Jump to content


Photo

So how difficult is it to use 16mm?


  • Please log in to reply
85 replies to this topic

#1 Daniel Smith

Daniel Smith
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 791 posts
  • Other

Posted 30 August 2007 - 06:58 PM

Hi.

I haven't had any experience in shooting cine before, only digital. But I was wondering how easy it is to actually 'operate' these 16mm or even 35mm cameras?

By operate I don't mean, point in the right direction, I mean, load the film, start rolling the film, stop the film etc.

For instance, could I rent out a 16mm or 35mm camera, spend half hour getting to know everything, load up some film and begin shooting?

Reason I ask is because I doubt that I will ever go to go to a 'film school' as such, but on the other hand I wouldn't mind shooting film one of these days.

Any advice appreciated.
Dan.
  • 0

#2 Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor
  • Sustaining Members
  • 860 posts
  • Other
  • Boston, Massachusetts

Posted 30 August 2007 - 07:32 PM

Hi.

I haven't had any experience in shooting cine before, only digital. But I was wondering how easy it is to actually 'operate' these 16mm or even 35mm cameras?

By operate I don't mean, point in the right direction, I mean, load the film, start rolling the film, stop the film etc.

For instance, could I rent out a 16mm or 35mm camera, spend half hour getting to know everything, load up some film and begin shooting?

Reason I ask is because I doubt that I will ever go to go to a 'film school' as such, but on the other hand I wouldn't mind shooting film one of these days.

Any advice appreciated.
Dan.


At my local non profit filmmakers foundation, I rented a Bolex, got a half hour
training and went out and shot. That place doesn't exist anymore but what a lot of people do is intern at a
camera rental shop. If you're out of school but working and could swing even four hours a week you might
find a place that would be friendly and teach you quite a bit in exchange for your sweeping some floors and
other such chores. Write a letter to the proprieter of your local shop and introduce yourself. Good luck.

Most of the well paid, working assistant camera people I know, as well as some DPs, started out doing just
that. Also, the more hours you can give, the less sweeping you'll probably have to do.
  • 0

#3 Jon Kukla

Jon Kukla
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 399 posts
  • Other

Posted 30 August 2007 - 07:36 PM

Depends what you want to do. Loading and running an older and smaller 16mm camera like the Arri S or the K3 is very easy as far as loading and running. If you're in the market for larger pro-cameras like the Aatons and Arri SR or 416, you probably will need a run-through on the loading and some of the basic functions, although I don't think that either are particularly difficult. Operation-wise, the first two I mentioned are very lightweight and only take 100' spools (although neither is silent). The Aaton was specifically designed for shoulder-usage, as was the 416. The SR is slightly less handheld-friendly, but you can easily rent out a shoulder extension piece for that purpose. (The total weight will be more than the other cameras, though.)

If you really want to get down and dirty with the cameras just for familiarity's sake, save your money and find a rental house that will let you sit down and learn the equipment on a day when you and they are both free. They won't take kindly to your wanting to use the opportunity to shoot a short for free, but if you just wanna roll a smallish quantity of film for test purposes and can supply your own, you probably won't incite anyone's wrath. (Also, don't buy fresh film for practicing loading - the rental house should be able to provide you junk stock for free.)
  • 0

#4 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11936 posts
  • Other

Posted 30 August 2007 - 08:19 PM

It's a pain; I absolutely never shoot film (well, I hardly shoot film anyway, but...) unless I can have someone to do all that for me.

The problem is that as a beginner you're liable to be renting the oldest, crappiest film-advancement-box-thing, or camera, that you can get your hands on, and the older they are, the harder they are to load. I've shot a bit of 35mm on a Konvas and while slapping the mag on the back of the camera is easy as pie, it's recognised as being one of the trickier mags to load.

Obviously having to do it every few minutes isn't a highlight either.

Film cameras also tend to be very nasty to handhold, especially if you want or need to pull your own focus - not because it's hard to actually hit focus (though it is, on 35) but just because the lenses go round twice from end to end and you can't get there in time. Often a shoulder pad and appropriate handgrips are optional extras.

