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Moving over to 16mm - Need Advice


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#1 Luke Hill

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 12:57 PM

Hi all,

I've been a filmmaker my whole life. As a kid I shot on 8mm, then Super 8 and eventually VHS. As an adult I've shot one thing in 16mm, then a lot in mini-DV and for the last few years I've been shooting in HD (well, HDV) often using a 35mm adapter. Anyway, I'm going to be shooting a feature later this year and after considering the Red and many other options, I've decided that I want to shoot on either Super 16 or Ultra 16.

Whilst I'll most likely rent a camera for the shoot (if possible - I live in Austin and haven't found any place that rents them) I would like to go ahead and buy a Super 16 or Ultra 16 camera now to replace the Canon XHA1 I've been using. So... I'm going to sell my HDV Camera as well as my lens adapter and lenses and I figure once all that's gone, I should have about $3,000 to spend.

I need a camera that shoots on Super or Ultra 16mm, preferably with a zoom lens and crystal sync motor that's quiet enough for sync sound work - is this possible with what I have to spend?

I'm familiar with some of the options available, the NPR, H16, etc. I just don't know whether I can reasonably expect to get what I need for around $3000 (or where to look). I just found out about Ultra 16mm - perhaps that would be a more affordable route to take than Super 16?


Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Cheers,
Luke
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#2 Elliot Rudmann

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 02:09 PM

Hi all,

I've been a filmmaker my whole life. As a kid I shot on 8mm, then Super 8 and eventually VHS. As an adult I've shot one thing in 16mm, then a lot in mini-DV and for the last few years I've been shooting in HD (well, HDV) often using a 35mm adapter. Anyway, I'm going to be shooting a feature later this year and after considering the Red and many other options, I've decided that I want to shoot on either Super 16 or Ultra 16.

Whilst I'll most likely rent a camera for the shoot (if possible - I live in Austin and haven't found any place that rents them) I would like to go ahead and buy a Super 16 or Ultra 16 camera now to replace the Canon XHA1 I've been using. So... I'm going to sell my HDV Camera as well as my lens adapter and lenses and I figure once all that's gone, I should have about $3,000 to spend.

I need a camera that shoots on Super or Ultra 16mm, preferably with a zoom lens and crystal sync motor that's quiet enough for sync sound work - is this possible with what I have to spend?

I'm familiar with some of the options available, the NPR, H16, etc. I just don't know whether I can reasonably expect to get what I need for around $3000 (or where to look). I just found out about Ultra 16mm - perhaps that would be a more affordable route to take than Super 16?


Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Cheers,
Luke
http://LukeHill.com


Some might attack me after saying this, but I would seriously avoid the ultra 16 format. Yes, the conversions are cheaper, but the post production workflow is nowhere near as standardized as the Super 16. You limit your options as to where you can get your footage transferred and processed; and forget about getting high quality HD transfers/scans from it as well. Yeah I know cinelicious can transfer u16 but I'm talking about a higher quality scans (no offense to cinelicious). Save up a little more money and grab something like a super 16 eclair camera.
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#3 Adam Garner

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 03:57 PM

Luke:

I'm in Austin as well, and just "invested" in an Ultra16 set up. I'm shooting a test reel next week for a film.

I did the math and U16 is just more within reach than S16 for what I'm doing.

1: U16 and S16 are nearly identical as far as how much film real estate they use for an HD transfer at 1:1.78. Depending on who's math you look at it's about 3% difference.
2: If you have a fixed lens, like a scoopic, you HAVE to go Ultra... and the conversion wont run more than 400 bucks or so since it's just a gate widening.
3: If you buy an Eclair or Bolex, you'll have the option to go Super but the camera body will be more expensive AND the conversion (it's about twice as much since they recenter the lens), AND the lenses you'll need to cover the S16 frame. This is a several thousand dollar venture. You will then have a S16 frame that you can get transferred on the highest quality scanner... but that will also cost you muchos pesos.
4: With ultra (on a scoopic) you can't change your ground glass so it's not great for critical framing, but you can get really close. No biggie.

What are you shooting? Can you deal with 2.5 minute 100' loads or do you need a longer shooting time? For me I wanted the hand-held option vs. something I had to tripod or dolly for movement. Again, saving $$.

