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Is film cost effective?


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#1 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 13 July 2016 - 07:41 PM

I've been looking at shorts such as this lately

https://www.youtube....h?v=Z5-Pwyja-_4

And am blown away with how good just 16mm alone looks, better than any digital picture I've seen maybe aside from the Alexa.

 

Looked through eBay, B&H, etc, and while the 16mm cameras are VERY cheap compared to digital, how do you guys deal with the cost of film and processing itself without a budget from another source? Because it seems like a lot of "film heads" or whatever people call them will shoot film for fun even if it's a short project/test.

 

I know where to get processing for cheap, but where in the world are you guys buying your film at? As of right now, my sources to get an hours worth of 16mm at 24p have the cost at $1060.

 

I'd really love to try this medium, but my pockets don't.


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#2 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 13 July 2016 - 10:13 PM

You just have to budget for film like any other project. It's all about doing as much planning in pre-production as possible - location scouts, shot lists, storyboards, camera tests, and rehearsals - so that you can determine a workable shooting ratio. An hour of filmstock for a three minute short film is extremely generous, especially if it is MOS. That's a bit more than 5x 400' rolls of 16mm or 6x 1000' rolls of 35mm (in 4-perf).

To put that in perspective, I shot this 16mm short with 3x 100' rolls of film, including titles:

There are also re-cans and short ends that you can buy from places like Reel Good Film in LA if you need cheaper filmstock.
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#3 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 13 July 2016 - 10:25 PM

Thanks for the tips. Your short looks nice, what camera/stock was used for the project?


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#4 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 13 July 2016 - 11:00 PM

Thanks! The camera was a Canon Scoopic 16M. Film stock was either Kodak Vision 2 200T 7217 or Vision 3 200T 7213, can't remember.
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#5 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 13 July 2016 - 11:08 PM

You just have to budget for film like any other project. It's all about doing as much planning in pre-production as possible - location scouts, shot lists, storyboards, camera tests, and rehearsals - so that you can determine a workable shooting ratio.

 

That's pretty much the formula.  I can't stress the testing aspect enough.  So many people come on here saying that they have no money for tests and I never understand that - you're shooting a short on 16mm but you can't afford a few rolls for some basic tests?  I did extensive tests on 7219 for my last short since I'd never used the stock and because I was pushing it to get some noticeable grain.  Storyboards, basic lighting designs & a blocking session made for a very smooth shoot.

 

As for the costs, I know you can get deals & discounts with Kodak, but it is what it is.  The stock & processing fees are usually the most expensive aspects of shooting on film (especially for low-budget work.)  The costs tend to scare people off when in reality, it's usually more than do-able if you budget properly.


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#6 Jay Young

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Posted 14 July 2016 - 05:30 AM

To answer your question; cost effective as opposed to what?

 

Users never seem to include the cost of the electronics/computers in shooting digital, but the post houses sure do!

 

Lets consider I've likely invested $3000 or more into my desktop computer at home.  In the next 5 years I'll have to completely switch out most of the components.  In those same 5 years I'll also likely invest another $500 in maintenance or upgrades to keep up with shooting digital.  It IS an ongoing cost.  Also, are you renting/buying the next latest digital camera that comes out every 6 months?

 

Starting from zero, which no one ever does because everyone already has a computer, the costs really work out to be similar over the course of time.


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#7 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 14 July 2016 - 07:12 AM

Perhaps I'm looking at my situation and not the situation of a studio which shoots a few features a year. I've had multiple years of producing weekly shorts (2-6 minutes) and while working with film would've made them visually better, it just doesn't seem as feasible for people without budgets.

 

I can't include the cost of a PC (I spend $1100 on one every 6 years) because I already use that machine in my day to day life, technology runs everything for me as it is. Including the cost of a high end PC feels like including the cost of your personal car because you used it for a driving shoot. Also (probably also exclusive to my situation) if I shoot film I plan on scanning and editing it digitally either way.

 

Assuming all lights and rigs are similar value, let's say I shoot 40 four minute shorts in a year, 10:1 take ratio, with a RED One MX and a couple decent lenses. The camera with all of it's necessary accessories costed me $3100. 2 decent lenses (1 zoom and 1 prime) costed me $1800 together.

With hard drives that can be formatted again and again the cost I'm putting in regarding recording media and putting it onto my PC will stick at $5000 (tacking on an extra hundred).

 

Now obviously when shooting film, one cannot be as sloppy with their take ratio as Bill and Satsuki pointed out. Let's say for the film end of things, I drop the take ratio to 6:1 and will shoot 24p. I saw an Arriflex SR 16mm camera (all necessary accessories) with a zoom lens going for $2900 flat (tests I've seen of it blow away the RED for me) and getting TWO additional prime lenses; the total comes to $3400. So far much cheaper.

 

And then the film itself. I do a lot of indoor shooting, so I'd be going for Kodak vision3 500T color film in 400 ft rolls from B&H at $210 per roll. To meet the 6:1 shooting ratio film required I'd need 87 400ft rolls for the year coming to a total of $18,270. Then getting it all developed would cost (at Cinelabs) about $6900. I could purchase a RetroScan Universal for $4500 to save on 2k scans.