Older, crappier cameras also tend to have rubbish viewfinders - you're looking at a colour image, but it's probably dark, soft, grainy, vignetted, offcentre, misaligned, dimmer on one side than the other, and when you're rolling, it's flickering like a migrane-inducing disco strobe. The frameline markings may or may not line up with where the frame actually is, may or may not be adequately visible, and may not even be available in appropriate layouts for your target format.

Moving the camera around too roughly may even cause the viewfinder groundglass to flop around inside the camera, making it impossible to achieve consistent framing and making telecine even more horrendously expensive as you fix the problems in post. And the single most insidious film problem of all: what appears to be in focus in the viewfinder may or may not be in focus on the film.

I had one SR1 conversion (which has since taken a dip in the sea and is no longer with us, thank Farquharson) which had all these problems and more, on which the magazine lid catches were so old and worn that the feed side door just swung open at the end of a shot. We slapped it closed in a heartbeat and got away with it, but you'll want to mummify the thing in camera tape before shooting.

Video taps can have exactly the same problems as the viewfinder, while simultaneously disagreeing with the viewfinder on almost any level.

This is a horror story list of more or less everything that can go wrong, but I have had these problems all at once on one camera. If you go and rent a brand new SR3 and you can afford to have it all prepped properly and expert camera assistants to help you, you will not have these problems. If you go on Shooting People and rent the cheapest SR1 mod you can find, well, I would expect you to see at least some of them.

Phil
  • 0

#5 Michael Nash

Michael Nash
  • Sustaining Members
  • 3330 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Pasadena, CA

Posted 30 August 2007 - 09:42 PM

It's a pain; I absolutely never shoot film (well, I hardly shoot film anyway, but...) unless I can have someone to do all that for me.

The problem is that as a beginner you're liable to be renting the oldest, crappiest film-advancement-box-thing, or camera, that you can get your hands on, and the older they are, the harder they are to load. ...

Older, crappier cameras also tend to have rubbish viewfinders - you're looking at a colour image, but it's probably dark, soft, grainy, vignetted, offcentre, misaligned, dimmer on one side than the other, and when you're rolling, it's flickering like a migrane-inducing disco strobe. The frameline markings may or may not line up with where the frame actually is, may or may not be adequately visible, and may not even be available in appropriate layouts for your target format.

Moving the camera around too roughly may even cause the viewfinder groundglass to flop around inside the camera, making it impossible to achieve consistent framing and making telecine even more horrendously expensive as you fix the problems in post. And the single most insidious film problem of all: what appears to be in focus in the viewfinder may or may not be in focus on the film.


I was going to say, "and you'd have problems with crappily-maintained 30 year old video cameras too," but then I realized such video cameras can't even produce an image anymore... :P But you did qualify that newer cameras aren't prone to these problems.

All cameras have their quirks. In general the simpler the camera, the fewer the quirks. An Arri S is a great starter camera. Shy on bells and whistles (and ergonomics), it's pretty simple to load and operate. For something more "pro" you could try an Eclair NPR.

My first 16mm experience was with a non-reflex Bell & Howell springwound. I managed to make it work.
  • 0

#6 Tim Carroll

Tim Carroll
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2165 posts
  • Other
  • Chicago, Illinois

Posted 30 August 2007 - 10:00 PM

Pick up an Arriflex 16S and a few Zeiss, Cooke or Schneider lenses, and a couple of 100 ft daylight spools of Kodak. Go the the web site below and find the "Arriflex 16S, 16S/B, and 16M Manuals" page and download the free PDF operating manual for the camera. Go shoot some film. It's an easy camera to load, very easy camera to hand hold, and can make some very nice images. And it will give you a feel for what film can do for you that video cannot.