Ultra isn't common, that's for sure. BonoLabs and Cinelicious are both doing it. Other transfer houses are researching it. You can get it developed same places as S16. The challenge is that the scanners need to read between the perfs. Some can, some cant. Ultimately it sounds like you're an independent filmmaker on a budget which is what Ultra is designed to do... save money. There are plenty of options for transfer since there's more than 1.

If they made a good handheld super16 camera for 1300 bucks I'd have thought more about it. Problem is they're more like 13,000. The NPR's and EBM's are not really that ergonomic at all...
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#4 marc barbé

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 04:36 PM

Hi all,

I've been a filmmaker my whole life. As a kid I shot on 8mm, then Super 8 and eventually VHS. As an adult I've shot one thing in 16mm, then a lot in mini-DV and for the last few years I've been shooting in HD (well, HDV) often using a 35mm adapter. Anyway, I'm going to be shooting a feature later this year and after considering the Red and many other options, I've decided that I want to shoot on either Super 16 or Ultra 16.

Whilst I'll most likely rent a camera for the shoot (if possible - I live in Austin and haven't found any place that rents them) I would like to go ahead and buy a Super 16 or Ultra 16 camera now to replace the Canon XHA1 I've been using. So... I'm going to sell my HDV Camera as well as my lens adapter and lenses and I figure once all that's gone, I should have about $3,000 to spend.

I need a camera that shoots on Super or Ultra 16mm, preferably with a zoom lens and crystal sync motor that's quiet enough for sync sound work - is this possible with what I have to spend?

I'm familiar with some of the options available, the NPR, H16, etc. I just don't know whether I can reasonably expect to get what I need for around $3000 (or where to look). I just found out about Ultra 16mm - perhaps that would be a more affordable route to take than Super 16?


Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Cheers,
Luke
http://LukeHill.com


Hi,
I've been around that question myself, finding precious help in posts on this website (you might want to search through them).
I finally narrowed it down to two choices: Eclair ACL1,5 (with variable speed motor and kinoptik viewfinder) or Aaton LTR7. They are both sound sync, silent and reliable, the Eclair being Aaton's ancestor.
To make a long story short, I chose the Eclair for two main reasons:
Maintenance is cheap (several good techs in the states, one in Europe).
It takes all mounts from C to PL (some of the older switar, cooke or zeiss primes, angenieux and canon zooms are very good glass at affordable prices). And why buy a camera if you're gonna end up renting glass?
I got a fine complete S16 ACL package last year for under 2000$ (no lens). The cheapest i've seen the Aaton LTR7 S16 go is about 4500$.
Good luck in your search and happy shooting.
Marc.
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#5 Luke Hill

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 05:08 PM

Thanks, guys, for your input. I would, if I can afford it, like to get Super 16 just because of the ubiquitous nature of the format (and the relative ease of finding telecine services), but if it's just simply out of my price range, I'd rather have Ultra 16 than nothing at all!

I'm still holding out hope that I can find a Super 16 camera that will do what I need in my price range. I do have my eyes on an Eclair NPR right now, but Adam's comments about the ergonomics of the camera concern me as I like to shoot handheld.

Adam - what kind of camera did you have converted to Ultra 16?

Marc - I was considering the ACL, but was concerned that it would be too noisy for Sync sound - have you found that not to be the case?

Thanks again...
Luke

Edited by Luke Hill, 19 May 2009 - 05:12 PM.

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#6 David Rakoczy

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 06:36 PM

A 'complete' SR2 Package will run $50k+... now, any minute Adrian will tell you about the SR3 he got for $30k.. however, he did not get all that I received :P . (just playing with you Adrian).

Be very careful with people saying they will sell you their Camera for X dollars... because you need much more than just a Camera Body, a couple Mags and a Battery. S16 Lenses are at a Premium right now and my Zeiss Super Speeds have about doubled what I paid for them. You can drop your $3k+ on one Lens. Are you ok with a 4x4 Matte Box or do you want the industry standard 4x5.. what Filters do you want.. how about Diopters.. Extension Eyepiece, an Aspheron, Eyepiece Heater, Standard and Baby Sticks, Head, Block Battery, Video Tap & Monitor, Hi Hat, True 180º Shutter Conversion?.. and on and on... of course you can always start with a very very basic package and add to it but on the whole that is what you are looking at... I personally don't want to walk on Set without a set of Straight NDs, 85NDs, Classic Softs, Pola and Optical Flat. All that costs and that is a very small Filter Package.

