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Sony F3 vs. Super 16 (HD scan)


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#1 Niall Conroy

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 04:13 PM

Hey guys,

Just wondering what your thoughts would be on having the choice to shoot on either the Sony F3 (possibly with s-log, but that is TBC) or shooting on the arri SRII with a HD scanning of the negs

My budget is looking around the €2,000 mark. These are both college cameras, so no cost being lost there - however I would have to pay for developing + scanning costs if I shot film

Aiming for a 6 to 12 minute short.

I'm leaning towards super16 for its grainy aesthetics (it's a fairly experimental film), but having said that i'm starting to wonder if such a look can be emulated in post with the F3 + s-log (and it being safer)

Does any one have any idea of a ball park figure for cost involved shooting film with the desire to HD scan? And is it worth it when I have access to a free F3 plus a lovely set of zeiss primes?

I know the answers to these sorts of questions always boils down to the films subject matter and "the right format is what's right for the particular film" - but having said that, if you the Director/DOP had the choice personally, which would you choose and why?

all opinions welcomed
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 05:17 PM

My budget is looking around the €2,000 mark.


Almost any sort of film shoot will eat all of that in a heartbeat. You would struggle to buy the stock to shoot a 10-minute short for 2000 euros, let alone process and transfer. You could do it if you ask everyone for special favours, possibly.

I'm leaning towards super16 for its grainy aesthetics (it's a fairly experimental film), but having said that i'm starting to wonder if such a look can be emulated in post with the F3 + s-log (and it being safer)


In absolutely ideal circumstances, 16 could probably be about as smooth and sharp as the F3 footage, assuming you have slow stock, the very best camera and lenses, an excellent focus puller, and a processing laboratory that cares. In most real world scenarios, it is easy for the F3 to outresolve the 16. The film option will have nicer highlight handling, even compared to an F3 in S-log, but then the F3 is no slouch in that regard.

And is it worth it when I have access to a free F3 plus a lovely set of zeiss primes?


For free? No question, shoot it on the F3 and put the money into production design. No question whatsoever.

Too many productions are wrecked by the insistence of people on shooting film, starving the rest of the show of much-needed funds. All too often we see very nice film-originated images of tedious locations, poor costume choices, a lack of dressing, and so on - because every last penny was poured into the camera in the form of film.

P
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#3 Niall Conroy

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 07:34 PM

For free? No question, shoot it on the F3 and put the money into production design. No question whatsoever.

Too many productions are wrecked by the insistence of people on shooting film, starving the rest of the show of much-needed funds. All too often we see very nice film-originated images of tedious locations, poor costume choices, a lack of dressing, and so on - because every last penny was poured into the camera in the form of film.

P


many thanks for these good points, Phil. It's true that this money should be invested into what the camera sees, rather than the actual camera itself.

Having said that, i'm not very fond of what i've seen with the F3 without s-log - and if we don't have it (still waiting to find out) i'd be hesitant to use it - never been a big fan of the images that sony cameras produce

I did a very quick numbers crunch in terms of stock/develop/scan: If in an ideal world I got my hands on 800foot, it would probably set me back 200. Then process might cost 100 (thinking student prices). Then I think i saw one website advertising $0.45 per foot - so that'd work out around €360

so overall roughly €700? give or take for student prices

also stumbled upon this site: http://www.complete16.com/index.html
which looks like I'd only be paying €420'ish...but then again, it could be a inferior quality scan - its listed as 'Best Light HD scan' and the truth is I just don't know which scanning methods are better or worse than one another


any one else have any thoughts/opinions?
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#4 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 05:00 AM

800 feet of 16 is only about 20 minutes of run time. An extremely ambitious and highly experienced director who was shooting something very simple that he'd done before, and who was feeling very confident, might assume that he could shoot at a 4:1 ratio. So, your 800' of 16 might just barely get you a five minute production.
The quality of the scan will of course make a big difference, as will the quality of lenses and the focus puller. Failures in any area here will make it extremely difficult to match the sharpness of HD and for 2000 euro you will struggle.

