Jump to content


Photo

Short End Nightmare


  • Please log in to reply
13 replies to this topic

#1 Josh Silfen

Josh Silfen
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 53 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, CA

Posted 08 November 2007 - 03:37 PM

A production I'm involved with is in an unfortunate spot involving some bad short ends, and I was hoping to get some unbiased opinions on the situation.

I recently shot a series of three 35mm spec commercials for a director I know. He works mostly as an editor, but recently attended Columbia University's grad film program in an effort to start working as a director. He is particularly interested in commercials, so for his first project since graduating, he decided to make three specs for his directing reel. He was financing them entirely himself, using all of his savings, as an investment in the future of his career. At the time I came on board as DP, I think the intention had been to shoot on Super 16, but through a connection I had to a cheap 35mm camera package, I was able to convince the director and producer that we would be better off shooting on 35. The producer suggested that we shoot on short ends to save money. I was a little wary of short ends, because I'd never used them before, but I told her if we buy short ends, Media Distributors was the place to go. I've seen them recommended so many times on this message board and elsewhere, and I knew of their reputation and the fact that they test and guarantee every roll they sell. According to their website: "Every end we sell is tested - one of only a few sources here in the US providing such service. All short ends and recans are tested in a Kodak certified laboratory. Each and every can is tested to insure proper color levels and guard against any damage, before it's certified and sold by Media Distributors."

Last week we went to the post house to do the transfer of the footage, and we were shocked and horrified to discover that three of the rolls of film we had bought from Media Distributors had already been shot! We watched three rolls that were completely double-exposed with our image and what looked like another commercial both on the same film. It was a little disorienting because we had shot 3-perf and the other footage was 4-perf, but we could easily make out an image of a man standing next to a computer screen, talking to the camera. There were even slates that identified the production, production company, director, DP, and date, so we knew where the film had come from. Now, I have heard of rare problems with short ends, but they had all been things like minor color differences between rolls, or slight fogging. I have never heard of being sold film that had already been shot! I'm not entirely sure what the short end testing process consists of, or how it works, but if it is able to "insure proper color levels and guard against any damage," surely it should be able to reveal that a roll of film has already been exposed and has another image already on it, waiting to be developed! Plus, the problems I had heard of were extremely rare, maybe one bad roll out of hundreds of thousands of feet of total footage. In this case, we bought maybe nine or ten rolls total, and THREE were worthless. Worse than worthless, because we shot them thinking they were fine and that the footage we needed was in the can.

Now, my question is what exactly does Media Distributors mean when they say they guarantee their product? If they offer us new film to replace the bad film, is that the end of their responsibility? One of the three specs made it out unscathed, but one scene each of the other two need to be re-shot. By the time we rent all the equipment again, hire the crew again, secure the locations and actors again, etc, it will cost several thousand dollars to re-shoot those scenes. It will certainly be way more than we saved by shooting on short ends in the first place. I understand that there is in inherent risk when shooting on short ends, but then what's the point of testing "every roll" if you can still get burned so badly. Had I known that the tests wouldn't reveal such a glaringly obvious flaw in the film stock as having already been shot, I never would have agreed to use short ends in the first place. That was the only reason I thought we were relatively safe. Media Distributors claims to have fired the lab they had been using for the tests as of this incident, and hopefully that will save other small productions from the same fate as us, but in this case, where their tests and guarantee so utterly failed us, should they help us out with the costs of a re-shoot, or is it just our fault for rolling the dice with short ends and losing? And if short ends are inherently this much of a risk, why would anyone use them? Any opinions on this matter would be greatly appreciated. Thanks a lot.

Josh Silfen


PS: If director Jim Perretti, DP Romeo Tirone, or anyone from Perretti Productions is reading this and is wondering what happened to three rolls of film that was shot for a commercial you did about a year ago, well, it was sold to Media Distributors as short ends, and now has other footage on top of it.

Edited by Josh Silfen, 08 November 2007 - 03:40 PM.

  • 0

#2 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11936 posts
  • Other

Posted 08 November 2007 - 04:25 PM

Hi,

Perhaps you should ask Media Distributors how often they actually reject rolls of stock as a result of the tests they run.

It's tough to see how this could happen. Since the tail of the shot roll would have been outermost, it should either have been a rollout with picture all the way to the last frame, or a shot of someone's hand over the mattebox. There's no way there should ever have been more than enough completely unexposed film to lace up the mag on the end of the roll - how much do they clip test, two frames?! I can't see any loader carefully winding several feet of unexposed neg onto the end of the exposed roll when it was removed from the mag.

Phil
  • 0

#3 A. Whitehouse

A. Whitehouse
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 267 posts
  • Director
  • Melbourne

Posted 08 November 2007 - 04:29 PM

Wow, Ive used short ends and recans many many times and never seen or heard of this happening. They would have had to have rewound the film back onto a core before selling it to you. Ive never heard of this happening and makes me wary of the short ends I have in my fridge (not that it'll stop me from using them). Sad story.
  • 0

#4 Josh Silfen

Josh Silfen
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 53 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, CA

Posted 08 November 2007 - 04:44 PM

I can't see any loader carefully winding several feet of unexposed neg onto the end of the exposed roll when it was removed from the mag.