On the bright side, the nice thing about purchasing a Film Camera.. is that (for the most part) you are done... let Kodak and Fuji do all the R&D for you... my Camera was built in the early 80's and is still as viable today as it was then... esp. after it's S16 conversion. How many Video cameras can you say that about?.. You are heading in the right direction ;)
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#7 Bruce Taylor

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 07:14 PM

If you're going to be shooting sync sound, Bolexes, Scoopics, etc are all out.

The Eclairs, both the NPR and ACL were designed as "self blimped" cameras, and, if running properly, are fine for recording sync sound. In small spaces you may want a sound barney. They are inexpensive. While the NPR is not particularly ergonomic, they did enable a whole genre of hand held documentaries to be made in the 60's and 70's- So it can be done.

An Aaton or Arri SR* is more modern, but it is still pulling film through a gate, you can put modern glass on an Eclair with a PL mount if you feel you need to.

Ultra 16 is an interesting option that only recently became viable. While I appreciate Elliot's comments about post workflow and ultimate quality, one needs to consider the intended release formats. If you're going for a 35mm projection print, the Cinelicious telecine may not be adequate. I got a nice look at their work done for a friend of mine and can say this: On my 42" Sony Bravia from a home burned DVD, the Cinelicious transfer (from 35mm 5219 4 perf anamorphic) looked indisguishable to me from a commercially produced DVD of a Hollywood movie. Granted, this is entirely unscientific and subjective, but so is any normal person's experience sitting in front of a TV. So consider your final presentation when making your decision.

Good luck on your film. You'll find something in your price range.

Bruce Taylor
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#8 Todd Anderson

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 07:20 PM

I've seen a few Aaton XTR's going for as little as $5,500 ebay. Though, you probably want to set aside some money for an overhaul for any used camera.

Zoom lenses for S16 are about half of what they were two years ago (meaning a Canon 8-64mm that was around $8,000 prior are going for around $4,000)

Because of the economy and the infiltration of RED, Super16mm is at an all time low on the used market (with some exceptions).

I bought two XTR's, and a lot of glass last year at such prices. If you can hold out, there are some decent deals.

There is one DP (Tony Stewart), who has listed his Aaton XTR on ebay a few times now (last time it was at $6,250 and that includes a top handle video tap, and if I am not correct, an overhaul was done recently) and I'm sure he would take $6,000 for it. I think one of the reason it hasn't sold yet is because he only has a (4) in feedback on ebay. But I bought his Canon 7-63mm and it was in excellent condition, so that listing is legit. By the way, a video tap for an XTR can cost you half that cost alone, if not more. Pretty good deal in the long run if you weigh that against a Eclair ACL after conversion and some of the headaches associated with that, along with a video tap solution, not too mention it is a much more modern camera.

Todd
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#9 David Rakoczy

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 07:56 PM

Zoom lenses for S16 are about half of what they were two years ago (meaning a Canon 8-64mm that was around $8,000 prior are going for around $4,000) Because of the economy and the infiltration of RED, Super16mm is at an all time low on the used market (with some exceptions).


I am sorry but I have to question this advice.... actually completely disagree... S16 Lenses are at a PREMIUM right now (because) of the infiltration of RED.... whether they be Primes or Zooms. I get calls all the time from people wanting my Set of Primes. Good S16 Glass is at an all time HIGH... not low. I have never seen an 8-64 (which is a fantastic Lens ) for $4k???... and again.. Aaton XTR's for $5,500... what, a beat up bayonet Body, Mag and a Battery that needs to be re-celled?.... I paid $42k for my Package but would add the extra $8k PLUS (because) of the Glass..
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#10 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 08:09 PM

I am sorry but I have to question this advice.... S16 Lenses are at a PREMIUM right now (because) of the infiltration of RED....


