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Have finally went digital due to budget...is this acceptable quality?


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#1 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 04:51 PM

I have been on serious hiatus from this site...a few years, I believe. After my first feature fell apart two years ago due to budget because I was hopelessly trying to shoot it on 16mm, I am back this year to shoot my first feature. Sadly, it will not be on celluloid.

 

I purchased an unlikely cheap digital package that I find surprising comfort with...the Sony a6000 with two lens kit. I am focusing most of my budget on talent and great audio. I have also spent most of my hiatus learning Davinci Resolve (which makes a HUGE difference)

 

Anyhow, I still love the 16mm aesthetic despite being too poor for it. I have been trying to get as close as I can while keeping my camera package and not having to hire out a pro grader.

 

Attached is a still of my wife that I took with some colorful friends. Is this acceptable quality to replace 16mm or are there any pointers in graded and/or lighting that any of you can give?

 

Thanks.

Matthew

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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 05:05 PM

Did you apply some sort of film look to the Sony A6000 footage? I own one of those cameras and don't recall the video looking like that.

 

16mm can come in all sorts of quality levels depending on the camera/lens, stock, exposure, and transfer quality, so it would be good to use a frame of your 16mm footage as a reference point for comparison.  Your test has a quasi-16mm look to it, if the 16mm reference was shot with older zoom lens and the stock was underexposed so the blacks weren't black, but I've also seen sharper 16mm with better blacks, so I'm not sure if you are degrading the Sony image to match something specific.


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#3 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 05:14 PM

David, i did use a reference frame...I shot on CP16R with the Lomo Prime (green shift.) You are correct that the native footage is sharper but this look is, more or less, intentional. I did not apply a filter to it, per se, just did some intense grading in Resolve and then added film grain in Premiere Pro. 

 

Do you feel that the image is actually degraded from the source Sony footage you see from that camera?


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#4 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 05:31 PM

Mistake...it was Kowa prime, not Lomo.


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#5 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 05:56 PM

Can't speak for any comparison to film directly, but the graininess is really off-putting. Honestly, that grain structure looks more like 8mm than 16mm. Did you shoot with a high ISO in the camera? Film grain is fine in moderation, but from what I have seen a great many modern stocks do not have large grain structure like that, even at 16. Honestly, it looks more like oddly exposed vlog from the GH4 than anything else. 

 

In the end, I'd definitely work on bringing your blacks back, saturating a little more, and removing some of the grain structure. That is just me though, and of course the overall look your going for is in your head not mine.


Edited by Landon D. Parks, 06 May 2016 - 05:59 PM.

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#6 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 06:21 PM

Ok David, I gave a shot at adding more sharpness (my camera's sharpness was low which is why it was like that...it wasnt an added effect.) I also graded it to include more richness in the blacks but still trying to preserve highlight quality. 

 

Landon, regarding your comment, I come from a Super 8 background (that was my first love and I have shot far more of that then 16mm) so it is quite possible my grain is off for the 16mm look. I didn't see your comment until I came here to post this updated grab so don't think I ignored your advice ;)

 

I will work on finding the happy medium with the grain. In my head though, I love the look of some sort of grain and do not wish to abandon it completely.

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#7 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 06:41 PM

A 16mm look starts with a small imager to get similar field of view. It would also need to have a lot of dynamic range, because film has quite a bit of it. I suggest 12 bit RAW or LOG 10 bit 4:2:2 recording. DaVinci has a few print stock LUT's built into it, which are pretty handy at creating a "film look" color wise. Grain would be added by using samples of real film grain, which is available on the internet. I actually prefer 35mm grain over S16, so I usually go for the Vision 3 500T grain, which does a decent job. It's kind of a pain to do those kinds of addition mattes in DaVinci, there are a few tutorials on how on youtube. Once you write the steps down on a piece of paper, then you'll have them for later. In the past I've just done the grain addition once the film is cut and colored. This gives a more even look to the added grain.

