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Should I buy a Arriflex 16SR I ?


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#1 Alan Hill

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Posted 20 February 2010 - 02:45 AM

Hello,

I am able to buy a 16sr I, with German Electronics, 10-100mm Ziess (f2.9) T3.1 lens, 2 magazines, 2 batteries an the usual grips, rings, matte box.

The question is: What is it worth paying for this camera given that it is setup for 1.33 regular 16? I know that it can be converted to Super 16 for about $4000, but then the question becomes: What is an Arri SR16 Super 16 worth? More than $5,000, $6,000? With the German electronics, it's pretty close to being an SRII. But is it worth it?

It seems like it might be a big risk to invest the money to upgrade, what with digital seemingly barking at the door (Yeah, I know HD has been "on the verge of taking over since the early 1980s). The RED camera people seem to be getting to within about 5-10 years of replacing the usefulness of a nice 16mm camera.

Besides the sentimental/artistic reasons, does it make economical sense at this point in the game?

Does anyone know of a lab that could do telecine on regular 16mm and crop the top and bottom to make a 16:9 transfer? I know this method wastes a lot of the negative, but $4,000 (Conversion charge) would buy a lot of film and processing...

What do you guys think?

Alan

Sorry for double posting, but I wasn't sure if this subject belonged in the marketplace or camera discussion boards...
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#2 Michael Collier

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Posted 20 February 2010 - 03:19 AM

Hi Allan,

Film is film and digital is digital. If you want the look of high quality film, choose a film camera. If you want the economies of scale, digital is the way to go. My recommendation would be to go with a film camera simply because at the level I assume your at, you should have plenty of professional friends that you can trade favors to get a digital camera if a production budget requires digital. High quality digital cameras are easy to come by these days, especially if you have the right friends.

Film camera are less easy to come by, and imparts an unique quality to what you shoot. Digital is good these days, but it still occupies its own space. If you have a film camera it will hold its value, and will produce world class images not possible in digital. It does come with the stock and processing hit of course.

To your telecine question: any lab should be able to burn letter box into your image, but what I typically do is shoot a framing chart at the head of roll 1 and transfer at 30fps full gate. That gives you the ability to re-frame up or down without quality compromises, using the framing chart as a guide for "normal" framing. Your goal is to not need it, but it's free and it does come in handy. 30fps insures that no mater your capture rate, you get 1 frame into each frame of video. You can tell your NLE to treat it as 24fps or 23.976 (depending on how you shot it) and avoid all pull down/interlaced nonsense (this only works if you are syncing production audio in house, if you want the lab to sync audio to your reels, you need to transfer at the shoot rate.)

If you are considering an investment in a film camera, let me humbly ask you to consider the CP-16. My conflict of interest is obvious, so keep that in mind when considering my advice.

A CP can be had for under $1000 with batteries, chargers, two mags and lenses. It can be converted with my electronics for the price stated below, and it will give you approximately the same functionality as an SR1 or II for less than half the price. Use the savings for more lenses, extra film and processing costs, or whatever you want (even purchasing a scarlet as well). Its as rugged as a tank, holds on-board batteries (which the Archimedes will take advantage of when not on mains power). Alternatively you could use the savings to get it upgraded at least to a hard-front PL-mount, or S16 if you want to go all out. That would allow you to take advantage of more modern glass.

Your situation is why I started the Archimedes, so I ask that you at least consider it. A lot of work has gone into it to make sure its customized for the shooters needs. (I shoot some kind of camera professionally 5-6 days a week after all) High functionality on a minimum budget. But do consider all cameras and options, there are lots of good options out for you. I just wanted to have you at least consider the CP. I personally love the camera.



(Note to Cinematography.com community: I am trying to balance my helpfulness vs. self promotion when discussing my upgrade. Please accept my advance apologies if you feel I have ever crossed the line. I don't want to cross any boundaries, I do enjoy this community after all.)
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#3 Tim Carroll

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Posted 20 February 2010 - 08:40 AM

Sorry for double posting, but I wasn't sure if this subject belonged in the marketplace or camera discussion boards...