And the Scarlet 2/3" will very likely raise the prices of R16 glass as well when and if it goes for sale later this year.
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#11 David Rakoczy

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 08:49 PM

Absolutely Saul.

Just checked ebay.. found (a) Zeiss Super Speed S16 9.5mm for $5,500.... found (a) 12mm for $5,500... and a Set of four for $8k.. all of which are not PL Mount... which you will want if you intend to pursue Cinematography (and invest in your future) as that is how you will mount real Glass...
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#12 Tim Carroll

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 08:56 PM

. . . and again.. Aaton XTR's for $5,500... what, a beat up bayonet Body, Mag and a Battery that needs to be re-celled?.... I paid $42k for my Package but would add the extra $8k (because) of the Glass..


Sorry David, that's what they are going for. You are right about the glass, it has gone through the roof. But Super 16 cameras have really dropped. I picked up Jason Martin's Aaton XTR, PL mount, Super 16 camera with two DX mags, two 16 volt batteries (one needed recelling), rods, and an Abel Cine Tech charger for the batteries, all for $5500. I just finished overhauling it, and doing modifications to the eyepiece so that I can now see the whole Super 16 image area in the ground glass without having to move my eye around. Also modified my Van Diemen Matte Box and the lightweight rods, so now everything fits and works smoothly with my Cooke Kinetals and Speed Panchros (with the Les Bosher Cooke to PL mount adapter).

Posted Image

Best,
-Tim
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#13 David Rakoczy

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 09:04 PM

I have always been an ARRI guy when it comes to 16 :P ...... great deal you got Tim! ...of course you need a lot more to actually have a usable Camera System. Something more like this:

S16 Package
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#14 Tim Carroll

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 09:31 PM

I have always been an ARRI guy when it comes to 16 :P ...... great deal you got Tim! ...of course you need a lot more to actually have a usable Camera System. Something more like this:

S16 Package


That looks like a great system you got David. And if you are a DP and want to rent your package out to clients, you're right, you do need all that stuff. But looking over Luke's original post and taking a gander at his web site, I don't think he is trying to make it as a DP. He lists himself as a director and from glancing at his web site, I think he wants to write and direct his own material. He could get by with a lot less equipment than you can as a DP.

Now mind you, I also have a good set of sticks and a fluid head, filters for the Van Diemen, a full set of Cooke Kinetal lenses and a full set of Cooke Speed Panchro (Series II and III) lenses and all the lenses are set up with focus ears and I set the camera up so the focus ears are on the operators side (as opposed to the way they are set up on ARRI cameras), so I don't need a follow focus rig. The camera set me back $5500, but the glass and everything else, which was accumulated over about eight years, ran more than the cost of the camera.

I think the biggest issue Luke is going to run in to is trying to buy glass. The cameras are coming way down, but at the same time the glass is going way up. And as someone else mentioned, with the RED 2K cameras coming out the 16mm glass is going to go way up as well.

Best,
-Tim
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#15 Todd Anderson

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 09:48 PM

Hi David,

I've been accumulating a couple of XTR packages for myself over the last two years, so I've been following it pretty closely. Originally, there seemed to be a premium for the Super16 glass when all the 35mm glass was shooting through the roof, but then the Super16 glass kind of fell and / or came down. The exception would probably be the Zeiss SuperSpeed sets, which seem to always retain their value.

I'm not saying that Visual Products and some of the more reputable dealers were giving it away at that price, but I'm mainly talking about third party DP's and such that were listing their kits on ebay.

I bought an XTR for $5,500 (while admittedly a great deal) last year on ebay from a DP in Virginia that was buying a RED. That kit came with two mags, an intravalometer, a speed control, four batteries (two dead); and a couple of lens adaptors.

As I mentioned before, Tony Stewart has listed his XTR multiple times and the last time it was at $6,250.

An acquaintance of mine just sold his XTR for $5,100 on ebay (see link)

http://cgi.ebay.com/...em=330328689625

This same DP didn't want to give away his Cooke 10.8-60mm Optex convesion lens to 'just anybody' — he had prior had it on ebay and wasn't getting takers at $2,650 — so because we were friends, he accepted my offer for $2,000. That same DP also let go of a ARRI SR2 High Speed (PS Tech upgrade) with two HS mags for $7,100.

