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Newbie Cost Questions


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#1 James McBee

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 02:11 PM

Greetings,

As you can see, I am new to the forum, though I have been lurking here for quite some time. I?ve been doing a bit of work on various films (mostly PA stuff) since I graduated from college a year and a half ago. But I?ve got a project of my own in the works, though it?s at least a year away from even entering serious preproduction. To that end I have two questions?the second being pretty much contingent on the answer to the first.

For a two hour feature film, shot on Super 16 (assuming a shooting ratio of roughly 4 or 5 to 1), roughly how much would you expect to spend on stock and processing?

Secondly, what would you say is the minimum one should expect to spend on the purchase of a super 16 camera/basic lens kit, capable of shooting sync sound?

I know I probably come across as exceedingly naive, but I assure you I?m not. I know a lot of professionals think that we armature filmmakers love video because it allows us to shoot endless takes without worrying about the cost. A professor of mine once said that people buy dv cameras because they aren?t confident in the film they are making, and want to have something tangible if the film comes up short, so they can try again?And that if they were really ready to take their shot they would rent film equipment. But that is not the real reason, at least as far as I?m concerned?I know from experience that one can find good people who are willing to work for free, or on deferment. But I also know that ?armature? and semi pro film shoots can take a lot more than two or three weeks to complete. Because of the difficulties in scheduling, and because of the lower manpower, a short can take a week, and a feature can take three or more months. If you?re going to be squeezing in a few hours of shooting here and there, renting equipment becomes unfeasible.

Now I have seen editors with their own systems willing to volunteer their time or accept differed payment. Somewhat rarer is the soundman with his/her own equipment, willing to do the same, but they can be found. In contrast, only a few of the DPs I have worked with have even owned their own rigs, and those that did where working on a level where they were pretty much always getting paid upfront. Thus my second question?

I would really like to shoot on film for a number of reasons. First of all the content of the script practically demands it. This is not a project that will lend itself to a digital noise riddled, soft, documentary esque esthetic. And secondly I know that, like it or not, one only lessens the already miniscule chances of getting distribution if one chooses to work with video, prosumer hd, or whatever.

Rest assured I will be doing quite a bit of in depth research on these and other issues in the coming months, but I just wanted to get some basic information in regards to cost, so I can gauge the feasibility of getting those rich blacks, and crisp focus, that I so dearly love, on my projected budget.

Thanks in advance and sorry about the extremely long winded first post.
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#2 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 02:46 PM

Lots of information about Super-16 production on the Kodak website:

http://www.kodak.com/go/16mm

Productions that have used Super-16:

http://www.imdb.com/...al?PCS:Super 16

Or "Blow-Ups" to 35mm prints:

http://www.imdb.com/...35 mm (blow-up)

For low budget productions, Super-16 is often a good choice because you can usually defer the cost of a 35mm blow-up until you have a distribution deal, yet you can get excellent quality and a true "film look".
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#3 Chance Shirley

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 02:59 PM

On my first (and only) feature, HIDE AND CREEP, we spent approximately $14,000 on stock, processing, and telecine to DigiBeta. We also made some mistakes and wasted some money. I figure I could get that cost down to $10,000 if I had to do it again.

As for camera packages, I don't have any advice, except to get something quiet. And rent or buy some good lenses. If the camera's working properly, the lenses will make the biggest difference in picture quality.

As for sound, you should be able to buy a good digital recorder, boom, shotgun mic, and slate for under $2,000. I'd guess half that price if you can find the stuff used.

Good luck with your project.
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#4 Dan Horstman

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 03:00 PM

Your stock and processing costs are going to be the same for Regular 16 or Super 16. The drawback to Super 16 is that you will have to do a blow up to 35mm to make a print because the Super 16 image is expanded into the 16mm sound track area. But Super 16 does have a larger image area and therefore should have less grain when it is blown up to 35mm (as opposed to Regular 16)

You also can buy a decent Regular 16mm sound sync camera (Eclair ACL, NPR or Arri BL) for around $2000 (or less) on Ebay. You can get a Super 16 converted ACL or NPR for a little more. An Aaton LTR/XTR/A-Minima or Arri SR1/2/3 will cost you quite a bit more.

My personal oppinion is to go with Regular 16 for your first feature. You can still compose for 1.85 widescreen and have the lab make your Telecine or Answer Print with a 1.85 matte. With the low grain of the Kodak Vison 2 film stocks it should still look pretty darn good if you decide to blow up to 35mm. But by shooting Regular 16mm you could do a 16mm Answer Print first for sending it out to festivals and then if you get picked up for distribution you can do a 35mm blow up for the theatrical release.

If you want some price estimates for your processing and telecine. Send me a PM.

Dan @ Colorlab
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#5 James McBee

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 04:12 PM

Thanks to all of you for responding.

Dan:

I'm aware that the stock and processing will be the same with 16 or super 16. But super 16 cameras are usually a good bit more if I?m not mistaken. Your signature says you work at colorlab. I assume that?s colorlab here in D.C., correct? If so, your opinion is appreciated even more. Colorlab does great work from what I?ve seen.