Few other things to note... I rate my digital cameras at 400ASA when going for a "filmic look". This way, you're being forced to shoot wide open most of the time and of course, to light properly. Once you bring in the high ASA cameras and less lighting, things look very digital. Also, I'd under expose a TINY bit to not only protect highlights but it also helps to flatten out the image even more.

Here is something I did quickly in DaVinci, shot with an HDV camcorder 6 years ago and made to look more like film in post. Obviously a lot of it's over-exposed and the MPEG noise is off the hook, but it just shows you how much you can cover up if you work at it.


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#8 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 06:50 PM

Ok, Landon, I took your advice and saturated it a bit more and made the grain more low-key.

 

Tyler...thanks for chiming in. I am going for the 16mm aesthetic for this project so 35mm rules need not apply. My sensor is the APS-C which isnt full frame anyway so it seems more fitting to mimic a format closer in size to my sensor. I would love to do 10bit raw but the 8bit files are killing my storage space as it is since I edit uncompressed.

 

Any other help with obtaining the 16mm look after this grab or is it more stylistic differences at this point?

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#9 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 06:54 PM

Here is something I did quickly in DaVinci, shot with a more standard camcorder and made to look more like 35mm.

 

Good work, Tyler. I certainly see what you are going for. I really like your grain structure and the dust particles and whatnot...would like to mimic that aspect.

 

With all due respect, I feel like you blew out your highlights a bit in certain places and your contrast is a bit higher than I prefer. But there is no denying that it has a filmic quality.


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#10 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 07:03 PM

To me it looks better with the reduced grain, and the additional color makes it pop a little more. But just keep in mind it's really my opinion of what looks good to me, and the look you're going for might different.

 

As a final note, if you're trying to get your A6000 footage to look like film I'd highly suggest adding a film look lut from resolves menu as Tyler said. You can also get some really good results with either Magic Bullet Film (What I use) or Film Convert. Not that it looks bad now, but it's so much easier to simply apply these luts and it'll give you a good approximation of what that film stock will look like. Magic Bullet Film and Film Convert also have built in, real-film grain scans rather than the computer generated grain you'll find in many programs. The addition of just a little bit of real film grain will go a long way to remove that digital sharpness.

I'd also suggest adding a 2 or 3 point blur to all the footage, which helps to also knock back digital sharpness. I made the below video to give you an idea how to get a descent film look within resolve w/ magic bullet film ($99) and looks ($199, not really needed). Made it a while back. You can ignore the 'looks' portion, I mainly added that to get a quick grade for the video... and so much of what others think of as 'film look' is a result of a good grade rather than shooting on film stock alone.

 


Edited by Landon D. Parks, 06 May 2016 - 07:08 PM.

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#11 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 07:16 PM

Good work, Tyler. I certainly see what you are going for. I really like your grain structure and the dust particles and whatnot...would like to mimic that aspect.


It's basically a piece of over-exposed film that was put onto a scanner. You then composite it into the material and BAM, you've got instant grain. I tested many different grain's and preferred the more subtle 35mm one over the more grainy 16mm on. For such a celluloid nut, I honestly don't like grain. I'd much prefer to light for a lower ASA stock then use a more grainy stock.

 

With all due respect, I feel like you blew out your highlights a bit in certain places and your contrast is a bit higher than I prefer. But there is no denying that it has a filmic quality.


Tell me about it! This was shot with a first generation XA-H1 Canon HDV camcorder. 8 bit, 4:2:0 color space and a super small imager. I tried to get a better camera for the shoot, but the director didn't have any money and I was stuck shooting with what I had. I actually made a HUGE mistake whilst shooting, I accidentally set the zebras at 90 instead of 70. I have no idea why the camera goes to 90, but it defaults to 90, which is utterly worthless because at that point, there is no image left. So when I was shooting, I was exposing so it was just tapping the zebras, assuming they were at 70, which would have been perfect. However, when I got back to the editing room after two 20hr days shooting on location, (lots of the film wound up on the cutting room floor) I noticed the problem right away. I tried to do some mattes (especially in the driving scenes) to cover up the problem, but alas there was no information there. Big mistake, but I learned a lot since then and I'm just glad SOMETHING came out considering how much it was over exposed.

