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to do 16mm or 35mm- that is the question!


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#1 sj trinidad

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Posted 26 January 2008 - 11:46 AM

I am an actor who has been sitting on a short film script that I have written for years now and 2008 is the year that I am going to shoot the thing.
You think as an actor I would know something about the behind the scenes of how to make a movie- truth is I only ever paid attention the job that I was supposed to be doing.

So here it is- a few questions about film- hopefully someone can give me their take.
my script is approx 22-26 pages long (revisions are pending) and I am thinking I would like to shoot on 35mm ( I hear this is the only way to get your film taken seriously and If I'm spending thousands already on a film I want it done right)
What is the real difference of shooting 35mm as opposed to 16mm? I know price is an issue, but as far as look and feel

Also, for those in the know- can you give me a rough estimate of how much 35mm will cost for the legnth of script I have

Also a few more questions:

I am trying to work with a small crew - who are the essential crew members that I have to have and who can I really live without?

What equipment is essential and what can I live without? (I know the camera would be an important thing to have(lol) but what key lighting, sound etc - maybe to broad a question?

Any info you think might help would be great!
Thanks so much!
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 26 January 2008 - 01:01 PM

It's a rather broad question... your movie may be a silent one about a guy walking in the mountains, or it may be a dialogue one about twenty people talking at a party. Your lighting may be for night interiors, city night exteriors, rural night exteriors, day interiors up in a skyscraper, on a soundstage set, etc. -- you may have plans that need a lot of grip work, like car rigs, long dolly tracks, crane shots, scaffolding, large silks, etc. Or not.

Generally for a small project shooting on film, you'd have a DP/operator plus two AC's. I don't recommend only one AC unless you rent a lot of mags for the camera that can be pre-loaded in advance. It's really a two-man AC job even in 16mm if you are shooting dialogue, a lot of film, slating, etc. If it's not like that, more like doing outdoor nature photography with a small package, one zoom lens, not a lot of film, then one AC might suffice, especially if it is a lighter 16mm package instead of a 35mm package. Just depends on how many pieces there are to the package.

Making some broad assumptions... a "typical" small crew shooting dialogue short films might be, besides a director:

DP/operator
1st AC/focus-puller
2nd AC/loader
Sound recordist
boom mic operator

Key Grip
Gaffer
no. of electrics / grips?

AD
Script Supervisor
Hair & make-up person(s)
Art director
Wardrobe supervisor
PA's
craft service person

Now maybe you don't need some of these people -- maybe the actors can do their own make-up, or use no make-up that what they normally wear, maybe they can handle their own wardrobe, etc. Just be aware (as you probably are, as an actor) that continuity is a key problem and it's easy for actors to forget to bring the same watch or necktie or necklace that their charactor wore the previous shooting day, or keep track of their hair, etc.

Some short film directors try to AD the shoot themselves, organizing everyone for every scene, but it's a bit of a distraction from directing the scene itself, running around.

Again, it depends on the script and how you plan on shooting it in terms of how much gripping or lighting will be necessary.

Super-16 can look very good these days (there are some good-looking TV shows shooting it). 35mm looks great of course -- it's four times the negative area of 16mm after all, so it's sharper and less grainy. But it may overkill for your short film. One advantage though is that if you shoot standard 35mm, you can cut the negative and make a contact print with a soundtrack for 35mm projection, as long as you edit the movie for a film finish / negative conform in mind. But these days, you can project HD, so another option would be to shoot in Super-16, transfer to HD, and make an HD master.
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#3 Chris Keth

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Posted 26 January 2008 - 02:51 PM

How grainy you are willing to live with? If your budget calls for 16 but you want to minimize grain, your lighting budget is going to have to take up the slack as you will probably want to use a slower (and thus less grainy) film stock. I haven't priced both options but that is probably cheaper than a lower lighting budget and shooting a fast 35mm stock.
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#4 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 03:39 AM

Nowadays, even the 16mm stocks are fine-grained. I'm shooting something on Kodak 7231 right now and the clarity is amazing.
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#5 sj trinidad

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 01:20 PM

Nowadays, even the 16mm stocks are fine-grained. I'm shooting something on Kodak 7231 right now and the clarity is amazing.