One year of shooting 24p projects on film with 6:1 take ratio in total would come to $33,070.

 

Let's assume I keep it up for 5 years. With digital, I could purchase another PC ($2000 for safe measure) and a top of the line ARRI Alexa with all accesories (26000) bringing the 5 year stretch to $33,000.

Sticking with that Arriflex and its 400 ft rolls/developing, an analog 5 year stretch would be $133,750.

 

I understand there are companies out there offering bulk discounts, but I'm failing to see how any bulk benefits can get a 6 digit lump down to the ballpark of $40k. What am I calculating wrong? Is the usual take ratio 2:1 for film? Please help me understand this.


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#8 Heikki Repo

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Posted 14 July 2016 - 07:38 AM

I think one definitely has to choose the right tools for the task at hand. To be honest, if I were to shoot almost weekly 4 minute short films (I guess for Youtube distribution?) I myself would stick to a BMC Pocket camera. Sure, it'd be cool to shoot it all on film, but really -- 40 shorts a year? I have a feeling one has to cut corners in production even with digital acquisition when shooting with that kind of a schedule, without a budget...

 

I'm now in the process of preparing for an intro video/ advert for a website. Most of it'll be shot on S16, the length of the clip is going to be max 2-3 minutes, it'll be published on Youtube and I have been now preparing for it for a few months, getting permits for the locations, finding crew, having my camera serviced... For my project S16 is an excellent choice. Not as cheap as a BMPCC, but definitely the best option considering this project.

 

What you could do is to sometimes use film. Accumulate resources for those short films you really want to stand out. Rent camera and lenses. Buy only cheap cameras that'll serve you long enough to earn back what you had to pay for them.


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#9 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 14 July 2016 - 07:47 AM

I've never really been one for rental, as it's rare I desire the hottest newest digital camera. So when one goes down to my price range on the used market I grab it for way below retail.


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#10 Jay Young

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Posted 14 July 2016 - 08:28 AM

And then the film itself. I do a lot of indoor shooting, so I'd be going for Kodak vision3 500T color film in 400 ft rolls from B&H at $210 per roll. To meet the 6:1 shooting ratio film required I'd need 87 400ft rolls for the year coming to a total of $18,270. Then getting it all developed would cost (at Cinelabs) about $6900. I could purchase a RetroScan Universal for $4500 to save on 2k scans.

One year of shooting 24p projects on film with 6:1 take ratio in total would come to $33,070.

 

First, don't buy from B&H because they are a terrible, no good, very bad company.  Secondly, you can buy 7219 (Vision 3 500T 16mm) direct from Kodak for $176, a savings of almost $3000! 

So that might alleviate some cost somewhere.  

 

Also, your film negative is good for at least 150 years even in sort of ok storage conditions.  But maybe the archival quality is not important. 

 

I also Agree with Heikki, 40 short subjects per year is going to eat into costs somewhere, even if shooting digital.

 

And while I love Rob and his work, there are other labs with competitive pricing that will get you into the $4000 range.  I bet Cinelab would work with you on pricing also!  So that's a potential savings of another almost $3000...

 

You are correct tho, that is is a reoccurring cost.  How much money are you making back on your films?


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#11 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 14 July 2016 - 08:49 AM

You are correct tho, that is is a reoccurring cost.  How much money are you making back on your films?

Put it this way, with that business venture in specific; NOT 30k a year. Decent cash to get things that'll further equipment on the digital front, but not 30k.


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#12 Will Montgomery

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Posted 14 July 2016 - 10:05 AM

Macks, keep in mind that the 16mm you've been seeing has usually been colored by a professional colorist who can get the most out of your image...especially film. You can purchase a scanner but you'll need to know DaVinci Resolve inside and out to get the image you're hoping for.

 

I would suggest going through the motions on a personal project first and getting your "film legs" first. You will undoubtedly fall in love with it, but you need to go through the whole process to get a feel for it. And it's a great feeling.

 

Good news is that you can purchase inexpensive 16mm cameras easily these days, and rental houses will make you a great deal on the highest-end cameras and lenses since they are often just sitting on a shelf.

 

The work you're describing would probably not lend itself to film very easily. If you're producing a short every week, you won't have the time for processing and transfer. Maybe you can pick one project a quarter to shoot on film and start there.


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#13 Shawn Sagady

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Posted 14 July 2016 - 11:44 AM

There is a very real notion that in this day and age you can shoot film or digital for the same price.  But the problem is that it only works up to a certain level of production, once you start getting down into indie micro budgets and short film territory it becomes unbalanced.  At this level it is a choice you must make that you are willing to raise the additional overhead for the ability to shoot on film vs saving some money and shooting on digital.   What is lost or gained is really a personal preference.   

 

I can say your calculations have a lot of room for improvement, many labs and Kodak are willing to work with low budget/indie film makers with interesting projects.  It is possible to get some significant savings in the 20-40% discount range.  