The "contrasty" look was something I did to hide the MPEG noise. When you bring the blacks up even a tiny bit, the MPEG noise was so noticeable on the Pro Res HQ master, it made me want to throw the project in the trash. The only way I could fix it was to give it a more contrasty look, bring those blacks down a bit and kick up the mid's. I also added some blue to the mid tones, which helped the sky go pop. I wanted the film to be more like it was shot on Fuji which is more blue and green, then Kodak which is more warm.

One more thing to note, we were using non-actors AND we had constant wind noise. The audio you hear from the final is a heavily manipulated mix, using dialog from alternative takes without wind noise AND most importantly, removing all audio outside of dialog. It was like mixing an animation film, two tracks of dialog and nothing else. This is why there are odd cuts and shots that look out of place. In some cases, I had to transition from one shot to another, not because I wanted to, but because the audio was worthless and they didn't say the same lines every take, so I couldn't just re-use them from a different take. So the editing was heavily influenced on what dialog could be heard without noise. So some of the best takes were thrown into the trim bin and thrown away. We had no audio guy... I was the only guy on set outside of the director, actors and a few helpers.

All of that to say, I'd do it differently if I had to do it again. :)
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#12 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 07:19 PM

Thanks, Landon, for your input. I have tried things like Magic Bullet in the past and I could never get them to look even remotely like any film I have ever shot. I often wonder if people who make those kinds of programs have ever even shot film? Not to denigrate those that use them, I just cannot figure it out to look how I want.

 

As an example, this is a grab of actual 16mm film that I shot a few years ago and had pro graded...I like this look and wish to obtain a similar aesthetic for my feature. More sharpness would be nice, admittedly, but I was using one of those old CP16R Zoom lenses like David mentioned above.

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#13 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 07:27 PM

Tell me about it! This was shot with a first generation XA-H1 Canon HDV camcorder. 8 bit, 4:2:0 color space and a super small imager. I tried to get a better camera for the shoot, but the director didn't have any money and I was stuck shooting with what I had. I actually made a HUGE mistake whilst shooting, I accidentally set the zebras at 90 instead of 70. I have no idea why the camera goes to 90, but it defaults to 90, which is utterly worthless because at that point, there is no image left. So when I was shooting, I was exposing so it was just tapping the zebras, assuming they were at 70, which would have been perfect. However, when I got back to the editing room after two 20hr days shooting on location, (lots of the film wound up on the cutting room floor) I noticed the problem right away. I tried to do some mattes (especially in the driving scenes) to cover up the problem, but alas there was no information there. Big mistake, but I learned a lot since then and I'm just glad SOMETHING came out considering how much it was over exposed.

The "contrasty" look was something I did to hide the MPEG noise. When you bring the blacks up even a tiny bit, the MPEG noise was so noticeable on the Pro Res HQ master, it made me want to throw the project in the trash. The only way I could fix it was to give it a more contrasty look, bring those blacks down a bit and kick up the mid's. I also added some blue to the mid tones, which helped the sky go pop. I wanted the film to be more like it was shot on Fuji which is more blue and green, then Kodak which is more warm.

One more thing to note, we were using non-actors AND we had constant wind noise. The audio you hear from the final is a heavily manipulated mix, using dialog from alternative takes without wind noise AND most importantly, removing all audio outside of dialog. It was like mixing an animation film, two tracks of dialog and nothing else. This is why there are odd cuts and shots that look out of place. In some cases, I had to transition from one shot to another, not because I wanted to, but because the audio was worthless and they didn't say the same lines every take, so I couldn't just re-use them from a different take. So the editing was heavily influenced on what dialog could be heard without noise. So some of the best takes were thrown into the trim bin and thrown away. We had no audio guy... I was the only guy on set outside of the director, actors and a few helpers.

