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Quality of 16mm image


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#1 Remi Weekes

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 07:48 AM

Hello,
I hope you are all well,
I have a lil' question, I'm about to shoot a low budget music video on 16mm but have reservations on the quality of the final cut. When I've made 16mm films before, and edited on a prosumer product (i.e AVID or Premier Pro on the PC) When I watch the final product on a television or project, their is a distinct 'dated'ness of the image, possibly it is the graininess, or resolution, neither-the-less, it doesnt have a clean, modern sheen to the quality. The actual shots and quality of the cinematography is great, its just how the image has been printed that makes it look quite classic - almost VHS-esque. I hope I'm making sense.

I'm guessing the problem lies in the fact that it has been edited on a PC rather than graded professionally at a lab? However, does anyone have any ideas for getting a better quality image? Maybe a way of increasing the 720x576 size - possibly so to have more pixels per image?

Cheers for your help!
Remi
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#2 Tim Carroll

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 09:53 AM

Alot of the image quality will depend on who does your transfer and on what machine. I did a series of test of the Arriflex 16S camera within the last year and posted the results on the www.Arri16S.com web page, you can see them below:

16mm clips shot with Arriflex 16S

Posted Image

The individual clips list what lens was used, what film-stock, and what aperture they were shot at, and all of them were shot crystal sync at 24 fps.

They were all transferred here in Portland at a place called Downstream. Done on a Spirit Datacine, anamorphic, 16:9 from the 4:3 16mm negative, and transferred to DVCAM tape.

None of these clips needed to be edited, but had they been, it would have been done on a Mac with Final Cut Pro, and there would have been no more loss of quality as FCP would not compress or uncompress the 16:9 anamorphic images. It can work with them just like they are.

Don't know about editing on a PC. Might not be as good.

-Tim
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#3 Will Montgomery

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 10:35 AM

They were all transferred here in Portland at a place called Downstream. Done on a Spirit Datacine, anamorphic, 16:9 from the 4:3 16mm negative, and transferred to DVCAM tape.


Tim: I've seen your tests before and was impressed, but even more now that I realize it wasn't a Super 16 shoot. Gives me hope for my Scoopic footage to be transfered to HD.

Remi: With modern stocks, 16mm can look amazing when transfered to video. The lighting is usually the key as well as lenses of course.

Find a good telecine house and ask for demo reels from their colorists. When you find a colorist whose work you like or matches your project make sure you ask for him/her.
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#4 Bernhard Zitz

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Posted 12 January 2007 - 08:38 AM

Find a good telecine house and ask for demo reels from their colorists. When you find a colorist whose work you like or matches your project make sure you ask for him/her.


Good idea, make sure to get a good colorist for telecine. The last thing I did on 16mm was very disappointing compared to previous 16mm-stuff I did. Although it was shot on better gear, processed and transferred at the same lab, but with another colorist than the previous stuff...

cheers, Bernhard
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#5 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 12 January 2007 - 08:39 AM

When I watch the final product on a television or project, their is a distinct 'dated'ness of the image, possibly it is the graininess, or resolution, neither-the-less, it doesnt have a clean, modern sheen to the quality. The actual shots and quality of the cinematography is great, its just how the image has been printed that makes it look quite classic - almost VHS-esque.


Forgive me for saying this but this question sounds very naive.

16mm film in both regular 16 and super16 versions has been a workhorse in TV and music videos for years.

A large bulk of thoroughly modern looking music videos has been produced on it, modern and glossy looking televesion too, look at The OC.

If you have concerns about the quality of your previous efforts, you should look at areas where that may have had an affect, the quality of the lenses used, the quality of the lighting, and the standard it was telecined at, plus grading could have an affect to.

You say the footage looked 'dated' well once 16mm was a documentry and semi-proffesional format, so thats what you are probably thinking of. In that situation it was shot under mixed light, with little or no preparation and on amateur or poor quality lenses. Now 16mm is only really used for proffesional productions, the quality of the output of the format has increased incredibly so.

