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Hi all! An introduction--and my diabolical plans


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#1 Ira Ratner

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 06:50 PM

Hey, guys! Ira here:

51-year-old fart looking to take up a new hobby, because since I have so much money on my hands, I have to spend it SOMEWHERE. (HAH! The wife is going to KILL me when I start getting into this big time.)

I am nowhere near the level of 99.9999% of you...I'm not going to be the next Speilberg... but I have a background in still film and graphic arts and I'm usually not a complete idiot. I just want to have some fun.

(I've already read a bunch of threads here and learned a ton, but those threads posed a million other questions for me which I'll ask later.)

I'm waiting for my K-3 (R16) to arrive, but in the meantime, I'm brainstorming, so here's my plan:

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A) Since I work for a living and I'm married with kids (the kids' names are Hitler and Stalin), I ain't gonna have much time to be prancing around South Florida filming hot girls on South Beach. So I'm looking to shoot in my backyard.

B) Toward this end, I decided to do a series of shorts in the comedic silent-film genre, but of an adult nature, since I like that juxtaposition of old-fashioned stuffiness and underlying naughtiness. (I published an adult comedy magazine recently, a one-off with a second issue coming, so I have a pretty good feel for this kind of material.) These will all be one-set shorts, allowing me to set it up and break it down for use as needed, and allowing me to produce a series of similar shorts from that same set. Of course, silent film eliminates a lot of the headache of sound sync.

C) The actual set is a huge EZ-Up canopy, with muslin backdrop and appropriate sidewalls. The canopy can also easily accommodate lights.

D) My first series will be of an old staid professor standing at a podium, who opens the scene interacting first person with the audience. (I don't have a working title for the series yet.) My idea for a second series takes place in a restaurant--and again, just one set, and one main character to develop. Taking this approach will also allow me to shoot segments of several shorts during the same shoot.

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And now, the questions:

1) I plan on shooting in that faster old-style motion, so do you think 16fps is enough to speed it up correctly, or should I go to 12fps? Also, I think I'll be using Tri-X, because I want that grain (I think). But any ideas on how to REALLY get that old time look captured on film? For example, I don't think I need or want sepia, but is there another filter you can think of which would add something? Like, something that hazes/blurs it a bit? Vaseline on a filter? I don't want to just shoot it soft. (I'll be using the K3's standard Meteor zoom, because I was actually LYING about having all that money.)

2) I'm going to shoot my raw film footage, convert to digital, and edit in the Mac. iMovie will do what I need for this, right? The ability to just cut and paste video portions, and cut and paste separate audio tracks? (Ragtime midi files that I rework in GarageBand.) l have a background in Photoshop and other graphics programs, so I figured I can create the title/dialogue frames digitally and just drop them into iMovie. Does this make sense?

3) Does it pay to buy short ends (is that the right term) for this?

4) Like most of the poorer backyards in my neighborhood, mine is grass. Is there a cheap and easy do-it-yourself fix to make a hard floor that I can easily roll-up or fold for storage?

5) One of the pitfalls of people attempting this genre is makeup and costume--the films never look like they came from the time period at all. I know you can't get it exactly right, but damn, I'm gonna try to get it as close as possible. So any ideas on makeup/costume techniques for the silent 20s? The professor is going to be pretty easy--cap and gown, full beard, horn-rimmed glasses--but what about the hot flapper who walks in and shows him her boobs? Simply heavy pancake, long lashes, and like BLACK lipstick and liner? My project for the next few weeks is to study the silent genre. (God bless You Tube--plus it's all legal. All of those actors and producers are DEAD.) Main thing is, since I'll be working in a more or less controlled environment...in this one particular genre...I'll be able to shoot the footage to eventually get it the way i want.

Well, I guess that's it for now. And thanks for listening.

Perhaps some of these are stupid questions, because I guess the first thing I should do before doing any actual shooting for edit is to do exposure and makeup tests with the camera anyway. However, maybe you have ideas which can make that testing more productive, and save me on film.

This is going to be really FUN!

Or tragically heartbreaking.

Edited by Ira Ratner, 06 July 2008 - 06:55 PM.

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#2 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 11:29 PM

You'll want to try 18fps.

Tri-X is a good place to start.

I'd avoid blurring things too much. Testing is the only way to get where you want to go. You might try vignetting your frame a little. Shooting through some fine gauze or pantyhose could be worth an experiment.

You might try finding an older version of FCP cheaply on ebay or someone might let you have it for free. Lots more options with that program. You can play with digital filters and get additional plug-ins easily. You can also export your video in many other ways.

You need new 100ft. film loads.

I'd try going over the top with white powder make-up. Put some light eyeliner on men too. Watch your costume colors with black and white. Similar shades of grey as the background will blend together too much. You could test your color choices with a digital photo camera in BW mode in your sets.