As far as more glass, I have found some great deals over the last year and half:

What I purchased:

Canon 8-64mm (just overhauled by Duclos lenses the previous year, sold by ex-used gear house on ebay) mint condition.... $4,100

Canon 11-138mm zoom (almost new condition, sold by a retiring DP in Northern California on ebay) for unheard of price of.... $3,900 (nobody bid, so I bought it)

Canon 7-63mm zoom (perfect glass, bought from Tony Stewart on ebay) Again, when no one bid on the item, I saw it as to good of a deal to pass up for ..... $4,100

A bought a Zeiss MKII 12mm for $2,500. A perfect Zeiss MKII 50mm for $2,400 (was in Germany, but came in mint condition)

I've seen a Cooke 10.4-52mm (factory S16) zoom go for about $3,900. I've seen converted Zeiss 12-120's go for about the same price. I've seen Zeiss MK1's on ebay go for around $1,000 - $1,200 each. Last month I saw a Zeiss 9.5mm ULTRA PRIME go for $5,000. Yes that is right. I watched it. It was in Sweden, and nobody bid on it for that starting bid until the very end when someone grabbed it for that price.

Again, not everyone is selling at these prices — and these are rarer examples — but I have seen many examples of DP's that were shooting TV, Music video stuff, etc, and weren't getting calls for S16, so they had to dump their gear and jump on the digital bandwagon.

And I also think the above examples sold for what they did because while a Canon 8-64mm may be selling for half of what it was going for two years ago..., $4,000 is still $4,000. Meaning, that is still out of reach for the student cinematographer budget (who is buying ACL's and Angenieux zooms) and not something the experienced cinematography was looking at because they are in a wait and see mode with digital, etc., and / or they have been slow with S16 jobs. So, I think this answers why some there are good finds to be had in the mid-to-upper end range of equipment if you watch for it.

Believe me, I hope nothing more than the price of S16 glass to go through the roof, because I have invested in quite a few pieces of glass, but with the Red Primes coming out, etc. (and I know they are going to be making primes for their 2/3" cameras, too) I think that some of the market for used glass is going to drop. I also think that window 2K for the RED was getting a bad wrap (some saying it wasn't better than HVX footage unless it was oversampled from 3K), so again, I think that information coupled with the economy, things are kind of stagnate for S16 used sales at the moment.

And it will be interesting to see if RED even releases a 2/3" Scarlet, as I think with the Canon DSLR's shooting FF at that price, I think they might not see their original "3K for $3K" camera as marketable as before (and yes, I know that a DSLR is not a cine camera with a Folow Focus, etc). But my guess is that the fixed zoom Scarlet and 2/3" Scarlet will now be S35 so they can undercut the kids buying those Canon DSLR's for $3,000.

But again, not what I wish for, just what I have seen ....


Todd

p.s.: Interestingly, I think Super16 will have yet another revolution in the coming years. When the majority of footage shot around the world starts becoming predominantly, "clean RED 4K, with ultra modern glass, and Shallow depth of field", that look will get tired fast as it will all look similar. So there is good reason to believe that that style will fall out of vogue to some degree, and grain and Deep Focus with be all the rage.... I think you guys know what I mean...

Edited by Todd Anderson, 19 May 2009 - 09:49 PM.

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#16 David Rakoczy

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 09:53 PM

Agreed Tim. But I will put it this way. Luke, a (decent) Fluid Head will run $3k. What do you want below it and what do you want above it?

Todd, you are a lucky man to get those deals!!! I want to go shopping with you!
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#17 Todd Anderson

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 10:16 PM

Todd, you are a lucky man to get those deals!!! I want to go shopping with you!



David,

If by 'lucky' you mean I have acquired an obsessive compulsive addiction to buying cine lenses over the last two years... then I guess I'll take that as a compliment ;-)

But truth be told, I'm still shuffling some of this stuff around as to what I'll keep and what I'll hold, but there is no question that a 'sane' person would sell some of my glass off for other purchases!... but I'm not quite there yet....

