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Lighting for Arriflex 16BL


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#1 Dylan Birchall

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Posted 24 September 2006 - 01:21 AM

Hi,

I have an upcoming student shoot with an Arriflex 16BL. I have little, to none, experience with lighting for film but I want to do the best possible job and the most possible preproduction that I can.

My first question is: Can I reliably practice lighting for this camera using my 35mm still SLR? I was planning on setting up the lights (Blondies, Redheads and Arris) and taking a variety of stills to check the results.
What do I need to control to recreate the film shoot? ASA of stock? shutter speed? etc?

Is this a worthwhile exercise? I can't really practice with 16mm film because we are only given a very limited amount.

Thanks
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#2 C.J. Scheppers

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Posted 24 September 2006 - 02:56 AM

I put Kodak 5245, 5248, 5218 in still cassettes and shoot this in my Nikons. Set shutter speed to 1/60 (or 1/50 if you can); the f-stop you use will then match the f-stop on your movie camera. If you are shooting things which cannot be lit or re-lit, carry a spot-meter, write down what you are metering, what it reads, what f-stop you used and then later examine the workprint (slide) or scan the negative to see how it turned out. If you are shooting things which you are lighting, use an incident or reflective meter; write everything down and evaluate the results later. You can try different film stocks on the same subjects to compare them. Contrast ratios can be compared. I shoot nighttime scenes, bar rooms, neon, road signs, etc. which can be tricky to meter. Bracket your exposures. Shooting these things on film while bracketing your exposures is a form of light metering. When you like a particular result, add other lighting to a scene and take some more pictures. For a little cost, you are shooting a movie on movie film via still pictures without the movie camera, film and processing costs. RGB Labs did a one-light print and mounted the frames as slides but the remaining labs seem to auto-expose the print-to-slides so you'll have to scan the negatives yourself to check your exposures.

Please support the last few labs who will process short rolls of 35mm movie film.
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#3 Matt Sandstrom

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Posted 24 September 2006 - 05:58 AM

Actually the auto exposure of the prints could be very beneficial. On a one light "all" you'll see is that less exposure yields a darker image and vice versa, while if you print them back you'll see how the colors, contrast and grain structure changes with exposure. These days you seldom have to worry about getting an ok exposure, but you're still working with the look. /matt
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#4 Mike Williamson

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Posted 24 September 2006 - 04:19 PM

It might be useful to shoot reversal film in your still camera so that you know exactly what you're getting at a certain f-stop. As someone mentioned, shoot at 1/50th or 1/60th of a second for exposure and make sure that you keep you're still lens at an f-stop that you can recreate on the BL. For example, I have still lenses that open up to 1.4, but if you're using a BL with an older zoom that only opens to 2.8, make sure you don't shoot more wide open than 2.8.

While it would be great to be able to shoot the actual film stock that you'll be shooting, right now I don't think there is anywhere that's doing stills processing of motion picture film (though I've heard A&I Photo in LA is about to start). RGB is out of business so I know they're not an option. Again, I think your best bet is to shoot slide film and look at what you get, bracketing exposures would probably be a good idea.
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#5 C.J. Scheppers

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Posted 24 September 2006 - 05:21 PM

Dale Labs continues to process short rolls of motion picture film. They did three rolls for me a few weeks ago.

http://www.dalelabs.com/
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#6 Matt Sandstrom

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Posted 24 September 2006 - 05:43 PM

I'm not sure why you guys are suggesting these things. Using slide film would be useful to determine whether your light meter is working and whether you're using it correctly, but it won't tell you anything about how to expose your film to get the look you're after. /matt
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#7 Ryan McMackin

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Posted 24 September 2006 - 06:14 PM

I put Kodak 5245, 5248, 5218 in still cassettes and shoot this in my Nikons.


This has probably been described before somwhere on this forum, but since you're talking about now, can you tell me a little bit more about using motion picture film in a still camera? Is it just as easy as ordering the film stock and empty canisters, loading, shooting and finding a place that'll process the film? I mean, It's been a long-time since I loaded canisters back in high-school, but at least I know what is involved. Can you also tell me things like how many feet do you load? And, how well can you evaluate your work from a print as opposed to looking directly at the negative?