You'll want to backlight and hairlight your actors too.
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#3 Bruce Taylor

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 11:48 PM

I am not any sort of expert on silent film, but I like all of Vincent's suggestions.

Something else to think about are the technical conditions made the films look the way they did. The film was very very slow, hence the outdoor sets they used. They hung big nets over outdoor sunlit stages and didn't control the light that much until later when they started using tungsten lights. So to me your EZ Up sounds like a great idea lighting-wise.

The limited zoom range of the Meteor lens will serve you well here as well, as they often shot with only one lens. I agree, don't overdo the lack of sharpness, I have seen many films of the time that appeared very sharp to me, but the vignetting would be nice to add. Personally, I get really tired of the "worn out film" (scratches, etc) filters that the NLE's always have on their toolbox.

The early film was orthochromatic- here is a Wiki article:
Orthochromatic photography refers to an emulsion that is sensitive to only blue and green light, and thus can be processed with a red safelight. Using it, blue objects appear lighter and red ones darker because of increased blue sensitivity. A standard black and white film can be used with a Cyan-lens-filter (devoided of red light) to produce similar effect.

The ortho film contributed to a lot of the look of the time as well, hence the strange looking make-up at times as they worked around the lack of red sensitivity.

Sounds like a fun project!

Bruce Taylor
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#4 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 12:04 AM

the kids' names are Hitler and Stalin


Are you putting us on?
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#5 Richardson Leao

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 03:38 AM

Are you putting us on?


not sure, but tri-x outside at 16fps or 18fps you'll need a hell lot of neutral density filters. Also, not sure about the scanning, if u opt for pal (or ntsc) for that matter, you should aim for 24fps.

About the shortends etc, you want an old look, so u can use old, expired stock without being afraid. I used one a rool of film expired in 72 (tri-x) and it turned out fantastic.

And welcome to 16mm!
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#6 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 04:04 AM

4) Like most of the poorer backyards in my neighborhood, mine is grass. Is there a cheap and easy do-it-yourself fix to make a hard floor that I can easily roll-up or fold for storage?

Sure, you ever see a roll top desk? Rip 4 - 4x8 sheets of 3/4" ply into 3" strips (get grade B and C so there's one very good side and one mediocre side). Lay some the strips side be side bad side up so they form 2 8x8 squares. Use a paint roller to apply glue to the back side and lay some thick muslin flat over them. let dry, trim the musilin, flip the 8' squares over, stain the good side with the color you want the floor to be making sure to stain between the slates, score with a utility knife and paint the scores black across the slats in an off set patterns about every 3 feet to simulate a flooring pattern. Add metal connectors to the sides where you want the 2 8x8 sections to lock together to form the floor an whola! Roll up floors. You just unlock the t 2 sections, turn them over so the fake floor side in down and roll them up into 2 manageable sections, OR you COULD just simply get 4 sheets of ply, buy 8x16 ft worth of fake hardwood floor vinyl flooring, install it on each sheet, again buy connectors and install them where you want the sheet to lock together and get a hand-truck (2 wheeled dolly) to move them in and out of you garage. Too easy.
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#7 Ira Ratner

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 06:30 PM

THANKS, ALL!!! GREAT INFORMATION!!! (And yeah, Saul--I was putting you on about the kids' names. They're Jamie and Timothy, but Hitler and Stalin drives home a funny point...or so I thought.)

About 2 years ago, I built an old-fashioned teardrop travel trailer from the ground up, and one guy on the teardrop site I visited did it all...he asked all the questions he wanted to ask and got all the information he needed...from just his ONE thread, which lasted more than a year. Although others (like myself), posted DOZENS of threads. That one thread was invaluable, and provided a great quick link for veterans on the site to steer newsomers too.

So for my film work here, I'm going to try and keep EVERYTHING in this one thread. So if you veterans can hang in there with me for the ride on this, I would REALLY appreciate it. It's good for others, but more important, since the universe revolves around me and me alone, this makes it easy for me to find your info and advice.

And again--I was just joking, Saul. Galileo proved ions ago that the universe DOESN'T revolve around me, although I still have my doubts.

Now on to the technical issues:

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1) THANKS FOR THE FLOOR IDEA! (You're right--duh. Not complicated at all, and cheap.)

2) For filters, I'm of course thinking the Cokin system, because of the ability to use different diameter step rings for use on different lenses. (I even have a bunch of square filters from my old 35mm work from way back when, although I don't know if that 4 by 4 size will work for what I need now.) So does anyone know off the top of their head if for the K-3's zoom with 77mm diameter, if I need the P series or Z series? My daytime job's server BLOCKS me from this site (those bastards), and I did a little research on this today, but I just can't remember right now...I just got home from work...and I wanted to post here first. I DID come across their matte box which blew me away as simply perfect, but when I saw the PRICE, perfection will have to wait. (Are these guys nuts? The cheapest I saw for it was $459.)

