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how to select the right camera, format, film stock, lenses, etc. for a project?


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#1 Marko Mijailovic

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 12:52 PM

Hi everyone, 

 

First post on here! 

 

I've been lurking the forum for some time and while it's obviously a tremendous wealth of incredible info, I feel completely lost amidst all the professional terminology. 

 

I'm a full-time portrait photographer whose main interest in life is film- it's what I ultimately want to 'do'. While I've never been a super technical shooter, especially when it comes to lighting, I do have a very general idea of how it all works on a still camera. 

 

I've began developing a story that I'd like to shoot in the fall of 2017. I will be taking a screenwriting course locally to help with that part of the journey; I intend to write, direct, shoot and score the film as I have a deep interest in each of those areas. 

 

The reason I've decided to post today is that I'm hoping you guys can help me understand what I should be making my gear decisions based on. I, unfortunately, don't have the luxury of practicing trial and error when it comes to this stuff and am hoping to make the right decision the first time around. 

 

How do you decide which camera to go with, which film stock, which lenses, etc. for your project? I suspect the answer is along the lines of "it's entirely up to the individuals preferences", but is there any general guideline to follow? 

Where can I research how different film stocks read?

 

I'd like to shoot the film I'm planning with just natural light. There will be lots of movement, so I don't think a big rig is really feasible. Visually, I'd say I really admire the works of Fred Kelemen, Gabor Medvigy, Gaspar Noe, Benoit Debie, Manuel Alberto Claro, Robert Yeoman, Christopher Doyle and many more. 

 

Any info would be greatly appreciated. Even if you can recommend some literature on shooting film, composition, exposure, etc. would be very highly appreciated! 

 


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#2 Simon Wyss

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 01:21 PM

Here’s what I’d suggest, namely to establish a budget.

 

Once you have that figure things can be fitted in relatively easily.


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#3 Marko Mijailovic

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 01:24 PM

Here’s what I’d suggest, namely to establish a budget.

 

Once you have that figure things can be fitted in relatively easily.

 

Would like to keep it around $6,000 USD for everything if possible. Could go as high as $10,000 though. 


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#4 Freya Black

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 01:24 PM

Where can I research how different film stocks read?

 

If you plan to shoot vision colour neg then it's possible to get cine still film that you can load into 35mm stills cameras.


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#5 Simon Wyss

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 01:29 PM

Film format?


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#6 Marko Mijailovic

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 01:38 PM

Film format?

 

well, as per my initial post, that's part of what i'm trying to figure out. what should i be basing that decision off of? simply where i intend to screen the film (i.e. in a cinema or on home televisions)? or dynamic range required? 

i'm not so concerned with what it'll all cost as i am with trying to get a grasp on understanding the differences between film stocks, cameras, lenses, formats, etc. 

i want to know what i should be basing my gear decisions on (besides budget); which film stock + lens would give me a certain look and things like that. 

if the rig is to cost more than my budget i can easily save a bit more and get what's really necessary in helping to convey the story. 


Edited by Marko Mijailovic, 03 March 2016 - 01:42 PM.

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#7 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 01:55 PM

Shooting on film with that budget, I suspect the only real choice is Super 16 or Super8. You need funds for all the other things needed in making a film.


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#8 Marko Mijailovic

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 02:04 PM

Shooting on film with that budget, I suspect the only real choice is Super 16 or Super8. You need funds for all the other things needed in making a film.

 

To be clear, $6-10k is my budget for a complete camera system. If I can get a couple hours of film stock in the price, great, but I wasn't expecting to. Of course transferring it and all post will be additional cost. 


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#9 Jay Young

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 02:13 PM

How long is this shoot?  Depending on what you need, you could rent a 2-perf Panavision or Arri package for a few days, purchase a few rolls of 35mm and have maybe 60 minutes of film footage to work with, processing and scanning would get you into the far side of $6000 if you plan it right.


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#10 Freya Black

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 02:41 PM

You could watch some movies... Black Swan, Moonrise Kingdom, Clerks, Pi, Carol, The Walking Dead, Fruitvale Station, Half Nelson, Evil Dead (1981), The House of the Devil, Texas Chainsaw Massacre are all 16mm movies. Obviously the more recent one like Black Swan, Moonrise Kingdom and Carol will use more modern stocks.


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#11 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 05:47 PM

There are not many motion picture film stocks to choose from these days: http://motion.kodak....ction/index.htm

I agree with Simon that you are going about this process backwards. Break down your script first and determine the actual budget required to make the film. Then raise more money or adjust the script to fit the funds you actually have allocated. Then pick the equipment that fits the budget. Some questions that need to be answered:

How many pages of script?
How many locations?
Which ones (if any) require permits?
How many speaking parts?
How large is the main ensemble of characters?
SAG actors or not?
How much dialogue vs silent shooting?
Percentage of day/night, exterior/interior, location/stage shooting?
How many shooting days?
Consecutive days or weekends?
How many stunts or special effects?
How many visual effects shots?
How many additional crew required?