Thanks in advance, Ryan.
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#8 Mike Williamson

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Posted 24 September 2006 - 08:21 PM

I'm not sure why you guys are suggesting these things. Using slide film would be useful to determine whether your light meter is working and whether you're using it correctly, but it won't tell you anything about how to expose your film to get the look you're after. /matt


For someone who's new to shooting film, shooting stills seems to me to be a good way to learn how to correlate what your eye sees with what the film reproduces. I think it's an effective way to learn to light, and it will teach you about how to use exposure as part of a look. Obviously it won't teach you about the effects of rating negative film differently, but that doesn't seem to be what Dylan is asking about.

C.J., thanks for the heads up on Dale Labs, didn't know about them before. How are you viewing the results? Are they making positive slides, paper prints or digital scans? Are they providing the stock?
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#9 C.J. Scheppers

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Posted 24 September 2006 - 09:44 PM

This has probably been described before somwhere on this forum, but since you're talking about now, can you tell me a little bit more about using motion picture film in a still camera? Is it just as easy as ordering the film stock and empty canisters, loading, shooting and finding a place that'll process the film? I mean, It's been a long-time since I loaded canisters back in high-school, but at least I know what is involved. Can you also tell me things like how many feet do you load? And, how well can you evaluate your work from a print as opposed to looking directly at the negative?

Thanks in advance, Ryan.


Back when there were many "get free film with every processing order" you could get a roll of movie film at your requested ISO speed for a dollar or two in a 35mm cassette. Often, you didn't know what emulsion, exact speed, age or quality of film you would get. I switched over to buying short ends from Dr. Rawstock, got some Watson daylight loaders and saved some empty film cassettes (which most labs would give you or buy new ones). The Watson and other brand loaders take 100 (some take 200) foot loads, have a number-counter/clicker for the number of exposures you roll; wind about 40 exposures. The first and last of the roll gets exposed to light during the process so you can't take pictures all the way to the end of the roll (about two frames unusable at the end). Loading 36 exposures plus the head and tail makes a cassette almost tight. This is about five or six feet of film.

RGB Labs had a one to one printer which made your workprint on positive stock and then each frame was mounted as a slide. We used a slide projector to evaluate the workprints (projected like a movie, too). We could also scan the negative electronically.

This is a similar use as a still photographer who takes polaroid shots of a scene to gauge what he will shoot on an unseen negative. We take pictures of various locations using the movie film in still cameras to see what the ambient light level and practical lamps look like and then might come back to shoot with no additional light or supplemental light. The supplemental light can also be pre-shot/evaluated at a different location. Another plus is that movie film is readily available in tungsten balance and many locations already have that color of light.
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#10 C.J. Scheppers

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Posted 24 September 2006 - 10:21 PM

For someone who's new to shooting film, shooting stills seems to me to be a good way to learn how to correlate what your eye sees with what the film reproduces. I think it's an effective way to learn to light, and it will teach you about how to use exposure as part of a look. Obviously it won't teach you about the effects of rating negative film differently, but that doesn't seem to be what Dylan is asking about.

C.J., thanks for the heads up on Dale Labs, didn't know about them before. How are you viewing the results? Are they making positive slides, paper prints or digital scans? Are they providing the stock?


I've seen this topic run down on this website but if you want to shoot film and don't try to shoot it in a still camera, you are missing the boat. Maybe people have an unlimited budget or have already shot a million feet of film; if not, much can be learned from a roll of still film.

Some things in scenes are difficult to meter so shooting a series of bracketed stills can get you into the ballpark. Then the more normal things can be lit in relation to this. Since you will eventually have your work color timed optically or telecined by a colorist, you are just trying to get the exposures of the various parts of the scene to the correct relative levels.

You can compare filmstocks by shooting the same setups using different stocks. Another local filmmaker wanted to shoot a dramatic thriller which involved dark shadows, inky blacks, etc. and picked 5218 for his stock. Wrong choice? Maybe the more contrasty stocks would have been better and this could have been verified by tests. What does hard light look like? What does soft light look like? How fast does soft light fade away on various stocks? What makes a clean base light in a scene? How do colors compare?

Seattle Film Works is another place which processed movie film in still cassettes. The websites don't seem to market this but try contacting them.

