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The one thing you wish you had known


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#1 Andrew Means

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Posted 03 May 2006 - 01:38 PM

Hey everybody- first time poster here.

I'm going to be purchasing an excellent condition Nikon R10 (for 100 bucks- deal?) and my friend Phil and I are going to start shooting Super8. Phil is an incredibly skilled photographer, but hasn't done anything with film before, and I'm a musician/producer/recording engineer/web/graphic/designer who's done some rudimentary 'DP' and 'editing' work on a shitty shitty school film, but nothing much.

I think aside from the coolness of making little films I might like to shoot a few music videos with it - huge fan of Michelle Gondry's videos - plus there's a huge market for music videos here in seattle, along with whatever else we decide to do with it.

But before we get started I wanted to ask: What's one (or two?) thing(s) you wish you knew when you were starting out? A mistake that cost you? A shortcut that could have saved time and money? A principle that's helped you out?

The main principle that's helped me when teaching myself web design and sound recording is "learn by DOING" - e.g. you can talk on messageboards forever, but you become a good XYZ-er by actually going out there and XYX-ing and messing up and learning.

That said, it helps to start with some tips and tricks. Who's got some?
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#2 santo

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Posted 03 May 2006 - 05:11 PM

Things I know now that I wish I knew when I started super 8.

1) Japanazooms like your Nikon are okay for learning on, but you are a lot smarter buying a Leicina Special or a Beaulieu and using prime lenses. The tiny, tiny, tiny super 8 frame shows differences in lens quality dramatically. Prime lenses of ANY ERA blow away home movie camera zoom lenses of the 1970's. Having relayed that fact, your Nikon remains likely the best of the Japanazoom choices out there. I like Nikon R10's. Someday, when the mood strikes me, I'll probably still buy one. But being practical , the Schneider 6-66mm f1.8 zoom from the Leicina and Beaulieus and the Angenieux 6-80/6-90 f1.2 from the Beaulieus are certainly the best of the super 8 zoom lenses. But they can't beat primes. SPENT A LOT OF MONEY PROVING THAT TO MYSELF. SHOULD HAVE REALIZED THAT THE WHOLE TIME.

2)Buy one really good camera, invest a little time and money into making sure it functions perfectly up to spec and is serviced.

3) If you insist on shooting with a Japanazoom, you better make damn sure you don't go below an f4 on your light meter or you will end up with soft focus shots even though you know for sure you focused and did everything else right. These are amateur lenses. Home movie camera consumer zooms from the 1970's. Accept that fact.

4) Don't waste a goddamn cent on bullshit transfer methods like "the workprinter" or shooting off a wall. In fact, don't waste a penny even transfering your work to miniDV! It is worth it, by about a million miles, to only settle for pro-grade video formats. Uncompressed 10 bit direct to harddrive transfers are readily available. Direct to HD on harddrive is readily available. Transfer to digibeta and then dumped to harddrive is readily available. Ask yourself this: Do any "big time" productions waste a second on DV at this point? Do any major film festivals accept DV? Of course not. It is a great medium for low end lifestyle television and low end music videos. This is reality. And no, DV does not capture the magic of film. PERIOD. The extra premium to go beyond it is really very small. Compare it to what it costs to shoot your projects. Better, go watch it video projected at a local film festival and compare -- there is little conjecture after doing that.

5) Ignore any fool who tries to tell you on a webboard that the above facts are untrue. Consider that not only is the entire weight of the world's professional film industry and logic is behind these truths, but that those dismissing them have nothing but amateur conjecture to back them up and zero experience beyond shooting their home movies or super 8 stuff they shot 10 years ago. Or they have long stopped shooting super 8 and have absolutely no conception of the modern evolution it has taken in the past couple years with regards to film stocks and transfer methods, though they themselves are now professionals and should know better. Also possible they have a super 8 based business that can only profit from 1980's style of home hobbiest shooting.

