I am new the forum and just wanted some people's opinions on doing my first feature on super 16. I have been signed on to shoot a super low budget film here in Sydney, and the director really insists on it being done on 16mm. I am going to be using an Aaton Xterra Kit, I have probably shot 5 rolls of 16mm, total so coming from a digital age this is quite daunting. Just wondering what a really practically shooting ratio would be? Do you think this is biting off more than i can chew!
I was thinking 4:1 on a pretty tight schedule. Usually shooting digital everything is well rehearsed and get roughly a 4:1 ratio, we have roughly a month for rehearsals for this project. I am confident with the actors getting everything down. So buy about 50 rolls, the script is 90 pages, but I think it will end up running pretty short
4:1 is too low for a narrative feature -- 7:1 would be considered minimal and 10:1 more common even for low-budget films. I once met a director who managed to shoot a feature with a 5:1 ratio and it meant doing a minimal number of set-ups, often in one take. More traditional coverage and (master, overs, singles) a minimal number of takes (let's say three on average) and you get up to 10:1 before you know it.
My quick method of calculating is a can per page, so one 400' can of 16mm stock for every page of script.
Yea David is spot on... I can't imagine shooting at anything less then 8:1 on a feature. The big reason as he mentions is coverage.
Think about a typical dialog scene, there is a master wide, medium, close up's, maybe multiple actor inserts. Then you've gotta take into account flubbed takes, slates, losses from loading and such. When you're working on a feature, things aren't quite as loose time wise. You've gotta hustle and that means, there is a bit more waste then under a longer time frame, more controlled short.
I like David's "one can per page" idea, that's pretty clever. I generally work with the the ol' rule of thumb which is 1 minute per page, so at an 8:1 ratio, that's almost a roll per page.
In terms of budget, my "blanket" 10:1 budget for 16mm looks like this:
Film Stock (10:1 ratio) 90 minute movie 32000ft @ 0.32/ft = $10,240.00 Film Processing 32000ft 0.12/ft = $3,840.00 Film Transfer (2.5k scan) 32000ft 0.4/ft $12,800.00 Film total = $26,880.00
Always better to overetimate than under. Plan for 8:1 at least and if you end up tighter than that you can sell off the excess stock to recoup money. What you really don't want is to be in the final stretch and suddenly realize you are not going to have enough film and have to come up with more money somehow and get it to the set in time. In this day and age there is no guarantee of availability.
The original poster says he normally has a shooting ratio of 4:1 when shooting digital, this is interesting as many who shot digital have much higher shooting ratios. A 4:1 shooting ratio with digital in ‘normal’ or ‘conventional’ filmmaking is a very tight shooting ratio. With this in mind why would the original poster need to have a higher shooting ratio when working with film? If the camera team are new to film then I think they should rehearse and become comfortable with it.
I find shooting ratios very interesting as I never really know what a ‘realistic’ shooting ratio is, I suppose the shooting ratio really depends on the project. If we look at the ‘normal’ or ‘conventional’ film-making [as has been stated] the 10:1 shooting ratio is probably the ‘ideal’, in my opinion it’s only an ‘ideal’ shooting ratio for ‘normal’ or ‘conventional’ film-making. In independent film-making we don’t need to follow these ‘norms’. I have seen lower budget ‘indie’ productions working with much tighter shooting ratios. I have seen many just have one take for some shots, but on occasions there might be several takes for other shots and when describing the shooting ratio of the entire project people often say an average of 3:1.
The key is planning [as has been said], dialogue scenes tend to require a higher shooting ratio, but they don’t have to, once again the key is planning and rehearsing. A film with fewer characters, less complicated set ups and very little dialogue can easily have a tighter shooting ratio, whether we shoot digital or film. With meticulous planning and rehearsals [of not just the actors, but everyone involved] a tight shooting ratio can be maintained. We don’t need higher shooting ratios, just because traditionally people had higher shooting ratios especially when working with film, we don’t need to maintain such a status quo.
You don't "need" higher shooting ratios, you don't "need" to shoot coverage nor "need" to do more than one take on anything, all that is true. But I'm not going to hand out advice on what would be a "best case" scenario, not knowing more about the project, I'm not going to ignore what experience has taught me about shooting ratios, which is that the average is much higher than 4:1 for feature films, even low-budget ones. Sure, he can aim for being extraordinary and manage to shoot the movie with a 4:1 ratio.
