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Shoot a short on film and finish on film


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#1 Tim Carroll

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 11:06 PM

A number of film festivals including Sundance, New York, Athens, Aspen, Tribeca, (and probably others) still accept 16mm prints (regular 16, not Super 16) for exhibition/presentation format. So I thought I would price out how much it would cost to shoot a 9 minute short on 16mm film with a ten to one shooting ratio, and then follow the process all the way through to making a 16mm release print.

I did this exercise to be able to finally understand the process and the cost of finishing a project on film. In the past, I have shot many projects on film, but always finished them digitally. My hope is that this may be enlightening to others as well.

These calculations and prices assume the filmmaker has something equivalent to Final Cut Pro 4.5 with Cinema Tools (which is a fairly old version of Final Cut) and at least a computer powerful enough to run that program, and a 16mm camera on which to shoot the film and an audio recorder on which to record the audio.

A 9 minute 16mm film is going to be 324 ft in it's finished stage (36 feet per minute at 24 fps), so allowing for leader front and rear, I figured the total length would be 340 ft.

The first cost is the film purchase. In my past purchases from Kodak, in any quantity larger than 2000 feet, I have always been able to beg or plead with the Kodak rep to get about a 20% discount from the Kodak list price. So shooting a 10:1 ratio would require 3400 ft of film, and for this calculation I decided to use the newest Kodak Vision 3 (7219) which currently lists for $146.18 per 400 ft roll. If we assume about a 20% discount, we will be paying for seven 400 ft rolls, with the extra 600 ft thrown in for free, which would make our raw film cost $1023.26.

After the film has been shot and the audio recorded, the film needs to be processed, cleaned and prepped, and transferred with a "window burn" and flex files so we can edit it with Cinema Tools and Final Cut Pro and eventually get an EDL and a Negative Cut List for the Negative cutter. The best price I found today was about 39ยข per foot to process, clean, prep, and transfer "best light"/digital daily with a window burn and flex file. So to have this done, the cost is $1326.00.

Now the video from the transfer session is loaded into Final Cut Pro and the pull down is removed with Cinema Tools and all the clips are linked to the flex files to keep track of the edit. The audio is added and synced to the images and the film is edited. Then an EDL and a Negative Cut List are generated. The cost of this step is only your time.

Now the Negative Cut List is sent off to a negative cutter. The best price I found today for cutting 16mm film with A/B roll etc. was $6.50 per cut. If we figure about 100 cuts in a 9 minute short, the cost for negative cutting comes to $650.00

Then the cut negative goes to a film lab and an MOS answer print is made where the film lab does general color correction on the answer print. The best price I found today for a 9 minute answer print for a short film was $380.80.

Now that answer print is transferred to video so it can be final synced with the audio before an Optical Soundtrack is made. The best price I got today to transfer that 9 minute 16mm answer print to video was $102.00.

Then the audio is checked to make sure it syncs with the answer print in Final Cut Pro, the same way the film was originally edited and synced. If the audio and film are in sync, the audio files are sent off to a company that creates the Optical Soundtrack. Since it is 16mm, a stereo audio track will be reduced to mono. The best price I could find today for the creation of an Optical Soundtrack was $423.50.

This Optical Soundtrack along with any final color correction notes that were taken from viewing the answer print are now sent to the film lab which created the MOS print. That film lab then creates a final color corrected "married" release print with an optical soundtrack. The best price I found today for creating this 16mm "married" release print was $187.00.

Any additional release prints would cost $102.00.

So to sum up:
Cost of raw film stock $1023.26
Cost of processing and transfer $1326.00
Cost of Negative Cutting $ 650.00
Cost of MOS Answer Print $ 380.80
Cost to transfer Answer Print $ 102.00
Cost of Optical Soundtrack $ 423.50
Cost of 1st Release Print $ 187.00
Cost of additional Release Prints $ 102.00

So the cost of shooting a 9 minute 16mm short film, with a 10 to 1 shooting ratio, and finishing on film with one release print, would be a total of $4092.56. And each successive release print (for all those film festivals that are going to want to show your film) would be $102.00.

Best,
-Tim
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#2 Nate Downes

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 02:06 PM

Good to know. I'd not looked this up in ages.
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#3 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 02:14 PM

That is great info to have. However, it would be even better if the of the sources for pricing were included as well, since you have gone to the trouble to post all this excellent info. Pretty please?
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#4 Tom Hepburn

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 03:37 PM

Hey Tim,

Thanks for the leg work. That's great info. I was squinting before reading the final number to lessen the shock.

T
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#5 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 04:27 PM

1) When using CT your dailies should have both a time code and key code window burn.


