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16mm release prints


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#1 steve hyde

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Posted 01 January 2007 - 11:12 PM

...regular 16mm => optical print => sound stripped for theatrical presentation?

I would like to learn more about this work flow. What are the best practices? If I shoot reversal can I avoid having to print intermediates?

Steve
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 January 2007 - 11:26 PM

First of all, hardly anyone projects 16mm anymore, but even if you found some (rare) venues, how many prints do you need? You can make a dozen safely off of the original negative (but make a protection IP just in case). Do you need more than that?

Shooting color reversal doesn't really help -- there really isn't color reversal print stock anymore (and the resulting contrast would be excessively high) and if you went to a 16mm IN to get a 16mm print, you'd have to make that IN in an optical printer so that the emulsion would be on the correct side (it's hard to skip one generation because of the way emulsion-to-emulsion contact printing works.) And you'd still have to deal with the contrast problems of duping a color reversal image.

When I was a kid, the local military base projected 16mm prints of movies, but that was one of the few venues for 16mm release prints.
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#3 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 12:08 AM

[quote name='David Mullen ASC' date='Jan 1 2007, 11:26 PM' post='145607']
First of all, hardly anyone projects 16mm anymore, but even if you found some (rare) venues, how many prints do you need? You can make a dozen safely off of the original negative (but make a protection IP just in case). Do you need more than that?

There are still many people who are making 16mm answer prints and there are many venues from art house cinema, museum and underground which have projectors and will run a 16mm print. We printed a feature length film in 16mm, color with sound, and it ran in a local theater here in New England I was personally surprised at how good it looked projected on a multiplex screen.

16mm print is a big part of our business and I feel that "traditional" style film-making has merits which cannot be found in the digital world. I am just about finished cutting a 10 min short on my friends steenbeck everyone who does this seems to fall in love with their workprint I have cut many things on NLE gear and found nothing to fall in love with and furthermore I find nle cutting remote and impersonal compared to the flatbed.

All of the materials are available (IP/IN print MP, etc. stocks) and the heart is still beating on this creature.

-Rob-
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 01:41 AM

Well, here in Los Angeles 16mm prints are rarely screened except at the occasional art house cinema like the American Cinematheque, and almost never at the art house cinema chains like Landmark, Laemmle, or Goldwyn. You'd find video projection more available than 16mm print projection. Same goes for many of the film festivals since they are using multiplex equipment mostly.

In fact, it's been several years since I've seen a 16mm print projected anywhere except at labs for tests. Almost everyone either blows it up to 35mm or shows it digitally.

I just want to make sure that Steve Hyde is not under some impression that you can nationally distribute 16mm release prints to theaters for a feature, because it is unlikely. However, if he wants to go around and set-up a 16mm projector for a screening, or find some of the art house cinemas and museums with a 16mm set-up, I'm sure he can arrange something, assuming he can live with 16mm optical track sound, which is the other problem with 16mm prints.

Oddly enough, I've found in my own tests and the one Super-16 feature I shot (optically blown-up by Colorlab in Maryland) that the 35mm blow-up often looks better than the 16mm contact answer prints. This may be due to the fact that a 35mm print doesn't have to be as enlarged as much to fill a screen.
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#5 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 01:56 AM

I just want to make sure that Steve Hyde is not under some impression that you can nationally distribute 16mm release prints to theaters for a feature, because it is unlikely.

I agree that it is not likely, I just wanted to point out that 16mm print is still alive and there are many people using this form for their personal work. Technical limitations like the optical soundtrack can be considered a plus if that is the aesthetic you are looking for.

I would not advocate a std16 print as a route to national distro in multiplexes :blink: but I did like what I saw of the film we printed that was played in a fairly big theater as this is not the normal venue for 99% of the 16mm print work we do.

-Rob-
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#6 steve hyde

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 12:22 PM

Thanks for the replies.

David,

The multiplex market is not on my radar screen. The market I am going after is art house, universities, museums, cinema cafes, film forums, rooftop film festivals, projecting on the side of a barn in rural Montana. You know that sort of thing. I am planning to travel with my films. (good old fashioned show and tell)

16mm sound projectors abound and can look and sound beautiful if one is mindful about doing it well. I want to learn how to do that. It's an aesthetic choice. 16mm sound films are a novelty. I like the hiss and pop of 16mm optical tracks.

Rob,

I am going to phone you to talk about this, thanks,

Steve
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 12:31 PM

What's confusing then about your original post is the term "release prints" which implies mass distribution of large numbers of prints (usually from a duplication master), not a couple of prints made for screenings, which you would just call "prints" or maybe "show prints" or "composite prints".

