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Web Series on 35MM / SUPER 8MM?? HELP!


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#1 Jeff Norman

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 09:21 PM

Hello!

I'm helming an upcoming web series about a spoiled Parisian who winds up in L.A. and pursues his crazy comic dreams. We aim to start shooting in eight weeks. We have a bottom-of-the-barrel low budget. Yet we won't let that stop us! Most everything is in place, expect for one epic decision:

Can we shoot this project on film?!?

As it centers around a French protagonist, our series is steeped in the narrative style and film grammar of Nouvelle Vague and cinéma vérité. 35mm / Super 8mm film would be a natural cinematographic extension of our theme, our protagonist, and his worldview. We know that most low-budget web filmmakers opt for digital production. But we want to stand out from the crowd. By (almost) any means possible, we will shoot on film, not HD!

Our project aims to produce 10 2-5 minute episodes, for a total of 35 minutes at the maximum. Most episodes only feature the lead character; a couple of them include another character. We do have a balance of indoor and outdoor locations, but nothing outlandish or requiring SFX. We also plan on improvising several scenes (which we know can require an additional camera and an abundance of film).

We do know that Super 8mm film is silent. We have some ways around that (extensive slating, miking the performers, rigging XLR connectors... if you have any other suggestions for this, don't hesitate!).

Because film is so precious and expensive, we plan on doing EXTENSIVE prep well before every shoot: (storyboarding, shot lists, location scouting, rehearsals, the whole she-bang).

We have our dream equipment as well: a Bell and Howell 35mm Eyemo, or a Canon 514 XL for Super 8.

We're not naive. We understand that film isn't the cheapest option. If you're an experienced filmmaker, please help us out with your answer to any (or all!) of these questions:

- exactly how much 35mm film stock, or how many Super 8mm cartridges will we need throughout shooting?
- is there an inexpensive way to purchase 35mm film stock or Super 8mm cartridges? (i.e., bulk purchasing, eBay, the black market... anything!)
- how do low-budget filmmakers successfully and economically use Super 8mm / 35mm?

Thank you so much for reading this -- if you've made it here. We realize this is an audacious and (some might say) impractical gesture. But we'd at least like to give this a shot before settling for digital.
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#2 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 03:10 PM

What you simply need to do is hire on an experienced (with film too) DP who knows all of this already. You'll need to pay him something but you will not make it without that step.
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#3 Jeff Norman

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 06:12 PM

What you simply need to do is hire on an experienced (with film too) DP who knows all of this already. You'll need to pay him something but you will not make it without that step.


THANK YOU for your response and for this 100% absolutely essential step!

Any recommendations on finding a film-experienced DP (in Los Angeles) that might be willing to collaborate with us for low-cost or for free? We were thinking of targeting the film schools throughout the city, using Craigslist, even using this one excellent website I know -- cinematography.com :)
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#4 Chris Burke

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Posted 09 September 2012 - 10:06 AM

have you considered Super 16? If you are thinking of 35mm and Super 8, the easiest choice would be to go right down the middle. Super 16 can look like either. You might be buying about 14,000 feet given your 35 minute max. Of course you can get deals with bulk purchases. with one character and simple locations, S16 is a very attractive option. I agree about wanting to stand out. If you shooting ratio is lower, the numbers above will be smaller. 14000 is for a mag a page. Every project is different, maybe you don't need that much.
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#5 Chris Burke

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Posted 09 September 2012 - 10:19 AM

Fuji S16 on the web, this is a best light up-res HD Cintel scan from Cinelab.
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#6 Jeff Norman

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Posted 09 September 2012 - 10:37 PM

Fuji S16 on the web, this is a best light up-res HD Cintel scan from Cinelab.


Thank goodness for Chris Burke -- you might just be the answer to our prayers! Finally, someone who takes us seriously in our mission to create high-class, web-broadcast productions via film. I cannot tell you how many people have completely killed the idea in the various forums we've enlisted for expert information.

We just saw your project and were extremely impressed. The Super 16 looked extraordinary and vintage. And best of all -- it was actually funny! It's reassuring to us that comedic material can work well on film, when in good hands, as it did for you here.

Another virtue: the sound was spectacular. Even though we're relatively newbies, it's been hammered into us over and over again-- perfect sound is the number-one indicator of truly professional cinema. Was it simple to capture sound with your Aaton? (Which Aaton model did you use for this, btw?) Or did your team use a 2-part system to handle sound?

Super 16mm really does sound like a great solution to our quest: finding a filmic look that feels "Seventies," sumptuous, vintage, hipster-chic. You mentioned that Super 16 can look like either Super 8 or like 35mm. How would one go about manipulating Super 16 to feel like either of these? Is it a matter of equipment choice and lighting? Is there a post-production processing of the film that can produce a Super 8 look or 35mm look?

We had aimed for a shooting ratio of 3:1, so needing about 3780' of 16mm. (Since we're low-budget, we adjusted our shooting time for a more conservative figure. We plan on rehearsing / improvising / planning setups on a camcorder first, then committing it to film, just to be extra economical.)

As for finding filmstock, we plan to scour the entire city of Los Angeles for the absolute cheapest possible. Short ends and the occasional recan will be our life-savers.

Do you know of any other exceptional Super 16 projects? We know that Paul Thomas Anderson shot "Cigarettes and Coffee" on 16mm, so I'm sure other noteworthy projects have emerged from the film as well.

Sorry for this long response. But thank you so much for your wisdom; we REALLY appreciate it! We will definitely research the possibilities of Super 16 further on our own. And feel free to point us to websites / books that we should study to learn more.
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#7 Chris Burke

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 08:24 AM

thank you for your kind words. Our project is very much in process and will only get better. What you viewed is a pilot that will probably never air, but serves as a strong rough draft for a series. The producers approached me after seeing another short I made on Fuji S16, they wanted a similar look, warm and nostalgic with out being cliched about it. With film, you always use a "dual system" audio, where audio is recorded onto a separate recorder. You are correct in that good audio is the most important element to a "pro" film and the most over looked. I shot on an LTR 7 s16 with Zeiss Mark III Super Speeds. To get a more Super 8 look, shoot with older lenses; some junkie old regular 16 zoom would do. Shoot wider than your frame requires then zoom in during post to re-frame for the Super 8 look. This will approximate the look. If your Super 8 material is non sync and you are shooting at a low ratio, why not shoot super 8 to begin with and use Super 16 for the rest. Either way, you can shoot at a really low ratio, this film was shot on Kodak 7213 and 7219 at the same ratio as you. For more of a 35 look, use modern glass with modern stock, Kodak looks sharper. Fuji looks more analogue.

Honestly, if I were your line producer, I would say that with your plan for lots of rehearsal and given the nature of your scripts (easy, single locations) you can shoot film. If a good deal of the script is non sync or even 30 percent, then shoot that on s8. Overall your ratio is low, but lots of preparation lowers stress and improves productivity on set, you can shoot film. I recommend you contact Fuji and order a mix of the 500T and 250D 4000 feet total.
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#8 Indiefilmstock

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 03:59 PM

Have you considered using 35mm recans and/or short ends? There are recans available, depending on the stock, that are as much as 70% off the cost of new film. Ends are even less expensive.

Then, if you shoot 2-perf or 3-perf, you can cut your film usage even more and drasticallly lower costs again. That is what many filmmakers who have contacted us are doing right now.

If you do decide to 16mm, we could have some recans available of that as well. Discounted factory sealed Fuji is a possibility as well.

Richard Kaufman
Comtel Pro Media
tel: 818-450-1122
richard@comtelpm.com
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