And no--I don't know exactly how I'm going to filter anything yet, because that will be based on the other factors. And again Vincent, even using pantyhose or other, I think the Cokin gives you a good base to connect it to, but now that I think about it--I'll see my filter effects directly in the K-3's viewfinder before hitting the trigger, right? Like with an SLR?

3) I don't believe the Tri-X outdoors will be an issue as far as exposure, even shooting at 16fps. Remember that we're in a canopy enclosed on 3 sides. Plus, I can shoot at dusk, which in South Florida lasts a long time this time of year--about 2 hours. HOWEVER, the richer look of Plus-X, and the desire to have a classy look, may very well convince me to go the Plus-X route--AND WRITE MY MATERIAL/SCRIPT BASED ON THIS FACT. The thing is, for this kind of enclosed one-set production, is Plus-X simply the wrong film choice to make? As added fodder, I would still shoot at 16fps with Plus-X, but direct the talent to move and speak a little more slowly because of this. See what I'm getting at? Even if it's not comedic Keystone Kops (Cops) and it's DRAMA instead (it won't be), it still needs that sped up look, but not VERY sped up.

4) I'm on the hunt for an accessory iris solution via in front of the camera lens and not the lighting, to be able to open up from a small circle and close to one when desired. There's GOTTA be an easy way to build or find something cheap for this. Might be able to do it in post in iMovie or other program, but that ain't gonna have the same look.

5) I started doing costume searches, and cap and gown for the professor is a no-brainer to find and CHEAP. So for B&W Tri-X or Plus-X reversal--just go black? Or a different color?

6) I posted a separate thread about recently found lost footage (maybe) to Metropolis.

That's it for now, boys and girls! Thanks for listening!!!
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#8 John King

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Posted 04 August 2008 - 09:26 PM

Hello Ira!

I was reading your thread here and this sounds like a MARVELOUS idea! I sure hope to be able to buy some copies when you get them done (put me down for a pre-order on vol. I!) Anyway while I was reading your post, you mentioned wanting to get the make-up right. I recalled an article out of an old Filmfax Magazine that had some info that I thought might help. It was an article by Michael F. Blake a make-up artist and Lon Chaney expert who really knows his stuff about the make-up techniques of the silent era. Anyway I dug up this little tidbit for you that you might find useful:


"When the new notion of moving pictures began to catch on back in the early 1900s, the film stock was crisper but much slower in exposure and would make natural skin tones appear darker than normal. Thus, if an actor applied his "stage" makeup as he normally would, or if he was filmed without any makeup, his coloring would appear distorted and almost grotesque. In order for the new movie actors to appear "natural" on screen, the use of makeup was an immediate necessity.

With the Orthochromatic film stock, reds, organges, and browns photographed black or very close to it. Freckles came off darker, almost black at times. The colors of blue, pink, yellow and mauve would photograph white. Therefore a makeup base that had pink with a bluish tone to it looked more natural on film....The use of these different base colors is the reason why actors and actresses of the early silent screen appear to the present day audience to have stark white faces. The color used to line or shade the eyes could not be black. Red, gray-green, blue or violet which photographed black had to be used. In the early years, lips, eyes, and eyebrows were made up with these colors for both actors and actresses."
--Article by Michael F. Blake, Filmfax Magazine Issue no. 39 June/July 1993 [underlined portions added by me]

Hope this helps you with the make-up! Best to you on the project!

God Bless!
JMK
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#9 Ira Ratner

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 06:46 PM

Thanks for the info, John!

Although it's been a month since I started this thread, I still haven't shot anything yet. I just got the camera this week, so my backyard projects are still "in development."

HAH!!!

I'm going to be buying 200' of Plus-X reversal, 200' of Tri-X reversal. and 200' of Spectra Film's special ASA 6 High Contrast, all just for camera testing to start. (Spectra's ASA 6 is FUNKY!) So I'm looking at about a $300 bill for all film and processing (not including shipping.) For all of their 16mm b&w, it's $25 for 100 feet of film, and the same for processing.

The first two rolls I shoot will be the Plus-X, in full daylight Florida sun, to test my metering. Then, I'll see the results and get into the intricacies of using the other two film types.
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#10 Ira Ratner

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 06:56 PM

I forgot something, John:

I scrapped the naughty adult genre idea.

I've seen too much great stuff on YouTube in the last few weeks to realize that I don't have to go in that direction. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but I've seen so much clever stuff where it's just not important to go that way.
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