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Best for low budget: 2-perf or 4-perf?


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#1 Jim Ferguson

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Posted 22 January 2006 - 05:23 PM

Alright, ignoring equipment costs, and assuming comparable equipment...

In trying to make an extremely low-budget film, which is more economically practical, 2-perf (2.39 / matted 1.85) or 4-perf (anamorphic 2.39 / matted 1.85)?
I'm speaking of practicality, not aesthetic or technical quality (which is obvious here).

I suppose the question comes down to this... is a very low budget film (with no guaranteed distribution) more inclined to do a DI anyhow, and not worry about printing out to film (until possibly getting a distribution deal based on the DI)? Or, is it more likely to forgo the DI for the less expensive straight to film method (thus justifying the extra film costs upfront with the larger negative)?

For instance, many choose to shoot s16 over academy 35 due to cost difference. Would 2-perf be a viable option (substantial cost savings, but double (at least) quality of s16 - which, like 2-perf, is also not a projection format)?

I realize that this is a ridiculously generalized question, but unfortunately this is the question I face.

Very basically, I'm considering converting my camera to 2-perf, as those who would hire me and my camera, will certainly be low-budget. I'm wondering if this will increase my marketability. I could go after low budget 35 films and save them money, and I could possibly convince s16 films to use a larger negative.

I appreciate any input on the matter.

Jim
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 January 2006 - 09:22 PM

Cheapest method tends to be whatever is the simplest route to your final end product. If it is a 35mm print with sound, it would probably be to shoot standard 4-perf 35mm 1.85 and contact print.

If you figure that on a low-budget feature shooting in 4-perf 35mm that you had budgeted about $60,000 for stock & processing, then 2-perf will save you $30,000 let's say -- which is significant but is not going to pay for a DI, which is usually over $100,000. It may pay for an optical blow-up from an IP to an anamorphic IN though, but it certainly wouldn't come in cheaper than shooting 4-perf 35mm 1.85 and contact printing.

As far as shooting with anamorphic lenses instead of standard 1.85, it all depends on how much more you end up paying to rent anamorphic lenses rather than spherical. It may not be a significant amount more, certainly less than D.I.'s or optical printer blow-ups.
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#3 Jim Ferguson

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 11:35 PM

Thank you for your response David.
Alright, let's forget about DIs. I didn't realise they were that expensive, as I've never had had the opportunity to budget for one...
So let's go with a telecine, and then an optical blow-up. If you shoot a non projection format, but don't have a distribution deal, do you factor the optical blow-up into the budget, or do you count your pennies just up to the telecine (hoping for a distribution deal to pick up the tab on the blow-up)? ... 'you' here would be the really low-budget producer.
In other words, would you say "gee, I'm saving 30k by using 2-perf (and am now able to finish the film up to the telecine)". Or would you say "gee, I'm saving no money by using 2-perf because the optical blow-up is so expensive, and I end up with inferior footage".
I apologize, as I'm sure every production is different... but I'm looking for the generalization.

Note: I'm still ignoring equipment costs on this (including for the anamorphics).
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#4 Mitch Gross

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 11:53 PM

These days many movies are projected at festivals digitally, so if you are willing to go this way (in which case I would highly reccomend an HD transfer to get a better image), then you could delay that optical blowup cost. But understand that most deals with distributors outline a specific set of deliverables, which would include a 35mm IP. There's a myth that the distributor will "pay" for your blowup. What happens is they will make a deal to pay X for a movie and it's up to the producer to make that blowup, using the money from the deal. Most of the time the money doesn't come from the distributor until it receives the delivcerables, which means you have to front that money, even if only for a short time.

What you really should be comparing is not how much you might or might not save between 2-perf and 4-perf, but how much more 2-perf costs compared to Super-16. Both are non-projection formats that require an optical or digital intermediate, but the 2-perf offers a much larger negative (for more money).
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#5 Dan Goulder

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 12:34 AM

What type of 2-perf camera are you planning on using? Are you shooting sync sound?
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 12:55 AM

Trouble with HD dailies is that, while you may save $30,000 or more using 2-perf over 4-perf, the costs of HD dailies will probably eat most of that up. On the other hand, you have to spend some money on dailies anyway.

It's a tough call, do you only budget as far as an offline AVID cut using standard def dailies and screen that for distributors, or do you budget a little further for a 2-perf answer print, 2-perf IP, then blow-up to 4-perf 35mm anamorphic IN for making and screening a scope print at festivals, etc.? Because mastering in HD for digital screenings will probably end up costing about the same, and that doesn't include the costs of a film-out to 35mm.