Neither can I, but then again, I can't see any loader unloading an exposed roll and labeling it as a short end either.

They would have had to have rewound the film back onto a core before selling it to you.


Not necessarily. They must have shot on a camera that takes up emulsion in, onto a core. And it's 35mm, not 16, so there are perfs on both sides of the frame, so it could easily just be reloaded and shot in the other direction.
-Josh
  • 0

#5 A. Whitehouse

A. Whitehouse
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 267 posts
  • Director
  • Melbourne

Posted 08 November 2007 - 06:21 PM

Not necessarily. They must have shot on a camera that takes up emulsion in, onto a core. And it's 35mm, not 16, so there are perfs on both sides of the frame, so it could easily just be reloaded and shot in the other direction.
-Josh


Good point.
  • 0

#6 Chris Keth

Chris Keth
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4427 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • Los Angeles

Posted 08 November 2007 - 06:44 PM

Not necessarily. They must have shot on a camera that takes up emulsion in, onto a core. And it's 35mm, not 16, so there are perfs on both sides of the frame, so it could easily just be reloaded and shot in the other direction.
-Josh


A panaflex fits the bill there.
  • 0

#7 Dominic Case

Dominic Case
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1357 posts
  • Other
  • Sydney Australia

Posted 08 November 2007 - 08:10 PM

Firstly, as to the discussion of how could this happen: one simple question, Josh. Are the Perretti images on the neg upside down or the same way up as yours? If they are the same way up, then the stock must have been rewound before you got it. If they are upside down, then the loader for the Perretti production simply unloaded a half-shot roll, and put the exposed half in his pile of short ends. Three times. I presume he or she is now their ex-loader.

Testing stock normally involves clipping off the last foot or so of the roll and processing it to check the fog level. That picks up X-ray fog, heat and age fog. If the loader had actually wound a couple of feet on after the camera stop (on the darkroom, just in the mag) to provide a bit of end-of-roll handling space (not a bad practice), then that is what they would have tested, unfortunately.

Since the original production company must have been missing three rolls of shot material, one wonders why they didn't do something. Like recalling the short ends they sold to Media Distributors for example. I think you have a case agaisnt them just as much as you have with Media Distributors.

Secondly, as to the guarantee, you'd have to look at the fine print of your deal with Media Distributors. On their website they say:-

Film will be replaced if defective in manufacturing, labeling, or packaging, or if damaged or lost by Media Distributors. Except for such replacement, the sale, processing or other handling of this film is without warranty or liability even though defect, damage, or loss is caused by negligence or other fault.

That is fairly clear, and quite standard. If they were to guarantee to cover all your costs in reshooting, they'd be charging a lot more to cover their risk. After all, you are talking about thousands of dollars, but if you had used the stock to shoot the proverbial exploding helicopter (3 cameras to be sure of getting coverage :( ) , what then? I think that is what insurance is for.
  • 0

#8 Michael Collier

Michael Collier
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1262 posts
  • Gaffer
  • Los Angeles, CA

Posted 08 November 2007 - 08:12 PM

Can't say I am unbiased, I only shoot short ends, and have used MD almost exclusively, unless they don't have the stock I want. The only problem I have ever had with them was one roll labeled 7218 came in my order of 7217. They corrected the problem and even let me keep the 300' of 7218. I have never had a problem with MD and their opperation. Its amazing that this happened to 3 of your reels. As was mentioned earlier, how did it end up that exposed footage was sent to the group in the first place? I am sure that caused red faces on that production as well.

Has anyone else seen this happen to them? I have never heard of it, and it makes me a little warry of short ends as well. Not that I can avoid it, its hard enough to convince a producer to go with film in the first place. Also note that I have only shot 16mm single perf, so I suppose that would make it harder to get a double exposure SE.

Also....has anyone, 2d ac, or just someone on a production seen this happen, to send exposed footage to anywhere but the lab? I assume that if an exposed roll of film goes to SE it would only come up as missing in the film inventory, but is that common in a production? I know I keep a different color tape (usually black) to wrap cans of exposed film to prevent that from happening, and make sure to place it in a seperate box headed for the lab, but is this a freak occurance, or does this happen occasionaly?
  • 0

#9 Chris Keth

Chris Keth
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4427 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • Los Angeles

Posted 08 November 2007 - 08:35 PM

I'm sure it happens on occasion the way you get rushed, particularly if the second is also loading. That's why, sometimes, you just have to take your time, do it right, and get yelled at.
  • 0

#10 Robert Houllahan

Robert Houllahan
  • Sustaining Members
  • 1582 posts
  • Industry Rep
  • Providence R.I.