2) It is not advised to go right from a CT cut list to a neg. cut. Conforming a work print is a REALLY good idea! I can't tell you have many times people find errors in their databases!
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#6 Tim Carroll

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 06:07 PM

That is great info to have. However, it would be even better if the of the sources for pricing were included as well, since you have gone to the trouble to post all this excellent info. Pretty please?


Saul,

When I first got started in motion picture film (coming from a still photography and videography background) Mitch Gross was very generous in giving me assistance and advice. The best piece of advice he ever gave me was that the film business is small, and it is built on relationships.

In the years I've been doing this, I've been extremely fortunate in having the opportunity to develop relationships with many really wonderful people.

When I went to put together the above information, I made calls to folks I know and they connected me with folks they know. Every price was a negotiation, and I even joked with one house that no one ever posts a price list. That's just not the way this business is done.

So I'm not going to list the houses I talked with because I don't want anyone coming across this list and calling any of the houses and saying, "I want this price, because you said you'd do it for this price for Tim Carroll." That would put a real damper on relationships that have been built up over years. I would recommend you getting to know folks at the different houses in your area. It is incredible what people will help you with in this business.

Best,
-Tim
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#7 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 07:02 PM

Well Tim, it's either incredible or proves that everything is overpriced in this business (at least that's what I always hear the producers complaining about! I lean towards incredible at least in terms of the post house staff I know ;) )
Wanted to thank you for putting up this workflow/guestimations for all the see.

A quick question, though; this is assuming no titles/dissolves in the final film, correct? Iirc, that would require an extra step at an optical printer? (or shooting pretty title cards)
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#8 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 09:46 PM

Tim:

Right, sometimes prices are list and sometimes they are not. I thought these prices were list.

The lab I use for developing/ printing is Cinema Lab in Colorado. They are great and their prices are very affordable. But they are affordable for everyone, not just me. They have a downloadable pricelist on their website and ANYONE can get a great price by simply calling them up without having ask for a discount, except students.

Against industry practices, that is what I live by. I never ask for deals because as a working professional I do not want to be called and asked to negotiate my rates. The philosophy behind this is: Someone likes my work, they pay my rates.

I find it very annoying when people call to haggle over prices, as you said. But I make my prices standard fare, I don't ask for deals from anyone and I don't give deals to anyone. I think is fair.

I personally believe that building business relationships is key to success. However, I am troubled by the fact that only those who know the right people in the post production industry can get the prices you mention.

Perhaps it is just me, but I thought the purpose of our post was to share the news of affordable film production, whereas now it seems like only those with the right connections can benefit from these prices and the rest of us stand outside looking in.


Best,

Saul
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#9 Tim Carroll

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 11:03 PM

Saul,

I find myself disagreeing with you on a couple of points.

My first area of disagreement is with:

I find it very annoying when people call to haggle over prices, as you said. But I make my prices standard fare, I don't ask for deals from anyone and I don't give deals to anyone. I think is fair.


For ten years before I started directing I was an actor. When I was working on a television program or for a "hollywood" movie, I got the regular union rate, which was quite generous at the time. I felt perfectly fine with this as I knew the folks that were paying me this money were making good money from the production.

But during those same years I also found myself doing occasional projects for grad students at NYU (I was living in New York at the time) for meals and a copy of the finished project. I felt perfectly fine with this as well because I knew these folks were not going to make big bucks on these films, that they were doing it to learn or because of their passion for the project.

I have found it the same with the folks I have met and talked with at the production houses I have used. They have a different rate scale for "hollywood" productions and for little independents. Probably because they know the "hollywood" production will be making good money and the little independents will not.


My second area of disagreement is with your statement:

I am troubled by the fact that only those who know the right people in the post production industry can get the prices you mention.


Anyone who takes the time to get to know the people in the post production industry can get the prices I mentioned. I'm sorry but you'll need to do the work of getting to know folks in the business for yourself, no one can establish those relationships for you. But it is not some secret society, anyone can do it. I started out knowing no one, and made cold calls, and spent time building the relationships, it's time consuming work, but it is work anyone can do if they choose to.

Best,
-Tim
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#10 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 12:48 AM

So the cost of shooting a 9 minute 16mm short film, with a 10 to 1 shooting ratio, and finishing on film with one release print, would be a total of $4092.56. And each successive release print (for all those film festivals that are going to want to show your film) would be $102.00.

Best,
-Tim



My god man at around $4K you are a quarter of the way to red ownership! you must be crazy! What is this ancient format you are speaking of? 16mm without the wide screen enhancement? :lol:

Seriously though if it were in B+W it would be less ;) , and I would suspect than any lab that does this work would be happy to work with you :rolleyes: , the prices quoted above seem good and no secret handshake would be needed to get them. The secret handshake gets you the direct lab connection to the underworld and with that a guarantee of great success in Hollywood :blink:

You could workprint you negative and skip the damn computer entirely, I did that for a short that I am making on 16 in B+W which is around 8min and I can only say that cutting by hand is really enjoyable. I am skipping the negative cutter and doing that myself (now who is crazy?) but I do work in a lab every day so my splices are pretty good...