Balance your light sources, or delibeatly don't balance them if thats what you are trying to achieve.. Shoot on the slowest film you can, and overexpose that a little to shrink grain. If you can afford a supervised telecine session do that, if not provide the colourist notes/pictures what you want it to look like.

Remember every format needs 'quality' squeezed out of it.

Best of luck,
Andy
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#6 Stephen Williams

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Posted 12 January 2007 - 10:38 AM

Good idea, make sure to get a good colorist for telecine. The last thing I did on 16mm was very disappointing compared to previous 16mm-stuff I did. Although it was shot on better gear, processed and transferred at the same lab, but with another colorist than the previous stuff...

cheers, Bernhard


Bernhard,

Where did you go? PM me if you prefer.

Stephen
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#7 timHealy

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Posted 12 January 2007 - 12:06 PM

Hello,
I hope you are all well,
I have a lil' question, I'm about to shoot a low budget music video on 16mm but have reservations on the quality of the final cut. When I've made 16mm films before, and edited on a prosumer product (i.e AVID or Premier Pro on the PC) When I watch the final product on a television or project, their is a distinct 'dated'ness of the image, possibly it is the graininess, or resolution, neither-the-less, it doesnt have a clean, modern sheen to the quality. The actual shots and quality of the cinematography is great, its just how the image has been printed that makes it look quite classic - almost VHS-esque. I hope I'm making sense.

I'm guessing the problem lies in the fact that it has been edited on a PC rather than graded professionally at a lab? However, does anyone have any ideas for getting a better quality image? Maybe a way of increasing the 720x576 size - possibly so to have more pixels per image?

Cheers for your help!
Remi


I agree with the folks here who say 16mm can look great!. It all depends on choices like ASA, lens choices and lighting.

I also agree that post processes can deteriorate the image.

If going to a print, the 16mm printing process can be a nightmare. Color timers do not have the tools a colorist would typically have, but that is changing with the DI. Some of it depends on the skills of the timer.

Likewise going to tape, the colorist and equipment can influence your image. If you go to a top notch post house and get the latest equipment with a "hotshot" commercial colorist and pay top dollar, you'll get a great image. If you get the night rate on the same equipment and the colorist is the night colorist becasue they are in training, you'll pay less but you get an image that may not be a good as the day guy.

Also if you go to a low budget post house with older equipment you'll get a lesser image as well.

I have to disagree with Tim though about Final Cut not affecting the image. I have edited a bunch of 16mm transferred to Digi beta and dubbed down to both miniDV and DVCAM. Reducing 16mm to DV is a huge cut in quality. Though DV is great and it looks much better and gives fimmakers greater choices than working on a VHS level, working at the DV level reduces the color space one is working with and whenever I am finishing a project I am dissapointed that there seems to be a loss of quality in terms of color and sharpness.

Much may be due to using some of the digital correction tools whether it is slight reframing or color correction or whatever.

Though in theory it sounds great that a digital image is a digital image, but on the DV level I really believe there is an inherent loss of quality to a certain degree. I can't really quantify it, but it does seem to be there. I am however very interested in upgrading my system in the future and perhaps use a 16mm transferred directly to hardrive in an SD or HD format. I think there has been some dissapointment in some of the smaller post house options in that regard. But I have high hopes for the near future.

Best

Tim
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#8 Tim Carroll

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Posted 12 January 2007 - 12:21 PM

I have to disagree with Tim though about Final Cut not affecting the image. I have edited a bunch of 16mm transferred to Digi beta and dubbed down to both miniDV and DVCAM. Reducing 16mm to DV is a huge cut in quality. Though DV is great and it looks much better and gives fimmakers greater choices than working on a VHS level, working at the DV level reduces the color space one is working with and whenever I am finishing a project I am dissapointed that there seems to be a loss of quality in terms of color and sharpness.


