First, don't hate because I'm new! Second, I really want to shoot a project that I have written in 16mm film, but the problem is I don't know a whole lot about 16mm film! I've tried to get help from other places online, and that didn't help at all, so I came here! If you guys could run down the process/little tips/general info for shooting on 16mm film that would be great!
Do you have more information on your project? Is it a short, feature? What is the budget on the production side? What is the content of the project? Day photography/night photography? Do you have a lighting budget? Those are important first questions.
Do you have access to a 16mm camera package already, or are you starting without anything?
Once these questions are addressed more specific advice could be given.
There are three basic costs to 16mm. The raw stock, the processing, and the transfer to an editing format.
If you contact Kodak directly, they can and do offer discounts on raw stock for independent filmmakers, but you're generally looking at around or over $100 per 400ft can of 16mm negative. That's around 10 minutes of footage if you're shooting entirely at 24fps. Depending on your expected shooting ratio, you may go over $1000 on stock alone.
Next is processing. I can't give an exact number as it's varied for me wildly over the years. I've had anywhere between $0.11 per foot to $0.24 per foot myself, depending on the lab but that's just me. Assuming the higher end of mine, that would be $96 in processing for every 400ft can. So now, with only a single can of 400ft of 16mm shot and processed, you've already spent $200.
The third step, converting to an editing format, varies in price so wildly it's hard for me to even estimate. It depends on what resolution you want it in, HD, 2k, 4k, etc, what format, scanned or telecine'd, etc.
Bottom line, it's not impossible, but with only $1000, you will severely limit the amount of stock you can shoot overall. It's not like digital where you can just shoot take after take. The more you shoot, the more your costs will compound and add up. To get away with that budget you'd have to shoot single takes, and pretty much edit in camera. No coverage.
Be sure you have an ace first AC who knows said camera. You say 16mm, do you mean Super 16mm? Sync or not. With a 1k budget, if I were you, I would be shooting non sync 100 foot rolls of Regular 16mm on a Maya Deren like experimental short where a low shooting ratio is OK. If on the other hand you intend to shoot a 10 minute typical narrative with dialogue and all that... I would rent a camera and increase budget to 2500 to play it safe, but low. to conclude, You usually shoot a mag per page which gives you a healthy shooting ratio of 10 to 1 if not more. This is where you run into money, you might want a lower ratio?? Don't know what you are up to but 1000 is cutting it really close. Why not make your 10 minute film a two minute film?? It might be a great parameter to set upon yourself in addition to the forced economy of shooting film in the first place. With film, every shot counts. I would. Secondly. I assume you have already looked at the prices of a Super 16m camera. Regular 16 package can be found for real cheap. Imagine shooting regular 16mm with the new SLR magic or Veydra 2x anamorphics.
I have a film educational foundation here in Los Angeles called Celluloid Dreaming inc. We offer small one on one classes to teach filmmaking on motion picture film AND most importantly, offer these classes for minimal money. Just the cost of film and processing.
You can come learn the basics, understand how to use a light meter. Understand F stop's, shutter speed and film sensitivity. We also teach the fundamentals of shooting on 16mm, so by the end of the course, you will have something to take home with you on 16.
If you had the time to drive down, I can take time off and we can do the course together. It's a lot of fun and it won't cost you much. I can even let you borrow a camera for your shoot, as I have several.
If you're too busy, I suggest buying a 35mm still camera and learning how to expose film properly. There are a few very good still photography books online that will teach you the process for free. Translating that into working on 16mm is very easy, as long as you know the basics, you're in good shape.
So the first step is to probably buy a light meter and old school manual 35mm still camera. Then figure out if shooting on 16mm is something you CAN do.
In terms of cost, I do budgets weekly for short films.
Typically, you'll be shooting a ratio of 5:1 on a short film. This means, for every 5 minutes of camera negative running through the camera, you will get 1 minute of cut material in the final. This is the lowest ratio I'd even contemplate and most of my budgets are 10:1 as a minimal, but for your case, I think you'd be ok with 5:1.
On a 10 page script, you will probably be making a 10 minute movie total. So the math looks like this: 5*10 = 50, so that's how many minutes of film you'll shoot total. 50 divided by 11, is going to give you how many rolls of film you will shoot, if you were using 400 foot loads, so that's 4.5. Now take that 4.5 and * by 400 and that gives you total feet = 1818. So the nice round number is 1800 feet of film total.
Film stock is .32/foot * 1800 = $576 Film processing is .12/foot * 1800 = $215
So you're entire budget for shooting and processing is $792, which when you include shipping, will be around $900.
Now you've gotta get that filmed material onto a video format of some kind to edit. The best way to do this is through a film scan. This is a pin registered system that takes a picture with a camera and stores that picture as a raw file, like a digital still camera. The result is a folder fill of still images, which can then be transcoded into whatever format you want. Of course, the cost to do scanning varies on many things, but the only thing you should be concerned about is getting something that looks good and CAN be manipulated in post so if you make a mistake shooting, it's not very costly.
Film scanning is .40/foot * 1800 = $720 for a 2.5k Scan, which is the lowest cost per resolution you can do on 16mm.
So you're looking at $1500 + shipping + drives, I'd say around $1850 when it's all said and done. When you're ready to shoot, contact my friends over at Cinelab in Boston to help cut you a deal on the processing and transfer package. He may not be able to do better then my pricing as it's already rock bottom, but it doesn't hurt to ask. Jeff also said that Kodak sometimes helps people with stock pricing, but I wouldn't budget for that help. Two things that will help save a bit of money is to do a lower-quality video transfer called a telecine AND to use what's referred to as "short-ends" which are available through a few retailers in the US, one of which is "Reel Good Film", they sell lower-cost stock. Combining shooting on short ends AND telecine transfer, you could shave $200 bux off that price if you're lucky.
In terms of a camera, that depends on if you need/want the actors to have dialog in the film. That's a whole other subject honestly because sync sound cameras and audio gear can be prohibitively expensive for a "$1000" budget project.