Anyway, definitely you'd want to shoot negative, not reversal.
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#8 steve hyde

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 12:47 PM

Thanks David. I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my questions. I don't have all the industry terminology down yet. I try to be as clear and concise as possible when posting...

I'm going to talk to some of the labs and will report back to this thread with a suggested work flow and cost breakdown so that it can be further discussed..

Again, thanks,

Steve
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#9 Alain LeTourneau

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 03:26 PM

Steve,

David and Rob do a fine job pointing out the advantages and limitations of the format.

If you have questions about exhbiting prints please feel free to contact me. BTW, David's comment about release prints is an important one. If small scale distribution is your approach, then you'd likely be ok striking prints off the original A/B rolls. The number of prints you will need is minimal. You'd probably find that two to three are enough, or you might even be happy with the first print to come off the printer, and use that until you needed another one.


-Alain


P.S. Three cheers for Cinelab, Rob, and old Steenbeck editing. I've owned and refurbished 3 Steenbecks, and currently work on an mid-1980s KEM RS with spring-loaded sound heads. And I would concur with Rob, flatbed editing is the way to go, however if you want fancy titles and lots of composite work, then stick to the NLE environment. The recent film Mutual Appreciation was shot in standard 16mm (SRII), edited on a Steenbeck, and blow-up at Metropolis. I caught the film at my local multiplex, Regal Fox Tower.

If only there were DTS boxes around the country hooked up to 16mm projectors, and if only projectors were std16 and super 16 switchable. I think then we'd see a revival of the use of 16 prints on a wider scale. 16mm potential in exhibition is rarely exploited.
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#10 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 03:42 PM

What's confusing then about your original post is the term "release prints" which implies mass distribution of large numbers of prints (usually from a duplication master), not a couple of prints made for screenings, which you would just call "prints" or maybe "show prints" or "composite prints".

Anyway, definitely you'd want to shoot negative, not reversal.


I guess when I say "release" print it means a print you would want to "release" to the (limited) public :D as opposed to a slot print (for sound check) or check print (to adjust color) We also commonly call a "release" print a "Answer" print which I will stick to in the future here perhaps that is a good one because it is a answer to whatever the filmmakers question is......

-Rob-
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#11 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 04:53 PM

Shooting color reversal doesn't really help -- there really isn't color reversal print stock anymore (and the resulting contrast would be excessively high) and if you went to a 16mm IN to get a 16mm print, you'd have to make that IN in an optical printer so that the emulsion would be on the correct side (it's hard to skip one generation because of the way emulsion-to-emulsion contact printing works.) And you'd still have to deal with the contrast problems of duping a color reversal image.

Contact printinting an I/N ought to be fine. That was standard in ECO days. & reduction prints of 35mm features were B-wind, same as a reversal original or print from a contact printed I/N.
That was convenient for cutting in stock footage.
But the contrast today would be too high.

16mm prints have a double standard when it comes to print wind.



Oddly enough, I've found in my own tests and the one Super-16 feature I shot (optically blown-up by Colorlab in Maryland) that the 35mm blow-up often looks better than the 16mm contact answer prints. This may be due to the fact that a 35mm print doesn't have to be as enlarged as much to fill a screen.


That has more to do with sharpness losses in a continuous contact printer. There really is a resolution limit
in the contact printers of around 50 l/mm.
But not in the optical step printer.
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#12 Alain LeTourneau

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 05:02 PM

Kodak made a horrible decision when they decided to discontinue 7399 and 7361, permanently ending the option of shooting on reversal, cutting the original (not impossible given the harder than neg emulsions of B/W and color reversal camera stocks), and making direct (wet gate) prints. I did this on a number of films... and never had scratches. This was also common practice for many, many independent and experimental filmmakers.

So.... one of the cheapest ways to enter into filmmaking is now gone. However, I have a project that I've been working on which follows the same workflow, but will (obviously) go to IN before printing. I'll let y'all know the results...contrast is a big concern, so we'll see what happens.


-Alain
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#13 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 05:02 PM

Contact printinting an I/N ought to be fine. That was standard in ECO days. & reduction prints of 35mm features were B-wind, same as a reversal original or print from a contact printed I/N.
That was convenient for cutting in stock footage.
But the contrast today would be too high.

16mm prints have a double standard when it comes to print wind.
That has more to do with sharpness losses in a continuous contact printer. There really is a resolution limit
in the contact printers of around 50 l/mm.
But not in the optical step printer.



Not to go off topic here but I have recently seen allot of Super-8 optically blown up to 16mm on a JK optical printer and it looked great.

-Rob-
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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 05:31 PM

I agree that Super-16 print projection with digital sound would be a great alternative to 35mm blow-ups.
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#15 steve hyde

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 07:17 PM

Are projectors available that hold sync with sound from a digital source for regular 16mm?