Learn how to make the F3 look nice - I suspect that's what you're going to spend the rest of your life doing anyway. I'd be very happy if I had free access to one of those!


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#5 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 05:57 AM

I wouldn't say it can't be done at such a low shooting ratio, I know one award winning student film that had a similar ratio. Although, in the end it really depends on what you want to get out of the film and with these low shooting ratios you won't be able to let the actors go for another take. If the film is a drama, I'd tend towards the F3, if it's about the images themselves and you're not relying on performances, the 16mm could be considered. However, you may better spending the money on art direction than film stock.

If you're dealing with actors I'd try and avoid going below 6:1.
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#6 Niall Conroy

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 06:14 PM

many thanks for your thoughts, guys. It's much appreciated. It definitely makes sense to prioritise art department in terms of the budget - then I can see what left over and if it's even feasible to think about shooting film without hindering the rest of the production

I'll hopefully find out in the next few days whether we have the s-log or not - that should stoke the conundrum somewhat

thanks again, guys
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#7 Vincenzo Condorelli AIC

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 09:53 PM

first of all, i believe we're lacking some basic information here in order to give niall any concrete support.

apart from the budget, what is the film all about? what kind of locations? is it mostly gonna be shot in exteriors or in a student flat? or maybe in a castle? day or night? what's your lighting pack? are you gonna be operating as well?

all these factors should be carefully assessed before thinking over the infamous hd vs film dilemma. and we'd avoid to limit our mindset to the resolution vs sharpness issue, there's a whole world besides that.

who cares about resolution if, for instance, it is a film on the 1970s?

in that case the look niall is after would definitely benefit more from the grain and texture of the 16mm (or s16mm) than any other digital acquisition system.

resolution as such, imho, means nothing.

as for the budget contraints, i really believe that they should be seen as an asset rather than an obstacle, cause niall you're in school, it is the time to experiment and to try to think different!

look for a solution, contact the kodak guys and ask for a convenient deal, they're usually very supportive of film students. do the same with the lab. think different indeed.

hopefully, after you'll graduate, you'll be up for work in the real world and it is very likely you'll end up shooting with a f-3 soon.

but now you have got the chance to shoot a project with the greatest creative freedom, no producer harrassing you, no commercial bounds, be bold and creative then, dont go for the easiest solution, you've got to distinguish yourself and show off what you can do.

on a more practical ground let me add that, low or no budget circumstances such as this, when shooting film there's a higher degree of focus and concentration than shooting in hd, right because of the stock limitations.

this very often translate in a better working enviroment and overall higher quality of the final outcome. once again, limitations can be an advantage or, as orson wells said: "there is no art without limitations".

if, as you just stated niall, 16 mm is the look you like most and find more appropriate for the project, then go for it, that's what really matter. try hard to make it happen, that's the key for the success of the project.

finally, one last remark on the srII: it is a beautiful piece of camera, but as far as i remember the viewfinder is quite darker than the sr3, so practice a bit before getting on set.

good luck with the shoot!
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#8 Vincenzo Condorelli AIC

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 09:58 PM

many thanks for your thoughts, guys. It's much appreciated. It definitely makes sense to prioritise art department in terms of the budget - then I can see what left over and if it's even feasible to think about shooting film without hindering the rest of the production

I'll hopefully find out in the next few days whether we have the s-log or not - that should stoke the conundrum somewhat

thanks again, guys


i'd also like to add that as a cinematographer you'd be concerned with the budget of your department first, the rest is not really your business, besides the artistic collaboration with head of production design and wardrobe. i guess you''ve already got enough issues to tackle so you'd leave those of the art dept out of your mind ;).
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#9 Niall Conroy

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 08:34 AM

First of all, many thanks for your reply, Vincenzo. Very inspiring and helpful.

first of all, i believe we're lacking some basic information here in order to give niall any concrete support.

apart from the budget, what is the film all about? what kind of locations? is it mostly gonna be shot in exteriors or in a student flat? or maybe in a castle? day or night? what's your lighting pack? are you gonna be operating as well?


