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16mm vs 1920x1080


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#1 Austin Millinder

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 04:18 PM

does anyone know if 16mm is better than 1920x1080 digital HD? what about super 16mm? does it all have to do with processing?

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#2 Freya Black

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 04:28 PM

does anyone know if 16mm is better than 1920x1080 digital HD? what about super 16mm? does it all have to do with processing?

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Yes both 16mm and S16mm are much better. I think it's more in the film stock than the processing. Very beautiful colours. Magical light.

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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 04:48 PM

I think the most honest answer is "only on a very good day".

Any 16mm film faster than ISO200 will have visible grain in standard def, let alone HD. There are people in the world who consider grain to be pretty in some circumstances, but really it's just a euphemism for a form of noise and some people object to it more than others.

Otherwise if you shoot some really, seriously good 16mm, with an absolutely rock-steady camera, extremely good lenses, extremely good transfer, micron-perfect focus, etc, on factory-fresh, fairly slow stock - maybe, sorta, kinda. Under those circumstances the 16 and the HD will simply be different - the HD will be steadier, quieter and probably still a bit sharper if it was a decent HD camera and recording format.

The problem with this is that the question tends to be asked with regard to exactly the sort of production that will not have any of the best available gear. People shoot 16mm because they can't afford 35, so they'll likely be shooting on a clapped-out old SR conversion with that nasty Angenieux zoom, stock that's been in the attic through a hot summer, cheapest-available transfer, and so on. And if you do that, then the answer is almost certainly no.

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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 05:32 PM

I've seen some pretty good and pretty bad Super-16-to-HD work, and I've seen some pretty good and pretty bad 1080P video work.

I don't think there is a clear-cut argument one way or the other, some of this boils down to personal taste (and shooting skill) and other down to specific needs of the project. Super-16 can look pretty good on the big screen - like in "The Hurt Locker" or "Black Swan" -- on the other hand, it also looks like what it is most of the time, a smaller film format with bigger grain and less sharpness. And 1080P video cameras come in all sorts of quality levels and some are more "filmic" than others. I'd say that shooting on the ARRI Alexa using Log-C in 1080P beats Super-16 on a technical level in most categories, but when people ask this sort of question, they are talking about something much cheaper than an ARRI Alexa... probably a Canon DSLR shooting 1080P.
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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 07:10 PM

I don't see it as a "vs" or "better than" proposition. It's about which is more appropriate for the story you're trying to tell. It's nice to be in a time where you have tools which allow you to pick what is going to work best for your project. Now, I won't lie and say I don't love S16mm and film; I do. I'd almost always go with it if given the chance, but often it just doesn't make sense for the way the director wants their film told.
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#6 Freya Black

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 04:01 AM

Any 16mm film faster than ISO200 will have visible grain in standard def, let alone HD. There are people in the world who consider grain to be pretty in some circumstances, but really it's just a euphemism for a form of noise and some people object to it more than others.


Gotta disagree with you Phil. Some people genuinely love grain, it's not that they object to it less than some other people, it really is that they think the grain is beautiful. Sadly it doesn't reproduce well on LCD screens.

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#7 Freya Black

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 04:10 AM

I don't see it as a "vs" or "better than" proposition. It's about which is more appropriate for the story you're trying to tell. It's nice to be in a time where you have tools which allow you to pick what is going to work best for your project. Now, I won't lie and say I don't love S16mm and film; I do. I'd almost always go with it if given the chance, but often it just doesn't make sense for the way the director wants their film told.


Very much agree, in fact I would go further and say they are completely different things and different ways of working. In answer to the original question tho, I maintain that 16mm is better. I don't think the colour from even an Alexa looks as good as film even with really skilled colourists. You can also make contact prints of your 16mm film. Video projection just isn't the same thing at all.

In fact I have S8 footage that looks way better than anything I have ever seen come out of a RED or ALEXA, so I don't think your argument about having the best equipment stands up to much Phil.

However much as I love film, I also love video too and am going to be embracing it a lot in the near future! :)

I just maintain that 16mm is "better".

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#8 Matt Stevens

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 05:08 PM

Who's your audience. That simple.

Case in point... I've been asked to shoot a wedding. The groom, who is 40 something, loves film and super8 in particular. He and his wife want me to 'create a story' for a film within a wedding video. The groom agrees that we should do it on Super8.

The 20 something bride doesn't get it. She only wants clear, grainless/noiseless images. "Why do we want a picture that looks like sandpaper?" :o

I really detest the look of DSLR cameras and how clean the image can be, like it came out of a hospital operating room. But I've used it twice this year because of costs issues and since the audience I was aiming for would like the look.
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#9 Chris Burke

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 08:24 PM

lots of people today react negatively to grain. Admittedly it can look like crap. It can also look beautiful. I think that we are all too conditioned to think that any grain is too much. There are many plugins and outright applications, both cheap and very expensive, that can do an incredible job removing grain and maintaining sharpness. If your target is broadcast TV, Super 16 is a time tested proven format. Big screen work is more of a matter of taste. I will add that both Hurt Locker and Black Swan went for the grain, played around with it a great deal during post. So it can look a good deal less grainy if desired. There are other movies out there that went for a more conventional look, Venus and March of The Penguins come to mind.
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#10 Karl Eklund

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 12:51 AM

I just shot one of my grad films on s16, another one I shot primarily on HDW-750P (HDCAM) and one scene on F3.

The s16, was shot on Kodak Vision 3, 200T and 250D. When I did a lens and telecine test, I got it to be around 1300 x 800 "pixels" resolution, that was scanned at 1920x1080 DPX log, granted I had old superspeeds that would range around 1000-1300 x 600-800 pixels, depending on the aperture and specific lens. For example the zoom lens that was available from school, fully open and at full telephoto would have a resolving power of 600x400 pixels. So in my case I am pretty sure that it was the lenses that was the limit for resolution. The HDCAM stuff was all about as sharp as the format allowed it to be, so the lenses weren't lowering the resolution.

That said. The film stuff is just so great, and I really love shooting film, highlights aren't an issue, they just roll off. Overexposing one or two stops didn't hurt that much. Underexposing is a bit trickier, I felt that I would lose usable shadows when it was 3 stops under. The 750P is fairly similar that shadows gets to noisy to grade well when they are 2-3 stops under. The 750P don't handle highlights that well either (compared to film), the F3 is very nice with shadows and highlights. However, I think both the 750P and F3 behaves very well with clipping highlights compared to other digital cameras like AF-100 and DSLRs, but they are obviously not the same price range as well.

But the bottom line is that one of the films fitted for digital camera, the other for film.

In general I would say that film is great for outside shoots, where there are usually large dynamic range. Digital is great for indoors with low light and smaller dynamic range.
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