Thanks for the answer-
Why are people so obsessed with 35mm then? I don't get it!
I have also seen productions companies stating that they can shoot video with a 35mm film "look"- does that make sense?
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 01:24 PM

Why are people so obsessed with 35mm then?


It still looks better, and it is easier to make look better. It is the gold standard in the industry against which everything else is compared, so you can shoot other formats, but you will have to work harder and be more clever to get it to match 35mm quality, that's all. Plus 35mm is still the standard projection format.
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#7 sj trinidad

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 01:42 PM

It's a rather broad question... your movie may be a silent one about a guy walking in the mountains, or it may be a dialogue one about twenty people talking at a party. Your lighting may be for night interiors, city night exteriors, rural night exteriors, day interiors up in a skyscraper, on a soundstage set, etc. -- you may have plans that need a lot of grip work, like car rigs, long dolly tracks, crane shots, scaffolding, large silks, etc. Or not.

Generally for a small project shooting on film, you'd have a DP/operator plus two AC's. I don't recommend only one AC unless you rent a lot of mags for the camera that can be pre-loaded in advance. It's really a two-man AC job even in 16mm if you are shooting dialogue, a lot of film, slating, etc. If it's not like that, more like doing outdoor nature photography with a small package, one zoom lens, not a lot of film, then one AC might suffice, especially if it is a lighter 16mm package instead of a 35mm package. Just depends on how many pieces there are to the package.

Making some broad assumptions... a "typical" small crew shooting dialogue short films might be, besides a director:

DP/operator
1st AC/focus-puller
2nd AC/loader
Sound recordist
boom mic operator

Key Grip
Gaffer
no. of electrics / grips?

AD
Script Supervisor
Hair & make-up person(s)
Art director
Wardrobe supervisor
PA's
craft service person

Now maybe you don't need some of these people -- maybe the actors can do their own make-up, or use no make-up that what they normally wear, maybe they can handle their own wardrobe, etc. Just be aware (as you probably are, as an actor) that continuity is a key problem and it's easy for actors to forget to bring the same watch or necktie or necklace that their charactor wore the previous shooting day, or keep track of their hair, etc.

Some short film directors try to AD the shoot themselves, organizing everyone for every scene, but it's a bit of a distraction from directing the scene itself, running around.

Again, it depends on the script and how you plan on shooting it in terms of how much gripping or lighting will be necessary.

Super-16 can look very good these days (there are some good-looking TV shows shooting it). 35mm looks great of course -- it's four times the negative area of 16mm after all, so it's sharper and less grainy. But it may overkill for your short film. One advantage though is that if you shoot standard 35mm, you can cut the negative and make a contact print with a soundtrack for 35mm projection, as long as you edit the movie for a film finish / negative conform in mind. But these days, you can project HD, so another option would be to shoot in Super-16, transfer to HD, and make an HD master.


Thanks for the help- appreciate it!
A few more questions-
I've heard though that if you don't shoot 35mm then you are screwed with getting into the bigger festivals- do you think there is any truth to that?
Also,
would the DP be the decision maker for all the nececssary grip equipment to be used and necessary lighting- I honestly don't have the first clue about what I would need. I wouldn't know what I would have to budget for
. In other words- when I hire the DP will he be able to guide me with the necessitites instead of having to just guess and renting equipment that we don't need.
Thanks!
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 01:52 PM

Festivals take all sorts of shorts shot on different formats. What matters more, for some festivals, besides how good the short is generally, is that it looks competently made and well-shot, but you can achieve that with other formats like Super-16 or HD.

Festivals have different requirements though for what they will project at the festival once you are accepted -- you may have gotten accepted by sending them a DVD, for example, but they may expect some higher format for projection.

One word of advice, you are more likely to get into a festival if the short is good... but SHORT. Think about it -- a 20 minute short film takes up the screening time of two 10-minute short films, so it has to be twice as good to justify taking up more screening time at the festival. So the longer a short film is, the harder it is for the festival to justify screening it unless it is so great that they really don't mind knocking out three other shorts just to accomodate it.

The Number One mistake most people make... is making a long short film. Especially when shooting on film, the longer the project is, the more it costs to shoot, the longer it takes to shoot and post, the more work you create for sound editing, etc. Keep your script tight and short so that you have some flexibility in budget and time.