well, the film is about Conor who is a milkman - his father has just died, so he is now taking over the family business of milkmen(which has been the family trade going back to his great-grandfather) However, milkmen are no longer relevant in this day and age and Conor doesn't want to be a milkman for the rest of his life - he secretly dreams of becoming famous. His father was a well respected man among his town, and achieved local fame when he found himself in the right place at the right time while on his early morning shift, saving a burning homeless-mans life by extinguishing the flames with his milk. Conor decides to try re-create this situation in an attempt to become famous himself...but it doesn't go too smoothly

It's meant to be quite an experimental/oneiric film - and when I say this I simply mean that it will be different as opposed to a typical drama, with the intent to experiment and try things differently with interesting shots and use of sound

The film only has 3 locations - One interior apartment/house which will have a mix between very diffused low light + dramatic high contrast film noir type lighting - then the two exterior locations are a housing street and an alleyway (which would always take place very early morning)

I guess the best I could do to illustrate what i'm currently looking for would be some of the images I used to pitch the project:

single light source effect, mainly from window+curtains
Posted Image
Posted Image

alike some of Tarkovsky's Polaroids:
Posted Image

for some scenes i'd like to try keep single light sources such as the TV
Posted Image
Posted Image

some scenes to have a more dramatic lighting sceme:
Posted Image

then the exterior early morning stuff would hopefully(yet unlikely in Ireland) capture that early morning light:
Posted Image


My biggest concern with shooting s16 and trying to achieve similar to the above images would be the fear of not obtaining correct exposure under such low light situations.

as for the budget contraints, i really believe that they should be seen as an asset rather than an obstacle, cause niall you're in school, it is the time to experiment and to try to think different!

look for a solution, contact the kodak guys and ask for a convenient deal, they're usually very supportive of film students. do the same with the lab. think different indeed.

but now you have got the chance to shoot a project with the greatest creative freedom, no producer harrassing you, no commercial bounds, be bold and creative then, dont go for the easiest solution, you've got to distinguish yourself and show off what you can do.


indeed! I have heard word of previous graduates getting good student deals with Fuji - and i'm sure there's definitely possibilities with Kodak also

on a more practical ground let me add that, low or no budget circumstances such as this, when shooting film there's a higher degree of focus and concentration than shooting in hd, right because of the stock limitations.

this very often translate in a better working enviroment and overall higher quality of the final outcome. once again, limitations can be an advantage or, as orson wells said: "there is no art without limitations".


I couldn't agree more. I prefer working under such constraints, the ability to take multiple takes sometimes diminishes the overall quality. Necessity is the mother of invention!

if, as you just stated niall, 16 mm is the look you like most and find more appropriate for the project, then go for it, that's what really matter. try hard to make it happen, that's the key for the success of the project.

finally, one last remark on the srII: it is a beautiful piece of camera, but as far as i remember the viewfinder is quite darker than the sr3, so practice a bit before getting on set.

good luck with the shoot!


Thanks for that tip, i'll look out for it.




I should also note - i found out that we will NOT have access to the s-log for the F3. So that pretty much ends my interest with the F3. There is one other possibility of shooting with the gh2 hacked and possibly getting a PL mount for it. But i'll have to look further into that.


i'd also like to add that as a cinematographer you'd be concerned with the budget of your department first, the rest is not really your business, besides the artistic collaboration with head of production design and wardrobe. i guess you''ve already got enough issues to tackle so you'd leave those of the art dept out of your mind ;).


Very true, however i'm actually directing this film and working with a friend who will shot it.


