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HD, DV vs Film const-wise after transfer to 35mm


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#1 Raymond O'Neil

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 07:12 PM

Hi all, another silly and simple question from me.

I was thinking about how everyone write about the cost-saving issues with HD vs Film and vice versa. Here is a hypothetcial situation.

let's say I have to identicial projects: one on HD and another on film. First, I go with HD and save money with HD during production on HD tapes and for the sake of argument the HD tapes will run me around $1000. On the other hand I shoot with 35mm film camera and the film stock costs me $50,000.

Clearly the advantage of HD vs Film upto now is evdient. Now, some people will say that in the end when HD is transferred to film it is so costly that to transfer a feature movie to 35mm film will cost around $50,000. Roughly the same as the initial cost of the film stock.

HD: 1000 (tapes) + 50,000 (transfer) = Film 50,000 (cost of film stock)

But my question is, if I shoot on film and then edit digitally and I want to transfer the whole thing to film (let's assume I want it on film). So what happens then? Does not it cost money as well? So in the end the whole thing does not even out, am I right? Am I missing something? I apologize in advance if my question is not clear.

Also, I have a second question. What is the deal with DV footage then? Is tranferring DV footage to 35mm film as costly as HD?

Thank you very much in advance.

Edited by mastroiani, 16 June 2005 - 07:17 PM.

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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 07:31 PM

If you shoot film but do a D.I. (digital intermediate) then yes, you have all the costs of film PLUS all the costs of digital post and recording back to film that HD would have. But most films still don't do a D.I., they cut the negative and strike prints the old-fashioned way, which is much cheaper than a D.I.

The costs of recording digital to film are priced by running time and by type of transfer (CRT recorder, laser recorder, etc.) -- what digital format you shot in doesn't really affect the costs, so DV is just as expensive to transfer to film as HD is. However, if the image is low in quality, one might decide to use a cheaper transfer process.
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#3 David Cox

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Posted 17 June 2005 - 08:56 AM

If you wanted to do a digital intermediate, or your film has a large proportion of digital effects, then you would add in the cost of transferring the film via telecine to digital files (such as HD, 2K or 4K depending on your needs) if you shot on film. After this point, the DI / FX costs would be the same between the two because its all digital at that point.

After the DI, whether shot on film or HD, there is a big cost to get back to film. However, remember that this only needs to be done when you want to show the film in a film-only theatre. A number of producers we are working with at the moment end their budget with the digital master, with the view that they won't need a 35mm print until they get distribution - at which point they'll be worried less about the "back to film" cost!!

However, if you don't feel you want a DI and / or your film does not include a lot of digital FX, then shooting on film, editing offline with DV or Beta copies and then having the film neg cut will probably be a cheaper option. This will leave you without a digital master, which may or may not be an issue and is easily resolved with a HD telecine transfer of your final (film) cut.

David Cox
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www.baraka.co.uk
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#4 Raymond O'Neil

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 03:55 PM

Guys, can't thank you enough for your help. It is really amazing that you are taking your time to answer our questions. Thank you!

The thing is my budget is extremely tiny (around 40-50K as of now) and I don't envisage it to grow in the near future :D In theory, I would prefer to shoot on film stock, but I was thinking that if I shoot HD and edit digitally and not transfer to film it would save me a lot of money. Also David, you are right, I will not pay for 35mm film transfer unless I get a distribution deal at which point this cost could be taken care of in a way that would not hurt my personal pocket.

In addition, being a child of the technological age it somehow seems to me that editing digitally is easier than splicing the film, since correcting screw-ups on digital post is much easier than re-splicing the whole film. I would imagine it takes a really seasoned editor to splice the film + add all sound effects (not so much digital effetcs) and whatever the need be, whereas digital editing is more accessible to a wider range of people.

This brings my another question if I may. Do festivals accept digital projects for showing? Or I will still need to transfer the material to 35mm film to participate in festivals?


Thank you again!
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#5 Nate Downes

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 07:22 PM

$50,000 for film, egads, what shooting ratio are you running?!?!? I've seen whole features done for that price on 35mm.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 07:38 PM

$50,000 for film, egads, what shooting ratio are you running?!?!?  I've seen whole features done for that price on 35mm.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I don't know, that seems pretty tight to me. The lowest-budgeted film I ever did in 35mm was about $100,000. We shot it on 72,000' of 35mm, the lowest amount I've ever managed. I think the costs of shooting on 35mm was about 2/3's of our budget, but that included finishing to a print. The lowest budgeted Super-16 feature I did was about $80,000.

The only feature period that I ever shot for less money was in 35mm but with deferred deals on stock, labwork, and camera rental (the lab was essentially trying to co-finance features -- and guess what? They went out of business two years later...) It was my first feature actually.

With a $50,000 budget, I'd consider shooting in Super-16 or HD, finishing to HD for digital projection at film festivals, and wait until the last minute for any transfer to 35mm if needed.
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#7 Raymond O'Neil

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 08:36 PM

Thank you David. HD seems feasible. I was quite concerned if festivals accept digital. After some research I saw that some do and others don't.



I don't know, that seems pretty tight to me.  The lowest-budgeted film I ever did in 35mm was about $100,000.  We shot it on 72,000' of 35mm, the lowest amount I've ever managed.  I think the costs of shooting on 35mm was about 2/3's of our budget, but that included finishing to a print.  The lowest budgeted Super-16 feature I did was about $80,000.

The only feature period that I ever shot for less money was in 35mm but with deferred deals on stock, labwork, and camera rental (the lab was essentially trying to co-finance features -- and guess what? They went out of business two years later...) It was my first feature actually.

With a $50,000 budget, I'd consider shooting in Super-16 or HD, finishing to HD for digital projection at film festivals, and wait until the last minute for any transfer to 35mm if needed.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 11:41 PM

Unfortunately some of the smaller festivals only do standard-def video projection, not HD projection. I had that problem with an HD feature that I shot that played at the Los Angeles Film Festival about two years ago. Don't know if they ever got an HD projection set-up. Sundance luckily screens a lot of movies in HD.

I think the Toronto Film Festival does too -- I hope so because an HD feature I shot will probably be playing there (don't know if it's official yet.)
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#9 David Cox

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 04:12 AM

In addition, being a child of the technological age it somehow seems to me that editing digitally is easier than splicing the film, since correcting screw-ups on digital post is much easier than re-splicing the whole film

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Just to make sure my previous answers are balanced, here's the post production workflow if you did shoot on film and wanted to end on film without a digital intermediate, but using digital editing.

1. Have your film rushes processed and transferred by inexpensive telecine to a convenient format such as DV or Beta SP

2. Cut those video rushes in your chosen digital edit system.

3. When you are sure that cut is right, export an EDL and send to a neg-cutting company who will assemble the neg by matching your cuts as per the EDL.

4. Strike prints and colour time (grade) as necessary for you final film print.

This way allows you to make all your editing decisions digitally (i.e. chop and change as you like) but sticks to a film only path for your final master. The neg cutting is handled only by a professional outfit and is theoretically only done once because you have already made your final cut digitally. This is the least expensive way (for film) unless you have a lot of visual effects / titles etc to add as these will either need to be done optically or have the effected areas of the film scanned, effected digitally, printed and editing into the final neg. Also colour grading is a much more hands-off affair as you make grading observations by viewing a print, and then see those corrections applied to another print the next day or later.
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