 

Finally I think if you are planning to shoot 40 shorts a year (Its taking me close to a year just to write/plan one 20 minute short) then Digital may be the best answer for you, film is great but It simply might not be the best tool for you and what you want to achieve.  


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#14 Chris Burke

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Posted 14 July 2016 - 11:53 AM

40 shorts a year? Wow! That's almost 1 a week. With that kind of volume, you can definitely get a discount. Don't get all bummed out by list pricing online. That is the most expensive way. Check out cinelab.com. they are very accommodating to such volume. You have to shoot so much per month and you get a lower rate cuz you are going to be sending them lots of film through out the year. I shoot almost exclusively on film. It has taught me to economize.
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#15 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 14 July 2016 - 12:01 PM

I'm absolutely going to say stick with the pocket camera. With the right lenses and decent coloring job, it can be made to look pretty filmic, especially indoors where you've got more control over the lighting.

Also, knowing the material you want to shoot, I think film will be cost prohibitive in the long run. Everything adds up very quickly... even if you strike a deal with Kodak (.32/foot) and Cinelab (.38/foot), I think each short film will cost around $1500 - $2500 to make, depending on if you want more coverage.

This is the reason why the broadcast industry went towards video in the early 80's for ENG shooting, the cost to do little stand up shoots was getting out of control. Plus, delays on getting the film processed in time for the 5 o'clock news, was always an issue. Since your doing so many films, the delay on not being able to see your material right away and fix things with such a limited schedule, may get you into trouble. When you have such a limited amount of time to do something, good digital is absolutely a better way to go. It's not like you have a $10k budget for each show and two weeks to do each one.

It think you'd get tired of doing a short every week and dealing with film. It would be great for select shorts which were maybe more cinematic then others, something you can do more prep with. But for those every day shorts, it maybe a bit over-kill.
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#16 Pavan Deep

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Posted 14 July 2016 - 02:23 PM

I agree with a lot of the posts here. I definitely think that you should get a feel for the medium and shoot a personal project first. You don't need to spend a lot of money to do this, it is easy rent or borrow a camera, then buy some stock, there are many places to get deals on film stock, you can buy fresh stock from Kodak but there are other options too such as re-cans or from other filmmakers who have just finished a shoot and then there is always buying online. I find most people selling 16mm film stock know what they're selling and have kept the film stored responsibly. 

 

I know that in mainstream television drama the shooting ratio can be as high as 15:1, the shooting ratios for factual and documentaries vary a lot. I have noticed a new trend here in the UK where low budget filmmakers have a different approach and etiquette when shooting with film many try to keep a very low shooting like 3:1. This is a very tight ratio, but perfectly doable, especially if everything is meticulous planned.

 

Pav


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#17 aapo lettinen

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Posted 18 July 2016 - 10:13 AM

fresh 7219 400ft costs about 109$ +VAT  at Frame24, I think that is closer to reasonable price though I'm sure you can get it cheaper from States. just a ballpark on prices here, it is more practical to order from States to avoid unnecessary customs etc.

 

at the latest short's 2nd unit we did about 1.7 ratio with 4-perf 35mm, it was silent film of course and the actor waited about 1.5 or 2 seconds after he heard that the camera had started (Cameflexes are very loud so he had no problem hearing it from distance) and started acting. 

So we had "camera action" command, then camera rolling, and the camera's sound was the actor mark. The 1.5 - 2 seconds was just the amount of time my Cameflex needed to stabilize the image, the speed up itself does not need that many frames.

 

Something like at least 5:1 ratio would be more practical in most low budget productions though  :lol:   

I recommend shooting standard formats as much as possible, it simplifies the post processing and may thus also lower costs. additionally it reduces the technical problems during the production and makes using multiple cameras easier. 

 

some people are very keen on inventing new film formats instead of actually making great films with that time. that is completely OK and great hobby as itself but it is usually not as practical if practiced on larger than shoestring scale productions ;)


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#18 aapo lettinen

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Posted 18 July 2016 - 10:21 AM

I would never buy a 400ft 16mm roll for over 200$, I can get a clearance factory sealed 1000ft roll of 35mm at the same price or cheaper depending on stock and even if the processing costs more, the telecine/scanning does not. and if one does not already have a very good S16mm camera it is cheaper to buy a low end 35mm one if not shooting excessive amounts of material...


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#19 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 18 July 2016 - 10:58 AM

With shorts it's worthwhile investing time into their production, There's little point in producing a load of shorts, but without the resources and writing talent to maintain the volume of production.


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#20 Jay Young

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Posted 18 July 2016 - 11:14 AM

fresh 7219 400ft costs about 109$ +VAT  at Frame24, I think that is closer to reasonable price though I'm sure you can get it cheaper from States. just a ballpark on prices here, it is more practical to order from States to avoid unnecessary customs etc.

 

Thats about $50 cheaper than buying direct from Kodak... wonder how they work that out?


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