Thanks again for your thoughts.
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#10 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 09:17 AM

'19 stock, from Kodak, does pretty well in low light for the lack of grain. I don't see any images you posted where I'd be apprehensive shooting film; however you will have grain with '19 and in low light conditions....
Honestly, I'd not even look into the GH2. Even without S-Log, I'd stick with an F-3 type camera if you're stuck going to HD, but pair it with an external recorder to get to ProRes or DNxHD.
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#11 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 11:40 AM

I gather low lighting levels aren't the GH2's strong point. If it's the college's camera, have a play with the F3's settings, you can set up your own picture profile. Alister Chapman has some on his site that may be worth testing http://www.xdcam-use...cture-profiles/ as do Abelcine http://blog.abelcine...-from-abelcine/
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#12 Vincenzo Condorelli AIC

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 01:26 PM

lighting-wise, as adrian already pointed out, i see no big obstacles to face. i like very much the references you posted and in any case, such low lighting approach would benefit more from grain than electronic noise unless you're going for something like david lynch's "inland empire"!

kodak vision 3 500t indeed could be the right choice, if i were your dop i'd rated it at 320 just to get a nicely exposed neg. once i shot it at night in a park, with available lighting just from mercury sodium lamps in the wide shots and i was quite happy with the grain. shooting at magic hour in the alleyway and the housing street won't be a problem.

in both scenarios, i'd suggest your dop to try to use only available light bounced out from big reflectors (poliboards...the cheapest you can get). it will catch up all the beautiful nuances of the sun light at that time, something no articial light can ever do.

your dop should definitely scout both locations and take notes about the direction of the sun and the exposure you get (incident reading will be enough), then you could finalise your shooting list & camera positions.

as for the interior, of course the tv set won't provide a decent exposure by itself but there are many cheap ways to cheat it. you could just use a couple of arri 300 kw mizar, gelled with 1/2 ctb and some diffusion for key, direct lighting and have a gaffer (with a good sense of pace and rythm :) ) move his hands in front of the lamp to fake the tv effect. that's the simplest way to do that.

a 1200 hmi will be enough for the source coming from the window. at the end of the day, you won't spend a lot on lighting for sure.

finally,when shooting the tv set beware of the stripping effect, check what kind of beat frequency it has (should be 60 hz) and see if you can adjust the shutter angle accordingly to that.
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#13 Freya Black

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 02:04 PM

look for a solution, contact the kodak guys and ask for a convenient deal, they're usually very supportive of film students. do the same with the lab. think different indeed.


Definitely not my experience in the UK. Generally they are not interested in students or smaller filmmakers over here.
Best to avoid Kodak unless you have a special need imo. Not worth the hastle.

indeed! I have heard word of previous graduates getting good student deals with Fuji - and i'm sure there's definitely possibilities with Kodak also


Yes Fuji all the way! They may even help you with combined lab/film deals.
Complete16 is all well and fine but I'd be slightly concerned about the best light transfers tho!
I think you should get a proper attended scene to scene transfer done.
The grade is VERY important, unless you are a whizz with colour correction yourself?

I think you should shoot something on the F3 AND on film! :)
Good to get experience on both!

love

Freya
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#14 Ian Cooper

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 04:33 AM

...when shooting the tv set beware of the stripping effect, check what kind of beat frequency it has (should be 60 hz) and see if you can adjust the shutter angle accordingly to that.



But is much more likely to be 50Hz given that you appear to be based in Ireland :)
In which case you need to decide if you're shooting at 24fps, or 25fps.

If you're at 25fps then you won't get a rolling black bar, but you might get a stationary one depending where in the scan cycle it is when you start filming. You either need to be able to tweak the camera speed to get the bar to the top/bottom, or just stop the camera and hope the next time you try the bar will be out of the way.
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#15 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 04:54 AM

If you're in Ireland check out Fuji stocks, if the person I know is still involved he may give you a good student deal.
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#16 Niall Conroy

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 03:45 PM

'19 stock, from Kodak, does pretty well in low light for the lack of grain. I don't see any images you posted where I'd be apprehensive shooting film; however you will have grain with '19 and in low light conditions....
Honestly, I'd not even look into the GH2. Even without S-Log, I'd stick with an F-3 type camera if you're stuck going to HD, but pair it with an external recorder to get to ProRes or DNxHD.


what is this '19 kodak stock you speak of, don't think i've come across it?