The thing though is that the audience isn't going to give you credit for using less film to shoot the movie on. There can be creative advantages to shooting less coverage, and there might be some reason to shoot as few takes as possible (fresher performances maybe) but actors can have bad days and if they need another take, you need to shoot another take.
There is a difference between possible and probable. A 4:1 ratio is possible, it's just uncommon, unlikely, and improbable so I am not comfortable telling someone that they should plan their movie around that approach without the back-up of having more stock standing by. I mean, it's also possible to shoot a feature-length movie in only three days -- I've heard of it being done -- but again, it's not something that I suggest to someone as a starting point for planning a movie if though it is possible.
You're correct though that if he's managed to shoot short films digitally with a 4:1 ratio, there is no reason why he can't apply that style using film.
I wanted to add to perhaps help assuage any anxiety, the prices that were stated above are on the high side. You can get that figure down quite a bit more. There is no reason for this to be daunting or too much to chew. Super 16 is a very easy format to work with and given the enormous latitude of film, it is very easy to get a great looking image and kind of hard to screw up. Use all the skills you already know. Lots of experimental film makers I know shoot film, because they love the look and there shooting ratios can be very low. If you are used to and practiced at shooting at that low of a ratio, then go for it.
You can shoot 4 to 1, but you need really good actors, an experienced crew and you're not doing large amounts of coverage. I understand John Ford worked at a similar ratio, but he had a tableau style, rather than the modern fast cutting on every line of dialogue. He also didn't want to give the studio alternative cutting options.
It depends on your subject/genre, how demanding you're going to be on the retakes for best performances and how likely things are going to go wrong..
I found some interviews with Arthur Miller where he gives some numbers for how much stock he shot with John Ford... he mentioned shooting 100,000' on "Tobacco Road" and just under 100,000' on "How Green Was My Valley" (which runs 118 minutes) so Ford was shooting in the 7:1 to 10:1 range, which was low for a major studio movie, but not as low as 4:1.
I did just find a site that claims Ford shot 40,000' / 4:1 on "Grapes of Wrath", though they don't cite a source for that. And the long cut of that movie is 129 minutes, so that would be even smaller than 4:1, which seems unlikely.
"I don’t give ‘em a lot of film to play with. In fact, Eastman used to complain that I exposed so little film. I do cut in the camera. Otherwise, if you give them a lot of film ‘the committee’ takes over. They start juggling scenes around and taking out this and putting in that. They can’t do it with my pictures. I cut in the camera and that's it. There's not a lot of film left on the floor when I’m finished."
In making The Grapes of Wrath (which runs 108 mins) Ford reportedly exposed just 40,000 feet of film, which equates to the remarkably low shooting ratio of 4:1. The shooting ratio for feature films typically ranges from 6:1 to 10:1 or more and, by comparison, it is reported that Kevin Costner shot almost 1 million feet of film in the making of Dances With Wolves (which runs 180 mins)
Hitchcock was also known for a 3:1 ratio claim
Of course, these guys also liked creating a myth around themselves.
I'd just like to know where they got those numbers because, as I said, the interviews with Arthur Miller state higher figures than 4:1.
And 3:1 is near impossible, Hitchcock would have had to do only one set-up per scene with three takes on average, something maybe possible on "Rope" but even that seems unlikely, but it's one of the few of his films where I'd believe it.
I can't imagine 3:1 being possible, even on a film like 'Rope'. That means you're doing 3 takes of each single shot scene? No way... I just don't believe it. Actors make mistakes, the camera moves were very complex involving set pieces to be moved as well, I just can't imagine the ratio being anywhere near that low.
It's fun to watch some of those classic Ford movies because you can see exactly what he's talking about. It's clever blocking and being very selective about inserts. His films do feel "cut in camera" which is a good thing and a bad thing. I do think in a perfect world, with a perfect script, excellent cast and everything rehearsed to the point of exhaustion, you can make a low-ratio movie. However, since movies have changed over the years, what comes of actors ad-libbing and being more relaxed in a scene, is well worth capturing. This is why the ratio has increased over the years. Catching great moments takes a lot more film because they don't happen magically on the first, second or even third take.
On the French film "La Poison," every setup was shot with one take (with rare exceptions), at the request of lead actor Michel Simon, who believed that his first take represented the truth of a scene, and that anything he did after that was a lie. Everything was planned and rehearsed extensively before shooting.