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Transition from Video to 35mm


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#1 Tim Vogel

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Posted 20 May 2006 - 11:06 PM

Hi all,

I have been asked to DP a music video on 35mm, in a foreign country later this summer with a major music celebrity. I have not committed to it as yet. I know I can do this project. I have a intermediate knowledge of lighting, filters and lens setups. I am a bit nervous about it though, it's a big project with a lot of money on the line. I am a very quick study with just about any kind of equipment. I have studied 35mm in theory but have yet to put it into practice. I would be working with an Arri 435 and full crew.

I have been shooting with a Canon XL2. I am currently working on one feature and have two more lined up, one will be 35mm. The music video will be shot between the second and third film.

Does anyone have any advice or tips on making this transition to 35mm? I am genuinely interested in hearing from you.

Thanks for your time and help
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 May 2006 - 11:43 PM

Do you have any film experience, like with 16mm? 35mm is just like 16mm, only bigger... (to over-simplify.)

If you have an experienced crew, like a 1st AC, a Gaffer, etc. that will be a big help. My suggestion is to spend the money on a day of testing at the rental house, partially to reinforce the comforting idea that you can expose an image correctly and get it on film.

For some reason, everytime I shoot something on film, I have this irrational fear that there's no usable image on the film. Luckily on a feature, I quickly get over that fear as I shoot hundreds, then thousands, then hundreds of thousands, of feet of film and generally it all comes back fine. Also, I find shooting something simple like a grey scale helps me feel like I got something on film that I know will come out right, sort of a baby step before shooting the scene. All irrational fears for the most part.

But I started out in Super-8, then 16mm, and then 35mm, so it was a natural progression of shooting on film, exposing it correctly, etc. I would be more nervous about a leap sideways from video (especially consumer DV) to 35mm unless I had a good 35mm still camera background, had decent general cinematography skills (like lighting) and had a good crew to support me... AND could shoot a test first.
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#3 Michael Nash

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Posted 21 May 2006 - 12:29 AM

You're going to have to get acquainted with several major differences from miniDV.

1. Film has much more range than video, and will hold highlights MUCH better than the XL 2. Your lighting may end up being much higher contrast than what you're used to with video, since "video" lighting may look a little dull and flat on film. But going to telecine (for the music video), you have a chance to tweak that.

2. You have to learn how to set an exposure by numbers, not by what "looks right" on a monitor. That doesn't simply mean set your exposure to the number on your light meter; it means learn how to read bright and dark areas and "place" them within the exposure like you would levels on a waveform. Learn when it's OK to have a face one or two stops under, based on the lighting setup

3. The focal lengths and optics of 35mm lenses are totally different from MiniDV. Learn what the focal lengths look like, the depth of field characteristics at different f-stops, and the general quality of the different types of lenses available. That last point alone should keep you busy!

4. Making judgements about the efficient use of the film stock you have. While tape is cheap, film ISN'T. Fortunately as a DP there will be others around you watching out for this as well. That philosophy applies to the whole camera setup as well, as the rig is heavier, slower to move and slower to re-configure (with many more reconfigurations) than your XL-2.

I would suggest practicing with your light meter and a still camera as much as possible. Start using your meter on your video shoots, but use it "backwards" at first. Light as usual for video, then meter what you've got. Once you've gotten used to the meter levels in various scenes, then you can try lighting by the meter and compare that to what you get on video.

Shoot stills on color negative, taking notes about meter levels (key, fill, and so on) for each picture. Try variations on the same setup. Then have the whole roll contact printed, so you can see how your levels and exposures compare.
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#4 Rolfe Klement

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Posted 21 May 2006 - 02:50 AM

Be prepared
Get a good AC and loader
Don't waste film
Know your equipment
have fun

As David and Michael said below and some additional stuff

Get a director's viewfinder - it makes composition easier and quicker - as opposed to "please set up camera here with a 16mm - whoops please over here - nope put it back here with an 85mm" etc - it allows you to say "please put the camera here with a 27mm - looking here" to the AC then you can go off and tweak the lights - cause everytime you have to move a 35mm camera it is time consuming

