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First time shooting film


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#1 Nick Centera

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 03:19 AM

Hey, I am sure there are other posts on this topic but I was blind to see them. I am a tad nervous stepping into film. I am planning on shooting my first S16 short in the following months (on the K3 which is good and bad I've heard). 2 questions-
1. What is the best way to prepare for shooting film? I am worried about under/over exposing the film, but I do have a light meter which I will probably will be using quite a lot.

2.How do I get the film not to be "soft"? I have seen numerous student films and other things shot on 16 and they always seem to have soft and just amateur look to it. How should I go about getting a clean and sharp image? (if that is possible on the k3)

Thanks
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 07:37 AM

Over/Under exposure is all about lighting and using a light meter. Practice with some slide film in a stills camera. If you can shoot and expose slide film properly, under all conditions, then you'll be alright working on film.
For sharp images that's a function of the lens, so you need a good one. Even the best of lenses can look softer on occasion, especially at the ends of it's stops. So you want to normally be in the middle F stop range of the lens which will help keep things sharp. Also it's a matter of scene contrast. The more contrast you have in a scene, the sharper it looks, so I'm told.
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#3 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 30 July 2009 - 02:21 AM

Good points, Adrian.

1. What is the best way to prepare for shooting film?

In addition to practicing making exposures on film with a still SLR camera, use the opportunity to test your light meter and make sure it's calibrated properly:

(If you already know how to use and check a light meter, then just skip this part!)

Purchase an 18% gray card at a photography store (about $15). Set up the gray card so that it faces directly toward the lens and is evenly lit by white light. If you're using daylight-balanced film (which is the case for most types of still film), then that means direct mid-day sunlight. If you're using tungsten-balanced film (which is the case for most types of movie film), then that means direct light from a tungsten lamp, or direct sunlight with an #85 filter (orange) in front of the lens.

Set up the camera on a tripod and frame the card so that it takes up about 1/3 of the frame. If you can, also get a friend to sit in so that you can see a skintone under the same lighting. Set the ASA on your meter to the index of the filmstock you're using, and set the shutter speed on the meter so that it matches the shutter speed on the camera.

Take an incident meter reading with the dome facing directly toward the lens and in the middle of the gray card. Be careful to shield the dome from any stray light other than the direct light hitting the card. Check the four corners of the card with the meter to make sure the card is evenly lit. Set the lens aperture to the stop given by the meter. Shoot the first frame on the roll.

After you get the film back, take out your gray card again and compare it to your test frame. Does the gray card on film have the same density as the one in your hand, or does it look too dark/light? If it looks off, then your meter may need to be calibrated. I recommend sending it off every year or so to a place like Quality Light Metric in LA to have it checked and recalibrated for your peace of mind.

Anyway, with the rest of your film roll, try exposing under different lighting conditions - front light, back light, side light. If you're not sure how to expose a shot, bracket your exposures (take successive shots at one stop under, at normal, one over, etc.). Try underexposing and overexposing on purpose so you can get a sense of how it looks on film. Exposure can be creative, not just technical.

If you use slide (aka reversal) film, you will end up with positive images back from the lab. You will see exactly how you exposed the film with no corrections. If you use negative film, you will end up with prints from the lab with corrections. So when you turn in your film, ask the lab for prints with "no corrections" so you can see how you did without the lab trying to "fix" your exposures for you.

2. How should I go about getting a clean and sharp image?

1. Use the best, sharpest lenses you can get your hands on. The earlier K3s had an M42 Pentax screw mount so you could use Pentax still lenses in addition to the stock lens. The later K3s changed to a proprietary bayonet mount. Modern multi-coated prime lenses will be sharper than older lenses. Of course, you won't find any Pentax still lenses that will function as wide angle on the K3 because they are meant to be used on 35mm still cameras. An 18mm lens on a 35mm still camera is a super wide lens, but on a 16mm film camera, 18mm is a medium lens. You might be able to find something like a c-mount to M42 adapter if you want to use wide 16mm prime lenses (don't know if that would work, but worth looking into).

2. If you have enough light, stop down the lens. All lenses technically perform better at medium f/stops like f/4, f/5.6, f/8. Don't stop down beyond f/8 if possible. Lens performance starts to deteriorate again as you go down to f/11, f/16, f/22.

3. If you have enough light, use the slowest film stock you can get. Kodak 100ASA 7212 is the sharpest negative filmstock you can get today. Slow film generally also has finer grain and more saturated colors than faster stock. Reversal film is in turn generally sharper and finer-grained than negative - the recently discontinued Kodachrome 40 was far sharper, more color saturated, and finer grained to my eye than a workprint off of 7212. And Kodachrome had been around since the 1930s!