Yeah, don't double post. I first answered this in the Classified section and then discovered it here. Below is my response from the classifieds.

Alan,

This probably should be posted in the 16mm section of this forum.

You pose a tough question. Many folks would say, don't spend any money on 16mm, go digital, and there are good points to their reasoning.

Alot of it depends on what you are looking to do. If you plan on "making money" with the camera, i.e. hiring yourself and the camera out to clients, be aware that the market for Super 16 is shrinking pretty quick, and the market for regular 16 is pretty much completely gone.

If you want the camera for shooting personal projects, you need to decide what you want to shoot? As nice as I'm sure the Scarlet will be, it still won't be film, and if you want to shoot film, you need a film camera. How many thousands of dollars you want to spend on a film camera is really up to you and your budget.

As far as converting to Super 16 being worth it or not, again, it depends on what you plan on using the camera for? Remember, if you convert the camera you described to Super 16, the lens that comes with it will not cover the Super 16 format, so you will need to acquire more glass.

As far as finding a transfer house that will transfer a 16:9 section from a regular 16 negative, I would believe that any transfer house could do that for you. I have been doing that for years and never found a house that couldn't accommodate me.

To get an idea of how regular 16 looks when transferred 16:9, you can look at the clips listed below. They were all shot regular 16 and transferred 16:9.

Arri16S film clips

Best,
-Tim

PS: Michael and I transfer regular 16 footage differently. We both shoot a 16:9 chart at the beginning of the first roll, but I have the transfer house transfer the footage at 23.98 fps with pulldown and an anamorphic squeeze. So when I put the footage into my computer for editing, etc., I remove the pulldown and stretch the image to 16:9 and you get a higher quality image than letterboxing in transfer and then trying to blow that up to 16:9 full frame.
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#4 Alan Hill

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Posted 20 February 2010 - 06:41 PM

Thanks for the quick response. I watched the clips you linked to. Very interesting. What was the process that was used? Were these done using the anamorphic squeeze you mentioned earlier? Which I'm still more than a little fuzzy on.

I saw one lab that was bragging about a new ARRI scanner that they now had. I guess it might be getting tougher and tougher to find someone who is willing to go the extra mile to get great images out of standard 16mm on a budget. Sure anythings is possible if you have an unlimited budget. But I haven't won the lottery yet? Maybe I should actually buy a ticket. Nah.

Thanks,

Any details on the process for the transfer to video would be great. I'm looking into film scanners and ProRes 422 as a way to get from Regular 16mm into the digital realm.


Alan







Yeah, don't double post. I first answered this in the Classified section and then discovered it here. Below is my response from the classifieds.

Alan,

This probably should be posted in the 16mm section of this forum.

You pose a tough question. Many folks would say, don't spend any money on 16mm, go digital, and there are good points to their reasoning.

Alot of it depends on what you are looking to do. If you plan on "making money" with the camera, i.e. hiring yourself and the camera out to clients, be aware that the market for Super 16 is shrinking pretty quick, and the market for regular 16 is pretty much completely gone.

If you want the camera for shooting personal projects, you need to decide what you want to shoot? As nice as I'm sure the Scarlet will be, it still won't be film, and if you want to shoot film, you need a film camera. How many thousands of dollars you want to spend on a film camera is really up to you and your budget.

As far as converting to Super 16 being worth it or not, again, it depends on what you plan on using the camera for? Remember, if you convert the camera you described to Super 16, the lens that comes with it will not cover the Super 16 format, so you will need to acquire more glass.

As far as finding a transfer house that will transfer a 16:9 section from a regular 16 negative, I would believe that any transfer house could do that for you. I have been doing that for years and never found a house that couldn't accommodate me.

To get an idea of how regular 16 looks when transferred 16:9, you can look at the clips listed below. They were all shot regular 16 and transferred 16:9.

Arri16S film clips

Best,
-Tim

PS: Michael and I transfer regular 16 footage differently. We both shoot a 16:9 chart at the beginning of the first roll, but I have the transfer house transfer the footage at 23.98 fps with pulldown and an anamorphic squeeze. So when I put the footage into my computer for editing, etc., I remove the pulldown and stretch the image to 16:9 and you get a higher quality image than letterboxing in transfer and then trying to blow that up to 16:9 full frame.


