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Making a short with a 1920's look, whats my best options?


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#1 James Silver

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 04:17 PM

My next project will be a short b&w movie (~15min) edited down. For cost reasons and because of the wide availability and aesthetic beauty of 8mm film / cameras, I'm taking this route. I'm not sure finding the best camera is best for this old look, perhaps there are a few 8mm cameras that would lend themselves to the gritty nasty look of the old 1920's silents, including Nosferatu and Haxan. Also, i'm looking to shoot at 18fps, to speed up to 24 in post to gain the awkward look associated with the old silents. Any recommendations on cameras, film stock, film degradation or telecine processes to help add to the old, gritty aesthetic would be greatly appreciated.
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#2 Matt Stevens

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 05:04 PM

First of all, shoot with a reliable camera. Period. Second, shoot on B&W Tri-X reversal. Third... 18fps sped up to 24 will look way too fast.
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#3 James Silver

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 06:00 PM

Thanks for the advice. I'll have to do some comparable speed tests, i've read that the awkward look of early silent films partially comes from projecting 16fps at 24fps, but that may be nonsense.
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#4 Zac Fettig

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 10:53 PM

You might want to go up to 16mm. Look for a cheap Bell & Howell Filmo (I once found an early 20s 70A at a camera store for $29), and snag up a bunch of reels of 16mm double perf Tri-X. They're a spring wound camera, which is a good thing for you. I'd say shoot 16 FPS, and telecine at 16 FPS. It's C-mount, so lenses won't be a problem. Look for a camera with a period Cooke lens.

It's not reflex, so distance scales and tape measures will be your best friends. Or look for a reflex lens.

Regular 8 might work too. But lens choice is limited, and very few Regular 8 cameras are reflex. They did make reflex D-mount lenses though. Film is going to be an issue, in Regular 8. I think the only stock available at the moment is Ektachrome. And Kodak just killed that.

Super 8 is awesome, but I always associate the look with the 60s & 70s home movies and 90s music videos. However, it is the easiest format there is to work with.

They didn't have 8mm in the 20s, just 35 and 16! :)

Also 9.5mm. Which is like Regular 8, only more of a pain to get working.

Edited by Zac Fettig, 30 December 2012 - 10:55 PM.

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#5 Matt Stevens

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 10:25 AM

Super8 can give you a silent era look. Witness THE HEART OF THE WORLD...


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#6 Zac Fettig

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 12:23 PM

Thanks, Matt! You're right, you can get a 20s silent-film look with S8.

James, Guy Maddin is the guy to watch. He shoots a lot on Super 8 (Cowards Bend the Knee, Brand Upon the Brain, etc. were 100% Super 8). It's very hard to tell with his work. With him, it's usually a mix of S8 and 16 (example: The Saddest Music in the World). It all looks like early 20s silent film stuff. Finding details is a bit of a pain though.

He likes spring wound cameras, when he shoots 16, so the shutter speed varies a little. He uses a Bolex.

H
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