Film is much more forgiving in terms of exposure but make sure you have one thing exposed at the right level in each shot

thanks

Rolfe
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#5 Joshua Reis

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Posted 21 May 2006 - 02:55 AM

While in film school I shot a lot with my XL1. Meanwhile I shot a lot of 35mm still photography and this is where I learned to interpret my light meter reading and properly expose film. I experimeted shooting color charts, bracketing my exposures, and later looking at the negatives on a light box to better understand exposure latitude. Overtime, you will become more comfortable and why its sometimes best to rate a film at a different ASA than the manufactures recommened rating. I recommend using a fully manual camera such as the Pentax K1000. There are some places that will load motion picture film into still photography cans. Best of all, this is a ll affordable. By the time I shot my first 35mm music video, I was very confident in setting a proper T stop. Best of all, it is very affordable and anyone who has a manual camera and light meter can do this. Next, you can experiemnt with different filters. Best regards and luck!

Joshua
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#6 Tim Vogel

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Posted 21 May 2006 - 10:15 AM

Joshua, David, Rolfe, Michael, thanks everyone! I really appreciate all the positive reinforcement and suggestions.

David said it all best. "Irrational fear". Like stage fright. I have a lot of that going into this deal.

I have some Super 8 experience and 35mm stills experience and I have thought that process through. I actually try to think 35mm lighting when shooting with the XL2. I am always asking myself, "can I make this look better?" or "am I lighting it correctly." I always try to play the Devils advocate with my work.

I never go by the monitor. I don't trust it. I only use it as a reference tool for composition. The larger viewing surface shows things that I don't see in the viewfinder.

I have started a binder with 35mm notes that I have been collecting. This helps a lot. Again, I really appreciate your help, suggestions and comments.
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#7 Stephen Williams

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Posted 21 May 2006 - 02:14 PM

Hi all,

I have been asked to DP a music video on 35mm, in a foreign country later this summer with a major music celebrity. I have not committed to it as yet. I know I can do this project. I have a intermediate knowledge of lighting, filters and lens setups. I am a bit nervous about it though, it's a big project with a lot of money on the line. I am a very quick study with just about any kind of equipment. I have studied 35mm in theory but have yet to put it into practice. I would be working with an Arri 435 and full crew.

I have been shooting with a Canon XL2. I am currently working on one feature and have two more lined up, one will be 35mm. The music video will be shot between the second and third film.

Does anyone have any advice or tips on making this transition to 35mm? I am genuinely interested in hearing from you.

Thanks for your time and help


Hi,

You call yourself a producer maybe you need to hire a DP? With a large amount of money on the line and a major celebrity you have a great deal to loose IMHO.

Stephen
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#8 Tim Vogel

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Posted 21 May 2006 - 08:40 PM

Hi,

You call yourself a producer maybe you need to hire a DP? With a large amount of money on the line and a major celebrity you have a great deal to loose IMHO.

Stephen


Hi Stephen,

I have given it some VERY serious thought. That is one of my options and it has already been discussed. I have a cople of names that we are looking at. Declan Quinn, Binod Pradhan (India), Freddie Francis.
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#9 Michael Nash

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Posted 22 May 2006 - 05:29 PM

I never go by the monitor. I don't trust it. I only use it as a reference tool for composition. The larger viewing surface shows things that I don't see in the viewfinder.


I'm confused by this statement. Do you mean when shooting film, or video? For video, a properly calibrated monitor is your only reference to the final image. Or did you mean you don't go by the camera's viewfinder or onboard LCD?

Or did you mean you don't trust a film camera's video tap? (a wise move). For film the viewfinder along with your own eyes are the best reference for the final image.
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#10 Tim Vogel

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Posted 23 May 2006 - 10:44 AM

I'm confused by this statement. Do you mean when shooting film, or video? For video, a properly calibrated monitor is your only reference to the final image. Or did you mean you don't go by the camera's viewfinder or onboard LCD?

Or did you mean you don't trust a film camera's video tap? (a wise move). For film the viewfinder along with your own eyes are the best reference for the final image.


Shooting video with an onboard LCD. I have a 27" Sony Broadcast reference monitor that I take on paying gigs only.
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Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

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Visual Products

Metropolis Post

The Slider

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