Posted 09 November 2007 - 02:37 AM

As was mentioned earlier, how did it end up that exposed footage was sent to the group in the first place? I am sure that caused red faces on that production as well.

Also....has anyone, 2d ac, or just someone on a production seen this happen, to send exposed footage to anywhere but the lab?



I have heard of people dumping mags of exposed film in the trash because the take was known bad...I have not heard of nor seen any used unexposed film sold as short ends, and I have to agree that this would be a hit or miss to catch in a clip test at the lab, you might just get blank loaded film in that foot..

A real bummer but I guess you have to trust the production co that sold the film as recans or short ends did not shoot it, these guys might have had 3 blank rolls come back from the lab when they shot and had a time wondering what happened to their takes...

-Rob-
  • 0

#11 Jim Carlile

Jim Carlile
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 464 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 10 November 2007 - 03:03 AM

What a nightmare. I have never, ever heard of this happening. I supect recovery beyond the raw stock would be difficult to get... sounds like a talk with an attorney is advisable.

I wonder if maybe some intentional fraud was involved-- such as the orginal user just choosing not to print the takes, and then quietly cashing the film in as "short ends." Three separate rolls makes me VERY suspicious....

Edited by Jim Carlile, 10 November 2007 - 03:05 AM.

  • 0

#12 K Borowski

K Borowski
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 3905 posts
  • Camera Operator
  • I.A.T.S.E. Local # 600 Eastern Region

Posted 10 November 2007 - 11:40 AM

I'd agree that this is much more the fault of the original production (their loader) than Media Distributors. However, this really does appear to be an exceptional circumstance of incompetence coupled with an unconventional roll-out, or rewind that led to this disaster. Were you folks insured? I know you said that this was for a personal project, but I have heard you can get insurance for just about any sort of shoot.

~KB
  • 0

#13 Josh Silfen

Josh Silfen
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 53 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, CA

Posted 10 November 2007 - 02:40 PM

Since the original production company must have been missing three rolls of shot material, one wonders why they didn't do something. Like recalling the short ends they sold to Media Distributors for example. I think you have a case agaisnt them just as much as you have with Media Distributors.


True, but they are not the ones that guarantee and test their product and we had no dealings or arrangements with them, only Media Distributors who sold us their film.

Firstly, as to the discussion of how could this happen: one simple question, Josh. Are the Perretti images on the neg upside down or the same way up as yours? If they are the same way up, then the stock must have been rewound before you got it. If they are upside down, then the loader for the Perretti production simply unloaded a half-shot roll, and put the exposed half in his pile of short ends. Three times. I presume he or she is now their ex-loader.


The images were upside down if I'm remembering correctly.

I wonder if maybe some intentional fraud was involved-- such as the orginal user just choosing not to print the takes, and then quietly cashing the film in as "short ends." Three separate rolls makes me VERY suspicious....


How much money could really be made from selling a few hundred feet of short ends to a reseller? It seems unlikely that they would do such a thing for so little money. I think it would have to be either gross negligence on the part of the loader, or some kind of vendetta they had against the production company (and/or other productions that might use short ends).

Were you folks insured? I know you said that this was for a personal project, but I have heard you can get insurance for just about any sort of shoot.


We did have production insurance, but it was the cheapest insurance we could possibly get, just to allow us to rent equipment and get locations. I don't think it would cover negative damage, and even if it did, the deductible may well be higher than the cost of the re-shoot.

-Josh

Edited by Josh Silfen, 10 November 2007 - 02:40 PM.

  • 0

#14 David Venhaus

David Venhaus
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 129 posts
  • Other
  • Wiseburn, CA

Posted 04 December 2007 - 12:53 AM

Sorry to hear about that. I recently had almost the same thing happen with some short-ends. I picked up 2 cans (240' 5246 + 400' 5276) from a reputable reseller of vid/aud tape (but very rarely sells short-ends so I don't think it was really his fault). Got them cheap, so I did a clip test and both rolls had already been exposed. Both rolls were labeled from the same production. Luckily I found out before I shot something important with it. I'm just gonna end up using the stock for destructive experimental testing or something. Also, does anyone know what the copyright issues would be, if I develop any of the film and use it. Would I own the copyright since the actual images didn't physically exist before I developed it?
  • 0


Visual Products

The Slider

CineTape

Aerial Filmworks

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Abel Cine

FJS International, LLC

Paralinx LLC

Rig Wheels Passport

Tai Audio

Metropolis Post

Wooden Camera

Ritter Battery

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Glidecam

Willys Widgets

Technodolly

rebotnix Technologies

Opal

CineLab

CineTape

FJS International, LLC

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Abel Cine

rebotnix Technologies

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Ritter Battery

Visual Products

Tai Audio

Glidecam

Willys Widgets

Paralinx LLC

Technodolly

Rig Wheels Passport

The Slider

Wooden Camera

CineLab

Aerial Filmworks

Opal

Metropolis Post

Gamma Ray Digital Inc