Yes, if you decide to hire a DP, he will advise you on a grip & lighting package based on the script, locations, and budget. Just hire someone who understands small budgets.
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#9 sj trinidad

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 01:58 PM

Festivals take all sorts of shorts shot on different formats. What matters more, for some festivals, besides how good the short is generally, is that it looks competently made and well-shot, but you can achieve that with other formats like Super-16 or HD.

Festivals have different requirements though for what they will project at the festival once you are accepted -- you may have gotten accepted by sending them a DVD, for example, but they may expect some higher format for projection.

One word of advice, you are more likely to get into a festival if the short is good... but SHORT. Think about it -- a 20 minute short film takes up the screening time of two 10-minute short films, so it has to be twice as good to justify taking up more screening time at the festival. So the longer a short film is, the harder it is for the festival to justify screening it unless it is so great that they really don't mind knocking out three other shorts just to accomodate it.

The Number One mistake most people make... is making a long short film. Especially when shooting on film, the longer the project is, the more it costs to shoot, the longer it takes to shoot and post, the more work you create for sound editing, etc. Keep your script tight and short so that you have some flexibility in budget and time.

Yes, if you decide to hire a DP, he will advise you on a grip & lighting package based on the script, locations, and budget. Just hire someone who understands small budgets.


thanks! you have been very helpful!
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#10 Edgar Dubrovskiy

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 03:39 PM

I would just suggest not to forget the bloke named Lars Von Trier who won Cannes with a film shot on a DVcam.
Just think about it.
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#11 John Brawley

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 07:35 PM

Festivals take all sorts of shorts shot on different formats. What matters more, for some festivals, besides how good the short is generally, is that it looks competently made and well-shot, but you can achieve that with other formats like Super-16 or HD.

Festivals have different requirements though for what they will project at the festival once you are accepted -- you may have gotten accepted by sending them a DVD, for example, but they may expect some higher format for projection.

One word of advice, you are more likely to get into a festival if the short is good... but SHORT. Think about it -- a 20 minute short film takes up the screening time of two 10-minute short films, so it has to be twice as good to justify taking up more screening time at the festival. So the longer a short film is, the harder it is for the festival to justify screening it unless it is so great that they really don't mind knocking out three other shorts just to accomodate it.

The Number One mistake most people make... is making a long short film.


David, you're so on the money here.

I used to be a selection panellist for short films for a prestigious international film festival. It involved watching about 20 short films a week for about 15 or 16 weeks in the lead up to the festival. I did it for 5 years. And you'd be surprised how often I saw the SAME stories being told.

Now think of a film festival that might choose to put a short ahead of a feature. First, they need enough time to turn around a cinema for the next session, with each session usually about 2 hours. By the time you have cleaning, seating, and screening a film, adding a short in there means extra time.

So unless the festival does a specific program of shorts, the chances diminish drastically for each minute that you go over 10 mins of your film being selected.

We were specifically asked by the festival to consider duration as they would only be able to program perhaps 2 shorts over 10 mins in their entire 2 week program of 125 sessions.

Many films *would* have been selected if they were shorter. The most common comment the panel would have about a film would be, if only it was half the length it would be awesome. And that's not taking the duration issue into account, that's just looking at the film as a piece unto itself.

Filmmakers aren't brutal enough on themselves.

Most international film festivals are members of FIAPF, an international body that regulates film festivals. One of their requirements is 35mm exhibition. (Well it used to be)

http://www.fiapf.org...lmfestivals.asp


Of course that doesn't stipulate what you shoot on...only what is exhibited.

jb
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#12 John Brawley

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 07:38 PM

Thanks for the answer-
Why are people so obsessed with 35mm then? I don't get it!
I have also seen productions companies stating that they can shoot video with a 35mm film "look"- does that make sense?



There's also depth of field. Not necessarily a 35mm issue because there are ways of replicating 35mm depth of field with other formats.

jb
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#13 Lav Bodnaruk

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 08:58 PM

David pretty much answered all that I was going to put in my replies :D

Shorter the short, the better. The plot needs to be original and executed well - directing/acting wise. when you got this covered, you concentrate on getting the production value to be as high as you can afford - and as some have mentioned here, that does not mean you go 35mm always...