Bring on the trolls and idiots who will disagree. They amuse me...
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#3 Andrew Means

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Posted 03 May 2006 - 06:04 PM

Things I know now that I wish I knew when I started super 8.


I guess I did ask what things you wished you knew when you started- unfortunately most of your post doesn't apply to me at this stage. I'll read it again when I'm ready to go balls-out pro pro pro! For now I'm really stoked about learning and experimenting on the Nikon R10 (though I'll definitely take your note about f4), and eventually I might come to you when I'm ready to make the jump to a bichin' camera with kick-yr-dick-in lenses.

Anybody else have anything practical to offer? Like where I might get my first few batches of film transferred to miniDV* (shhhhh!!!) IMEAN HD DIRECT TO HARDRIVE!

-Andrew


* Seriously though I ask about miniDV because I've heard it's relatively cheap to transfer S8 to, and it is a format that I can dump via firewire into my current editing setup. I've only been pricing stuff for a while, but HD to harddrive seems pricey- especially because don't you have to send them a harddrive? I'm perfectly ready to not have the absolute best-ever results for the sake of actually getting a handle on how it all works...
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#4 santo

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Posted 03 May 2006 - 06:48 PM

I should add that lastly I advocate and learned:

6) Test your cameras with film before you embark on any film project -- even a small short. I always have, but the webboards are littered with fools who embarked on entire features without even knowing their cameras were vignetting with a lens hood on, or that the film stock they were using wasn't anything like they thought it would be, or they didn't observe points 1 to 5. Thousands of dollars down the drain and sincere efforts from people helping them on unsalvageable footage that looks hopelessly amateur was their reward.

To do this basic testing cheaply, shoot some reversal and watch it on a projector. This will save you money over transfering.

re: transfering

You misunderstand. I don't advocate only direct to harddrive HD. Uncompressed standard def 10 bit is also readily available and is a viable minimum standard for your projects. It costs no more extra than a harddrive really. And the better cameras to shoot the film with in the first place are a couple hundred bucks more.

Considering you're spending 15 to 20 bucks a minute on film bought, developed and transfered, it is a no-brainer. Observing what I learned and implementing it from the start will cost you very little over what you'll spend otherwise on vastly inferior results.

But it's your wallet. Good luck.
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#5 steve hyde

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 12:26 AM

...a few things:

Don't buy prepaid film and processing from AlphaCine/Forde because it is way overpriced. It is cheaper to buy film direct from Kodak 1800621FILM. Glazers camera shop stocks black and white super 8 films and sells it at a reasonable 12.00 bucks.

CinePost in Atlanta and CineLab in Boston are two of the cheapest places for film transfers. We have a post house here in Seattle (FLying Spot) located in Post Alley and they do really high-end super 8 transfers at a premium and that is the only local shop that does super 8.

I have an R10. They are great cameras. Here are a few tips:

Don't use the autoiris. The light meter can be good, but it is best to lock the exposure before shooting.
Always zoom in on your subject to set focus - once you have focus set then zoom out to your desired focal length. Color negative films are the most forgiving stocks because they have a wide exposure latitude and reversal films are easier to over or underexpose. That said, for music video's I suggest learning the color negative films.

hope this helps,


Steve
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#6 Hal Smith

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 01:04 AM

My horror story is my ex-wife who lost a lot of film in India because she never learned to estimate exposures. When her light meter went bad (being out in the sun in Rajasthan at 115 F air temperature tends to be rough on equipment), she never noticed the meter was giving her considerably different apertures than previously under similar light conditions. Carry a good pocket reference book and if the book says you should be shooting your stock at (for instance) F8 @ 24FPS in average full sun and your lightmeter says F11 @ 24FPS get REAL SUSPICIOUS REAL QUICK!
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#7 Gareth Munden

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 05:59 AM

Super-8 is super-8 , it ain't going to be used for many serious production . Great for testing and building a showreel . I love it myself . BUT it's only Super-8 so don't spend 100000000000000 on transfer WHY ? Coz it ain't ever going on TV is it ? . Saying that don't get a FILM OFF THE WALL transfer , thats taking saving money too far !!! I'm in old London town , we don't have the joy of S-8 to Hard drive anyway .