Arri16S.com

Have fun,
-Tim
  • 0

#7 Chris Loughran

Chris Loughran
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 18 posts
  • Student
  • Boston, MA

Posted 31 August 2007 - 12:09 AM

Find a used K3 online or in your local paper. Get some dummy film and practice loading in different places. (a dark bathroom, infront of the TV while not looking at the camera) get used to the sound of the camera. Buy some film, shoot a couple hundred feet and see what happens. From this practice you will know the sound if the film isnt running correctly. Once you have shot your film, send it off to your local film lab. Get it the transfer back on miniDV. If all goes well you will have a beautiful 16mm film tansfer and you will see what you could never shoot using any DV camera.
give it a try. have fun.
~Chris
  • 0

#8 Jonathan Bowerbank

Jonathan Bowerbank
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2815 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • San Francisco, CA

Posted 31 August 2007 - 01:26 AM

A Bolex H16 with reflex viewfinder is a great camera to learn 16mm on. It auto loads very easily, and if you do enough practice loads with a dumby roll, you can easily do it in a dark bag.

My first experience in 16mm was with the Canon Scoopic, basically a consumer model 16mm camera from the 70's...I think. So if you can find a cheap one, it's a good option for you as well.

There are various reasons why I prefer shooting film to video. But one of the big factors is the ease of shooting. All you have to worry about is film type, f stop, focal length, depth of field and your framing, then you're ready to shoot.
  • 0

#9 Delorme Jean-Marie

Delorme Jean-Marie
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 513 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • paris, france

Posted 31 August 2007 - 02:02 AM

hi
i don't get your point
a camera isn't a toy to play around with.
if you are curious about exposing, take a reflex camera and shoot stills with the manual device. same with a DSLR.

rental houses are company working in an industry imagine someone comming in a plane factory and asking to practice on one of the equipment!
why? because i have not donne any training before i'm a total newbe but i'm cutious on how it works!!!!


i'm not sure you'll be welcomed.

but if you have a film project, you admit you are a newbe and you ask how to shoot with film and who could help you to do that without compromising the camera and the image itself, the rental house may introduce you to a yong dp they support to mentor you with your project.

or buy a cam on ebay, buy film, roll it, process it, print it, screen it, you will have the same result with a still but you'll be broke!
practice moving picture is a lot more easy on video

my tow cents
  • 0

#10 Robert Hughes

Robert Hughes
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 873 posts
  • Sound Department
  • Minneapolis

Posted 31 August 2007 - 11:32 AM

Daniel, keep in mind that 16mm started out in the 1920's as an amateur format. If Grandpa could figure out how to run his Kodak, you probably could, too. Of course if you're planning on renting an Arri 416 or a new Aaton, you'll want to RTFM and get a little practice at the rental shop (where you will have already signed the million-dollar insurance form, right?).
  • 0

#11 AdamBray

AdamBray
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 99 posts
  • Student
  • Austin, Texas

Posted 31 August 2007 - 06:15 PM

It's easy. Just buy a Arrflex S, a Bolex H16 or a K3. But some film and a meter and just practice. You don't need any film school. Takes about 30 seconds to load and 5 seconds to unload those cameras.
  • 0

#12 Will Montgomery

Will Montgomery
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2030 posts
  • Producer
  • Dallas, TX

Posted 31 August 2007 - 07:11 PM

Once you go through the whole process and see the results, you'll understand why it's still around and here to stay. 16mm stands at an interesting position; it can look extremely professional with the Vision2 negative stocks or it can look very warm and "home movie" like with a reversal or b&w stock. Those are both looks that videographers are always after but can't quite get.
  • 0

#13 Michael Nash

Michael Nash
  • Sustaining Members
  • 3330 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Pasadena, CA

Posted 01 September 2007 - 02:00 AM

Keep in mind that lenses are very important to the final quality of the image. A cheap or poorly maintained lens can make the best-shot film look amateur. If you're renting or borrowing "just to get your feet wet" with film, don't sweat the lenses too much -- shoot and enjoy. But if you're going to purchase, check the lenses before you plunk down your $$.
  • 0

#14 tom quinn

tom quinn
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 48 posts
  • Other

Posted 01 September 2007 - 04:07 AM

After shooting video for years I told myself I wouldn't get hooked on film when going back to school.

too late.

