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Short super16 film noir


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#1 Michael Collier

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Posted 18 February 2006 - 10:57 PM

Ok, so I have never shot film before and want to make sure I start with the right stock. My film will be in black and white for a majority of the film. Parts will be in color and I want those to be desaturated, as fine grain as possible, and be good in the highlights, as they will be generally bright and backlit (Im used to video, so I want good highlights for once)

The black and white parts I want to be contrasty (minimal grain. that is most important. I want the option to blow it up to 35mm at some point and I want the S16 to hold up. DI is a possibility, but that will come later. For now I will shoot and proccess the film, transfer to DV and edit from that. after the cut is done i will transfer the negative to 10bit uncompressed HD or 2K and conform the EDL. I will then probably release the film on HDCAM-SR or similar format. (will most film festivals screen in HD? thats also important)

what stocks would be a good choice for this. I have to shoot 500asa for the BW just because in alaska I dont have much access to lights. There is really only one grip company up here. The color I can do part in 500T part in 200d for exteriors, if that would help keep grain down.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 February 2006 - 12:42 AM

Well, there is no 500 ASA b&w stock, there is no 200D color negative stock. Mixing b&w with desaturated color pretty much requires a D.I. because it would be too complex to do photochemically, although possible since you are doing a blow-up anyway.

Also, you want as fine a grain film possible but because you don't have lights, you basically want to use the fastest speed film stock (i.e. grainiest) as possible? Well, which is it? Because if reducing grain is truly the most important factor, you'll find a way to get some lights and use slower speed film. If shooting in low light levels is the most important factor, you have no choice but to use the fastest stocks. Luckily for you, the new 500 ASA stocks aren't too grainy. But it sounds like you want it all (finest grain look / fastest speed stock), like the people who ask what the "best and cheapest" way is to shoot a movie.

It sounds like you should shoot 500 ASA color neg (like 7218) for both the b&w and color since you need the speed -- the fast b&w neg stock (Double-X 7222) is 200 ASA and grainier than the 500 ASA color neg stock. So probably you'd be happier with the look of 7218 with the color digitally removed for the b&w shots. Same for the desaturated color shots -- it would be easier to just reduce the color digitally. Most photochemical tricks like skip-bleach increase the graininess.

So for the initial transfer, just have the colorist doing the transfer to remove the color for the b&w shots and reduce the color for the desaturated shots.

The Kodak medium-speed color daylight stock is 250 ASA (7205).
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#3 Michael Collier

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Posted 19 February 2006 - 01:53 AM

Thanks for the advice. I didnt want to give the impression I will have no lights. I do have a good budget for that. Its just light resources are limited in alaska, and shipping up from rental houses is not an option, so at no point will I have anything more than 5-10Kw of light total, and no large units. (since I intend to go for a noir look, I am thinking I need a large number of lights. I want to emphasize depth and space especially so

I would like to use B/W stock just for cost savings. Is B/W 200 stock that much grainier than 200color? If so I can adjust the budget a little bit, but it would be difficult. I want the color scenes transfered in full color so I can tweek the colors later in Premiere Pro. I talked to the lab and they sent me a disk with test footage and I was able to run it just fine. I want the saturation to slowly grow muted over time (as it cuts from bw to color and back)

I can shoot 200 if I have too, I suppose I underestimated how grainy a faster film would be. The one thing I want to avoid is grainy image. and I suppose a 200 stock would be easier to make a darker look, needing less fill? Sorry if I sound like a newb. I want this movie to be solid in photography. Is it a good idea to keep a video camera on hand so I can see what the scene looks like in B/W? I dont want to pay for video assist in camera, so I figured that would at least give me an idea of what the grayscale would look like.

Also are there any in camera tricks to reducing grain. I heard pulling the footage works? Does that sacrifice the highlights to reduce grain?
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 February 2006 - 02:22 AM

Double-X at 200 ASA is grainier than a 500 ASA color neg stock like Kodak '18.

Slight overexposure / normal processing helps tighten up the grain structure and make it look a little finer.

