long side.

Good Video assist is expensive. You might be better just looking through the eyepiece and getting extra film with the money saved. I have seen people fix a mini DV camera on top of a film camera. It does not help with framing but you can see the performance.

For your show reel Film looks better. I have shoot over 2000 days digitally, and not a single shot got into my reel!

Stephen
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#3 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 10:57 AM

A lot depends on the story you're trying to tell.

From the DOP point of view film usually looks a lot better on the showreel. This is less of an issue for the director and the producer, where other things like performance become important.

You'll have to weigh up what extras you can with do with these funds. Can you hire in extra lights, a professional actor, perhaps a camera crane? On the other hand does the mood of the story require the look that shooting on film brings?

How the film is going to be screened around the festivals is another factor. I must admit that I personally usually prefer the student films shot on film, they usually stand out more from the crowd. Perhaps it's because more thought has been put into them because of their shooting ratio limitations.

You don't really need a video assist, check the shot framing down the viewfinder and then the director can sit beside the camera looking at the performances. Get feedback from the DOP or operator after each take.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 11:04 AM

Why not shoot a test and see which you prefer?

As far as the 16mm cameras being beaten-up by students, again, a short test would tell you if there's a problem.

You don't need a video assist.
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#5 Freya Black

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 11:14 AM

Why not shoot a test and see which you prefer?

As far as the 16mm cameras being beaten-up by students, again, a short test would tell you if there's a problem.

You don't need a video assist.


As far as showreels go, it has to be 16mm. You know it does. It might be seen as quite fancy to shoot HDV now, but in a few years time Hi definition camcorders will be as common as muck and people won't be at all excited by them. You will also be able to shoot on hi-def at that point easily. Probably people will be shooting home movies in HDV.

But heres a crazy idea. Could you do both? I mean make two films one with the budget on film, and then a no budget HDV film. I realise that I'm suggesting you do twice as much work, but hey, make hay while the sun shines I reckon! Of course the university might be very beauracratic and it might be very hard to borrow the cameras.

Also you could shoot a test on the HDV, but make a little short during your test?

Does the university provide lighting?
What about telecine for the film?

love

Freya
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#6 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 12:52 PM

Hi,

Yeah, uh, you're forgetting transfer, which will run you at least another £1000 at anywhere decent. If you go somewhere that isn't decent, well, you may as well have shot HDV in the first place!

I see too many student shorts wrecked by the all-overriding desire to shoot 16, meaning they have no money for anything else. Well shot video supported by at least partly-funded production design, casting and costume has the potential to look good; 16mm in a white-walled student flat with your friend's mother acting does not.

Phil
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#7 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 01:27 PM

Get a great script and good actors. Without these you're not going anywhere, it just becomes a technical exercise. Cost everything out to tell the story in the best manner you can on screen with least compromise on production values. If the numbers add up do it 16mm, if not HDV.
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#8 Tenolian Bell

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 01:27 PM

I can agree with Phil on certain circumstances.

I've shot a few student films which really should have been shot on video.

You get to a point trying to shoot on film where you have stretched your money too far, and you've been forced to cut too many corners.

I shot an New York University film for a friend of mine last year, we had nearly every kind of technical problem you could have.

We used the schools camera, which was obviously not being taken very good care of. We bought new and recanned stock. We got the cheapest student rate possible from the lab, and the cheapest telecine we could find. And got back one of the worst results I've ever seen.

One roll of film from one scene was extremely grainy. The scene was shot on 7274 200T with lots of light in the room. I don't know if the film was old, or the lab developed it in a dirty bath, or what.

One scene had an extreme flair down the side of the frame. I didn't recall the flair when we shot. So it might've been a light leak, but there are no light leaks in other shots. So I have no idea where this mysterious flair came from.

A scene we shot in an art gallery. The walls of the art gallery were entirely white. I directed all of the light into the enterior of the room, but of course the walls are going to be white no matter what. I was shooting this scene with 7246 250D. I didn't worry too much about the contrast there was no need to hold detail in the wall.

We went to telecine in some small post house deep in Burbank California that claims to only do dailies. They used really old flying spot machines. The colorist couldn't reallly do what I was tellling him to do. I would tell him to boost a color, he would turn a dial and the color would only become slightly saturated. Or deepen the blacks, he would turn a dial and the blacks would only become slightly blacker. Quite a few times I asked is that as far as you can go. He would say yes that's as far as the knob will turn.

