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Comparing HD Projection vs. 35mm


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#1 Joe Taylor

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Posted 31 December 2005 - 02:44 PM

Getting ready to get my short film, "Dead Lonesome," that I shot on 35mm ready for the festival circuit. I've been planning on having several 35mm prints made, but I've been reading that many theaters (multiplexes) will really begin projecting digitally by mid-2006.

Debatign what I should do.

Those who have seen a 35mm originated film projected in HD, (I have not) how does it compare?
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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 31 December 2005 - 03:07 PM

Getting ready to get my short film, "Dead Lonesome," that I shot on 35mm ready for the festival circuit. I've been planning on having several 35mm prints made, but I've been reading that many theaters (multiplexes) will really begin projecting digitally by mid-2006.

Debatign what I should do.

Those who have seen a 35mm originated film projected in HD, (I have not) how does it compare?


For the festival circuit I would print on 35mm, most festivals don't project HD at the moment. Chances are you'd have to send a SD tape for digital projection, so all the quality you've paid for in production by shooting on 35mm will be lost.
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#3 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 31 December 2005 - 03:31 PM

You don't need a large number of prints, 3 prints should be enough. Some shorts make do with only a couple of prints - I know one or two very successful shorts that only had two prints.

However, if you need need an extra print you can always strike another one. You can get the festivals to forward the print next festival, rather than returning it to you.
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#4 Sidney King

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Posted 31 December 2005 - 04:09 PM

It can also depend on what your objectives for the film are...keep in mind that in almost all (American) festivals, the juries/judges/critics view the films BEFOREHAND on the submission screeners (DVD, sometimes even VHS). Sometimes festivals don't even tell you about this, they just make copies of your screener and pass them around in the weeks before the festival.

Only a very few festivals (Toronto, etc...) have industry screenings in the venues prior to/apart from their regular programming. So, if jury awards/critical response is a main objective for your film, having a print will actually not help you as much as you would like (although it could potentially make a difference with audience awards, I suppose).

also, with shorts premiere status is not as big of an issue as with features, you can always see what festivals you get accepted to, and if it looks like you're going to have a good run you can decide if you want to go back to 35 for the bigger festivals down the road. Some shorts have a VERY long life on the festival circuit.

I know this may have been touched on in previous posts, but having been to a lot of festivals and talked witha lot of festival directors and programmers, I can say that virtually none of them care a great deal about exhibition format when it comes to making selections (i.e., your chances of getting accepted b/c you're able to screen a print is really no greater than if you're gong to screen a tape. I know it may seem like you'll be taken more seriously, etc..., but I've asked around a lot about this and the bottom line is, no one really cares. If they like your film, they'll program it). So I wouldn't let that be a major factor in your decision.

Of course, screening in 35 is always the ideal, but I feel your pain as far as cost goes. I would also venture to say that something originated in 35 projected from an SD tape will still look better than something originated in SD video and projected off the same format. anyone agree/disagree?
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#5 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 31 December 2005 - 05:01 PM

It can also depend on what your objectives for the film are...keep in mind that in almost all (American) festivals, the juries/judges/critics view the films BEFOREHAND on the submission screeners (DVD, sometimes even VHS). Sometimes festivals don't even tell you about this, they just make copies of your screener and pass them around in the weeks before the festival.

?


I also know some festivals where the jury views the films with the audience.
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#6 Joe Taylor

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Posted 31 December 2005 - 06:01 PM

Very good advice, everybody. I've been leaning towards film projection since I concieved the projest and bought me an Arriflex. Film projection sounds ideal to me, but I've been a little concerned since the industry began stating that even the mulitplexes would be projecting digitally very soon. For some reason I really believed what I heard this time. I know that some festivals use local commerical theatres for 35mm submissions, so naturally if that particular theatre gave up their film projectors ghost, then it would be a problem.

Further ideas are greatly appreciated.
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 31 December 2005 - 06:12 PM

I think you'll find it very limiting to have to seek out HD projection every time you want to screen the movie -- there are so many more 35mm projection facilities out there. So if a 35mm print is a financial possibility, I'd do it.
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#8 Dan Goulder

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 12:34 PM

Just curious. Does anyone know what formats are generally used when digital projection is an option? Is digibeta the most widely used, or is it one of the HD formats? If HD, which format is the most popular for projection, D5 HD, DVCPro HD, HDCAM, or what? Thanks.
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#9 K Borowski

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 02:23 PM

Even if the rumor you've heard of most festivals switching to HD in 2006 is true (which I doubt), are they then going to scrap their 35mm projectors completely? If you give them a 35mm print, I am sure they'll be happy to screen it on a 35mm projector. Of course, you can call each festival you plan on submitting to individually and find out for sure.

Regards.

Karl Borowski
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#10 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 03:05 PM

Very interesting question. The feature I did going to Sundance was shot on HD but after many test screenings in various digital theaters, we decided to make a film print. Here's why.

All the theaters were calibrated but there were differences in the colors, gamma, and 'density' that the directors and I felt was very noticable. We also knew that having an HD only master limited us to festivals and theaters at festivals with digital projection. Some festivals bring in semi-portable projectors and set them up on their own and most of them won't project HD...they'll want digibeta at best. What really pushed us over the edge was that Sundance indicated that we would get better theaters if we had a print since all have 35mm, not all have digital.

So there you have it. We were in the opposite scenario to you but those were the factors in our decision.
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#11 Michael Ryan

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 04:08 PM

Hello HCF,

You said you read that by mid-2006 many cinemas will be switching over to digital screens....hmmmm.

I've done a fair bit of research into this subject for an article that I'm writing and I would bet that the
source of your information is one of the big compaines that is MAKING the digital screens for sale.

Actually, there is a reason why you probably WON'T see digital screens anytime soon (except for larger markets and "showplace" cinemas). The reason is simple...it's the BOTTOM LINE. (as in, "show me the money") A digital screen benefits the big Hollywood studios and has almost no benefit for the movie theater owner. So the economics are really against the Lucus group.

Most modern movie projectors cost around 20,000 and need about a 1,000 dollars or so upkeep per year. Digital screens cost 100,000 dollars and are really like a big computer...and we all know what happens to complicated computers. Your local Bijou is going to have to invest in an IT department to keep it running and the upkeep will be well beyond 1,000 dollars. If you stood before a meeting of NATO (National Association of Thearter Owners) and you talked about digital screens you would most likely get booed off the stage.

Most people are not aware of this, but the movie theater makes almost no money off the movie ( and for some directors like Spielberg almost all of your ticket price goes to the studio), they make their money of popcorn, candy and soft drinks.

So if I'm a theater owner and I'm watching the crowds declining over the last two years and I'm having a hard time making a go of it, what is my motivation to switch from my perfectly good film projector and spend 100,000 dollars (that I don't really have) and how is this going to benefit me? You see, almost all the benefit is for the studios as they don't have to make tons of 35mm prints which are farily costly.

Unless you see the studios kicking in some big bucks to the theater owners (you can laugh here) you won't see digital cinema replacing film projection anytime soon. That's not to say it won't grow and you will see more of them, but the lovers of motion picture film don't have much to worry about...at least for several years.

Mike
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