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Does the lab for processing really matter?


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#1 Nick Norton

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 06:14 PM

I'm aware there are a lot of steps in getting the 16mm medium onto a computer to edit/distribute which is totally out of the filmmaker's hands.

Processing is one of those things, and it is not something i want to chance.

I usually send all my film out to AlphaCine in Seattle, but i shot some film for school here in Chicago and they have it sent out to AtroLab locally.

Am i being ridiculous to think that one lab might perform better processing than the other?


Thanks-
Nicholas
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#2 Michael Kubaszak

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 06:20 PM

I'd definitely say yes it does matter. i have seen some film come back with a "sparkle" i.e. the negative has many small scratches all over the film, not noticeable to a general audience but to a trained eye very noticeable. Also, Astro is ridiculously expensive! .23 cents a foot! if you're shooting 16mm, check out deluxe in NY. .11 cents a foot including telecine prep.
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#3 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 07:18 PM

I would say labs are a lot like post houses. Sure they can almost all do the work.. but you need to find the one you want to work with regularly. I generally use Technicolor NY or, more often, NFL Films out in NJ.
Some Labs have proprietary techniques, and some won't/cant do reversal etc, but for neg, it's all roughly the same, minus the physical problems which can come up at certain labs already mentioned.
Find one which is affordable (.11/ft seems a bit cheap, is that a student price? IIRC it's normally in the 20/ft for non discounted) and stick with 'em. Get 'em to know you. You'll be thankful when you do.
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#4 Michael Kubaszak

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 09:18 PM

I would say labs are a lot like post houses. Sure they can almost all do the work.. but you need to find the one you want to work with regularly. I generally use Technicolor NY or, more often, NFL Films out in NJ.
Some Labs have proprietary techniques, and some won't/cant do reversal etc, but for neg, it's all roughly the same, minus the physical problems which can come up at certain labs already mentioned.
Find one which is affordable (.11/ft seems a bit cheap, is that a student price? IIRC it's normally in the 20/ft for non discounted) and stick with 'em. Get 'em to know you. You'll be thankful when you do.



It is Adrian but they said they would give it indie films as well. Deluxe in LA does 35mm for .08 cents a foot.
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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 11 May 2009 - 09:37 PM

That's pretty sweet. I'll have to make a mental note of that. I've never dealt with Deluxe before, but I'll check into 'em the next time I roll some film.
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#6 Simon Wyss

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 02:45 AM

It's not so much processing that makes the difference but the printing. A good lab offers you precision copy at the price of continuously exposed dailies of the other one.
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#7 K Borowski

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 07:32 AM

Yeah, negative processing is a standardized process, but when you consider the dust, scratches, synches, pressure fog, stretch, and other physical damage that labs can and do make due to not following proper procedure, you'll want to make sure to find the best.
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#8 Dirk DeJonghe

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 07:57 AM

We haven't even started to talk about chemical control, pH of the baths, CD3, sodium bromide levels etc in the developer (CD3 levels influence grain and sensitivity).
Are proper chemical analysis carried out frequently?

Running a proper negative processing operation is a neverending story and demands utmost dedication from everyone concerned. These days, if there is one small piece of dirt on a 20 minute reel, the customer will complain and say the print is 'dirty', forgetting that the other 31999 frames of that reel were 'clean'.

For a good DoP, a good lab is just as important as a good lens, good stock, good exposure meter, good crew, etc, etc. A good lab cannot save a bad lens and a good lens cannot save a bad lab.

End of rant.
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#9 Chris Keth

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 04:24 PM

I don't think it matters, as long as you're only considering from the pool of established, respected labs and not some guy in his basement doing it on the side or something.
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#10 Dominic Case

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 06:13 PM

I agree with Dirk (well I guess I would, wouldn't I).

Lab processing tends to be taken for granted as long as it's OK. People overlook the amount of work and expertise that underlies that OK result.

That said, most professional labs will produce good results most of the time. What you need to consider is what your lab will do if anything does go wrong: that is what makes the difference. What happens if there is a scratch? (theirs or yours). Suppose the courier loses your negative. If the lab makes a print (or a transfer) will they colour correct it well; will they follow your special instructions, or grade out the filter you carefully put in :ph34r: .

Does the lab deal with your sort of customer, or are they better suited to studio features?