Best,
Todd
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#18 Todd Anderson

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 11:18 PM

Luke,

Getting back to some advice for you (having been there before myself), I would try to see if you could hold out until you can afford an Aaton closer to the $5,500 range. You can probably even find an LTR54 for less, as it is a buyers market for 16mm gear at the moment.

This is versus buying a Eclair ACL (which may be the only sync sound camera in your budget range) for the $2,000 - 3,000, then putting another $2,000 into converting that to S-16, which will put close to $5,000 anyhow.

Another very good suggestion (especially if you are just finishing to DVD or Blu-Ray), would be to just buy a 'Regular 16mm' camera and letterbox your footage in post for a wide screen look. The 16mm stocks are plenty sharp with less grain these days to hold up to using less of the negative in telecine (again, assuming that you are not blowing up to 35mm, which unless you get a distribution deal to pay for that, chances are that may not be in the cards for your first feature) Instead, concentrate on telling the best story you can, and save going the full S-16 route for you next feature.

Also, not only are the Regular 16mm cameras going to be a better deal (buy a good condition Eclair ACL which can do sync sound), but the high quality glass for those cameras are going to be less expensive for you, too. For instance, if you look hard enough, you can find a Zeiss MKI 10-100mm T2 zoom come up on ebay for $2,000, or a Cooke 9-50mm T2.5 lens for $1,500. Pair one of those up with an ACL for $1,500- $2,000 and you will have telecined footage that looks incredible. If you don't have the funds for one of these lenses, you can come across an Angenieux 9.5mm - 57mm F1.6-1.8 zoom for probably $500 (you may even luck out and find the HEC version of that lens for the same price). And or/ you can also find some Cooke Kinetals and piece them together for primes.

In fact, if you get an ACL, there is a good bet that it may come with a 12-120 Angieneux — that while it has a bad reputation as being a coke bottle (mostly because most of them are worn out and unserviced) it is still possible to get a nice image out of that lens at a certain level. (I would suggest sending it over to Duclose Lenses and they could probably adjust and collimate it for $125). I will say one thing about the 12-120 Angieneux, that is a great portrait lens (no diffusion required) on the long end of the zoom —and sharp — with a really warm feel. And maybe you have a story that fits that particular tone of the Angenieux. Don't be bought into the hype that you always need a super sharp Zeiss lens for your story.

Best of luck,
Todd
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#19 Scott Bryant

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 11:48 PM

I got a NPR a couple of years ago and I have to say it is extremely reliable basically due to the fact that it is a tank. I had Bernie O'Doherty (incredible work) convert it to Ultra 16. Which for my low budget I think was a good choice.

No offsetting is needed of the gate or magazines. You don't have to worry about which lens covers this which covers that. The biggest problem (my opinion) is the infrastructure right now. There aren't as many labs that will process and only a couple of transfer houses (right now). Cinelicious says they are dedicated to the ultra16 workflow and aren't getting rid of it. For me I don't really care where I have to send my film b/c I'm in Oklahoma so sending it to Alphacine and Cinelicious doesn't bother me. There isn't anywhere for me to take film around here anyway. Also, with Cinelicious you get the online supervising of the telecine which may be a standard thing for most houses but i haven't heard of it before.

Ultra16 for me saved money on the conversion, I don't have to worry about lenses covering a funny offset conversion, I have a quality lab and transfer house (no it isn't spirit, but for it looks nearly as good to me and more importantly most audiences untrained eyes). My camera and conversion together added up to under $3000 also. It seems like the best choice for me. The one thing I may change when I'm older and become a dentist is I'll probably get a better camera that isn't so bulky. For now, it's awesome though.

Edited by Scott Bryant, 19 May 2009 - 11:49 PM.

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#20 Luke Hill

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 02:31 AM

Thank you, everyone, for all the replies - this has certainly been a very informative discussion!

While I'm still mulling my options, it does seem that if I could scrounge together enough money to buy something in the $5500 I'd probably get something I'd be a lot happier with! Unfortunately adding an extra 2-3 grand to the price is probably more than I can swing right now.

So, the search continues, but now I have a better idea of what I should be looking for. I'm going to go ahead and sell my digital gear and just keep lurking on ebay and hoping I get lucky.

Thanks again!

Luke
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