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Can workprints reduce the cost of a telecine session?


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#1 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 05:30 AM

I?m shooting an ongoing project on 16mm colour negative on an extremely low budget and I am considering getting work prints made by a lab as a means of viewing my rushes after each shoot. I will likely be exposing 100 feet or a couple of hundred feet at a time every few months and the aim is to eventually telecine all the accumulated footage with a Rank or Spirit and do a ?best light? transfer with (hopefully) minimal colour grading. I know that this is going to be cost a lot!

I am totally new to the world of professional telecine and work prints but I was wondering if there was a way that I could reduce the cost of the telecine with the work prints. As in any production, obviously there are going to be some shots that I don?t want adjusted or corrected in any way, and preferably not transferred. Unfortunately, it is not likely that I will be attending the session because the transfer house will be in another state so I can?t convey my instructions to the operator in person. I suppose that drawing up a shot list of which shots to be included and which ones to exclude would not be very reliable as a means of communication. So I was wondering if there was some system where the work prints could be utilized to indicate accurately which shots I want transferred? I know this sounds a bit vague but is there such a system that is similar to an Edit Decision List in principle that involves using work prints as a point of reference for transferring certain shots in telecine? By the way, different companies will be doing the work prints and telecine so I hope that there is some common system in place that is understood and used by different parties. If there is such a system, I hope it can significantly reduce the cost of a telecine session.
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#2 Michael Most

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 08:11 AM

So I was wondering if there was some system where the work prints could be utilized to indicate accurately which shots I want transferred?



1. Slates.
2. Key numbers.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 08:18 AM

You don't need workprints in order to transfer less material -- as Mike said, just slate your shots, fill out camera reports, and tell them which takes to transfer. Use grey scales to help give them an idea of what a normal frame of reference is.

If you're trying to save money, do you really need both workprint and telecine transfers?

Realize that labs when doing 16mm workprinting usually won't chop-up the camera rolls to create printing rolls, so they workprint only entire rolls.
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#4 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 10:15 AM

"If you're trying to save money, do you really need both workprint and telecine transfers?"

I won't be using workprints in the traditional sense. The purpose of the workprints is just so that I can see the results of my footage shortly after the shoot. This is a project that is likely going to take a very long time to complete - probably well over two years. So the final transfer will be a long way away. And I figured that workprints would be a way that I could view and assess my exposed footage in the meantime. Of course another option would be to view my rushes with a one light telecine but I get the impression that it's quite expensive to transfer only a small amount of film at a time. Although a workprint is not exactly cheap, I guess the 50 or 60 bucks that I would need to pay in Australian dollars per 100 feet is not too bad - though it still is a lot. Though regardless if I choose workprint or telecine, I can't really see any cost-saving way of viewing rushes from 16mm negative - both options cost money. Though if there is an inexpensive way that I can view my rushes with reasonable quality, then I'm open to suggestions!

"...as Mike said, just slate your shots, fill out camera reports, and tell them which takes to transfer."

With this film, I'm shooting quite a bit of wildlife so unfortunately, there will be numerous times where slates will be out of the question. When the action is happening thick and fast, for example when a school of dolphins is frolicking in the water and leaping for joy, I will be too preoccupied with trying to find focus on my subjects and anticipating their moves. By the way, what sort of information is filled out in a camera report that could be useful in my situation? With using key numbers as a source of reference, I am assuming that these are the same as edge numbers? This will also show my lack of knowledge of workprints but when a workprint is made, will it bear identical key numbers to the negative it was printed from for the representative frames? I'm guessing that key numbers would be less convenient than slated shots to a telecine operator who is trying to locate selected shots...unless there's some modern high tech way that edge numbers could be quickly detected during a telecine session.
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#5 Chris Keth

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 10:25 AM

"If you're trying to save money, do you really need both workprint and telecine transfers?"