This is why I tend to feel that ultimately it always works out cheaper just to shoot standard 4-perf 35mm, cut the neg, and answer print using a contact printer. Then you don't need to go as far as an IP -- you can screen a composite print off of the negative for festivals and distributors. Then the only issue is whether to pay a little more to shoot with anamorphic lenses.

But again, this supposes that your first goal is a 35mm print for screening.

On the other hand, if doing an optical printer blow-up from a 2-perf IP to 4-perf IN ends up costing you about $30,000, it may break even with shooting in 4-perf and contact printing, but the advantage is that you've got scope if you wanted that, plus you've got the IP done for making final video transfers.
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#7 Josh Silfen

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 01:36 PM

The real advantage to 2-perf is that it is a way for a low-budget movie to shoot in the widescreen 2.35 aspect ratio. You can't do it in Super16 and Super35 3-perf or 4-perf has all the same added costs in post as 2-perf, but costs more for film and processing. Anamorphic, in addition to the more expensive lenses, requires lots more light (at least a T4, but maybe T5.6 depending who you ask, or 4-8 times as much light as a spherical lens at T2) necessitating a larger lighting package and possibly a larger crew to go along with it.

Super16 also has all the same added costs in post as 2-perf, so if it was really that big of a disadvantage, why would anyone shoot it for a low-budget film? Plus DI and other digital finishing options (HD DI, etc) costs are only going to get lower as the technology becomes more prevalent and competition heats up.

If you want to shoot 1.85, Super16 or regular 4-perf 35 are probably the best options for a low-budget film intended for a theatrical release. For movies with a budget somewhere around the high Super16 or low 35mm range that want to shoot 2.35, I think 2-perf would be a very viable option if there was more equipment out there. Aaton's new 2-perf camera will probably help make 2-perf a much more popular format.

-Josh Silfen
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#8 Mitch Gross

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 03:31 PM

The real advantage to 2-perf is that it is a way for a low-budget movie to shoot in the widescreen 2.35 aspect ratio. You can't do it in Super16



Sure you can; just extract the proper frame from the image. It has been done numerous times before and discussed here and other places.

I certainly never said it was better to shoot S-16, only that it was cheaper. Since both S-16 and 2-perf 35 require some form of blowup in order for completion they are much more comparable production formats. 2-perf will cost more, but how much more is something that one needs to determine for one's particular circumstances.
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#9 Jim Ferguson

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 05:22 PM

What's this new Aaton 2-perf? Do you have details?
(I'd be modifying a Kinor.)

So I decided to contact some producers I know. I realize that my question is perhaps best answered by a producer. The question, I feel, is really quite simple: "Would a very low budget film typically budget up to a release print, or just up to the telecine?"
All of the responses I got went something like this: "We'd definitely budget for a release print... Well, unless we couldn't afford it yet and just wanted to get the film in the can. It's a lot easier to raise money once the films been shot. So, I guess if we couldn't get the money up front, we would just budget up to the telecine... until we could get the rest of the money."

So, again I'm a bit stuck. I feel that the 2-perf option really only makes sense if you're not doing an optical blow-up... i.e. If you already plan on doing a DI, it seems like a good choice. Or, if you don't have the money for 4-perf - up front.

Also, because of the relative obscurity of the format, all of the producers sounded a bit nervous in using 2-perf. (I tried the Titanic, Lucas, Leone, etc pitch... I even mentioned that Amelie, and Oh, Brother Where Art Thou? used the same size negative with a DI -but not technoscope. Although I might be lying here, I don't know where I read that.) The producers don't seem convinced that the benefits are that great over s16. (Although I am. It seems like a good compromise in cost and quality - especially if you want 2.39:1.)

I saw an article about Sundance:
http://msn.com.com/2...28354&tag=tg_bz
I think it's safe to conclude that 1/5th of the films being shown there were shot on film and finished on HD. So, now 2-perf sounds like a bargain again.

So, it's a difficult choice. Perhaps it's still too obscure.......... but I could be a pioneer................................
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#10 Josh Silfen

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 05:47 PM

Sure you can; just extract the proper frame from the image. It has been done numerous times before and discussed here and other places.

