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How much does film cost


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#1 Joseph Arch

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 05:40 PM

Studios are always wanting to shoot digital to save some $$$ and this sacrifices quality. We all know Spielberg likes film while Lucas likes digital. So, what is the total cost of a feature film cinematography. If I miss anything out please correct me.

Add this +

Camera + Lenses + accessories + stock + processing


That is the bread and butter to make a film look like film. How much would it cost a studio for a 2hr feature film just for the cinematography part. 4-7 million or more?
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#2 Steve McBride

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 06:48 PM

It all depends on the script and story. You can have a complete narritive that is dialogue driven and shoot with one camera using 1000' mags and with simpler lighting setups than a war epic where you have multiple cameras running at the same time and going through X times the amount of film than if you were shooting with just the one, then you have to go to your lighting which will also be a lot more.
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#3 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 07:28 PM

This is very much a case of how long is a piece of string. Costs will depend on quite a few factors including shooting ratios, the number cameras being used, which brand of film stock being used etc. Also, how good a deal the production company manages to do with the suppliers.

Films shot on 35mm have had a total overall budget of 4-7 million... or even less.
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#4 Joseph Arch

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 07:15 AM

4-7 million is very small number. Why do studios feel the need to sacrifice film for digital? This is ridiculous. Digital is good for independent films, documentaries, commercials, music. Digital has no place in cinema.

Edited by Joseph Arch, 15 March 2009 - 07:16 AM.

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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 08:34 AM

Digital and Film both have intrinsic aesthetics, and as such, I would think more often than not they are chosen based upon that. When it comes down to the economics of it all, well what format is "best" for production becomes a function of budget. Example:
You're shooting a period piece with a 100M budget. 50M has to go to costumes, locations, crew, and 49.8M has to go to your main actor...... Chances are a production as such will have to shoot digital.
It's just an example, of course.
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#6 Joseph Arch

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 08:39 AM

50M for the actor :blink: :blink: :blink: :blink: :blink:
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#7 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 09:52 AM

A hypothetical, yes, but there are actors who command gigantic sums. I would assuming an "all star cast," would probably approach 30M+ in terms of how much they cost. It's just using 100M as a number and then 50% for locations and the like and 49.8% for talent (not an unreasonable number either, I would assume), makes easy math/comparisons.
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#8 Jarkko Virtanen

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 01:42 PM

4-7 million is very small number. Why do studios feel the need to sacrifice film for digital? This is ridiculous. Digital is good for independent films, documentaries, commercials, music. Digital has no place in cinema.


Have you seen any material shot with Sony F23 and after that printed on film?

Before I use to think like that too. After I saw this test in comparison with 35mm, I strongly believe there's a place.

...I'm not saying this camera is good in any other way than the quality of the image it produces.
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#9 chris dye

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 02:17 PM

I'm not so sure studios are that concerned about the cost of film. I don't think it is much of an issue to a studio whether a movie is shot on film or on digital cameras. Most if not all studio films that are shot digitally probably could've shot film if they so chose. As already stated, films have been made for 4 million or less. Some 35mm movies have actually been made for under $100,000. Shooting 35mm is common for movies with budgets of $500,000-$1,000,000, though many are now switching to digital because in that budget range the savings is more significant (but actually not all that much more significant).

Everything I ever shot up to now was on film (super 8 and 16mm). I always managed to find a way to shoot on film. I've managed to get many 400ft reels of film for free from Kodak over the years. When working with low and no budgets, you simply wheel and deal. That's part of the game. You find a way. Cost of film never got in the way of making a film for me (though many other factors have). The 'obstacle' of shooting on film was mostly an illusion. You just had to be a bit more determined to make it a reality.

If you haven't guessed by now, I'm pro-film, but I have recently started exploring HD. Yes, the Panavision/Genesis test helped turn me to the 'dark side'. (I was never a fan of DV. It doesn't look like film, never did and I'm sure all those who did think it looked like film back when it first burst upon the scene, agree today that it looks like poop). I'm impressed with HD images on some of these smaller cameras these days though (such as the Sony EX3). I love the whole 'tapeless' format as it makes a whole lot of sense, but I still hold the dream of shooting something in anamorphic Panavision. I just hope it doesn't disappear before the opportunity arises.
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#10 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 02:25 PM

Chris, I don't think film will ever really disappear; and one of these days I keep hoping to shoot some anamorphic... perhaps this fall... if things keep going the way they are going.
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#11 Joseph Arch

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 04:12 PM

I can understand some of the peoples views but I am with Adrian. When it comes to cinema I am pro film for life.
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#12 Chris Durham

