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Never shot on film, considering using Super 8 for a project, advice?


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#1 Charles House

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Posted 26 October 2009 - 05:25 PM

I was going to shoot a project, a feature length, fully digital, a mix of Canon XL-2 DV and another camera with HDDV, but I had been poking around and saw that very few distibutors buy DV or even HD DV movies anymore. Because everyone and their mom is making them for next to nothing, they won't even watch them. It's a period piece, somewhat, with a segment for five different periods, so for the more modern settings I figure DV is appropriate, but for the 60s, 70s, 80s, I think Super 8 might be the best way.

I'd need to either rent or purchase a camera. If I purchased, it would have to be fairly easy to understand, and quiet enough for sync sound so I could get sound on set. It would also have to be cheap and reliable, as I've never shot film before. Super 8 is attractive because of the cartridges, as I've never had to load and unload film before, and don't trust doing it myself, so having the cartridges that can be loaded and unloaded in daylight seems great.

Any ideas on what I should look for?
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 26 October 2009 - 09:59 PM

Well if you're going to shoot film the first thing you need (before camera) is a light-meter and the know how on how to use one...
16mm would be a better (though more expensive) choice and they have day-light spools for certain cameras (like the Canon Scoopic) and purchasing/renting a sync, quiet 16mm camera is pretty cheap in today's market. Chances are it'll be better maintained than a S8mm camera and you have a wider range of post houses who can handle 16/super 16mm.
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#3 Charles House

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Posted 26 October 2009 - 10:46 PM

Well if you're going to shoot film the first thing you need (before camera) is a light-meter and the know how on how to use one...
16mm would be a better (though more expensive) choice and they have day-light spools for certain cameras (like the Canon Scoopic) and purchasing/renting a sync, quiet 16mm camera is pretty cheap in today's market. Chances are it'll be better maintained than a S8mm camera and you have a wider range of post houses who can handle 16/super 16mm.


Thank you for the response. 16mm was my original idea, but for this project, I certainly can't afford it. There aren't too many rental houses within a considerably distance. I'm in West Virginia. I know how to use a light meter, however. I've used them with DV cameras just because I wanted to learn the craft.

EDIT: I looked up the Scoopic on Ebay and they're pretty cheap. I assume there are other semi-professional level cameras in 16mm that can be had cheap. The upcharge in film, however, I may not be able to handle.

Edited by Charles House, 26 October 2009 - 10:49 PM.

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#4 Bruce Greene

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Posted 26 October 2009 - 10:54 PM

I was going to shoot a project, a feature length, fully digital, a mix of Canon XL-2 DV and another camera with HDDV, but I had been poking around and saw that very few distibutors buy DV or even HD DV movies anymore. Because everyone and their mom is making them for next to nothing, they won't even watch them. It's a period piece, somewhat, with a segment for five different periods, so for the more modern settings I figure DV is appropriate, but for the 60s, 70s, 80s, I think Super 8 might be the best way.

I'd need to either rent or purchase a camera. If I purchased, it would have to be fairly easy to understand, and quiet enough for sync sound so I could get sound on set. It would also have to be cheap and reliable, as I've never shot film before. Super 8 is attractive because of the cartridges, as I've never had to load and unload film before, and don't trust doing it myself, so having the cartridges that can be loaded and unloaded in daylight seems great.

Any ideas on what I should look for?


I'm not sure that 8mm will sell the distributers, but It just might be the right look for at least some of your periods:) I do think to sell the distributers that decide by format that you'll have to shoot 35mm.
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#5 Charles House

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Posted 27 October 2009 - 12:05 AM

I'm not sure that 8mm will sell the distributers, but It just might be the right look for at least some of your periods:) I do think to sell the distributers that decide by format that you'll have to shoot 35mm.


Thank you for the response. Maybe I should be a little more specific on distribution I'm looking for.