I would suggest you get a producer/production manager on board.

Last year I produced 6 short films, two of which were shot on 35mm. Being deferred payments on most of these, 35mm productions were much easier to crew-up (if that makes sense). With this in mind, we had DPs that are a lot more experienced then those that shot my 16mm productions. With them came focus pullers and loaders, that are also much more experienced in what they do... It is no surprise then, that we won GOLD and SILVER at the annual ACS state awards ;) (2 out of 3)

I'd like to say (and I do believe this) that it had nothing to do with being on 35mm, but rather, it was shoot by great, talented DPs.
BUT here is the catch 22 - it was easier to pitch to these talented DPs, since it was going to be shot on 35mm.

Hope I am not confusing you with this. Getting a producer would be the best thing for you, nutting out a budget, etc... Getting a DP should be a careful process too. They have to like the script and agree on ideas with the director.

Good luck!

The shorts I spoke of you can see here (well, not the whole films just a trailer of one and some stills from the other - sorry, they are hitting the festival scene, so no putting it on a net for a year/two yet):

http://www.painofthemacho.com
http://www.thesoundofcry.com
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#14 Sam Wells

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Posted 28 January 2008 - 02:06 PM

Hi John, I've been a pre-screener for a couple festivals (and had some hand in programming) in the past and what you and David say is really the truth.
I'd also say "if it feels long (regardless of literal running time) it probably is in that regard.

That said, I had a 20 min short once that did quite well in festivals (Telluride, Sundance, etc) playing as a short before features.

NB It was a film I thought would do better on the Experimental circuit but in fact was rejected there while narrative oriented fests went for it. "go figure" dept.
(It was a kind of cryptic narrative). So I guess as fr as genre goes, you cast your line & see which fish bite......

Also DON'T run endless end credits; I shot a very nice 18 min short as DP, it had wide audience appeal but I'm convinced it was rejected by Sundance (which it was perfect for) due not to length but to credits that ran forever i.e, don't thank your third grade teacher, your personal trainer.......

-Sam

p.s. Bill I don't think the grain structure of 7231 has changed since day one (the newer anti-static coating may reduce back scattering somehow I suppose (I miss John Pytlak who knew all things.........)
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#15 Dory Breaux DP

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Posted 28 January 2008 - 02:23 PM

If you arnt stuck on thi film idea and your budget would allow it, look into renting a RED One. I know I know, its a new system, still under development, its not film, BUT, it doesnt have grain, it shoots at a 4K resolution (wich wont work if you need to overcrank over 30fps, atleast at the moment), you dont need to process the film, and it comes with a industry standard PL mount.

Just a thought... I think there is a rental house in LA that has one.
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#16 sj trinidad

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 01:15 PM

I would just suggest not to forget the bloke named Lars Von Trier who won Cannes with a film shot on a DVcam.
Just think about it.


Do you know what genre his film was?
Good to know!
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#17 sj trinidad

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 01:57 PM

David pretty much answered all that I was going to put in my replies :D

Shorter the short, the better. The plot needs to be original and executed well - directing/acting wise. when you got this covered, you concentrate on getting the production value to be as high as you can afford - and as some have mentioned here, that does not mean you go 35mm always...

I would suggest you get a producer/production manager on board.

Last year I produced 6 short films, two of which were shot on 35mm. Being deferred payments on most of these, 35mm productions were much easier to crew-up (if that makes sense). With this in mind, we had DPs that are a lot more experienced then those that shot my 16mm productions. With them came focus pullers and loaders, that are also much more experienced in what they do... It is no surprise then, that we won GOLD and SILVER at the annual ACS state awards ;) (2 out of 3)

I'd like to say (and I do believe this) that it had nothing to do with being on 35mm, but rather, it was shoot by great, talented DPs.
BUT here is the catch 22 - it was easier to pitch to these talented DPs, since it was going to be shot on 35mm.

Hope I am not confusing you with this. Getting a producer would be the best thing for you, nutting out a budget, etc... Getting a DP should be a careful process too. They have to like the script and agree on ideas with the director.