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#5 Tim Carroll

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Posted 20 February 2010 - 07:23 PM

Alan,

It's really quite simple and any transfer house will do it for you. Shoot regular 16 but tape your ground glass for 16:9. See this article for how to do that with an Arriflex 16S, but you can do the same thing with the Arriflex 16SR, just tape the actual fibre optics screen.

Shooting 16:9 with a regular 16 camera

As previously mentioned, shoot a 16:9 framing chart at the head of the first roll. Have the film processed as normal, then when you send it to a transfer house, tell them you want a 16:9 scan off the framing chart at the head of the first roll. And if you are bringing the footage into your computer from tape, like miniDV or something like that, have the transfer house do an anamorphic squeeze on the image (which you unsqueeze in FCP or whatever digital editing software you are using). If you are getting ProRes 422 files (something I am not familiar with) you may not have to anamorphicly squeeze the image, you may be able to leave it in native 16:9.

In essence you are not asking the transfer house to do anything different than what they do every day with Super 16 footage, they just zoom the telecine in a little tighter with the regular 16 footage than what they do with the Super 16 footage. They are still extracting a 16:9 image from it.

Best,
-Tim
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#6 Keneu Luca

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Posted 20 February 2010 - 08:07 PM

Hi Alan

Tim has given you excellent advice. Which is no surprise, because that's what Tim does here ;)

I recently just bought a used ARRI SR2. I didn't quite have the same dilemma as you, I never once wanted a digital camera. And as long as the choice for emulsion is there, I never will. I get so emulsional, baby. :P

Cameras like the RED produce amazing images. While people will debate the true technical specs of the RED, nobody can debate it gives great results. But, like everyone else will tell you - it's not film. It's trying very hard to be film. But it's pretending. And you can tell the difference in the details. And as filmmakers, in every aspect, details are EVERYTHING. Details and nuance. In the story. In the acting. In the sound. In the image. Details and nuance are everything. When it comes to filmmaking, NOTHING can be generalized.

And while everyone scrambles to make their films, short or feature length, and submit to festivals, you better believe the festival office will buzz every time they receive a film - shot ON film. And it's not just for superficial reasons. Especially as a struggling poor and humble filmmaker, believe me, shooting on film says A LOT about you.

Another simple way to look at this is: Will you be happy if your project is digital? Because that's the most important factor. If so, then go digital. If the differences between film and digital are so small and trivial to you, then shoot digital.

About the ARRI SR you have the chance to buy - I think more details are needed. What kind of shape is it in? What kind of mattebox? Matteboxes can range from $500 to $5,000. Are the batteries strong? Does it have speed control? How loud is it? Again, it's all about the details.

And consider an "ultra 16" conversion over super 16. Although I believe Tim may oppose this idea. Ultra 16 is pretty much the same aspect as super 16, but requires less modification of your gear and can be done for MUCH less money. It also allows you to use regular 16mm lenses. The biggest drawback, I believe, is it's not a standard format (yet). Meaning some post houses cant accommodate it. But I think this is changing. And there are some that do, so its not like NOBODY can do it for you. Just might not be local.

By the way, Im not arguing with Tim. I cant recall the post, but I remember Tim, you had strong reservations about Ultra 16. Would you be willing to talk of them again? Not because I want to debate the issue, but because I honestly don't remember what your concerns about it were.
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#7 Tom Jensen

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Posted 20 February 2010 - 10:35 PM

Go Digital and don't look back.
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#8 Stephen Williams

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Posted 20 February 2010 - 11:57 PM

Go Digital and don't look back.


Or at the images if you take this advice.
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#9 Tom Jensen

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Posted 21 February 2010 - 12:24 AM

Or at the images if you take this advice.