These are just a few of the questions you'll need to have answers for before you can even begin to think about shooting format. Hiring an experienced production manager and assistant director would help tremendously in this regard. Best of luck!
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#12 Marko Mijailovic

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 08:01 PM

There are not many motion picture film stocks to choose from these days: http://motion.kodak....ction/index.htm

I agree with Simon that you are going about this process backwards. Break down your script first and determine the actual budget required to make the film. Then raise more money or adjust the script to fit the funds you actually have allocated. Then pick the equipment that fits the budget. Some questions that need to be answered:

How many pages of script?
How many locations?
Which ones (if any) require permits?
How many speaking parts?
How large is the main ensemble of characters?
SAG actors or not?
How much dialogue vs silent shooting?
Percentage of day/night, exterior/interior, location/stage shooting?
How many shooting days?
Consecutive days or weekends?
How many stunts or special effects?
How many visual effects shots?
How many additional crew required?

These are just a few of the questions you'll need to have answers for before you can even begin to think about shooting format. Hiring an experienced production manager and assistant director would help tremendously in this regard. Best of luck!

 

Thank you. Certainly all things to consider, but at this stage I'm much more keen on learning about cameras, even if for purely educational purposes. Before "taking the leap" and shooting the feature in 2017 I want to spend a lot of time before familiarizing myself with whichever camera I go for, shooting a short or two, doing test shots, etc. I'm not really looking for a guide/list of things to do, purely just info on camera stuff. We each have our preferred ways of learning. 


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#13 Marko Mijailovic

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 08:05 PM

You could watch some movies... Black Swan, Moonrise Kingdom, Clerks, Pi, Carol, The Walking Dead, Fruitvale Station, Half Nelson, Evil Dead (1981), The House of the Devil, Texas Chainsaw Massacre are all 16mm movies. Obviously the more recent one like Black Swan, Moonrise Kingdom and Carol will use more modern stocks.

 

Thanks for that list- had no idea some of those were shot on 16mm, in particular Black Swan. 

Would the 16mm format be what lent Black Swan that gritty aesthetic? I can't think of another way to describe it. 

What are some modern film stocks that they would of used on BS and MK and how do they differ from some of the known older stocks? 


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#14 John E Clark

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 08:27 PM

 

Thanks for that list- had no idea some of those were shot on 16mm, in particular Black Swan. 

Would the 16mm format be what lent Black Swan that gritty aesthetic? I can't think of another way to describe it. 

What are some modern film stocks that they would of used on BS and MK and how do they differ from some of the known older stocks? 

 

"Black Swan"(2010) is listed in IMDB as using a combination of Fujifilm Eterna films... but I believe Fujifilm has discontinued making motion picture film stocks...

 

"Moonrise Kingdom"(2012) was shot on Kodak Vision 3, again via IMDB info.

 

"Grit" can be produced via such processes as 'push processing', or the like, and perhaps in the case of 16mm to 35mm 'uprez' some due to the enlargement.


Edited by John E Clark, 03 March 2016 - 08:28 PM.

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#15 Jeff L'Heureux

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 09:17 PM

The Walking Dead shoots super16 on Kodak 7219 500T, and has been called 'gritty' looking.  Some of that can be achieved depending on the shutter angle used as well.  Here's an example from the show:

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=2HUFDRniLHk


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#16 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 10:24 PM

 
Thank you. Certainly all things to consider, but at this stage I'm much more keen on learning about cameras, even if for purely educational purposes. Before "taking the leap" and shooting the feature in 2017 I want to spend a lot of time before familiarizing myself with whichever camera I go for, shooting a short or two, doing test shots, etc. I'm not really looking for a guide/list of things to do, purely just info on camera stuff. We each have our preferred ways of learning. 


Well ok then. Are you limiting yourself to film cameras at this point?

Options to consider:

- 35mm or 16mm. 16mm is grainier and softer, with more depth of field. Also much less expensive per minute.

- Color or black and white film. Kodak only for motion picture stock at this point. All the color neg stocks are designed to match in color and contrast, the only difference is in grain levels.

- Negative or reversal film. The only motion picture reversal film available these days is Tri-X 16mm black and white.

- Aspect ratio. 1.33:1, 1.78:1, 1.85:1, 2.39:1.

- Spherical or anamorphic lenses. Anamorphic lenses will typically result in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Also much more expensive and limited options, usually rental only.

Start by selecting the visual attributes you want and go from there. Test, test, test. If you can make friends at a nearby rental house and do most of your testing there, you can save quite a bit of money in rentals.
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#17 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 02:20 AM

There are three major motion picture formats; Super 8, Super 16 and Super 35.

I personally discount Super 8 because it's lacking much of the components necessary for it to be professional. We've argued it and I don't want to argue any more, it's nowhere near the caliber of Super 16 and as proven time and time again, doesn't save money in the long run.