When we got to the art gallery scene and I saw it on the monitor it just looked wrong. I don't know if this was because of the old Arri Standard prime lens or because of the old telecine. But the white walls became a soft mushy mass. I've never seen an image look like that and could not understand why it looked like that. The colorist tried to sharpen the scene. I'm not sure if its the limitation in his machine or the limitation in his skill, but he could never get it to look right.

Strangley the scenes that had more contrast with hard shafts of light came out fine. They looked perfect, exactly the way I'd planned. Some of the less daring shots that were less contrasty were the ones that had problems.

After this expereince I've decided if the production can't rent decent film lens, afford a quality lab, or a quality telecine just shoot on video.

But then I do have some video horror stories too. We can save those for another time.
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#9 Michael Collier

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 03:48 PM

If you can afford film, go with film.

I'm a huge digital advocate, but when your talking about a cheap DV cam, its not worth it. You will get good results from the camera, but if the images need tweeking you will be way to limited. I just finnished shooting a feature in HDV and I was all about it until I went to color correct. Its a nightmare, when you push things even a little too far the MPEG artifacts become painfully obvious. If you shoot straight to DV you will be fine in CC, but then you loose the resolution and you get the ultra-soft image from the blowup.

With the JVC you wont get the sharp images, even JVC admits that their lens is less than adequate (I assume this to mean the lens' resolution is less than that of the taking sensor.) You could opt for their wide angle lens (lists for $13,000 so for hire it may be within your budget) but it wont match the quality of the zeiss.

I agree you do not need a video assist. pay careful attention to what your shooting and it will work out. If your still thinking you need one, get a clamshell DV recorder or even an old VHS deck will work. give it to the director and if he needs video, he will run it himself. Everyone makes sacrifices for student projects.

But its a matter of economics. Go with film if you can reasonably afford to pay everyone needing pay, Get good filmstock (time to take the kodak guy to dinner?) and make sure your development/telecine chains are reputable.

In the end if you go with HDV, assume you get no color correction (you will get some, but dont relly on any) Make sure you check the frame, as the JVC has been known to produce a split screen effect, where half the screen is 2% darker than the other side. I have been told under most circumstances changing things in scene or re-whiteballancing will correct this. (just what JVC rep told me, who knows it may mean changing an entire shot to avoid SSE)

Also understand that it still looks like a prosumer camera, though a high res prosumer. Its possible to get pro-looking images, but that requires a close eye on the lights. Lighting for video is much harder than film (less exposure latitude means scenes can span no more than 4-5 stops, less for a prosumer to look good) so take your time and watch the monitor closely
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#10 Jeremy Lawson

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 04:43 PM

Thank you so much to everyone who's pitched in on this discussion, I can't tell you how much I appreciate the advice. I've got so much to think about now I'm going to print off all your posts and have another look through over the next few days.

Just thanks again everyone,

Stephen Williams, Brian Drysdale, David Mullen, Freya, Phil Rhodes, tenobell, and Michael Collier,

you've all given me fantastic advice and I appreciate it.


Jeremy Lawson
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#11 Ted_Oakes

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 05:22 PM

If you want to be judged for the quality of the performance you've got from your actors then tape might be better because you can shoot more. If you are more concerned with the look then in my opinion film is more beautiful. Goodluck. Ted
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#12 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 13 January 2006 - 01:15 PM

Super-16:

http://www.kodak.com...6mm/index.jhtml

Student Filmmakers:

http://www.kodak.com...ml?id=0.1&lc=en
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#13 Freya Black

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Posted 13 January 2006 - 04:24 PM

Hi,

Yeah, uh, you're forgetting transfer, which will run you at least another £1000 at anywhere decent. If you go somewhere that isn't decent, well, you may as well have shot HDV in the first place!

I see too many student shorts wrecked by the all-overriding desire to shoot 16, meaning they have no money for anything else. Well shot video supported by at least partly-funded production design, casting and costume has the potential to look good; 16mm in a white-walled student flat with your friend's mother acting does not.

Phil


Don't forget Phil, that the poster may not be based in rip off England, and so they might be able to get a high quality transfer at flying spot of seattle or some other high quality telecine place (I bet the people stateside could recommend a lot of places) and it wouldn't be that much, but it would still be a chunk of change I'm sure.

love

Freya
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#14 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 13 January 2006 - 05:16 PM

> the poster may not be based in rip off England

I'm not aware of many other places that use "£" for a currency symbol.

Phil
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