I talked to Alpha Cine Lab here in Seattle: "answer prints" from A/B rolls cost 1.12 /ft - and then - .25 / ft for adding the optical sound. The sound strip work has to be down off-site at a place called "Noise and Light".I also talked to a negative cutter at Andy Pratt's Negative Cutting. He explained the A/B roll process and gave me some tips on preparing work for printing. He suggested going the NLE route and asking the colorist to produce "flexfiles" - a file that helps the negative cutter decided which frame to cut - and a window burn. He also advised that I make sure to use "lab standard length fades and dissolves" to save time and money at printing time. I haven't priced out the costs of negative cutting and sound track creation, but on the film side it sounds like an *answer print* with sound is about $1370.00 for ten minutes. The *release* printing costs would be substantially cheaper. .27/ft - Compare this to the costs of transferring tape to 35mm film 500./ minute with a 10 minute minimum. Going from tape to film is insanity. 16mm is roughly two thirds cheaper than tape to film



Steve

Not to go off topic here but I have recently seen allot of Super-8 optically blown up to 16mm on a JK optical printer and it looked great.

-Rob-



I talked to Bill Brand recently at BB Optics. I have heard he does wonderful super 8 blow ups from color reversal. The cost was about 673.00 for a 100 ft S8 blowup to 16mm...

Steve

Edited by steve hyde, 02 January 2007 - 07:21 PM.

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#16 Dominic Case

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 07:49 PM

We also commonly call a "release" print a "Answer" print which I will stick to in the future here

I think you are unnecessarily confusing the issue here.

An answer print is the first print off a final cut negative. (There may be a few attempts at it before the grading is approved, but there is only ever one print taken by the customer (I'm speaking from the lab's perspective).

Subsequent prints are release prints.

There is a significant difference between the two, which you will discover on the lab's price list B) . In fact it is because all the colour grading corrections etc are built into that first print. Once that's done, subsequent prints (that is, a smallish number from the original negative) can be run straight off with no extra work.

Of course as the filmmaker you may include your answer print as one of the prints used for the release (or distribution) of the film.

In big release patterns (not the festival circuit), you might make a small number of prints off the original negative, and the rest would be release prints from a dupe negative. Those prints off original are sometimes called showprints (as David suggests) to distinguish them from the dupe neg release prints. But I don't often hear the term

I like the hiss and pop of 16mm optical tracks.

Not many people do :( and I agree with David that a digital soundtrack is the way to go unless you are seeking the artefacts of 16mm optical sound - but I don't believe that any system is in widespread use, though there are almost centainly people who have set up one-off configurations - most likely using DTS I guess.
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#17 Alain LeTourneau

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 08:12 PM

I agree with David that a digital soundtrack is the way to go unless you are seeking the artefacts of 16mm optical sound - but I don't believe that any system is in widespread use, though there are almost centainly people who have set up one-off configurations - most likely using DTS I guess.




Sam Wells, who is occasionally on this list, made a film with DTS track, however this is something he had to travel will as no venue has their DTS system hooked up to a 16mm projector.

There are a few ways you could set-up 16mm to playback from digital (as in HDD), but none are too easy. If the projector has a shaft encoder attached to it you can generate bi-phase which you could slave a computer to with the proper intermediary device. More folks should do this... as plenty of the filmmakers we host travel with their films and often with projectors. If one modified their projector with shaft encoder and intermediary box to convert bi-phase to TC, then one could (conceivably) playback from an HDD off a lap top. A nice little JBL active speaker and the filmmaker can create a wonderful (though small scale) cinematic experience.


-Alain
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#18 steve hyde

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 12:39 PM

...syncing a digital track with a 16mm projector would be great. Amazing cinematic experiences could be produced for small spaces. 16mm surround sound..

Alain, I subscribed to your website. Cool ideas!!

Steve
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#19 Marty Hamrick

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 03:13 PM

Hi Steve,

Glad to see that 16mm prints aren't completely dead.That was my workflow back in the day and I haven't seen a 16mm to 16mm project since the 80's.I would be curious to know how much of it is actually still being done.Any way to find this out?
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#20 steve hyde

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 03:23 PM

Hi Marty,

I asked AlphaCine Lab about that. While it is true that most everyone has switched to a video work flow, Alpha told me they get about two jobs per week requesting 16mm answer prints. The clients are mostly "experimental filmmakers" and few of them request optical sound tracks.


by the way, my cost estimates above are off. I accidentally calculated 10 minutes 16mm as 1000ft (approx 35mm) (16mm is approx 400 ft for 10 minutes) This means my estimates were slightly more than doubled making a 10 minute 16mm answer print with sound approx 6 - 700.00. not 1370.00

I'll work on a better break down as soon as I get all my figures straight..

Steve
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