Super 35mm is a great format, especially 2 perf. However, the vast majority of affordable camera bodies are 4 perf, which is 1.33:1 aspect ratio and 400ft lasts 4 minutes vs 11 minutes on S16. Plus 35mm glass is extremely expensive because they cover the digital imagers, so people with digital cinema cameras buy older glass to save money, but that keeps the price high. Since there is only ONE modern 2 perf camera made; Aaton Penelope, it's nearly impossible to find one used and at a reasonable price. Price vs performance 2 perf 35mm is outstanding, beating S16mm for sure, but it's just hard to find the cameras and buy the appropriate lenses. 35mm unfortunately is still a format more suitable for rental.

Finally, we're left with 16mm. Most of the narrow-gauge 16mm cameras on the market are what's known as straight 16 which is 1.33:1 or "square" aspect ratio. In the mid 80's super 16 came around, but camera companies were slow to adapt because at the time, 16 was mostly used for news gathering, sports and documentaries. Eventually the remaining camera manufacturers made super 16 (1.67:1) cameras and today you can find them all over for sale. Ultra 16 was started around the same time and uses the space between the sprocket holes to continue the frame and is 1.85:1 aspect ratio without cropping quite as much. However, there were never any professional 16mm cameras made from the factory in Ultra 16, only modified ones.

In my opinion S16 is the way to go. It's the most affordable system for the quality in the world of motion picture. Obviously if you're renting, 2 perf 35mm is better for not much less cost if all you're doing is shooting, but if you wish to own, S16 is the way to go. If you wish to watch a few S16 film's that show the diversity of the format, pickup "Hurt Locker", "Beasts of the Southern Wild", "The Wrestler" and "Carol". I like those films because those filmmakers weren't trying to get an old school grainy look like "Moonrise Kingdom", they were trying to get the most out of the format due to low cost and keep it as clean as possible, even though I think "Moonrise" looked amazing, they shot with high-grain stock to get that look.

People will argue with me all day long about this next statement, but I'm going to say it again like I do every time, there are TWO cameras; Aaton XTR Prod and Arri SR3. These are the best camera bodies for the current used prices, nothing gets near them quality vs price. Both cameras are widely supported and Aaton still makes new cameras, so you can always get parts for an XTR directly from the factory. These cameras run for between $2500 - $4000 used.

In terms of prime lenses, there are only two choices; Arri/Zeiss and Optar. Why? Well, because zeiss die the right thing from day one, they made a special set of super 16mm primes. Arri eventually put their name on them and marketed them as Arri/Zeiss primes. Optar's are copies of the Zeiss primes, so they're very similar, for a lot less. There are THREE versions of the Arri/Zeiss lenses, the V2 and V3's are the best. Same goes for Optars, the most recent versions are a lot better, but anything will work. Arri/Zeiss primes, which are a kit of 5 (9.5mm, 12mm, 16mm, 25mm, 50mm, F1.2) go for $6-$10k used depending on the version. Optars which are a kit of 6 (8mm, 9.5mm, 12mm, 16mm, 25mm, 50mm F1.3) usually go for $5 - $6k used depending on version. You won't find a better set of primes specifically designed for 16mm then those.

In terms of zoom lenses, there are a few more choices. Again, Arri/Zeiss makes what's arguably the best zoom lens (price v performance) for S16 is a 11-110 F2.2 MKII. They go for around $5k used. The older MKI version isn't designed for super 16, so it won't cover the larger frame. This means you have to buy one with an Optex 1.2x extender, which are hard to find used, but possible. You COULD save a grand or two. The other two zoom's worth discussing are the Angenieux 11.5-138 F2.3 and Canon 11-165 F2.5 and 8-64 F2.4. Those lenses are harder to find used, but they're two grand more then the Arri/Zeiss and not MUCH better.

Of course, after you buy a body you'd want a rail system (which comes with some cameras), mattebox, follow focus, tripod and maybe an AC monitor for your video tap. So if you buy a body for the minimal price of $2500, those Optar primes for $5k, Zeiss zoom for $5k, you're looking at around $15,000 for the entire kit including accessories.

There are so many other ways to go though. Eclair NPR/ACL and Aaton LTR can take different lens mount adaptors, which allow you to run still camera glass and are A LOT cheaper. Bolex EBM is a great package which takes C mount lenses and can adapt to pretty much anything. However, the Bolex doesn't have a video tap, hard to find super 16, is very loud (forget about sync sound) and are daylight spools stock, 400ft magazines are expensive and rare. Cinema Products Gismo and CP16R, aren't very good choices and most of the other cameras are either garbage OR A LOT more money, like the Arri 416 and Aaton Xtera, which are the most recent cameras made. The guide I outlined above however, is the road most people travel. It's easy to find those components and make them work right away. I'm a HUGE fan of the Arri/Zeiss lenses and the Aaton camera, but that's personal preference having used most of the other cameras out there.
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