But I am somewhat surprised that you would recommend 16 over super 16. I?ve always felt that there is a quite noticeable difference in resolution. Of course, as you said it would simplify the whole matter of making prints. But I will probably need to use moderately high speed stock, and I think that little bit of extra real estate might make the difference between a clean, professional looking blowup to 35, and something that looks a bit less polished.

Chance:

If you wouldn?t mind sharing, I?d be interested to know what your total budget was. Of course there are so many variables, I wouldn?t take it as a definitive estimate for low budget filmmaking, but as I said, I would be interested to know. The figure you quoted for film and processing is about the very upper limit of what my budget will allow, and still have enough funds to pay for some equipment and miscellaneous expenses.
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#6 Dan Horstman

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 04:20 PM

Dan:

I'm aware that the stock and processing will be the same with 16 or super 16. But super 16 cameras are usually a good bit more if I?m not mistaken. Your signature says you work at colorlab. I assume that?s colorlab here in D.C., correct? If so, your opinion is appreciated even more. Colorlab does great work from what I?ve seen.

But I am somewhat surprised that you would recommend 16 over super 16. I?ve always felt that there is a quite noticeable difference in resolution. Of course, as you said it would simplify the whole matter of making prints. But I will probably need to use moderately high speed stock, and I think that little bit of extra real estate might make the difference between a clean, professional looking blowup to 35, and something that looks a bit less polished.


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#7 Dan Horstman

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 04:35 PM

It is the Colorlab just outside DC. Come on by and I'll give you the 5 cent tour of the lab.

For image quality the Super 16 is going to be better than the regular 16...more real-estate as you said. Plus you usually will have better lenses for the Super 16. The main reason I recomend Regular 16 for a FIRST feature is that it will allow you to make an Answer Print with Sound for festivals much cheaper than with Super 16. Not a requirement as many will screen on digital video now. With the low grain of the Vision 2 film stocks, making a 35mm 1.85:1 aspect ratio blow up from a Regular 16 frame is now a seriously viable option. (Thank you Kodak!)

(My computer is having some problem and it accidently posted the quote before I started writing my response...then wouldn't let me edit the post...I hate you stupid computer from last century)
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#8 Chance Shirley

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 04:38 PM

The budget for HIDE AND CREEP (a comedy with some simple zombie make-up and gore effects) was approx. $40,000. The cash budget (film, processing, props, locations, food, etc.) was $26,000, and there was another $14,000 in deferred payment to cast and crew.

HIDE AND CREEP never went back out to film. We shot Super 16mm, edited digitally, and went back out to NTSC DigiBeta masters that were used for DVD, television, etc. On a super-low-budget film, I can't see that it makes much sense to do a 35mm blow-up. I mean, if you get a theatrical deal or in at Sundance, sure. But if you go straight to DVD, a 35mm print isn't that useful.
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#9 Michael Collier

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 05:42 PM

Check prices around town to see what your actual costs will be, but for my short 'Sleep' here is what I have spent:

$0.15/ft stock (short ends) got a deal from Media Distrabutors, they usually sell film at $0.17/ft but since your buying more than I did, you can probably get some kind of break.

$0.13/ft proccessing. Normal. If grain is your concern then you probably aren't thinking of pulling the footage anyway. That adds about .05 a foot.

$0.19/ft telecine. You can probably go cheaper if your planning to do a film print, since you won't have to worry about best-light.

The other consideration, are you willing to comit to a 5:1? The lowest I ever go is an 8:1, especially if your actors are not seasoned pros. You can control a lot of things, but not everything.

At a 5:1 your looking at around 21600 feet of rawstock. Total is around $10,000. keep in mind that you will have to spend a long time finding that kind of short ends.

As for buying a S16 camera, you could spend anywhere from 2500 to 30,000 on a good camera. Just remember that a camera you can afford has depreciated as much as its going to for a while, so you can always sell it back. That means as long as you spend around 6grand on a camera, you can sell that back to pay for processing and telecine.

The other option is make good friends with a local renter or owner/op. You know how many days you will need it, just not which days. I think some people may be willing to set a deal where they give you a great deal on a day rate (say 3/7 of the normal day rate or lower) if you agree to a more flexible schedule. Reason is if you can guarantee them that in the course of your feature you will only borrow it on days that it would not be in use otherwise, they are still making good money and not loosing out on other paying projects.
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#10 James McBee

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Posted 28 August 2006 - 10:23 AM

Thanks a lot everyone. You have all given me a lot to think about...And happily it looks like I might be able to shoot on film.

Dan: Thanks very much for the offer. I would love to have the nickel tour of colorlab. I'm pretty busy at the moment but if you have any slow times in October, let me know and I will drop by.

Thanks again.
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#11 Timothy David Orme

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Posted 28 August 2006 - 10:43 AM

I think Michael has a good point that a lot is going to depend on your shooting ratio. 5:1 seems okay, but I've seen many productions do it for much less. I think that depends as much on your shooting environment as it does your crew and experience. If you're shooting in a studio and your sound is controlled, that's a big help. Shooting on the streets of Chicago is a little different. Also, rehearsing really helps.
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