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shooting dialog scenes with loud silent cameras

loud cameras dialog makeshift video tap

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#1 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 07:30 PM

Just sharing a few thoughts,

 

Well I might, in the future, try to shoot some footage with dialog. I don't see myself owning a very silent running film camera ( = made for location sound recording) anytime soon.

 

Did anyone try this: get a small video camera (can be low quality) with enough running time to place it near the film camera and record the "dry" rehearsal takes and even the filmed takes. The actors probably will be put off by the camera noise when the scenes are actually being filmed, but I think it is do-able: they will eventually get used to it.

 

A lot of movies have a very high percentage of looped (ADR) dialog anyway. I just need to have a recording showing how the actor actually spoke/delivered, then it can be re-recorded in a studio and sync'd in the editing/post production process. I will make sure the actors will have the same tone and pitch of voice when talking to a studio microphone (they even have the reference audio). I worked as a musician-composer/sound designer for literally hundreds of tv commercials that included voice overs, dubbing of dialog - and character voices etc. and of course I watched a lot of professional dubbing being done for tv shows. So I know how it's done convincingly.

 

I think it's a good idea to have a small video camera with sound for reference, even if it's a smart phone (as long as the recording time is long enough). It is basically a makeshift "video tap" (no need to exactly match framing, angle and lens/focus choice) you keep running (leaving it alone and care about your film camera and the subject) and rehearsing until you shoot your bursts of precious film.

 

I see a lot of short films (very recent ones) and (almost) all are shot on video. I (and probably anyone with a keen eye) can tell after a split second. Some even crank color saturation and contrast so high, it's horrible. Probably younger folks trying to achieve a film look without knowing how film actually looks or is supposed to look - until they watch some real (good) film footage... Not looking down at these folks.

 

I am not against digital video (it probably takes just a few more years until smaller, inexpensive digital video cameras can achieve a more cinematic and pleasing look, not there yet) and I understand that not everyone wants to use a loud "sewing machine" vintage film camera in certain locations.

 

I will only use film (very likely only Super 16mm and perhaps Ultra 16mm) for any future project with a story to tell. For tons of reasons - but that's me. That's not the topic. So: anyone tried out that makeshift "video tap" for film projects? I'd love to hear opinions and experiences (or even people trying to talk me out of it).

 

Any reply appreciated,

Christian

 

 


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#2 cole t parzenn

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 09:02 PM

Your "makeshift video tap" is actually close to how the first video assist was done: a video camera with a zoom lens on top of the film camera, so that the side-to-side framing matched.

 

If you use the video camera's built in mic and the video camera is next to the film camera, the dialog may be drowned out. Are lav mics an option?


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#3 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 09:45 PM

Not sure, still in the planning stages. Sound gear is no problem, even lav, lapel mics. I'm a musician/sound engineer and I have access to all sorts of microphones and other stuff if necessary (colleagues can lend me gear - we are a bunch of broke guys here in Portugal - and help each other out). Yep: I would need the dialog sound recording of the exact film take. I want to keep gear as portable and hassle free as possible. I'll come up with something :-)

 

Will keep you guys posted. May take a while though...

 

Thanks,

Christian


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#4 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 09:53 PM

Hey Christian,

Yea, I've done quite a bit of "loud camera" shooting. Back in the day, I worked on commercial shoots using an Arri III, which is not a quiet camera. I've also used Arri S/M cameras on several shoots, plus still run my Bolex all the time. The trick to sound recording using those cameras is to pretend you're recording normal audio. I always use wireless lav mic's and a recorder on set. I even sometimes cloak a jacket/coat or furniture pad over the camera in scenes where the camera noise maybe just a bit too much, like during close-up's.

Then in post production, its much easier to do ADR because you recorded good sound on location. It also gives the editor something to work with as well, which helps greatly.
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#5 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 09:55 PM

Thanks for the reply! Much appreciated!