Tim,

You did not read my post carefully enough. I wrote:

They were all transferred here in Portland at a place called Downstream. Done on a Spirit Datacine, anamorphic, 16:9 from the 4:3 16mm negative, and transferred to DVCAM tape.

None of these clips needed to be edited, but had they been, it would have been done on a Mac with Final Cut Pro, and there would have been no more loss of quality as FCP would not compress or uncompress the 16:9 anamorphic images. It can work with them just like they are.


So you see, they were already transferred to DVCAM tape, so putting them through Final Cut Pro, which can easily work natively with DVCAM material with no further compression, would have no effect on the quality of the image.

Make sense?

-Tim
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#9 Jim Feldspar

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Posted 14 January 2007 - 07:11 AM

Forgive me for saying this but this question sounds very naive.

16mm film in both regular 16 and super16 versions has been a workhorse in TV and music videos for years.

A large bulk of thoroughly modern looking music videos has been produced on it, modern and glossy looking televesion too, look at The OC.

If you have concerns about the quality of your previous efforts, you should look at areas where that may have had an affect, the quality of the lenses used, the quality of the lighting, and the standard it was telecined at, plus grading could have an affect to.

You say the footage looked 'dated' well once 16mm was a documentry and semi-proffesional format, so thats what you are probably thinking of. In that situation it was shot under mixed light, with little or no preparation and on amateur or poor quality lenses. Now 16mm is only really used for proffesional productions, the quality of the output of the format has increased incredibly so.

Balance your light sources, or delibeatly don't balance them if thats what you are trying to achieve.. Shoot on the slowest film you can, and overexpose that a little to shrink grain. If you can afford a supervised telecine session do that, if not provide the colourist notes/pictures what you want it to look like.

Remember every format needs 'quality' squeezed out of it.

Best of luck,
Andy



Would you know what cameras/lenses "The O.C." used? Do you know if Super 16 or regular?
Thanks.
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#10 steve hyde

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Posted 14 January 2007 - 11:04 PM

Alot of the image quality will depend on who does your transfer and on what machine. I did a series of test of the Arriflex 16S camera within the last year and posted the results on the www.Arri16S.com web page, you can see them below:

16mm clips shot with Arriflex 16S

Posted Image

The individual clips list what lens was used, what film-stock, and what aperture they were shot at, and all of them were shot crystal sync at 24 fps.

They were all transferred here in Portland at a place called Downstream. Done on a Spirit Datacine, anamorphic, 16:9 from the 4:3 16mm negative, and transferred to DVCAM tape.

None of these clips needed to be edited, but had they been, it would have been done on a Mac with Final Cut Pro, and there would have been no more loss of quality as FCP would not compress or uncompress the 16:9 anamorphic images. It can work with them just like they are.

Don't know about editing on a PC. Might not be as good.

-Tim


Hi Tim,

Nice example. Which lens did you use on this shot?

Steve
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#11 Tim Carroll

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Posted 14 January 2007 - 11:10 PM

Hi Tim,

Nice example. Which lens did you use on this shot?

Steve


Steve,

The frame grab I pictured above was from the clip shot with the Arriflex 16S camera and a Cooke Kinetal 25mm T2 lens.

I am a huge fan of the Kinetal lenses. Aside from the yellowing issue with the lens coatings they are really great. Usually folks describe them as "snappy" as they are a little higher contrast than even the Zeiss primes.

I am trying to make adapters for them so I can use them with my Aaton mount LTR.

-Tim
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#12 Benjamin Cameron

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Posted 16 April 2008 - 11:49 PM

I have edited a bunch of 16mm transferred to Digi beta and dubbed down to both miniDV and DVCAM. Reducing 16mm to DV is a huge cut in quality. Though DV is great and it looks much better and gives fimmakers greater choices than working on a VHS level, working at the DV level reduces the color space one is working with and whenever I am finishing a project I am dissapointed that there seems to be a loss of quality in terms of color and sharpness.