Well sure you can shoot Super16 for 2.35. For that matter you could crop Super8 or DV to 2.35, but since we are talking about the steps necessary for a 35mm print for theatrical release, I'm assuming that most people would not consider a 2.35 Super16 frame an acceptable image for 35mm blow-up. Maybe I'm wrong. Has there ever been a theatrically released 2.35 movie that originated on Super16?

What's this new Aaton 2-perf? Do you have details?
(I'd be modifying a Kinor.)


http://www.aaton.com...index.php?nid=9

Personally, I think that 2-perf should be just as viable a shooting format as Super16. If you're finishing digitally, it's no problem, and if you're finishing photochemically it's just as much of a problem as Super16.

The producers don't seem convinced that the benefits are that great over s16. (Although I am. It seems like a good compromise in cost and quality - especially if you want 2.39:1.)


The benefits over Super16 are not that great if you're shooting 1.85. Only slightly more negative area, but probably not enough to justify the cost difference. The benefits really come in only if you're shooting 2.35.

-Josh Silfen

Edited by Josh Silfen, 25 January 2006 - 05:48 PM.

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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 06:14 PM

"Never Die Alone", "Irreversible" (which had a few 35mm shots too), and "Wonderland" (the 1999 Michael Winterbottom film) come immediately to mind as Super-16 productions cropped and blown-up to 2.35 anamorphic 35mm.
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#12 Dan Goulder

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 10:16 PM

So, it's a difficult choice. Perhaps it's still too obscure.......... but I could be a pioneer................................

Sorry to burst your bubble, but shooting 2-perf won't in itself make you a pioneer. A number of us have been shooting in that format for some time.
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#13 Jim Ferguson

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 11:28 AM

Not a pioneer? :(
I know. I'm joking.
But, since a number of you have been shooting in this format, can you put forth the reasoning that compelled this decision?
Also, do you think it's still too uncommon to 'sell' to most indie producers? Might they be too easily scared off?
Thank you.
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#14 Mitch Gross

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 12:31 PM

The benefits over Super16 are not that great if you're shooting 1.85. Only slightly more negative area, but probably not enough to justify the cost difference. The benefits really come in only if you're shooting 2.35.



Actually, I think it is somewhere between two to three times as much neg. area when comparing 1.85 frames. Don't have the numbers handy, perhaps David knows them. I think there's some diagrams with measurements on the Multivision235 website so you could do the math yourself.

How much of a difference is enough to justify the cost is up to each individual, but the difference is pretty sizeable. What is not a big difference is the area of a 2-perf 2.39 frame v. a Super-35 (how ever many perfs) 2.39 extraction. The 2-perf does not extend into the soundtrack area while Super-35 does. The difference is somewhere around 15%, if I recall correctly.
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#15 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 01:46 PM

2.39 is about 2 1/2 perfs worth of S35 area, so it's slightly larger than 2.39 from 2-perf, which cannot use the whole full aperture width, since that would be 2.66 : 1.

In terms of 1.85, it would be easy to calculate.

The 1.85 projection area from a S16 neg is .464" x .251"

4-perf S35 is .980" x .735", so 2-perf would be half that vertically, .980" x .3675".

Given some loss on the edges, I'm guessing that the maximum picture area height in 2-perf is around .350", so for 1.85, that makes the area used .6475" x .350".

So the total 1.85 area in S16 is .1165 sq. inches.
For 1.85 from 2-perf, it would be .2266 sq. inches.

So that's 50% or 100% larger??? -- I've always been confused by that. The Multivision site says "more than double".

Now in terms of film stock, generally 16mm is half the price of 35mm, and since 2-perf is half the height of 4-perf, you figure that the stock costs are similar, but you get a bigger negative with 2-perf. Of course, you're also renting (probably) a more expensive camera, assuming you can even find a 2-perf camera.
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#16 Josh Silfen

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 04:03 PM

So that's 50% or 100% larger??? -- I've always been confused by that. The Multivision site says "more than double".


You would say that 2-perf is 100% larger than Super16 or Super16 is 50% the size of 2-perf.

Now in terms of film stock, generally 16mm is half the price of 35mm, and since 2-perf is half the height of 4-perf, you figure that the stock costs are similar, but you get a bigger negative with 2-perf.