I'm certainly not looking for anything theatrical unless I were to take it to local, small-time theaters and get them to screen the DVD. I'm just looking for a DVD distributor that will PAY for the product, enough for me to make back what I spent on it so I have a credit, a finished film, and am not in debt for it. I know there are plenty of distributors who will TAKE your film and sell it if they think it'll sell (genre films especially), but they don't pay anything for it. No percentage of sales, no backend, nothing. My friend is in that sort of a deal with 7 or 8 of his films. They're out there, you can find them in the video store, but he made nothing on them. He just did it to get his name out there. I'd prefer to do that while still being able to make enough back to pay for what I've made, and he's suggested that DV and HDDV movies won't do that. Mixed media maybe.
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#6 Alessandro Malfatti

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 11:08 AM

Going for Super8 doesn't seem like a bad idea to me, the emulsions nowaday are quite good and you'll get more of a 1960's 16mm film. But a little tip would be to try precisely not to go for a shaky-home-movie look (if it's not supposed to be a shaky home movie) but instead take the format as serious as 16mm or DV.
An advantage of Super8 over 16mm is that a quiet camera can be had much cheaper. Note I said quiet, not sync: If you buy an unmodified sound camera you'll be ready to shoot sync sound, those kinds of cameras are relatively silent, they work for exteriors with background noise or maybe interiors if you wrap some crappy old foam around it. And those camera's are quite precise with the frame rate, you can resort to the ol' clapperboard and sync up the sound in post. Alternatively you can get a crystal sync camera, but those are harder to come by, or you have to modify one, and it'll generally be a bit more expensive. If you want details about that you'll need the advice of someone else here on the forum.
Film stocks are very good these days, Kodak sells the Ektachrome 64t and 200T and 500T color negative. The Ektachrome is a color reversal (it's processed into a positive image) is quite saturated compared to your everyday negative film, depending on the situation that may be a drawback or an advantage. The others are high sensitivity color negatives, they have a more normal color saturation, but they're grainier. You can get other negatives from Pro8, I think that's a little more expensive, never used it myself, you can search around the forum for some opinions I guess.
Hope I could help.
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#7 Bob Hayes

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 11:23 AM

Transfer your footage to tape. Do not try to cut film. The glue will ruin the project. Once on tape you can edit it in your computer and output a quality image.
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#8 Wooda McNiven

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 12:42 PM

Super 8 is great for short films, personal projects, etc. But a feature length film?

If I were to make an indy feature, with commercial aspirations (low budget a given), then I think 16mm, or better yet, Super 16mm, is the smart way to go.

It will look much better and will, in all likelihood, cause far less problems during principal photography than Super 8. Down the road, if needed, it can also be blown up to 35mm and still look pretty darn good.

If you're dead set on Super 8, then all I can say is shoot lots of tests before principal photography. Know your camera (have a backup and know it too), know your film stock, and be prepared for common Super 8 issues and problems. You WILL encounter them.

WRT light meter, shoot lots of tests here too. For most Super 8 cameras, you can't simply use the exposure value indicated by the light meter. Check out the Brodsky and Treadway site (littlefilm.org) about using a light meter with Super 8 cameras. Lots of good info.

Good luck
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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 01:13 PM

Super8 is often not much cheaper, or even more expensive, than 16, even if you can get a 16 camera. At the end of the day, super-8 can look shockingly good, but only if you are massively careful at every stage of the chain. Not that you don't have to be massively careful with any other sort of film (QC problems tend to be immediately visible on video), but super8 is hugely picky and sensitive. You may have looked online and seen very good results from super8, but the demos you see tend to be the very best of the best; large numbers of very skilled people spending much time squeezing every last drop of quality out of it as a technical demo. Achieving this on a complete feature may not be practically achievable, even for more-than-16mm money. Also you will have vastly more limited access to services which makes it more difficult to get a decent rate - don't believe the silly low rates you see for "super8 to DVD", as this will invariably be a film-chain type setup, basically a camera pointed at a screen, and the results are unlikely to be what you want.

P
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#10 Paul Bruening

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 01:25 PM

Depending on the deals you can strike you can shoot 2-perf 35mm for not a heck of a lot more than Super 8. A common 10/10 deal will get you $0.00625 per frame. An 8/8 will get you $0.005. That's a half penny per frame shot and developed with 35mm resolution to boot.

So, let's say you've got a 2 hour long feature. That's 173,000 frames. On a 10/10 deal that'll cost you $1,081.25. With a 10:1 shooting ratio you've got the whole thing shot and processed for $10,812.50.
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#11 Bruce Taylor

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 07:09 PM

I do think to sell the distributers that decide by format that you'll have to shoot 35mm.


And 2 perf 35mm is the cheapest way to that, as Paul points out. Cheapest way to do that is rent a 2 perf camera (shameless plug: I have some) or have an Arri IIC converted by Bruce McNaughton. Buy short ends at .05 to .10 a foot, get .10 a foot processing, TK the negative to HD and cut it, bingo, you have your 35mm feature. Do the math with Super8 and see what your numbers really are.