All of that to say, I'd do it differently if I had to do it again. :)

 

I am sorry, Tyler, if I came across as rude. It was not my intention and I realize that post came off a bit harsh. All things considered, you did a fantastic job. It is amazing how people expect miracles when we work for them. i could tell you similar horror stories of when I was an audio guy and the director expected perfect sound but didnt want to turn off the ice machine. I so wanted to be credited as "D.B. Fader" on that production, let me tell you.


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#14 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 06 May 2016 - 07:42 PM

No worries, not rude at all. There are so many cogs to filmmaking gear, it's always nice to know why people did WHAT they did. I've pushed 16mm pretty hard over the years... shooting no budget short films with my friends. Unfortunately, I was the designated shooter, but the directors all kept the film and we NEVER transferred any of it to digital. We shot, edited and finished on 16mm, only existing thing would be a few reels of mag and a work print. All of that to say, I don't have many samples of color negative to show/discuss. Worst part is, some of my favorite stuff I've ever shot, hit the ground in cutting and is probably long lost. :cry:
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#15 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 07 May 2016 - 01:57 AM

A 16mm look starts with a small imager to get similar field of view. It would also need to have a lot of dynamic range, because film has quite a bit of it. I suggest 12 bit RAW or LOG 10 bit 4:2:2 recording. DaVinci has a few print stock LUT's built into it, which are pretty handy at creating a "film look" color wise. Grain would be added by using samples of real film grain, which is available on the internet. I actually prefer 35mm grain over S16, so I usually go for the Vision 3 500T grain, which does a decent job. It's kind of a pain to do those kinds of addition mattes in DaVinci, there are a few tutorials on how on youtube. Once you write the steps down on a piece of paper, then you'll have them for later. In the past I've just done the grain addition once the film is cut and colored. This gives a more even look to the added grain.

Few other things to note... I rate my digital cameras at 400ASA when going for a "filmic look". This way, you're being forced to shoot wide open most of the time and of course, to light properly. Once you bring in the high ASA cameras and less lighting, things look very digital. Also, I'd under expose a TINY bit to not only protect highlights but it also helps to flatten out the image even more.

Here is something I did quickly in DaVinci, shot with an HDV camcorder 6 years ago and made to look more like film in post. Obviously a lot of it's over-exposed and the MPEG noise is off the hook, but it just shows you how much you can cover up if you work at it.

 

Wow! That's HDV? Straight from a 1/3" chip or through a 35mm ground glass adaptor? 

 

I looks incredible Tyler, I don't think I've ever seen a better attempt to make HDV look 'filmic' before.


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#16 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 07 May 2016 - 10:43 AM

Wow! That's HDV? Straight from a 1/3" chip or through a 35mm ground glass adaptor? 
 
I looks incredible Tyler, I don't think I've ever seen a better attempt to make HDV look 'filmic' before.


Thanks! I think it's pretty good for HDV as well. The camera was 100% stock, no adaptors, nothing. I believe the first shot used a fisheye adaptor, but everything else was the stock lens. If I hadn't screwed up and over-exposed some shots, it would have looked a lot better.
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 May 2016 - 05:35 PM

Graininess is a personal choice here, I've seen grainier footage before so use whatever gives you the feeling you want.

 

My main objection is just the heavy pink/red saturation in the face.


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#18 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 07 May 2016 - 09:34 PM

Graininess is a personal choice here, I've seen grainier footage before so use whatever gives you the feeling you want.

 

My main objection is just the heavy pink/red saturation in the face.

Hah, I actually toned that down in grading. My wife is irish/german and she got a bad sunburn the day before. 


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#19 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 08 May 2016 - 01:09 PM

Grain would be added by using samples of real film grain, which is available on the internet. ..
 

I took your advice and purchased CineGrain last night for 16mm. I fell in love with the archival grain. Thank you so much for this tip! Here is a grab with my previous grading style but with the CineGrain 16mm archival grain applied. This is a grab from footage I took of my daughter.

 

jpg001.jpg


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#20 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 08 May 2016 - 02:01 PM

Yea, the scanned grain is 10x better then the digital nonsense. The little scratches and white dots help sell it completely. Glad you were able to make it work! :)
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