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Is film really better if you don’t know what your doing.


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#1 Joe Sexton

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 12:22 PM

I was at the premier of a film last night, that was shot on super 16. I must say the look of this movie was terrible. I am somewhat familiar with the production because a friend of mine was the lead actor. I came down one day while they were shooting to help out and was an extra. At the time I just shook my head at some of the things they were doing. So last night I watched this movie and thought to myself, it may have looked better had it been shot on video so that the DP could see how bad the it looked. The lighting was terrible, half of the film had a soft focus, and the colors looked very washed out and unnatural. (Probably from trying to correct the mixed lighting) I have come across a lot of movies like this one lately. I posted this because I really just wanted to vent but also thought I see what everybody else thought, and give everyone an chance to vent about some movie that you have seen that was bad too.

Edited by Joe Sexton, 23 April 2007 - 12:26 PM.

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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 12:38 PM

If the DP was terrible at lighting, I'm not so sure that being able to see the picture on a monitor would have helped -- it might have helped the director see that the DP was terrible at lighting, but then, he might have caught that after the first day's dailies came back, if not earlier by looking at his reel.

Good cinematographers are generally (not always) good no matter what camera you give them, and bad ones are generally bad too no matter what camera you give them. The only difference may have been that they would have wasted less money if the bad photography were done on a cheaper medium.

Either way, everyone has to begin somewhere -- maybe the DP and crew were incredibly inexperienced so this short was the beginning of their education process.
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#3 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 12:51 PM

The first time I ever shot film it looked terrible. Although, I was shooting Kodachrome 40 Super 8 which has about a stop of latitude on either side, so I set myself up for failure. Had I had the option of quality video at the time, it would have been a better choice.

That said, because film in general has far more latitude than video, it should be far easier to get a decent image because it is inherently more forgiving. With less latitude takes more experience in knowing how to shoot a frame that doesn't have too much contrast that video can't handle.

Beyond controlling the technical requirements of contrast is the issue of lighting "quality." Illuminating the set adequately is one thing. Actually lighting a set is something else.
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#4 M Joel W

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 01:00 PM

My only experience with film is with Tri-X and bleach bypassed high speed film, but from what I can tell, video is infinitely easier to work with. Sure it's easier to blow highlights on video, but with film you don't really know what you'll get unless you run around with a light meter pointing at everything on set, taking into account its brightness, color, and the brightness and color of the light hitting it. White balance is a lot simpler (when you're mixing 1/4 CTOs and CTBs) than 85B filters and the like...

Then again, Tri-X (and bleach bypass) result in terrible exposure lattitude, so this could just be me. But when I shoot video, issues of exposure inconsistencies are generally less. The same goes for how video handles vast differences in color temperature; it handles it worse, but you know how bad it's going to look to start. I still think film can look better even on a very low budget and if it weren't for my inability to compose in 1.33:1 I'd shoot more 16mm, but the set up times are much longer with a small crew.

That said, I think it's only at the very low end of production where it matters. A competent DP can shoot both, but if you don't know what you're doing, film will show this worse than video. Video also allows for a massive shooting ratio, so you can do tons of set ups and choose in post the good ones--a terrible habit of mine.

Video also allows for more takes with complex monitoring systems, easier focus pulling and camera move set ups (unless you rent a video tap), etc. For ultra low end productions I absolutely think video can be a huge advantage, in terms of cost and aesthetics. And if you can't afford an HD telecine or carefully timed printing, video can be easily color corrected in virtually any NLE.

This is at the VERY low end, though...like student films and the like.
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#5 Joe Sexton

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 01:02 PM

[Either way, everyone has to begin somewhere -- maybe the DP and crew were incredibly inexperienced so this short was the beginning of their education process.
[/quote]

The problem is, this wasn't a short it was 97 minutes.
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#6 Richard Boddington

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 01:02 PM

I've been hiding my terrible abilities as a DOP shooting 35mm for years!! :D

35mm makes some of the worst shots, look "cinematic."

As I always tell the colourists at Deluxe Toronto I work with, "it's your job to fix my bad shooting."

I'm still amazed at how I shot a 90 min feature on 35mm and didn't have one soft focus shot or bad exposure. Post is an amazing thing.

R,
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 01:10 PM

My only experience with film is with Tri-X and bleach bypassed high speed film, but from what I can tell, video is infinitely easier to work with.


That explains your problem right there. Even I have trouble exposing Tri-X correctly!
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#8 timHealy

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 01:16 PM

Then again, Tri-X (and bleach bypass) result in terrible exposure lattitude, so this could just be me.




Let me ask if you are basing shooting all film on one experience where you shot black and white and experimented with bleach bypass?

If you answered yes, than I agree, it's you.

Best

Tim

Edited by timHealy, 23 April 2007 - 01:19 PM.