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#12 Wooda McNiven

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 10:09 AM

Bruce, Paul... 2 perf 35mm you say. Very interesting.

I read something about it a year or two ago but really know nothing about it.

Can you recommend any sources to learn more about shooting with 2 perf 35mm?

Thanks


And 2 perf 35mm is the cheapest way to that, as Paul points out. Cheapest way to do that is rent a 2 perf camera (shameless plug: I have some) or have an Arri IIC converted by Bruce McNaughton. Buy short ends at .05 to .10 a foot, get .10 a foot processing, TK the negative to HD and cut it, bingo, you have your 35mm feature. Do the math with Super8 and see what your numbers really are.

Bruce Taylor
www.indi35.com


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#13 Charles House

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 10:16 AM

Going for Super8 doesn't seem like a bad idea to me, the emulsions nowaday are quite good and you'll get more of a 1960's 16mm film. But a little tip would be to try precisely not to go for a shaky-home-movie look (if it's not supposed to be a shaky home movie) but instead take the format as serious as 16mm or DV.
An advantage of Super8 over 16mm is that a quiet camera can be had much cheaper. Note I said quiet, not sync: If you buy an unmodified sound camera you'll be ready to shoot sync sound, those kinds of cameras are relatively silent, they work for exteriors with background noise or maybe interiors if you wrap some crappy old foam around it. And those camera's are quite precise with the frame rate, you can resort to the ol' clapperboard and sync up the sound in post. Alternatively you can get a crystal sync camera, but those are harder to come by, or you have to modify one, and it'll generally be a bit more expensive. If you want details about that you'll need the advice of someone else here on the forum.
Film stocks are very good these days, Kodak sells the Ektachrome 64t and 200T and 500T color negative. The Ektachrome is a color reversal (it's processed into a positive image) is quite saturated compared to your everyday negative film, depending on the situation that may be a drawback or an advantage. The others are high sensitivity color negatives, they have a more normal color saturation, but they're grainier. You can get other negatives from Pro8, I think that's a little more expensive, never used it myself, you can search around the forum for some opinions I guess.
Hope I could help.


Thank you for the response. To respond to what you said about using a tripod, I almost never go handheld. So many students do it and I don't know why. It's never well thought out, and even in motion shots, one or two tripod shots can do the same as a handheld shot. There are uses for handheld, but when it's used for no other reason than "I'm a student videographer, this is how it's done, right?" it just looks poor.

Thank you for the information on sync sound and film stocks. I assume I'd go looking for a sync sound camera first and, since I'm led to believe they haven't made film stock with the added strip for sound in forever, I'll run another sound recording source, maybe even a DV camera with a boom mic so they're easy to sync, next to the film camera.

I planned to shoot one segment in black and white and another in 70ish color. My only real concerns are lighting (since the lighting I have access to is more for DV cameras, so I can probably get 3 lights at 300-500 watts each on one set, and that may not be enough), and digital effects in post (I usually do practice effects, but there are a few I can't do on set, light small meteors and shooting stars, so I'd have to do post digital effects, which make me wonder how they'll look coupled with grainy, real film).
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#14 Charles House

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 10:24 AM

Transfer your footage to tape. Do not try to cut film. The glue will ruin the project. Once on tape you can edit it in your computer and output a quality image.


Thank you for the response, I have no means to cut actual film, I don't think our school has ever done film, only digital, so I was going to have it transfered to DV or HD so I can edit the film footage with the DV and HD footage, as I'll use other cameras for the same project.
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#15 Charles House

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 10:25 AM

Depending on the deals you can strike you can shoot 2-perf 35mm for not a heck of a lot more than Super 8. A common 10/10 deal will get you $0.00625 per frame. An 8/8 will get you $0.005. That's a half penny per frame shot and developed with 35mm resolution to boot.

So, let's say you've got a 2 hour long feature. That's 173,000 frames. On a 10/10 deal that'll cost you $1,081.25. With a 10:1 shooting ratio you've got the whole thing shot and processed for $10,812.50.


That's definitely a price tag I can't afford. Maybe film isn't for me. Thanks for the responses, I guess I'll stay digital.
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#16 Tom Hepburn

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 10:32 AM

Hi Charles,

I was looking at your original post:

"It would also have to be cheap and reliable, as I've never shot film before. Super 8 is attractive because of the cartridges, as I've never had to load and unload film before, and don't trust doing it myself, so having the cartridges that can be loaded and unloaded in daylight seems great."