 

Christian


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#6 J. Winfield Heckert

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 11:52 PM

I shot a short with dialogue with a Crystal sync Beaulieu R16. the camera was way too loud even with blankets and jackets on it. Most of the noise on MOS cameras comes out the Lens, and the Beaulieu R16 with the guillotine shutter is really loud! So I recorded the dialogue before and after takes.

It will teach you a lot about sound design shooting MOS that's for sure having to recreate and place every sound by necessity!! The lips matched sorta in not so convincing way, the causal audience didn't notice film geeks knew what was up.   

 

If your shooting outdoors from 10ft away with wireless lavs it might be ok and the camera clicking could even be masked.     


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#7 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 07:55 AM

Well I'm fortunate enough knowing how to work with modern dedicated audio workstations (DAWs) (have one here at home where I did many a full soundtrack mix for video, assembling together stuff I recorded in dedicated studios (no cost, but that comes with unpredictable schedules and logistics) - at the moment stereo only, but that's fine: no need for 5.1 surround) which run a low res video file in sync, just good enough for the dubbing (back in the day the film loops were cheap black and white work prints: 35mm and 16mm, I remember). So even if I have a poor quality (needs to be audible though) dialog recording, I can have the actors re-create the dialog and match the wave forms by fine tweaking. There is dedicated software for that, called "Vocalign" (haven't tried it yet, but it's a standard). BUT the overdubbed sound already needs to be very close to lip sync, otherwise it will sound unnatural. A dead giveaway in many an older feature film is the mix of location dialog and re-dubbed dialog. It never matches up both regarding sound and lip sync (especially poor in my native Germany (at least until well into the 1980s) where people are/were used to dubbed films anyway). Nowadays one can emulate different types of microphones and ambience with sophisticated digital "modeling" very closely - but it's never really the same. I would always use the complete dialog of a given scene done in one session. Much more control. It's only the human factor which still needs to be addressed carefully: get the actors to recreate the same mood, mindset and performance. Not easy in a recording studio if they are inexperienced.

Anyway: thanks for the information about the Beaulieu R16. For some reason this camera is rarely mentioned as an inexpensive old 16mm camera. The Bolex seems to get all the attention. Fully serviced and rebuilt as Super 16mm, with a bright view finder they go for nearly USD 2000 (probably more if these have a crystal sync motor and the outside mag (200 feet mag? - probably needs to be hand cut from 400 feet rolls - in the dark bag). For that kind of money I'd rather look for an Arriflex ST (?) - at least that's a whole new ball game (pin registration, truly intended for professional use) - I don't think these loud cameras are that expensive as we speak (?). Never saw any Arri S converted though. Still just considering the options. Mighty be a while until I have the $$$ anyway, and there is by far a much better selection available in the US.

I have the feeling these old babies won't get any cheaper in the future. Less demand now and also: skilled craftsmen will become rare. A fully serviced, smoothly working vintage16mm camera is not a collector's item for rich people to put on display. It should be a reliable workhorse for people who really love that kind of gear and the results. Anyway: glad to see from time to time much younger folks (younger as myself, now well into my 50s) discovering these sweet machines. Seen a lot of savvy and talented very young guys with the new digital movie cameras (on YT and the likes). No true passion about those silent "boxes". Guess we all are looking for similar results. A casual young person probably would call us nuts for using that "obsolete" technology. I'd reply: "carol" won (deservedly) "best cinematography" (Arriflex 416!). Case closed.

 

Thanks for reading. Just sharing my thoughts.

 

Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences! This is pure gold! Still a lot to learn....

Christian


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#8 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 11:41 AM

Your "makeshift video tap" is actually close to how the first video assist was done: a video camera with a zoom lens on top of the film camera, so that the side-to-side framing matched.