As for price, you usually get what you pay for, though a competitive market might make a difference. You might get .08 cents a foot in LA, but Chigago is a different market. In any case, does a discounted price give you overnight turnaround or do you wait longer; is there a bigger surcharge for push processing; and again, what sort of follow-up will you get when there's a problem?
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#11 Simon Wyss

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 01:37 AM

Commonplace with labs: The impossible is done right away, miracles may take a little longer.

A good laboratory always makes offers while others simply shrug.
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#12 John Sprung

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Posted 16 May 2009 - 03:00 AM

For develop only, any of the reasonable quality labs will do pretty much the same job. In a city with lots of labs, they all know each other, and even farm work out to each other when they have unexpected down time or too much stuff to do. This has resulted in people shooting side by side tests to send to different labs, and getting back negatives that both went thru the exact same machine.

If you're shooting in a different city than where you usually work, and there's a reasonable quality lab there, doing a develop only before you ship the film is safer than taking a chance on putting latent images on an airplane. If you can afford telecine or work print to see what you've got, so much the better.

BTW, how about DuArt in New York? In the old days, they were sort of the family shop that everybody loved.




-- J.S.
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#13 Tom Jensen

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Posted 16 May 2009 - 10:04 AM

I equate it to eating out. If you want good food, go to a good restaurant. You don't always have to go Morton's because you can eat food just as good somewhere else for less money. You don't want to go to McDonald's because it's cheap. Something bad always seems to happen when you do.

Edited by Tom Jensen, 16 May 2009 - 10:06 AM.

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#14 Simon Wyss

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Posted 16 May 2009 - 11:12 AM

I'm not so fond of this. There is a difference. You don't consume like at a restaurant. On the contrary, it is about work, about co-operation with the lab. One party exposes stock, the other is engaged to again work on it, totally specialised work in the dark. Chemistry, physics, a craft known since 1826 when Niépce produced the first héliogravures.
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#15 Tom Jensen

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Posted 16 May 2009 - 11:15 AM

I'm not so fond of this. There is a difference. You don't consume like at a restaurant. On the contrary, it is about work, about co-operation with the lab. One party exposes stock, the other is engaged to again work on it, totally specialised work in the dark. Chemistry, physics, a craft known since 1826 when Niépce produced the first héliogravures.


And where was Niépce from? France. And the French are all about what? Food.
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#16 John Thomas

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Posted 17 May 2009 - 02:16 PM

When I was in film school, my camera professor would shoot a locked off shot in a controlled situation and send 100' (35mm) to each of the five labs in NYC at that time. I was amazed how different those dailies looked. We would project the prints and the negative. I was involved in these tests for three years and 2 labs in town seemed to be the consistent "winners". A couple labs seemed inconsistent, which I thought it was a function of changing chemistry less often or they were out of sync with our tests. The most expensive lab was not always the best. Good luck, JT
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#17 Topher Ryan

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 01:38 AM

Is there truth to the idea that some labs will treat black & white 16mm poorly, while doing top notch work on color negative?

Someone brought up this point in another thread, here I think. The idea was that B&W was a small portion of their business and general considered amateur/film school dabbling.

Let's say I have some exposed BW negative that is very precious, any suggestions on a lab that will treat it just as well as color?
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#18 Simon Wyss

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 02:52 AM

And where was Niépce from? France. And the French are all about what? Food.

Bash, I've always believed they were about women. You got that point.
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#19 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 05:46 AM

Topher, I would say a good lab will treat all neg equally, whether or not it's B&W or even a student film.
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#20 Brian Pritchard

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 06:58 AM

Topher, I would say a good lab will treat all neg equally, whether or not it's B&W or even a student film.


The main problem is that you need a continuous supply of work to run through a processing machine for the process to be stable. If you are only using your B/W process occasionally it is difficult to keep it on aim and the process will not be as good as one in constant use.

In addition most labs would only run their B/W when thay had finished their colour neg and if it was a particularly heavy night they might not get round to the B/W. No lab can afford to keep staff standing around waiting for some rolls of B/W to come in.

If you can find a lab that runs B/W regularly or specialises in B/W then you will probably get the best result, particularly if you are in a rush.

If the lab only runs occasionally and you are bugging them for a quick turnround then there might be a tempation to say 'we better run it even though the bath is not 100% on aim just to stop them bugging us.' Hopefully this would not happen in a good lab but you should be aware of it.
Brian
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