Good luck!

The shorts I spoke of you can see here (well, not the whole films just a trailer of one and some stills from the other - sorry, they are hitting the festival scene, so no putting it on a net for a year/two yet):

http://www.painofthemacho.com
http://www.thesoundofcry.com


Thanks for the help-
here is another question-
what made you decide to shoot on other formats for your other 4 films? was it a budgetary issue or what was the reasoning behind it.
I guess I am just trying to nail down which format would be best for my genre (comedy)- I think you are right though- I should hire a producer asap.
Were your crew on deffered payment as well or just the actors?

Congrats on all your awards!
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#18 Lav Bodnaruk

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 08:59 PM

Hi David,

In all honestly, it is hard to put the finger on just ONE reason behind which we choose 16mm on the other 4 productions.
  • Yes, the budget had to do with it, but not overly, because we could have pushed it to 35mm.
  • Yes, we were able to use that budget money in other departments more effectively - from better gripping gear to bigger lighting truck.
  • Yes, we could afford to pay our actors - which is always nice if you can afford it :)
But none of this mattered too much in the early pre-production stages, when we decided to go with 16mm. Simply put, nothing in the script demanded 35mm look. Now, don't get me wrong, every film can benefit from a higher production value, but here, in these 4 instances, we didn't feel that the story would be helped by going 35mm over 16mm.

One of the 4 mentioned here was shot completely outside, in a sunshine. the look we wanted to achieve was very high in contrast, with green and browns as primary colors of the pallet. Whilst we DID want an incredibly shallow Depth Of Filed (something you usually turn to 35mm for) we manged to achieve it by using long lens on 16mm, with a LOT of ND glass in front of it. It took time to research this look and we were certain 16mm would do... Just for you to note (although not a good information to give out) this film cost 1/3 of the cheapest 5min 35mm I ever produced.


Posted Image
- Almost Aussie - 16mm - 7min -


The other 16mm we did was done in complete darkness. The entire film was lit with a match light. Of course, we faked that, but that is the impression you were meant to get: http://www.adifferenceinshadow.com/ We wanted GRAIN in this film, so 16mm was an obvious choice. The budget was then shifted to set design and boy did they make it count!

The other two had similar reasons for going 16mm too - nothing really sold it to us to go 35mm whilst in the script stages. This is why I think you need a producer, because once they read it, they will tell you which way to go. A good producer is also aware of what festivals are out there, it is not as easy as being a member of http://www.withoutabox.com to call yourself a producer. Some of these guys are familiar with the judges on festivals, their styles, what they like and do not like... you find yourself someone like that, they will read your story and tell you bluntly if you should do it on 35mm or HD.

I would not go pass HD either, because to me, usually this is a format for a comedy (not all of them of course). I reserve 35mm for hard drama - again this is just me.

Yes, we pay our crew members where we can, weather that is in CASH or because i called them on 4 paid TVCs this month, it doesn't matter. Mind you, when you get a grip, you pay for the gear, when you get a gaffer, you pay for the lighting truck.. their fees can be made to fit within that. You can get a collage work experience focus puller for free - and have 2/3 of your shots come back soft, or you can get a guy from the industry for some money (usually beer money) who will nail every single one of the shots, regardless of weather the actors hit their marks... so much so, you forget to think focus can be missed.

Start with a good producer. Interview them.. get them to read the script and make sure they like it before they take it on! Then decide where to put your money - investing into professional industry crew will make your short run smoothly and quickly and you will (and this is the most important) walk away with INDUSTRY experience, regardless of the format you shoot on. I often think that to 1st and 2nd time directors, this should play more of a role.

Good luck
Keep us posted!
Lav

Edited by Lav Bodnaruk, 30 January 2008 - 09:02 PM.

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#19 hamish

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 12:54 AM

I would just suggest not to forget the bloke named Lars Von Trier who won Cannes with a film shot on a DVcam.
Just think about it.



the guys who made the australian film PRIMER shot on 16mm and had a budget of 7 grand and they won an award at cannes
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#20 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 02:27 AM

"hamish" you need to use a real first and last name here as per the forum rules listed when you registered. You can go to My Controls and edit your Display Name. Thanks.
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