Overexposing by a stop / pull-processing by a stop would reduce grain but also lower contrast and make the image feel a little softer. And you'd be rating a 500 ASA film at 250 ASA to do that, so you might be better off just using a 200 ASA film instead and getting a snappier image than pull-processed 500 ASA film (plus it's cheaper to develop 200 ASA film normally than pull-process 500 ASA film, plus some labs don't offer 16mm pull-processing.)

As a preview device, you could take a digital still photo on the set and turn it b&w either in-camera (some digital still cameras allow you to take b&w images) or by using something like Photoshop on the set.

In terms of whether 7218 (500T) is "too grainy" for the big screen, that's a matter of personal taste. Also, grain is more visible when projected in a large theater than when seen on a TV monitor. 7217 (200T) is a little less grainy, but whether the lower grain justifies the lower speed is something you have to decide for yourself by testing. Plenty of people are shooting 7218 these days for blow-up to 35mm and like the results.
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#5 Michael Collier

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Posted 19 February 2006 - 06:05 PM

Im a fan of tight grain structer, and thats in 35mm. so I am just assuming that the best 16mm can do projected to the same size would be about the grain I like, if not just a bit grainier, which is fine for a noir title. also thanks for the tip about pulling. It cost more (which I dont like) and the softer image is not right for this peice. I want sharp detail for a majority of the look. I wish I had funds for a 35mm, but the infrastructer in Anchorage will not support it.

I talked to a location scout local to alaska (one of like, 3 or 4 film companies up here) and he pointed me to a few companies. There is like 2 or 3 super 16 cameras up here, AK grip and lighting has a 1ton and 3ton grip truck, and there are a few lighting kits around, though spacifics are hard to come by. Even a kino-flo has proven hard to find. It seems that I will be almost maxing out this states production capabilities, even on a small project like this.

In the end this is like my first chance at a real film. I have experience in TV and small productions, but nothing narrative that I felt would really 'start' my career. I raised more than 20K in just 3 days, so I have a chance to make a good film that has a chance to be sold, being shot on film. I figure any distrabutor who wants to buy it can pay for a filmout or photokem finnish.

Ultamatley I would also like more production up here. But faced with the 2million or so it would cost just to get gear and people up here, I think we need a big boost in infrastructer. I need to prove to every director out there that our light alone is worth the money. I have been watching a lot of old ford weasterns and old film noir and trying to find a look that can mix the two. I dont have much money but I do have time. so any help or advice you have feel free to let me know. Tips are always usefull.

Im a bit concerened about exposure. I know you light to a certain apeture, but how many places should I take a reading. I assume I need to know the brightest parts of the scene and the darkest part. I am used to a very limited range and I am not sure how bright say a window should be to just barley reach films limit. I have heard around 3stops?
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 February 2006 - 06:33 PM

Just depends on how you want the window to look (and if you're shooting video or film.) Generally, three stops over for a view out of a window will look bright but not burned out in detail in film.

Are you worried that this project is too big a leap for you, cinematography-wise? Maybe you should hire a DP, or at least for the first day, have a consultant on set.
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#7 Michael Collier

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Posted 19 February 2006 - 08:37 PM

I'm not worried its too big of a leap. I have been studing and researching how to do this for almost 7 years. In that time I have shot so much video and made so many movies that I am ready to make a movie worth the money.

I am the sort to research everything to the finest degree. When I was researching the Aanton a-minima I practiced 'loading' using scotch tapes as film reals and watching the video. I have read everything from american cinematographers field manual to Malkiewicz' Cinematography. I am ready to make this happen (after 2-400ft rolls of testing and practice I have budgeted)

I just want to check with pros who have been there before and can help correct some of my assumptions. I have been calling everyone in town, and have started calling the lab to get their opinion. I know I lack experience in film, so I am trying to flood myself with information. Its the only way I learn.

There is a possibility of a first AC to be on set for a bit, but I dont know how long I can afford that. There is a possibility of finding a first AC/camera owner and that would help a lot.

Other than that I am faced with finding a jib, a dolly, a decent light kit. I found a grip truck and a generator, so i have a lot on my plate to get in order before summer.
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Technodolly

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Rig Wheels Passport

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Glidecam

CineLab

Ritter Battery

Wooden Camera

Tai Audio

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

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