I gather low lighting levels aren't the GH2's strong point. If it's the college's camera, have a play with the F3's settings, you can set up your own picture profile. Alister Chapman has some on his site that may be worth testing http://www.xdcam-use...cture-profiles/ as do Abelcine http://blog.abelcine...-from-abelcine/


To be honest i've only done brief re-search into the gh2, however a friend of mine who has looked into it further says that the gh2 is actually pretty top notch in low light, only with the new hack that is

lighting-wise, as adrian already pointed out, i see no big obstacles to face. i like very much the references you posted and in any case, such low lighting approach would benefit more from grain than electronic noise unless you're going for something like david lynch's "inland empire"!

kodak vision 3 500t indeed could be the right choice, if i were your dop i'd rated it at 320 just to get a nicely exposed neg. once i shot it at night in a park, with available lighting just from mercury sodium lamps in the wide shots and i was quite happy with the grain. shooting at magic hour in the alleyway and the housing street won't be a problem.

in both scenarios, i'd suggest your dop to try to use only available light bounced out from big reflectors (poliboards...the cheapest you can get). it will catch up all the beautiful nuances of the sun light at that time, something no articial light can ever do.

your dop should definitely scout both locations and take notes about the direction of the sun and the exposure you get (incident reading will be enough), then you could finalise your shooting list & camera positions.

as for the interior, of course the tv set won't provide a decent exposure by itself but there are many cheap ways to cheat it. you could just use a couple of arri 300 kw mizar, gelled with 1/2 ctb and some diffusion for key, direct lighting and have a gaffer (with a good sense of pace and rythm :) ) move his hands in front of the lamp to fake the tv effect. that's the simplest way to do that.

a 1200 hmi will be enough for the source coming from the window. at the end of the day, you won't spend a lot on lighting for sure.

finally,when shooting the tv set beware of the stripping effect, check what kind of beat frequency it has (should be 60 hz) and see if you can adjust the shutter angle accordingly to that.


thanks for these tips, Vincenzo

Definitely not my experience in the UK. Generally they are not interested in students or smaller filmmakers over here.
Best to avoid Kodak unless you have a special need imo. Not worth the hastle.

Yes Fuji all the way! They may even help you with combined lab/film deals.
Complete16 is all well and fine but I'd be slightly concerned about the best light transfers tho!
I think you should get a proper attended scene to scene transfer done.
The grade is VERY important, unless you are a whizz with colour correction yourself?

I think you should shoot something on the F3 AND on film! :)
Good to get experience on both!

love

Freya


Good to note, Freya, thanks. I don't have much experience with Fuji stock, only dealt with Kodak before.

I too am concerned about this 'best light transfer' from complete 16 - i'll definitely be reading up and trying to source the best scanning method

and what may I ask do you mean when you say "a proper attended scene to scene transfer"?

But is much more likely to be 50Hz given that you appear to be based in Ireland :)
In which case you need to decide if you're shooting at 24fps, or 25fps.

If you're at 25fps then you won't get a rolling black bar, but you might get a stationary one depending where in the scan cycle it is when you start filming. You either need to be able to tweak the camera speed to get the bar to the top/bottom, or just stop the camera and hope the next time you try the bar will be out of the way.


Definitely be shooting 24fps - and yes, we have the good ole' 50Hz (although most modern day LCD TV's can work with both)

thanks for the tip with the TV

If you're in Ireland check out Fuji stocks, if the person I know is still involved he may give you a good student deal.


I shall indeed.

As i mentioned earlier, I've only had experience shooting Kodak stock, never touched Fuji - does anyone have any preference with stocks that are better or might suit these situations best?

Eterna 500/Eterna Vivid 500?

Thanks again guys!
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#17 K Borowski

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 04:09 PM

Honestly, I'd shy away from 500T altogether, if I were shooting 16. If you can get an extra stop and change of light, why not go for the 200T? (Heresy, I know, not going for the biggest number, coolest packaging :rolleyes: )

Keep in mind that Kodak, Fuji do the biggest volume in 500 stocks, therefore make the most profit from it. It may have more silver, be faster, but they're coating so much, that stock is the one that they have the lowest production costs on.


