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How much film do I need


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#1 Mark.Smith

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 06:53 PM

Hello,

I am about to shoot a 10 min film on color neg. It will be my first official short as a DP. I'm starting to prepare a estimate for the producer but I'm getting mixed answers when trying to figure out exactly how many feet I'll need.

It's budget is low so I would imagine that numerous takes are out of the question.


Is there a rough estimate when shooting a drama? I.e Or am I asking too broad of a question?

Or perhaps there's a rough guide line all DP's follow on dramas such as ''for every minute of screen time = xxx amount of spool time''.

thanks
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#2 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 07:52 PM

You would use a shooting ratio to estimate how much film you need. Typically for low budget shoots, I would say 4:1 (four minutes of stock for one minute of screen time) would be appropriate. One page of script is approximately one minute of screen time. You could get away with less if you do a lot of rehearsals and the actors know their lines.

Also factor in how much coverage you plan to do (more coverage = more stock), whether you need multiple cameras (more cameras=more stock), whether you need different stocks for interiors and exteriors, how much dialogue there is (more dialogue = more stock), how much off-speed shooting you're planning on doing (hi-speed shooting=more stock).
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#3 Steve McBride

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 08:11 AM

400 ft = 11 mins

If you shoot at a 4:1 ratio as Satsuki mentioned you would need about 1600 ft of film, so 4 cans of 400 ft. It's always good to add a little more in case you need it, so I would say that you need 5 rolls and if the producers make you cut your budget you can bring it back to 4.

Oh, and going with what Satsuki mentioned also, if you're shooting multiple cameras, just multiply your total times the amount of cameras you're going to shoot on. I'm not sure about the off-speed shooting though so hopefully someone else will be able to help if you need that.

Edited by Steve McBride, 07 September 2009 - 08:13 AM.

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#4 Rob Vogt

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 09:07 AM

I just got off a 10 minute short, we shot 14 Rolls and just barely made it. But that was because there was a lot of dialogue and we were using 2 different stocks, so you have to also keep that in mind. We also had about 500ft of short end, 300 of the 500t and 100 of the 250d. We also had some slow-mo shot at 50Fps so that's a little more than 2x the normal fps, there was only 2 or 3 shots like this so it didn't matter much.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 11:22 AM

4:1 is incredibly low -- I'd say that 7:1 is more realistic as a goal, and 10:1 is the most common for low-budget productions. For a long time when I was doing under 1-mil features, they all were budgeted at 10:1 for stock. The lowest I ever managed to shoot was 7:1, and I know some people that managed to shoot 5:1, but barely.

My rough rule is a can per page -- a 400' can in the case of 16mm (1000' can for 35mm). 10 minute short, 10 page script, 10 cans of 16mm, so 4,000'. That's about a 10:1 ratio, so you figure that 5 cans would be a 5:1 ratio, etc. You can start out by buying 6 cans maybe and just plan on buying a few more.
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#6 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 11:33 AM

Oh, David, I have to say I really like the Can per Page rule. I'd actually never thought of breaking it down like that.
In truth, 10:1 is a good place to be, I once shot a 4:1, but that was a case where we knew exactly what shot we wanted, exactly how long we were going to roll on it, and it was rehearsed like mad, so on the day the actors knew their lines, we only need this shot for these lines etc. In the end, we saved some money, but the project on the whole suffered from it. Live and learn, I suppose.
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#7 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 03:12 PM

In truth, 10:1 is a good place to be, I once shot a 4:1, but that was a case where we knew exactly what shot we wanted, exactly how long we were going to roll on it, and it was rehearsed like mad, so on the day the actors knew their lines, we only need this shot for these lines etc. In the end, we saved some money, but the project on the whole suffered from it. Live and learn, I suppose.


For "The Wheat and the Chaff", we shot 4:1 and everything turned out great as far as Production went. Actors nailed it, lighting, etc...problem was...one of the key scenes had bad film jutter. Granted this was S8 where a bad cartridge can really ruin a good day and you dont know til post. I would totally agree that less than about 8:1 is a mistake.
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#8 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 04:50 PM

4:1 is incredibly low -- I'd say that 7:1 is more realistic as a goal, and 10:1 is the most common for low-budget productions. For a long time when I was doing under 1-mil features, they all were budgeted at 10:1 for stock. The lowest I ever managed to shoot was 7:1, and I know some people that managed to shoot 5:1, but barely.

Just to be clear, I think 4:1 is too low for a 1 mil feature, I would never try to do that. But for a practically no-budget 10 minute short with minimal crew where your biggest expenses are stock, processing, and telecine, I think it's doable if you've shot listed meticulously, plan for minimal coverage, do lots of camera rehearsals, and don't plan on doing more than two takes.