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 09:51 AM

I recently sat with a director to talk about shooting her upcoming movie. She already kind of had it in her head that it would be shot digital, probably on the Red One. The first thing I asked was "What if I showed you the math that details how we can shoot Super 16 for about the same price as a Red One?" I later found that the producer has a stiffy for the Red and part of the reason they passed on another DP was that he downplayed the Red. This is frustrating as all Hell. I guess I'll play ball, but I stand by my statement about the cost of film vs. Digital. For microbudget movies, HD is an obvious choice; but for anything with a budget, film isn't as prohibitively expensive as people think. There are a lot of producers and directors (and DPs) who take the economics of digital at face value and don't really run the numbers. It's a shame.
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#13 Rob Vogt

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 10:17 AM

Studios are always wanting to shoot digital to save some $$$ and this sacrifices quality. We all know Spielberg likes film while Lucas likes digital. So, what is the total cost of a feature film cinematography. If I miss anything out please correct me.

Add this +

Camera + Lenses + accessories + stock + processing


That is the bread and butter to make a film look like film. How much would it cost a studio for a 2hr feature film just for the cinematography part. 4-7 million or more?


Adrian and David M. (as he has said in other threads) are right. The real costs on studio works are the actors, not the medium in which the movie is shot.

Also you missed the real production expenses which are post production. Work prints. Answer Prints. Intermediates. Sound and FX editing. Film transfers and DI w/ film out.

Edited by Rob Vogt, 16 March 2009 - 10:18 AM.

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#14 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 01:39 PM

Wow, Rob, I don't think I've ever been put in the same category as Mr. Mullen as being right before.
Another big cost of digital from my own experience (especially tapeless) is archival of the data... I even have to charge clients these days to hold onto their digital raw footage off of my XDCam-- so I can back it up to 3 hard drives and (eventually) to Blu-Ray Data..
Now there's a world of difference between my XDCam and the amount of Data which'll come off of a RED/SI/Ikono(spelling?)/etc shoot...
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#15 Thomas James

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 03:05 PM

Yes I saw Narnia in high definition Blu-Ray last night and assuming it was shot on film it looked fantastic. The grain was barely visible and none of the highlights were blown out and there was plenty of shadow detail.
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#16 John Sprung

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 03:07 PM

-- so I can back it up to 3 hard drives and (eventually) to Blu-Ray Data..


You might consider LTO tapes, or InPhase holographic discs:

http://www.inphase-tech.com/




-- J.S.
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#17 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 03:12 PM

I had thought of LTO, but i'm pretty unfamiliar with it as of now (and those drives cost a good deal it seems), but those Holographics look pretty interesting.
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#18 chris dye

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 05:14 PM

I recently sat with a director to talk about shooting her upcoming movie. She already kind of had it in her head that it would be shot digital, probably on the Red One. The first thing I asked was "What if I showed you the math that details how we can shoot Super 16 for about the same price as a Red One?" I later found that the producer has a stiffy for the Red and part of the reason they passed on another DP was that he downplayed the Red. This is frustrating as all Hell. I guess I'll play ball, but I stand by my statement about the cost of film vs. Digital. For microbudget movies, HD is an obvious choice; but for anything with a budget, film isn't as prohibitively expensive as people think. There are a lot of producers and directors (and DPs) who take the economics of digital at face value and don't really run the numbers. It's a shame.


I'll never forget an interview on some website with a low-no budget 'indie' director a few years back. They had two budgets listed for their movie. $50,000 budget for DV. $500,000 for 35mm film. My first thought was that film and lab costs DO NOT amount to $450,000. Something's wrong there.

A closer look revealed a couple things such as for the DV project, the director was to be paid something like $5,000. For 35mm, the director would be paid something like $20,000. Not to mention the 35mm budget had much more professional grip and lighting included in the budget among other things like that. The director spoke of cargo vans, trucks, sandbags and all sorts of other professional grip/lighting stuff when talking about shooting film, but with DV, you need none of that apparently.

In other words all thoughts 'professional' go out the window when it comes to budgeting and shooting DV. It's this sort of thing that gives 'video' a bad rap, why most DV projects aren't taken seriously and why 35mm is still looked upon as professional.
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#19 John Sprung

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 05:44 PM

I had thought of LTO, but i'm pretty unfamiliar with it as of now (and those drives cost a good deal it seems), ....


I'm looking at $3K for an LTO drive vs. $90K for an HDSR deck. From that perspective, they're not so pricey ..... ;-)





-- J.S.
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#20 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 07:32 PM

Well put John, but at this particular point in my budget might as well be the same thing ;)
Aside, I could at least rent out an HDSR Deck to "capture/output" other peoples footage to from FCP (with the right setup) a lot more easily than I probably could LTO... but you are right that LTO makes more economic sense... one of these days!
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