Please tell us about the images from an SRI with a 10-100 Zeiss in regular 16. Tell me who are the guys that are working these days, the guy with an SRI or the guys with the digital cameras. Please tell me the last time you heard of a TV show shot on an SRI with a Zeiss 10 to 1. Please tell us the last time you shot on an SRI. Please tell us the last time you shot with a Zeiss 10 to 1.
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#10 Joe Taylor

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Posted 21 February 2010 - 01:22 AM

Plenty of production is being done in 16mm. One feature up for best picture and cinematography was super 16. That alone should make you confident in 16mm's viability.

As for whether or not you should but the SR1, I guess it first depends on the condition of the gear and how much is being asked (I didn't see that mentioned in your post.) If you can, I'd have it checked out by a professional camera tech if you can. The price for an hour of his time might save you a bundle right from the start.

IF you do buy it, you always have the option later to have it converted to Super 16. However, from my days at Otto Nemenz, I recall that the older Zeiss 10-100's didn't cover the S16 gate. You can that lens converted or you might be better off buying a true S16 lens.

Good luck.
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#11 Stephen Williams

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Posted 21 February 2010 - 03:28 AM

Please tell us about the images from an SRI with a 10-100 Zeiss in regular 16. Tell me who are the guys that are working these days, the guy with an SRI or the guys with the digital cameras. Please tell me the last time you heard of a TV show shot on an SRI with a Zeiss 10 to 1. Please tell us the last time you shot on an SRI. Please tell us the last time you shot with a Zeiss 10 to 1.


Last year, very happy with the images, camera a little noisy, the Zeiss 10-100 is sharp just breathes badly. Also used a Bolex on the same project, much lighter to carry up a mountain.
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#12 Stephen Williams

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Posted 21 February 2010 - 03:30 AM

duplicate post I can't delete within 20 seconds of posting
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#13 Alan Hill

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Posted 21 February 2010 - 03:48 AM

Hello,

Yes, I agree. I just finished watching The Informant and it really bugged me. I know they filtered it a lot, but the highlights seemed not existent. Sure it was sharp, almost too sharp in a lot of areas. But overall the "Look" of the film just didn't agree with me. So, at least this generation of RED isn't quite there for me right now.

If I buy the SR I, I will most likely shoot Reg 16mm and have it scanned for the digital world. Clearly the days of flatbed editing are long gone. There is a guy here in town selling a flatbed system cheap. Fire sale cheap.

I tried to find comparison sales for the SR online and all I could find were people looking to sell their cameras, but their ads had been up, in some cases for 2 years with no action. It really does, unfortunately look like the 16mm market is dwindling fast. Sad to see.




Or at the images if you take this advice.


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#14 John Sprung

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Posted 21 February 2010 - 04:09 AM

The question you should start with is, what are you going to shoot, and when are you going to shoot it?

Buy a camera only if you'll need it so long and so often that it'll be cheaper than renting. If, for instance, you're going to work over 50% of your time for a client who wants R-16, get the camera. If you want to shoot stock footage, and have the camera handy when the perfect sunset happens over a local landmark, buy a camera. In that case, though, 35 would be a better choice.

If you're doing a project that'll spend a couple months shooting, and then you'll be in post for the rest of the year, rent the camera package. If you're going to put it in the closet and not shoot anything for months on end, you'd do just as well to put a few grand in cash in a box in the closet, it takes up less space. An expensive camera you're not using much is just a burglary risk.

If you rent instead of buying, you'll have the latest, greatest, and most appropriate camera for every job you do.

If you want to test out some ideas now and then, it makes sense to own an inexpensive consumer or prosumer video camera.




-- J.S.
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#15 Tom Jensen

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Posted 21 February 2010 - 09:20 AM

Last year, very happy with the images, camera a little noisy, the Zeiss 10-100 is sharp just breathes badly. Also used a Bolex on the same project, much lighter to carry up a mountain.


Thank you for answering that. Over a year ago. WHen's the last time you shot digital? Probably more recently. I would say the Bolex images were far superior. Now to the other posters, I never said that Super 16 was not a viable medium. It is. 35mm is a viable medium and I don't suggest you get a 35mm camera. You can rent all this stuff. If you want something that isn't going to sit around and not get used buy the SRI. It's a first generation camera. THere are 2 generations after that sitting around. With Digital you can shoot and practice everyday. Your SR needs to be converted to Super16 to get any real use out of it. Joe, go ask Otto what he'd do. He's been doing this forever and even he is going digital. I don't think he even owns an SRI. I don't think he even owns a BLIII.
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#16 Stephen Williams

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Posted 21 February 2010 - 10:05 AM

I said last year, NOT more than a year ago. More recently than I have used a RED One, if that helps.