As for "Japanazooms" ain't that a wee bit racist ? there ain't nothing wrong with Japenese lens . My zoom for my stills Nikon is as sharp as any german lens .
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#8 santo

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 07:03 AM

As for "Japanazooms" ain't that a wee bit racist ? there ain't nothing wrong with Japenese lens . My zoom for my stills Nikon is as sharp as any german lens .


What the hell is with this nonsense? Japanazoom is a term used to describe the silly giant overblown zoom lenses of dubious optical quality that were aimed at the big dumb American consumer market in the 1970's and 80's. They were created by Japanese photo giants like Nikon and Canon and others not only for super 8 cameras, but for those gigantic overblown whiring, spinning, clicking auto-everything 10 pound SLR's from the era.

OF COURSE there were terrific Japanese lenses that were made and continue to be made. I enjoy the use of an Olympus OM2n and a beat-up Pentax K1000 (my first SLR) to this day. The primes for those can be of a very high quality. Though the enormous bulk of Canon and Nikon's output was subpar and their products were "follow the leader", they could rise to meet a high level of quality with their highest tier line of products (at the same price level as the German lenses because, well, there's no getting around what quality costs). But really, those manufacturers were Masters of Marketing -- that was their greatest strength. Their products were middle of the road and were extremely conservative in design and lacking in major innovation or originality for the most part. That was left up to Olympus and Asahi (well, early on for Asahi).

This is getting way off topic, but it is something which I will address and correct when it comes up. Mainly because Japanazoom is a term I created to name millions of objects -- most of them now useless and littering the Earth in basements and whatnot -- which had no proper descriptive nomenclature. Now they have it.


Super-8 is super-8 , it ain't going to be used for many serious production .


HUH??? You mean like national TV commericals, music videos from the top acts in the world, sections of major motion pictures, and shorts in the past editions of Sundance and Cannes? I suppose that these aren't serious productions in your book?
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#9 Gareth Munden

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 07:53 AM

Japanazooms !!! nonsence !!! a term YOU made up , what a load of poop . I've been a photographer for 15years and know a LITTLE about Nikon lens V pentax . Nikon , Mamiya great Japanese Kit and you need to think before you come on here to wind people up .


"HUH??? You mean like national TV commericals, music videos from the top acts in the world, sections of major motion pictures, and shorts in the past editions of Sundance and Cannes? I suppose that these aren't serious productions in your book?"

Sections of major motion pictures that are done on S-8 to look like poop home movies !!! Come on please !!! Santo do me a lemon !!!!!

Saying all that I love Super-8 it's great for showreel and playing . And it can look fab in the right hand .
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#10 NathanCoombs

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 08:11 AM

Sections of major motion pictures that are done on S-8 to look like poop home movies !!! Come on please !!! Santo do me a lemon !!!!!

Saying all that I love Super-8 it's great for showreel and playing . And it can look fab in the right hand .


I tend to agree. I wish I had shot my last film in 16mm. A beat up old bolex shooting 16mm will produce much better images than a top-end super-8 cam for a cheaper investment in kit and only slightly more in terms of stock-development-telecine.

I think super-8 is based saved for stylistic effect, it is not a pro medium at all.
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#11 santo

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 08:13 AM

So you're both completely out of touch with the way things have evolved in the past 2 years with super 8. That's no crime -- you can learn. But what in the world do lemons have to do with it?

One guy clinging to his Japanazooms, the other guy transfering his only slightly better 6-70 f1.4 zoom material to DV and proclaiming super 8 not good enough. Meanwhile Mr. Coombs is one of those same guys who fits directly into my NUMBER 6 "things you wish you had known" list and didn't even bother to test his super 8 camera before embarking on a super 8 short filming excursion to Italy! So he ends up with this great big scratch down most all of his footage!