So I think Tim is pretty down the middle with this, you could scrape it together for less or you could pay more but any way you put it a real 16mm print with sound is a thing of beauty..

-Rob-
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#11 David Auner aac

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 01:19 AM

Hi Tim,

thanks for your time in putting this together. Could you, just for comparison ask the same people about the price of the DI route? Say, scanning at 1920 or 2k and then going to a film out on 16mm?

Thanks, Dave
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#12 Tim Terner

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 02:11 AM

Thanks Tim, great info. Why are the release prints (9 Minutes) so cheap, is the print film a lot cheaper than the shooting stocks ?
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#13 Nate Downes

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 06:22 AM

Hi Tim,

thanks for your time in putting this together. Could you, just for comparison ask the same people about the price of the DI route? Say, scanning at 1920 or 2k and then going to a film out on 16mm?

Thanks, Dave

The 1920 film-out runs about $450/minute in my experience, so you'd be looking at several thousand for the final film-out.
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#14 David Rakoczy

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 07:12 AM

The Telecine is estimated way low. Any quality transfer will run $300 - 450 an hour. You should estimate approx. one hour per 400ft roll. Sure, your Colorist (may) be able to knock out 1 1/2 to 2 rolls per hour provided you have exceptionally exposed and controlled footage. This usually is not the case. I always budget for one hour per roll. Also you do not have DSR in there to fix any dirt that may appear on a take you want to use.

As far as $4k being a 1/4 the cost of a RED.. huh? You can spend far more than that just on a Set of Lenses to use on that RED... owning a RED (Body) is not the same as owning a RED 'Package'.. I can buy a S16 Camera with little money... but by the time I have a usable Package I have spent a lot more. My Arri SR2 Super 16 Package cost me $42k..... and worth every penny!
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#15 Tim Carroll

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 07:42 AM

The Telecine is estimated way low. Any quality transfer will run $300 - 450 an hour.


David,

You are misunderstanding the workflow I'm describing. There is no "quality transfer", there are only digital dailies with window burns and flex files. The house I talked to does a "best light" digital daily on a Rank Cintel. The image quality is good, but not something that you would use for any kind of finished product. It is just a transfer to use for editing.

The second transfer I listed is done the same way, just to see if the sound syncs before sending the sound off to make an optical soundtrack. And that transfer is done from a color corrected answer print, so it should look pretty good, but still not to a level of high quality transfer on a Spirit.

Best,
-Tim
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#16 David Rakoczy

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 07:47 AM

Tim,

I stand corrected. I see you just need the transfer for off-line only... I get it :-)

Shoot Film... Keep it Alive!
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#17 Nate Downes

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 08:37 AM

Tim,

I stand corrected. I see you just need the transfer for off-line only... I get it :-)

Shoot Film... Keep it Alive!

Same way I do it, save I don't need the second transfer as I have a sync block and audio recorder. but finding a source of 16mm magnetic tape is proving to be an issue.
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#18 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 09:07 AM

As far as $4k being a 1/4 the cost of a RED.. huh? You can spend far more than that just on a Set of Lenses to use on that RED...



I was joking, really, I own an Aaton and will be wrapped shooting a feature that had gone through about 350 400' rolls of fuji. I suppose my co producer could have bought two red bodies for the price of all that fresh stock, but then where would we be?

I think there is so much to be said for using traditional filmmaking tools, including not over paying for the "best" transfer for your offline, or as I like workprint you short and cut it for real.

-Rob-
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#19 David Rakoczy

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 09:29 AM

I was joking, really, I own an Aaton and will be wrapped shooting a feature that had gone through about 350 400' rolls of fuji. I suppose my co producer could have bought two red bodies for the price of all that fresh stock, but then where would we be?

I think there is so much to be said for using traditional filmmaking tools, including not over paying for the "best" transfer for your offline, or as I like workprint you short and cut it for real.

-Rob-


True indeed Robert. True indeed! And kudos to your Producer for making a Film... not a digi-feature.


Roll'n Roll'n Roll'n.. keep those Cameras Roll'n... Emul-sion!!!
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#20 Mark Dunn

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 11:38 AM

Same way I do it, save I don't need the second transfer as I have a sync block and audio recorder. but finding a source of 16mm magnetic tape is proving to be an issue.


Stanley Productions are still listing Zonal mag film- I thought it was still being made.
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