It'd be different if you were shooting 35. I don't care if it's the current lineup, two generations of film ago, or if it's ten years down the road (hypothetically that either of these companies can keep making film that long), and there's some great improvements, I'd ALWAYS stay away from the fastest stock, unless you really need it.



Now, that all being said, you definitely have some high-contrast situations where you might be able to hide grain in the shadows. Some of those Polaroid shots look flatter though. Not sure if that's what you were going for or if you meant more the colors (paper prints tend not to be able to produce the deep blacks when they're scanned).

Anytime you get a lot of greys, out-of-focus areas, your grain is going to jump up.



Not that this is a good reason to pick film, but I really wonder if it will even be an option for you much down the road. Seems like the students are more and more eager to borrow their friend's DSLR than make something that actually looks good.

They're more interested in the brochure and the ISO speed (100,000 wow :-/ ) than how the images actually look on the big screen. For better or for worse, the hype and the marketing are what is going to kill film, not a quality comparison.



Shoot the slowest film you can get away with and don't be afraid to look for deals on [new] stock :-) There are still some ends of 16 floating around out there if you can find them.
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#18 Freya Black

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 04:40 PM

I too am concerned about this 'best light transfer' from complete 16 - i'll definitely be reading up and trying to source the best scanning method

and what may I ask do you mean when you say "a proper attended scene to scene transfer"?


* One light: The telecine is just set to scan at the same settings, maybe based on the head of the roll, maybe just based on what the telecine is already set to or what someone considers a median setting.

* Best light: Supposed to be that the telecine is set to scan at the best setting to get a good scan across the film, considering the film overall, kinda more intelligent version of one light really.

* Scene to scene: The film is graded based on each individual scene.

* Attended: Means you are there to say helpful things/annoy the colourist.


Sometimes people get cheaper transfers and attempt to correct it later on themselves but personally I think this kinda defeats shooting on film in the first place!

love

Freya

Edited by Freya Black, 14 January 2012 - 04:43 PM.

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#19 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 05:04 PM

Yes, for Super 16mm go for the slowest stock you can get away with using.

You should check Phil Bloom's recent C300 comparison tests, which includes the GH2. Not scientific, but if you've got a F3 why use a GH2?
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#20 Heikki Repo

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 07:02 PM

* One light: The telecine is just set to scan at the same settings, maybe based on the head of the roll, maybe just based on what the telecine is already set to or what someone considers a median setting.

* Best light: Supposed to be that the telecine is set to scan at the best setting to get a good scan across the film, considering the film overall, kinda more intelligent version of one light really.

* Scene to scene: The film is graded based on each individual scene.

* Attended: Means you are there to say helpful things/annoy the colourist.


Sometimes people get cheaper transfers and attempt to correct it later on themselves but personally I think this kinda defeats shooting on film in the first place!


I guess there are differences between different parts of world, but around here (Finland) one light means running the film with same settings and best light having a setting for each different light set-up, so that the transfer is good to go for online edit and later tape-to-tape grading, where the final look is achieved and each scene is matched to each other.

I think it's best just to get a good neutral transfer. Complete16 allows you to have your transfers as prores422, which should take you far enough. You then cut the film on your workstation and have the final grade for the film done somewhere else. That way you get a good final look and don't have to pay for expensive telecine time.

We passed some seven hours doing an attended best light transfer of 100 minutes of material because we got too excited and wanted to give some initial ideas where to take the colors. In the end, the final grade of the movie was something entirely different, and we might have saved two hours by keeping our mouths shut during the telecine. Luckily we got a good discount and were billed only for five hours...

So my suggestion is if you shoot S16: get a neutral looking best light, cut the film and then pay for final grade. It will be probably cheaper and at the same time you get a good final look for your film (tracked shadows/lights, etc.).
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