And by the way, other than that short, which was otherwise engaging (luckily for you your techincal incompetence didn't work against you as much as it should have), the only shorts available from you are DV in origin.

Are you going to transfer your 16mm to DV and then be dissatisfied, or have you learned your lesson?
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#12 Gareth Munden

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 08:37 AM

Who's out of touch !!! you , you bag of muffins !!! do me a Lemon . Son it's English like used in England !!!

There is no need to be nasty , is there ? Mr Coombs film ways very good indeed .

Anyway I don't have a Japanese Super-8 camera but a German one ( not saying which , this is not a mine is bigger then yours game , is it ? ) .

MiniDV - Mini what ever , Super-8 is a test film and a very good one at that . BUT it's not up to it !!!! no matter how much you spend on Telecine .

I've never shot a 48 sheets poster on 35mm , why ? coz it's too small .
same with Super-8 ( which I love ) .

Santo go have a nice cup of Tea and slice of cake . You Plum .

I'm going in the Garden to story board my short , which I'm shooting on SUPER-8 !!!!
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#13 NathanCoombs

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 09:43 AM

Meanwhile Mr. Coombs is one of those same guys who fits directly into my NUMBER 6 "things you wish you had known" list and didn't even bother to test his super 8 camera before embarking on a super 8 short filming excursion to Italy! So he ends up with this great big scratch down most all of his footage!

And by the way, other than that short, which was otherwise engaging (luckily for you your techincal incompetence didn't work against you as much as it should have), the only shorts available from you are DV in origin.

Are you going to transfer your 16mm to DV and then be dissatisfied, or have you learned your lesson?


Sorry matey all the 10bit direct to hard drive transfers in the world wont make your super-8 any better. It a soft, grainy medium and it is foolish to treat it any other way.

Pay more and shoot standard 16mm to a 720p rank transfer if you want the minimum 'pro level' footage from film.

My trip to Italy only turned into a filming excursion at the last minute when my wife didnt get her visa in time. My camera arrived about 2 days before. Before then I had never touched film...so yes terrible scratch but I learnt a hard lesson and still salvaged a film out of it.

Now I am organising an international super-8 project and planning to shoot a short on super-16....can u post me to links of films by you Santo?
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#14 Andrew Means

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 10:50 AM

Hey everybody, thanks for your input-

Santo your #6 is definitely something I take to heart. I'm a musician and I record my own band, and after 3 years I'm just now getting to the point where I *might* feel comfortable recording someone for money. Before we do anything with film that we really care about getting good results from we'll make sure we're really familiar with the camera and film stocks.

What might be some good exercises to aquaint ourselves with the camera? I think the first roll will definitely be reversal, but does anyone have a specific recommendation? Maybe we should just set up a test in our backyard or something, test lighting, film speeds, exp. etc.

The camera looks really really good- it's in mint condition, at least upon cursory examination. I'd be surprised if it had more than a couple rolls through it.

There's no manual- does anyone have a link to an online manual for the R10? We could order a hardocpy, but bleh.

Thanks everyone- keep them coming!
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#15 timHealy

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 12:41 PM

I think you guys are missing the point of super 8. To me the point is that super 8 isn't as sharp and clean as 16 or 35. It's sometimes rough grainy film images are actually romantic, nostalgic and useful in their own way. It is almost the same philosophy as using 16 or 35 and then pushing, bleaching, adding nets or whatever you want to do to achieve a certain look and degrade the image in some manner.

Super 8 has its place and there is really no sense in arguing that one is superior than the other. They are all just tools. Just use the rigth tool for the job.

On the technical end, I do agree with Santos that DV does have it limitations and I am exploring the option to do 16mm and super 8 direct to hard drive. I have seen too much digital degradation and artifacting on my own short films working in the mini DV level.

But on the practical end there is a company in Texas that is doing some good work for a low budget transfer to mini DV with a ccd camera. Moviestuff transfers.

It isn't a rank or spirit, but it is better than older film chains.

Best

Tim
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