Much may be due to using some of the digital correction tools whether it is slight reframing or color correction or whatever.

Though in theory it sounds great that a digital image is a digital image, but on the DV level I really believe there is an inherent loss of quality to a certain degree. I can't really quantify it, but it does seem to be there.

I, too, have experienced this, and completely agree. MiniDV does seem to not do justice to images produced on Super16mm negative. My next work i think i'll have transferred direct to a hard drive. Also, for the original poster, it really makes a difference to do a "supervised transfer, that is, sit in on the telecine process. You can work with the technician and get everything the way you want it. It costs more, but it's way worth it.
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#13 Will Montgomery

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Posted 17 April 2008 - 08:34 AM

I've sat through informal tests at several post houses displaying DigiBeta and DVCAM versions of the same recordings and I've found it VERY hard to tell the difference on anything other than the highest-end monitors.

Now if you do ANYTHING to the footage other than straight cuts, you will certainly start to see quality issues. Any color adjustments or compositing work suffers in DVCAM. Sometimes that has to do more with the editing software as well. For instance I get much better results in crossfades and compositing using DV footage with After Effects than anything in Final Cut.

The problem with much 16mm footage I see is often poor cinematography. This of course has little to do with tape format. Tim's footage is spot on because he took the time to light it properly and a little thing called FOCUS. Maybe because 16mm is a less expensive format and a great entry path to film for videographers, I just find these basic elements lacking in too many 16mm shoots.

It's probably different in LA where people are more educated about film in general.
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#14 Nate Downes

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Posted 17 April 2008 - 08:54 PM

Good idea, make sure to get a good colorist for telecine. The last thing I did on 16mm was very disappointing compared to previous 16mm-stuff I did. Although it was shot on better gear, processed and transferred at the same lab, but with another colorist than the previous stuff...

cheers, Bernhard

Agreed 100%. My last telecine was fine for editing before conforming negative, but it really left a lot to be desired. I need to find a good colorist for the next transfer.
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#15 Nate Downes

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Posted 17 April 2008 - 08:56 PM

Steve,

The frame grab I pictured above was from the clip shot with the Arriflex 16S camera and a Cooke Kinetal 25mm T2 lens.

I am a huge fan of the Kinetal lenses. Aside from the yellowing issue with the lens coatings they are really great. Usually folks describe them as "snappy" as they are a little higher contrast than even the Zeiss primes.

I am trying to make adapters for them so I can use them with my Aaton mount LTR.

-Tim

Know a good rental house for them, and if there is a C-mount option?
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#16 Dominic Case

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Posted 17 April 2008 - 09:40 PM

a distinct 'dated'ness of the image, possibly it is the graininess, or resolution, neither-the-less, it doesnt have a clean, modern sheen to the quality.

I maybe wrong, but I suspect that the "clean modern sheen" that you are looking for is what other people would call the "digital look", and would be fighting against in seeking the "film look".

There is a subtlety to film that I would never describe as "clean modern sheen". That's not to say that film needs to look grainy or lack resolution.
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#17 Will Montgomery

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Posted 17 April 2008 - 11:50 PM

I maybe wrong, but I suspect that the "clean modern sheen" that you are looking for is what other people would call the "digital look", and would be fighting against in seeking the "film look".

There is a subtlety to film that I would never describe as "clean modern sheen". That's not to say that film needs to look grainy or lack resolution.


Perhaps he's thinking of some of the polished sharp images we see on TV dramas shot on 35mm. A show like LOST can look amazing and so clear & clean it looks like the most perfect video camera except not. Does that make sense? We know it's shot on film and that is really the beauty of it. But a 16mm production that isn't shot properly without good colorists could be seen as more "dated." Or if you're using reversals.

For some prosumer videographers the rougher the film look the better since they're coming from only video.
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