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like Charles might want to do some testing with film in general before getting into 2 perf 35mm. Just a thought based on my experience as a beginner. It took me a while to get around the challenge of film, exposure, stocks, lighting for film, etc., as I was shooting all DV. I would hate for you to get back footage that might not be what you want it to.


Tom
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#17 Paul Bruening

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 11:43 AM

Hey Charles,

I don't think we intended to put you off of film. It's just that there's a common assumption that S8 is automatically cheaper than 16mm or 35mm. As a comparison only, a 50' cartridge of Kodak Vision2 Super 8 retails for $18.95. It commonly processes for $15.00. It has a maximum of 3600 frames. That comes out to a frame cost of $0.00943. Compared to 2-perf's frame cost of $0.00625 you're better off taking the time to learn how to thread a real film camera. That's not to say S8 has no value. It does provide a beautiful, almost impressionistic image that I find very satisfying.

Hello Wooda,

It's just like regular 35mm except it pulls only 2 perforations of film down for each exposure instead of 3 like in Super 35 or 4 like in academy and anamorphic. You get a natural wide screen image, 35mm resolution class, spherical lenses instead of anamorphic and half the film consumption. 2-perfers like myself and Bruce love that we can get short ends (200' +/-) for 5 to 10 cents a foot. 200' is almost useless in a 4-perf camera but lasts 4.5 minutes in a 2-perf camera. That's what a 400' roll runs for in a 4-perf camera.

The common beef with 2-perf is camera availability. Most of them are converted 4-perf cameras. Bruce has converted commie-cams. I've got a converted Mitchell. Converted Arri IIC's are pretty popular. You can rent modern Arri's and Panavisions with 2-perf works. Aaton makes the Penelope with changeable works in 2 and 3-perf.
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#18 Charles House

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 11:48 AM

Hey Charles,

I don't think we intended to put you off of film. It's just that there's a common assumption that S8 is automatically cheaper than 16mm or 35mm. As a comparison only, a 50' cartridge of Kodak Vision2 retails for $18.95. It commonly processes for $15.00. It has a maximum of 3600 frames. That comes out to a frame cost of $0.00943. Compared to 2-perf's frame cost of $0.00625 you're better off taking the time to learn how to thread a real film camera. That's not to say S8 has no value. It does provide a beautiful, almost impressionistic image that I find very satisfying.

Hello Wooda,

It's just like regular 35mm except it pulls only 2 perforations of film down for each exposure instead of 3 like in Super 35 or 4 like in academy and anamorphic. You get a natural wide screen image, 35mm resolution class, spherical lenses instead of anamorphic and half the film consumption. 2-perfers like myself and Bruce love that we can get short ends (200' +/-) for 5 to 10 cents a foot. 200' is almost useless in a 4-perf camera but lasts 4.5 minutes in a 2-perf camera. That's what a 400' roll runs for in a 4-perf camera.

The common beef with 2-perf is camera availability. Most of them are converted 4-perf cameras. Bruce has converted commie-cams. I've got a converted Mitchell. Converted Arri IIC's are pretty popular. You can rent modern Arri's and Panavisions with 2-perf works. Aaton makes the Penelope with changeable works in 2 and 3-perf.


I'm assuming that, by the 10/1 ratio spoken of previously, they meant getting 10 times the footage than the final product?

Where would I find a 2-perf camera rental? I think the rental is going to kill me more than the cost of film, considering my location (East Coast, WV).
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#19 Paul Bruening

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 12:07 PM

I'm assuming that, by the 10/1 ratio spoken of previously, they meant getting 10 times the footage than the final product?

Where would I find a 2-perf camera rental? I think the rental is going to kill me more than the cost of film, considering my location (East Coast, WV).


10:1 shooting ratio. Yes. Digital shooters don't sweat shooting ratios so much because tape is relatively cheap. Film folks on a budget do worry about the ratios. A common ratio is 10:1. Some actors like Marylin Monroe were notorious for going 40 takes per shot. With slates and directions that could have pushed her movies into something like a 60:1 shooting ratio. A common trick for lo/no film budgers is to rehearse the heck out of the performers to get the ratio down to something like 4:1.

Ask Bruce. He rents his. They're quiet, solid and priced right. Haggle with him. Click Abel Cine Tech's link on the right. They've got Penelopes. Call the big rental houses in New York. Someone's bound to have one. Announce your needs on all the boards. The cameras are out there.
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#20 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 12:08 PM

Doesn't matter where you are really, cameras are often shipped from rental houses all over the place.
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