I feel like there is probably more to learn in terms of exposure than there is hardware-wise on most starter 16mm cameras if your background is in video. On the flip side, I've also found super16 negative to be SO much more forgiving than video. You'd be amazed at what you can correct in film. I ran off some footage on a sunny day with the aperature wide (1.4, 500t) open while setting focus and at the post house the processed film was a white screen. They actually pulled the full image back in except for parts of the sky - trees, grass, a creek. Of couse it was pretty grainy because it had been so overexposed, but just the fact that the film holds such detail is pretty amazing having come from video!!!

I know the community college in my area has film classes that are very inexpensive (when i took them it was 300 bucks for the semster and that included 3 rolls of reversal and processing!) if you want to get your hands on gear and a bit of instruction.
  • 0

#15 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11936 posts
  • Other

Posted 01 September 2007 - 08:14 AM

I would point out to all you happy, happy people that Mr. Ashley-Smith is in the UK, and therefore there are no 16mm cameras "in the local paper." There is also absolutely no availability of 16mm short ends either, nor is there any telecine available beyond the £500/hour super high end stuff. Shooting film is three to five times more expensive here and really can't be done as a hobby.

Phil
  • 0

#16 Joe Bressler

Joe Bressler
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 14 posts
  • Other

Posted 01 September 2007 - 09:00 AM

I would point out to all you happy, happy people that Mr. Ashley-Smith is in the UK, and therefore there are no 16mm cameras "in the local paper." There is also absolutely no availability of 16mm short ends either, nor is there any telecine available beyond the £500/hour super high end stuff. Shooting film is three to five times more expensive here and really can't be done as a hobby.

Phil

not quite sure what you are talking about, there are tons of places in the US to have film transferred, unless you are speaking of somewhere else..
  • 0

#17 Mark Dunn

Mark Dunn
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2420 posts
  • Other
  • London

Posted 01 September 2007 - 10:14 AM

Actually he IS talking about somewhere else. The UK, like he said. It's not the same place as the US.
  • 0

#18 Joe Bressler

Joe Bressler
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 14 posts
  • Other

Posted 01 September 2007 - 10:17 AM

oh man, haha. i thought he was comparing the US to the UK saying the US had less transfer houses than the UK. It was too early for me.
  • 0

#19 Stephen Williams

Stephen Williams
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4708 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Europe

Posted 01 September 2007 - 11:32 AM

Hi Daniel,

Remember 16mm was released as an amateur format in 1926. It lasted long enough so it can't be that difficult.

Stephen
  • 0

#20 Kieran Scannell

Kieran Scannell
  • Sustaining Members
  • 339 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Netherlands/Ireland

Posted 01 September 2007 - 12:51 PM

Phil is absolutely right, you guys in the states have no idea how privileged you are that film is alive and well and still a viable option to high end digital video. I've actually stopped offering quotes for both film (s16, s35) and digital video, they just skip through until they find the HD-cam digi-beta quote and say "why do you need 2 people to operate the camera" I think the rental house is the best way to go for experience of film cameras, learning how to prep a film camera is just the best hands on education you can get!

Kieran.
  • 0


Glidecam

Opal

The Slider

CineLab

Tai Audio

FJS International, LLC

rebotnix Technologies

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Willys Widgets

CineTape

Paralinx LLC

Abel Cine

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Visual Products

Aerial Filmworks

Metropolis Post

Technodolly

Wooden Camera

Rig Wheels Passport

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Ritter Battery

rebotnix Technologies

Tai Audio

CineLab

Opal

Rig Wheels Passport

Paralinx LLC

Aerial Filmworks

CineTape

Ritter Battery

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Abel Cine

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

FJS International, LLC

Glidecam

Metropolis Post

Technodolly

Visual Products

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Willys Widgets

The Slider

Wooden Camera