 

That reminds me: I would love to come up with some kind of video assist (I know this is all very "makeshift" and "poor man's" stuff) with an LCD monitor attached. This of course needs a lot of experimenting and checking the viewfinder vs. actual footage to get a good idea of how I match the (cheap) video camera with the film camera in a given situation. An older, very small camcorder with an LCD screen - gaffer taped onto the camera - might be the right choice. This also would open up possibilities for smoother tracking shots with home made sliders and stabilizers. I'm glad people come up with inexpensive and/or DIY solutions (Usually for digital video with LCD screens). Sure: a wide angle lens would be a necessity to avoid shaky hand held footage. The problem is finding the right one for a Super 16mm camera without vignetting, unacceptable lens distortion/aberration or wrong collimation/calibration. Experimenting and re-adjusting regarding exact framing for different situations would require a lot of film stock and waiting for the film stock to return processed. Affordable reversal film without scanning (just taking notes and looking at the actual film frames with a magnifying glass, then re-shooting accordingly, would probably be the very best "slow lo tech" solution).

Not trying to achieve ultra smooth, top professional "steady cam/dolly/crane/slider/ronin gimbal stabilizer" results (which of course are the gold standard, but I try to be realistic within my madness). That would require a very modern Super 16mm camera and all the extra gear. Just trying to do something about the lack of choices between jittery hand held and static tripod. Will do that one step at a time, including actually practicing good old hand held (focus!). No hurry. First: test footage with a plan. I might be on the wrong track (this surely has all been done before by many a talented film student and roadblocks with simple 16mm cameras should be well known by now).

 

Thanks for reading - as usual: any feedback appreciated!

 

Christian


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#9 J. Winfield Heckert

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 12:34 PM

Best bet is a small pin hole "spy" video camera taped over the view finder. That would give you framing. Or try mounting/glueing an iPhone to the eyepiece, that would give you a monitor of sorts, anything more complicated adds weight and expense. I would be nice to have for moving shots where the operator can't look through the lens.

A video tap isn't really needed on small shoots it will slow you down. Other than being able to frame shots on a dolly or crane it will be a hassle.
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#10 J. Winfield Heckert

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 12:44 PM

The beaulieu's strong points over a Bolex is that it's electric, can run in reverse and the reflex viewfinder. I don't think the 200ft mag is worth much these days since you can't buy 200ft loads anymore.

An Arri S would be great, keep in mind there is no point to converting anything to S16 anymore as plenty of cameras on the market have already been converted selling for less than the cost of S16 conversion.
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#11 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 02:31 PM

Thanks a lot for your replies! You just confirmed my doubts regarding 200ft mags (I only see 100ft or 400ft of film stock being offered and I wouldn't want to mess with 400 ft of film inside a dark bag: recipe for disaster!).

 

Yep: if budget allows, I will look out for an already converted/serviced and tested camera to take a major step up from the K-3 which also already comes completely converted to S16 (hasn't arrived yet - fingers crossed).

 

Will eventually try out your suggestions (tiny video cam for framing when you can't use the internal view finder). Shooting on film is already more than enough of a hassle (no need adding to that unnecessarily) - but I love it: everything about it.

 

Thanks again!

Christian


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#12 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 03:36 PM

Well, a K-3 isn't a crystal camera either, so you aren't recording sound no matter what since it's speed regulation isn't close to that of the Bolex, never less standard electric motor cameras. The K-3 is unfortunately cheap for a reason. I recently used a re-built one and was very unimpressed. :(
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#13 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 05:31 PM

Yep, I know. Never intended to film dialog scenes with a K-3. I was just planning ahead. The K-3 will be my inexpensive entry into (Super)16mm. I need to get the hang of that format and the modern film turnaround (processing/scanning/grading). If the K-3 turns out to just chew my film stock or have major issues, it wouldn't hurt me that much.

 

My next camera model depends on budget and what I can find for sale. All the good stuff these days seems to come from the US ( = + shipping, customs and taxes) and still: as soon as it gets somewhere near "good" it's very expensive and/or risky (seen recently a few times (well known and usually reliable web site): dead battery, no guarantee, sold as is - ooops, no thanks!). A friend/colleague of mine lives in L.A. since about 2001. Perhaps he can point out someone selling a nice film camera without me busting my bank account...