Thank you for answering that. Over a year ago. WHen's the last time you shot digital? Probably more recently. I would say the Bolex images were far superior. Now to the other posters, I never said that Super 16 was not a viable medium. It is. 35mm is a viable medium and I don't suggest you get a 35mm camera. You can rent all this stuff. If you want something that isn't going to sit around and not get used buy the SRI. It's a first generation camera. THere are 2 generations after that sitting around. With Digital you can shoot and practice everyday. Your SR needs to be converted to Super16 to get any real use out of it. Joe, go ask Otto what he'd do. He's been doing this forever and even he is going digital. I don't think he even owns an SRI. I don't think he even owns a BLIII.


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#17 K Borowski

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Posted 21 February 2010 - 11:46 AM

Go Digital and don't look back.


These kinds of charged statements are what turns me off to digital.

Digital technology is plagued by all kinds of problems that are conveniently ignored. People believe what they want to believe (including myself), but I can spot digital in the theatre from the back row about 95% of the time, and most of the time it is in an unpleasant way.

Of course, this is always being explained away because of digital's "perfect" rendering of color, and "grainfree nature, which makes it look like 65mm!" I'm opinionated towards the other side, but that is such utter nonsense. People don't want to use their brains to learn how to expose film and trust the workflow.


I probably wouldn't buy a R16 camera at this point, unless you're making your own personal project, in which case, aspect ratio doesn't matter.

The U.S. Census Bureau just put out an add for the census of this last year of the ending decade, and they still had shot it in 4:3, and ad playing in 1.85:1 and 2.35:1 theatres, but they have an excuse because they've been hibernating for ten years B)


S16 is perfectly viable, I just would avoid 500T stocks like the plague and under-rate everything by 2/3 of a stop. May take more lighting, but shooting as close to wide-open on 16 as possible helps you get the shallow DOF look that is so desirable anyway.
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#18 Tom Jensen

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Posted 21 February 2010 - 10:45 PM

Nothing charged about it. You don't have to buy gear to be a DP. Most DP's don't buy it. But, if you are just starting out shooting and you want your gear to pay for itself buy something that is in demand or will help you improve your work. Remember DP's don't hire DP's, producers do. You said you probably wouldn't buy 16 so..........my statement wasn't that charged. Like I said, you don't want to buy gear and have it sit around.

These kinds of charged statements are what turns me off to digital.

Digital technology is plagued by all kinds of problems that are conveniently ignored. People believe what they want to believe (including myself), but I can spot digital in the theatre from the back row about 95% of the time, and most of the time it is in an unpleasant way.

Of course, this is always being explained away because of digital's "perfect" rendering of color, and "grainfree nature, which makes it look like 65mm!" I'm opinionated towards the other side, but that is such utter nonsense. People don't want to use their brains to learn how to expose film and trust the workflow.


I probably wouldn't buy a R16 camera at this point, unless you're making your own personal project, in which case, aspect ratio doesn't matter.

The U.S. Census Bureau just put out an add for the census of this last year of the ending decade, and they still had shot it in 4:3, and ad playing in 1.85:1 and 2.35:1 theatres, but they have an excuse because they've been hibernating for ten years B)


S16 is perfectly viable, I just would avoid 500T stocks like the plague and under-rate everything by 2/3 of a stop. May take more lighting, but shooting as close to wide-open on 16 as possible helps you get the shallow DOF look that is so desirable anyway.


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#19 Tom Jensen

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Posted 22 February 2010 - 02:57 PM

Look, you can buy Alex Turner's NPR and it is already converted to Super16. Only $3500.
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#20 Paul Bruening

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Posted 22 February 2010 - 03:03 PM

Something to consider before you make your decision: Techniscope is cheaper than 16mm or 8mm in a purchase/process, per-frame cost.
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