Just for a quick estimate of stock cost, I looked at Film Emporium's website (http://www.filmemporium.com/) and they quoted factory fresh cans of 5218 35mm film at .56 a foot, and 7218 16mm film at .33 a foot. Now 16mm film has 40 frames per foot, and 2-perf 35mm would have 32 frames per foot. One minute of running time is 60sec times 24fps or 1440 frames. Dividing that by the frames per foot of each format, we see that one minute of film is 45 feet in 2-perf or 36 feet in Super16. Multiplying those numbers by the price for foot at Film Emporium, the totals come out to $25.20 per minute in 2-perf or $11.88 per minute in Super16. So for film stock, 2-perf costs more than twice as much as Super16.

So you get about twice as much negative area, but you pay more than twice as much for the film, so you're not necessarily getting a better value on a cost per silver halide basis. Now, when you consider the much larger negative area of the 2-perf 2.35 frame, and the relative costs compared to Super16 remain exactly the same, you can see that you would get a much better value by shooting 2-perf 2.35.

Of course there are other cost issues involved: equipment cost, which wouldn't be an issue if you owned the 2-perf camera as you are suggesting; processing, which is generally about the same per foot for 35mm and 16mm, although again you get 40 frames per foot with 16 and only 32 with 2-perf so 2-perf would cost a little more there; and video dailies which are sometimes charged per foot and sometimes by the hour. If it's by the hour, it makes no difference what format you shoot, it will cost the same amount, and it it's by the foot 35mm is often less per foot than 16, but when the lab realizes that your 35mm is twice as much footage as they thought because it's 2-perf, they may change that policy. Plus, only certain telecine machines can handle 2-perf (like the Spirit) so you may end up having to pay more to get your dailies from a higher-end machine than what you would be getting if you shot Super16.

Ever since I have heard of 2-perf, I have been a proponent of it, but have yet to shoot a frame of it. I wanted to shoot it on my last project, so I called up Multivision235 and asked if they could ship a camera to the US, but they were already booked up for our dates, so we shot Super16. I want to shoot 2-perf on my next project, but I think the same thing will probably happen. Anyway, I've done all the math, and I think that 2-perf widescreen 2.35 is the best deal in filmmaking. For 1.85, I still say your best bets for 35mm projection on a budget are Super16 or 4-perf 35mm.
-Josh Silfen

Edited by Josh Silfen, 26 January 2006 - 04:10 PM.

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#17 Dan Goulder

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 06:45 PM

Not a pioneer? :(
I know. I'm joking.
But, since a number of you have been shooting in this format, can you put forth the reasoning that compelled this decision?
Also, do you think it's still too uncommon to 'sell' to most indie producers? Might they be too easily scared off?
Thank you.

Longer running mags do allow for potentially more/longer takes and extra coverage. I find that I tend to roll more with 2-perf than when shooting 4-perf. Modern mega-budget movies that shoot 3-perf (Kill Bill, The Aviator, etc.) choose to do so mainly for this reason, not to save money. Unfortunately, most post production charges (after film development) are accrued on an hourly, and not per foot basis. Thus, if saving money is your bottom line, then you need to focus on obtaining the lowest possible shooting ratio, regardless of format.
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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 06:51 PM

Yes, I was wrong, looking again at some price guides -- 4-perf 35mm averages to be about 4X more expensive than Super-16, not half, so 2-perf would be about 2X more expensive than Super-16.
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#19 Christopher Zalla

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Posted 28 January 2006 - 01:16 PM

We're considering trying to go the 2 perf route right now on a low budget feature shooing in March. The one thing that we are worried about is light bleeding between frames because the unexposed negative dividing the exposed frames is now so thin. Any thoughts or words of wisdom/experience? We'd really like to go this route if that's not an issue (we are doing a DI).
Also, other than the Australian company already mentioned, are there any other reasonable ways to get ahold of this camera in the states (NY), while only a month out from principle photography?

Edit: We're also shooting predominantly hand-held, so the weight of the camera could also be an issue.

Edited by Christopher Zalla, 28 January 2006 - 01:19 PM.

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#20 Paul Bruening

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Posted 31 January 2006 - 01:51 PM

Hey Jim,

My company is going 2-perf. Whether or not it is a good decision remains to be seen. As David said, 2-perf post is where the trouble comes in. As others have said, telecine it and make a cut for potential investors. That may be your most viable approach given your budget level. That makes sense especially since you can't really know if you've made a little gem or a complete dog until you cut it together. If it's a gem the telecine cut could hustle up the investors you need to jump the post hurdles. If it's a dog, then you don't have the larger post costs sunk into something that no one will pick up.
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