 

Thanks a lot for the reply,

Christian


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#14 aapo lettinen

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 05:56 PM

you can use dummy loads on rehearsals so that the actors get used to the camera noise. if it's rental camera you can use somewhat similar sounding other camera or machine (if renting a Konvas for example you can use a power drill in rehearsals  :lol: )


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#15 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 06:06 PM

:-D


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#16 Doug Palmer

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 06:10 AM

you can use dummy loads on rehearsals so that the actors get used to the camera noise. if it's rental camera you can use somewhat similar sounding other camera or machine (if renting a Konvas for example you can use a power drill in rehearsals  :lol: )

It's interesting how people's behaviour and expectations have changed in recent years.  I was filming a poetry reading on stage, MOS as it happened with a Bolex, because the director was just wanting the poet's facial and hand movements etc.  I was tucked away in the corner and the camera wasn't  particularly loud, yet I was constantly being shushed by the audience.

I'll remember the power drill :lol:


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#17 Freya Black

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 06:56 AM

The beaulieu's strong points over a Bolex is that it's electric, can run in reverse and the reflex viewfinder. I don't think the 200ft mag is worth much these days since you can't buy 200ft loads anymore.

 

Unless you find short ends out there. 160ft might not be that uncommon in my experience although the short ends are.

 

Freya


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#18 aapo lettinen

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 12:26 PM

it's no big deal to spool down the film from 400ft loads to 200ft, you just need a rewinder and a changing bag or darkroom. if having bigger order the stock seller may arrange the spooling for you


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#19 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 01:26 PM

It's interesting how people's behaviour and expectations have changed in recent years.  I was filming a poetry reading on stage, MOS as it happened with a Bolex, because the director was just wanting the poet's facial and hand movements etc.  I was tucked away in the corner and the camera wasn't  particularly loud, yet I was constantly being shushed by the audience.

I'll remember the power drill :lol:

 

Yep: many things have changed dramatically over the years. I guess no one would have complained if that poetry reading would have been recorded with an array of digital video cameras - including a huge hi tech crane arm swinging over the audience. It's impressive and silent. I'm sure many people don't even know anymore what "film" really is. I myself never had any doubt about it. I remember when a lot of tv shows here in Europe mixed video with film footage. Even with the less than awesome looking VNF 16mm stock with visible splices: I always was relieved when I saw that film look, sometimes with a purr from an Arriflex ST (not to mention tv shows which could afford 35mm). It's not "nostalgia", it's what I truly like. Always did. First time I saw video artifacts in an A-list movie in certain shots sometime in the '90s, I thought: "O.K. That's it: I'm done with being an all-out movie buff". My reason told me otherwise, but the movies (and using film) are not about being reasonable. On one hand I'm glad that recent technology allows many a great pop/rock band to have a lot of entire concerts captured in HD and with some awesome tracking shots. But when I see that rare 35mm pop/rock band live concert footage from back in the day - it just draws me in and is endlessly re-watchable. Sure: wouldn't be possible with an "all film" technology (I have worn out five film projectors in my life - four Standard/Super 8mm, stepping up until the Bauer T 600 with anamorphic 2x lens in front of an Isco zoom lens (which was way sharper and brighter than the Schneider that came with the machine) -  and one 16mm (B&H TQ1), which I even "McGyvered" back to life once including replacing reed contacts, replacing the poor quality prime with a nice zoom lens and tapping randomly into the amp circuit board to get a good-ish audio signal from optical sound prints for external amplification - until one day the belts all went bad).

 

I don't blame people for not knowing, or being able to tell, the difference. Not back in the day when it was very obvious - and not now. Anyway: great to know that many people think like me - and are not too dead serious about it.

 

Christian


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#20 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 01:32 PM

it's no big deal to spool down the film from 400ft loads to 200ft, you just need a rewinder and a changing bag or darkroom. if having bigger order the stock seller may arrange the spooling for you

Thanks, I'll keep that in mind (including the short ends, which I already thought about).

 

Christian


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