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#9 John Holland

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 01:18 PM

What Tri X reversal or neg ?
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#10 timHealy

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 01:18 PM

I've been hiding my terrible abilities as a DOP shooting 35mm for years!! :D

35mm makes some of the worst shots, look "cinematic."

As I always tell the colourists at Deluxe Toronto I work with, "it's your job to fix my bad shooting."

I'm still amazed at how I shot a 90 min feature on 35mm and didn't have one soft focus shot or bad exposure. Post is an amazing thing.

R,


Richard,

I think I know you well enough from your posts, that I know you know that post can fix some things, except focus.

Best

Tim
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#11 M Joel W

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 01:31 PM

The Tri-X was Kodak 200D, I don't know the specific number. I was DP/director/whatever; it was an intro to film class. This looked fine sometimes, but when I had to shoot pick ups and accidentally under or overexposed....it didn't work at all.

I think the bleach bypass film I helped shoot (my friend was DP and he let me help light and expose a few shots) was Kodak 500T, probably Vision 2 since I think the Expressions stock was too hazy. It looked very nice when it was developed, but not quite exactly how we imagined it. I think the lab our school uses prints warm.

Another thing I notice with these grainy stocks is that even if the lab does a nice job pushing or pulling to get exposures correct, there is a difference in grain pattern (particularly against solid grey/green/blue walls) that still appears due to inconsistent exposure.

Edited by Matthew Wauhkonen, 23 April 2007 - 01:33 PM.

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#12 Richard Boddington

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 01:40 PM

Richard,

I think I know you well enough from your posts, that I know you know that post can fix some things, except focus.

Best

Tim


Yeah, ok I'll admit, the sharp focus can only be attributed to my natural genius.

R,
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#13 John Holland

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 01:42 PM

Thats 16mm reversal Tri-X , never tried bleach by-pass with B+W only colour neg .
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#14 David Sweetman

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 01:50 PM

I think I know you well enough from your posts, that I know you know that post can fix some things, except focus.

- Nah, cuts could do it.

Film is still good to use (maybe not at this scale...) because you get progressively better at it. Hopefully the DP sees his mistakes and won't make them again.
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#15 M Joel W

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 01:56 PM

Thats 16mm reversal Tri-X , never tried bleach by-pass with B+W only colour neg .


It was two different shoots; the bleach bypass was with Vision 2 500T (if I remember correctly.)
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#16 John Sprung

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 02:05 PM

Focus, frame rate, shutter angle, and extremes of exposure or filtration are the main things we can't fix in post.

Video's virtue as a learning medium is that the "try it and see what happens" cycle is immediate and inexpensive rather than overnight and expensive. Other than that, if you don't know what you're doing, it doesn't matter. The right thing to do is to learn what you're doing, not worry about film vs. tape.
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#17 Sam Wells

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 02:26 PM

Since I began with 16mm reversal I'll just say - well you're one stop over, get it back from the lab, now you know what THAT looks like. Adjust to taste and go again :D

-Sam
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#18 ryan_bennett

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 02:45 PM

Personally, I always found myself to get a better and pleasing image with film, video in general just doesn't look good to me. Now to the original post - well no matter what you're going ot shoot on if you just don't have it you just don't have it. Ya they paid a lot of money but as long as they learned something form the experience then you just gotta move on.

Then again, Tri-X (and bleach bypass) result in terrible exposure lattitude, so this could just be me.



I watched your film and you can read what I thought on that post. You just took one intro class, go out and shoot on free time, just relax and do whatever you what, just make sure you shoot shoot shoot! Also, experiment with color negative and if you can afford it, get a supervised transfer and you'll be amazed at so much that you can and can't do, you probably would've gotten what you wanted for the bleach bypass if you worked more with them in the transfer to get the look you want. You really got to talk to the lab and give them the notes especially if you are doing an unsupervised transfer. Really, film just has a lot of lattitude in comparison, you just barely got your feet wet! The great thing I think is everything is hybrid, you can shoot film get an awesome transfer and edit NLE, it's the best of both worlds and will only get better.

Also, tri-x is black and white and really, is neither D or T, you don't use a filter since there's no color so you can mix lights. Thats the other thing I generally like about film, it makes you think what you're exposing and how you're exposing it. Generally, most people I know who are heavy video users, whenever they want a dark scene or "natural" lighting, they automatically think that means not using any lights and neglecting how you're actually exposing the image (over, under or spot on). That just really angers me, there's no real thought, but I've seen video shot using standard film techniques and I was impressed. I just think if you are into this business you need to learn both film and video.
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#19 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 02:46 PM

That explains your problem right there. Even I have trouble exposing Tri-X correctly!


The only time I had a problem withnTri-X was when I had someone else doing the cinematography.
I wanted a deliberate under exposure, and he did an accidental under exposure on top of that.
But he got a lot of glint of of people's teeth.
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#20 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 03:03 PM

If you don't know what you're doing than that says it all.
Film is generally a more expensive spin of the roulette wheel of whether you can call it art.
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