4. If you have enough light, uniformly overexpose the film by 2/3 of a stop. The easy way to do this is to set you meter to an ASA that is 2/3 slower than the film's rating. So if you're using a 100ASA stock, then rate it at 64ASA. You don't need to tell the lab to do anything differently, just have them process it normally. Doing this will give you finer grain, more saturated colors, and deeper blacks.

5. Shoot in contrasty lighting conditions. Shoot toward the direction of the sun, so that your subjects are backlit. Use rim light to create an edge around your subjects, and let areas of the frame go dark, even black. Play foreground elements against background by juxtaposing light and dark, dark and light.

6. Watch out for lens flares. Shade the lens so that stray light does not hit the lens, which will lower contrast. Avoid unnecessary filters to reduce reflections and flares. A few filters you may want to use are ND (neutral density) and ND grads which will help you lower day exterior light levels so you can use stops like f/4 and f/5.6. Also, a polarizer will darken a blue sky and remove unwanted reflections, creating greater contrast in the image.

7. Make sure your lenses and filters are always super clean. Any fingerprints, smudges, or spots will soften the image and lower contrast.

8. Most important! Feel free to break any of these rules at any time. Good cinematography is not always about getting the sharpest, cleanest image. It's good to know these basic techniques, but just think of them as variables which you can play with to create the image that you want.

*9. Learn how to load and unload the camera properly. Do this in a changing tent, changing bag, or a photographic darkroom. The K3 uses 100' daylight spools which you can load in subdued light with only a little flashing at the head and tail of the roll. However, in practice you'll get more usable footage if you load/unload in complete darkness to avoid flashing the head and tails.

Edited by Satsuki Murashige, 30 July 2009 - 02:25 AM.

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#4 David Rakoczy

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Posted 30 July 2009 - 07:12 AM

FILM LIGHTING ;)
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#5 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 01:57 AM

FILM LIGHTING ;)

David, you must be getting a commission or something. :rolleyes:

Seriously though, it is a great book...
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#6 Richard Lackey

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 09:49 AM

Just some notes on the K3. I've been shooting with a K3 the past month or so and I'm loving it. I've found it to be a solid little camera, a very steady image and I've got no complaints about the optics of the stock zoom lens either.

I'm from a video background and the biggest challenge for me in switching to film has been focus. I've found the best way to get sharp images (which is possible with the K3 and the stock lens, the last roll of Vision 2 200T I shot was pin sharp) is to either measure distance and focus accordingly, or to open up aperture completely, get the image sharp through the viewfinder, and then stop down to the proper exposure.

I've found the viewfinder generally completely useless for judging focus unless there's enough light and you open up to find it. If you are shooting low light then forget about the viewfinder completely and measure distance, it's the best way I've found.

I'm by no means experienced, just my $0.02 but it's worked for me. Oh and the built in lightmeter is fantastic, my exposure has been spot on from the first 100ft I ever rolled in the K3.

My favourite stocks are on the slower side, 200 is as fast as I'd go, my experiences with Fuji F500 are giving very grainy results but this is because I've tried to shoot night interiors that are not lit properly and so even if my highlights are properly exposed my blacks have not been black, the Fuji seems to have a blue blotchy grain in the blacks, could be my fault, or old stock.

Here's my experiences:

Ektachrome 100D (7285) - Fantastic, cross processed and is lots of fun.
Vision 2 200T (7217) - Great! Love it, good all round results.
Fuji F500 - Only tried night interior, practical lights only, and have not achieved the best image possible with this stock yet due to underexposing. My problem, not the stock. Grainy.

I'm shooting some Kodak 50D this weekend for the first time, some Fuji F500 emulsion out (shooting through the back, just for fun) and some Vision 3 500T (7219) but I've got lights this time!

The first few hundred feet I shot with the K3 were definitely soft and definitely looked amateur. After that, it's fantastic, crisp, sharp, nice shallow DOF when opened up, looks totally professional.

After you get to grips with exposure and focus, the rest (in creating a professional image) I am sure comes down to lighting, framing and composition.

Bottom line. Practise, great results are possible with the K3.
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#7 Nick Centera

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 03:48 PM

Wow, thank you to all who have spent the time on this topic. I may actually be getting the chance to move up to the CP16R, and if I do that, then I will get a pl hard front and get a Zeiss zoom. But I know a lot of what all you guys said carries over. I will just start shooting tests and see what I get and try to learn from those. Thanks again for your help!
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