This pretty much describes most of the projects I've shot so far - I've gone as low as 3.5:1 on 16mm for a 10 minute short and managed to keep everyone happy. The budget on that project was so low that we never would have been able to pay for stock, processing, telecine for 10:1 in the first place. Of course, I wouldn't want to keep doing it that way...
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#9 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 09:11 PM

Totally agree Satsuki. I think too that it becomes a lot less of an "expense" on the bigger shoots. As a starbucks cup once read, "If I have a Million dollar and I buy a loaf of bread for $1.50 I still have a Million Dollars. If I have $2.00 and I buy the same loaf, I only have .50" And I wouldn't want to do it that way always.
It was really nice working this one S16mm short where essentially we had a set budget, but also a whole back-up cash reserve in case we needed more stock, processing, telecine time. We still were on a smaller ratio, but knowing that if need be we could order up some stock over-night just made the whole process a lot more enjoyable than "Oh Jesus, we have 800 ft left and 5 pages for tomorrow!"
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#10 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 10:21 PM

As a starbucks cup once read...


Now we know where Adrian gets his wisdom ;)
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#11 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 10:24 PM

Ha! Not to mention energy. Where you been Matt? Welcome back!
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#12 Daniel Porto

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 04:24 AM

What does everyone think about shooting short ends for a low-budget production. Apart from the Loader going crazy and reloading every 10 minutes?
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#13 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 07:46 AM

Long ends and ReCans are a bit better, but sometimes you gotta do whatcha gotta do. In the end, so long as you know the age of the film (approx) then you should be fine. You only get into trouble when you get really old high speed film which has fogged.
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#14 Tebbe Schoeningh

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 10:50 AM

Long ends and ReCans are a bit better, but sometimes you gotta do whatcha gotta do. In the end, so long as you know the age of the film (approx) then you should be fine. You only get into trouble when you get really old high speed film which has fogged.



longends, shortends and recans could be a good option, just make sure you get them to the lab before you start shooting. i've ad some problems with recans, loading the mag i noticed a lot of dust and hairs inside and production had to go for fresh stock. also make sure that film was properlz stored, at the lab they could tell you in which condition the negative is and if you might have to overexpose...
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#15 Phil Connolly

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 12:46 PM

Not wanting to sound like a heathen - but if the production can't afford at least a 8:1 / 10:1 shooting ratio I would push for digital.

Its better to shoot in a lesser format and have all the coverage you need to tell the story correctly. Trying to shoot on very low ratios below 8:1 will probably result in a lot of compromises - it doesn't matter if you rehearse the actors to death - stuff can still happen to blow takes - stuff you don't expect and and if you don't have the stock to re-shoot then its going to compromise the final film.

Film-making is hard enough with out adding the extra stress of low ratios.

As much as I love film - I've pushed producers onto digital on low budget projects where the shooting ratio would be too tight.
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#16 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 03:03 PM

As much as I love film - I've pushed producers onto digital on low budget projects where the shooting ratio would be too tight.


I've actually observed people using this approach to their own peril. Reason? Because many times it becomes easy to get lax about other resources (like actors, locations, etc.) once you know you can shoot indefinite. This sometimes leads to having to use actors longer than normal, feeding them longer than normal, more locations, and sometimes inferior overall material. I'm not downing digital and saying things have to be like that but I do find it very hard to believe, at least on an ultra-low budget set, that the Director will rehearse them as hard off-camera with digital as with film.

PS- Not to mention, you will have hell in the editing room sorting through hundreds of digital takes. Been there, done that.
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#17 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 03:06 PM

Ha! Not to mention energy. Where you been Matt? Welcome back!


Thanks Adrian, been stabilizing my life a bit and focusing on some writing for awhile instead of just wanting to shoot. I'm in pre-production of a short that I want to shoot in late-Feb or early March. This time I want to shoot Super 16mm. I have a slightly higher budget this time and I'd like to discuss more in private if you're available and if I can fly you out. The funding is secured so it's not like I have to wait to negotiate. Let me know if you're interested and/or available.
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#18 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 03:12 PM

Most certainly. Drop me an E mail or give me a ring with some details if you'd like. My Feb is open aside from a trip to Shanghai mid-month and then nothing else planned for '10 yet. Let me know some rough dates when you get 'em and I'll book them in.
Good to have you back posting.
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#19 Edgar Dubrovskiy

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 05:13 PM

Shot a short this summer - 6:1 ratio.
Barely. 2 takes mainly. If saved up on previous shots - sometimes 3 takes.
Up to director, really. He has to realise that 6:1 does not imply six takes for each shot.

Using re-canned stock - found it ok.
But please do clip test it!
NEVER shoot without clip-testing.
For the same film mentioned - had a batch of 10 cans bought from a private dealer.
Shot tests on one (before clip testing) - the whole roll was flashing blue.
Turned out, that whole 10 new cans were x-rayed.
Only found out after clip testing extra three cans.
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#20 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 05:35 PM

Not wanting to sound like a heathen - but if the production can't afford at least a 8:1 / 10:1 shooting ratio I would push for digital.

I usually do that too, and sometimes lose jobs that way. I think as you become more experienced, you start realizing the shooting format is a lot less important than lighting/grip and a good crew (and a good eye behind the camera too).
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