These labs will do just the processing or additionally make scans, slides (workprints) and paper prints. In the past, we looked at slides which were one-light printed. Nowadays, most positives are adjusted for exposure which can be okay on low-contrast scenes but sometimes I shoot the lone neon sign in the distance and an auto-exposure print will just blow out the sign and make the otherwise dark background a brighter mid-tone. Scans are suspect, too. Best is to scan the neg yourself or keep looking for a place that makes the one-to-one prints. As you get your foreground and background exposures correct, shoot at the right time of the day, get a proper base exposure, etc. you can rely more on autoexposure prints.

I have not tried to get stock from these labs. I think it has become very difficult to talk to labs, especially to the people who work the counters and phones up front. I buy short ends and load them myself.
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#11 Matt Sandstrom

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Posted 25 September 2006 - 05:59 AM

For someone who's new to shooting film, shooting stills seems to me to be a good way to learn how to correlate what your eye sees with what the film reproduces.

yes, so do i and it helped me a lot when i took up cinematography that i had been working as a still photographer for many years. but that's exactly why i think shooting a stock that's as close as possible to your motion stock is a good idea, as well as printing back in order to see how under and overexposure changes the look. the fact that underexposure makes the film darker and overexposure makes it lighter should be obvious even to someone new, and i doubt you will see any more than that if you try to learn by shooting slides. ;-)

/matt

Since you will eventually have your work color timed optically or telecined by a colorist, you are just trying to get the exposures of the various parts of the scene to the correct relative levels.

so how would you know this if you shoot slides, which are much more contrasty and not timed to a correct medium level. i don't say we're in a disagreement, but i'm using this quote of yours to stubbornly continue pushing my point. ;-)

/matt
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#12 C.J. Scheppers

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Posted 25 September 2006 - 12:18 PM

Since you will eventually have your work color timed optically or telecined by a colorist, you are just trying to get the exposures of the various parts of the scene to the correct relative levels.

so how would you know this if you shoot slides, which are much more contrasty and not timed to a correct medium level. i don't say we're in a disagreement, but i'm using this quote of yours to stubbornly continue pushing my point. ;-)
/matt


I did not recommend shooting slides, it was someone else. Another thing about slides, they clip the whites harder than negative stock.
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#13 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 25 September 2006 - 01:16 PM

I agree using your 35mm still camera is a good way to get a feel for what kind of look you make get with certain lighting/stocks. When I took a cinematography class at NYU, the professor had us shoot slide film to experiment with contrast ratios and exposures. I still have them and they can be great visual references when you need them.

Edited by Bill DiPietra, 25 September 2006 - 01:17 PM.

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#14 Ryan McMackin

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Posted 27 September 2006 - 01:45 AM

Back when there were many "get free film with every processing order" you could get a roll of movie film at your requested ISO speed for a dollar or two in a 35mm cassette. Often, you didn't know what emulsion, exact speed, age or quality of film you would get. I switched over to buying short ends from Dr. Rawstock, got some Watson daylight loaders and saved some empty film cassettes (which most labs would give you or buy new ones). The Watson and other brand loaders take 100 (some take 200) foot loads, have a number-counter/clicker for the number of exposures you roll; wind about 40 exposures. The first and last of the roll gets exposed to light during the process so you can't take pictures all the way to the end of the roll (about two frames unusable at the end). Loading 36 exposures plus the head and tail makes a cassette almost tight. This is about five or six feet of film.

RGB Labs had a one to one printer which made your workprint on positive stock and then each frame was mounted as a slide. We used a slide projector to evaluate the workprints (projected like a movie, too). We could also scan the negative electronically.

This is a similar use as a still photographer who takes polaroid shots of a scene to gauge what he will shoot on an unseen negative. We take pictures of various locations using the movie film in still cameras to see what the ambient light level and practical lamps look like and then might come back to shoot with no additional light or supplemental light. The supplemental light can also be pre-shot/evaluated at a different location. Another plus is that movie film is readily available in tungsten balance and many locations already have that color of light.


Thanks for taking the time to write that out for me! I'll give 'er a try and let you know how it works out for me...
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#15 boy yniguez

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Posted 30 September 2006 - 06:19 PM

I agree using your 35mm still camera is a good way to get a feel for what kind of look you make get with certain lighting/stocks. When I took a cinematography class at NYU, the professor had us shoot slide film to experiment with contrast ratios and exposures. I still have them and they can be great visual references when you need them.


it is true slide films are great learning tools for exposure as their lattitude is so narrow and margin for error is so small but as for contrast you're better off using a stock closer to what you'll be shooting in (which of course could be one and the same if you're filming in reversal stock).
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