I won't be using workprints in the traditional sense. The purpose of the workprints is just so that I can see the results of my footage shortly after the shoot. This is a project that is likely going to take a very long time to complete - probably well over two years. So the final transfer will be a long way away. And I figured that workprints would be a way that I could view and assess my exposed footage in the meantime. Of course another option would be to view my rushes with a one light telecine but I get the impression that it's quite expensive to transfer only a small amount of film at a time. Although a workprint is not exactly cheap, I guess the 50 or 60 bucks that I would need to pay in Australian dollars per 100 feet is not too bad - though it still is a lot. Though regardless if I choose workprint or telecine, I can't really see any cost-saving way of viewing rushes from 16mm negative - both options cost money. Though if there is an inexpensive way that I can view my rushes with reasonable quality, then I'm open to suggestions!

"...as Mike said, just slate your shots, fill out camera reports, and tell them which takes to transfer."

With this film, I'm shooting quite a bit of wildlife so unfortunately, there will be numerous times where slates will be out of the question. When the action is happening thick and fast, for example when a school of dolphins is frolicking in the water and leaping for joy, I will be too preoccupied with trying to find focus on my subjects and anticipating their moves. By the way, what sort of information is filled out in a camera report that could be useful in my situation? With using key numbers as a source of reference, I am assuming that these are the same as edge numbers? This will also show my lack of knowledge of workprints but when a workprint is made, will it bear identical key numbers to the negative it was printed from for the representative frames? I'm guessing that key numbers would be less convenient than slated shots to a telecine operator who is trying to locate selected shots...unless there's some modern high tech way that edge numbers could be quickly detected during a telecine session.


Part of a camera report is to mark which takes are good, bad, etcetera and which ones to print. You don't have to slate at the head of a take. You can tail slate things like that so you don't scare animals and such.
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#6 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 11:11 AM

Unfortunately, slating at the end of a shot will not be practical either much of the time with wildlife. As a shot ends, I will be immediately setting up and readying for the next action by the animal/s. Could edge numbers be used effectively for identifying certain shots?
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 12:20 PM

Unfortunately, slating at the end of a shot will not be practical either much of the time with wildlife. As a shot ends, I will be immediately setting up and readying for the next action by the animal/s. Could edge numbers be used effectively for identifying certain shots?


In a telecine session, you are really being billed for the TIME and if the colorist spends a lot of time scanning through negative looking for an edgecode number, you're not saving any money. The closest solution to what you're describing is to use Aatoncode or Arricode, which requires an Aaton or Arri that can burn the code into the edge of the film (it's burning in time code info). Then a telecine with an Aatoncode or Arricode reader can find that info, although even there I wonder about it slowing down the transfer process.

Personally, I'd just get all the footage transferred to video and forget workprinting except for selected rolls when you want to double-check something or make sure the camera is working properly.

Besides, the lab is more likely to have a minimal length for processing and printing than the telecine place is for transferring. And either way, you could bunch up your footage until you have enough for the minimum. And if you're shooting wildlife, I think you'll burn through the minimum pretty quickly anyway.
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#8 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 01:46 PM

Thanks David for setting things straight. I was actually wondering about the time it would take the colourist to look for keycodes versus the time it would take to colour grade and adjust brightness on unwanted shots. If it works out to be the same, I may as well 'eat it' so to speak and transfer the whole lot. I have actually exposed one film for this project so far (100 feet) and I exposed the first half on a school of dolphins - very challenging subject matter.
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#9 Dominic Case

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 06:43 PM

You might want to look at lab prices for work prints. It would be cheaper for you to telecine the entire lot of negative than to workprint it. And your telecine costs will go up if you ask for select takes to be transferred - as others have explained.

Slates (tail slates are commonly used for your sort of work) are really important as a way of keeping track of your footage, especially in a wildlife project where you will have a lot of film.

Your camera report can't show edge numbers (key numbers or keycodes) as they only become visible after the neg is processed (btw if you do get a work print, then those same numbers are printed onto the workprint, and they are also present as machine readable barcodes. When the neg is telecined, a log must be saved which correlates these keycodes with the video timecode laid down on the tapes if you plan to come back and cut the negative later on.

I can see your problem is not knowing if your footage is any good until you can see it in one form or another. I guess your best plan is to check with your telecine house if they charge per foot or per transfer session time. THen find out the minimum cost-effective amount to transfer, and run a batch of neg every time you have shot that much. For example if they charge for a half hour and if they suggest that they can do about 400 ft with light colour corrections in that session, that's the way to go. (Check the numbers, I'm just guessing).
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