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How to get the clearest image with 16mm


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#1 Jacob Mitchell

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 01:35 PM

Hi all!

 

I'm starting work on my thesis at Emerson college, and would like some tips/general exposure advice for 16mm. I 100% plan on shooting on film for my thesis this coming year, and have been researching into different stocks, prices, cameras, etc. I have shot with 16mm for one short in the past, and really loved how it came out. However, my main grievance is the sometimes over-softness and over-grittiness of 16mm, and it seems this often happens when pushing the stock too far with underexposure. 

 

Can I get some advice as to getting the most pristine/sharp image with 16mm? How does the camera system effect its clarity? Are there certain categories of lenses I should stay away from?

How should I treat exposure with film to get the most "grainless" image? 


Edited by Jacob Mitchell, 21 September 2017 - 01:37 PM.

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#2 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 01:42 PM

Ohh another Emersonian! :D

Is this crisp enough for you?
 

https://vimeo.com/232049228/f154287b9a


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#3 Jacob Mitchell

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 01:45 PM

Wow Tyler!

 

That is damn crisp... almost looks like 35mm 2-perf and not 16mm!

 

How did you achieve such an image? The exposures are absolutely spot on. 


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#4 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 01:47 PM

I'm not sure if that link is the best example though, as it's really trying to embrace the look of vintage film.

 

I love 16 when everything is bright and not trying to look like 16:


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#5 Jacob Mitchell

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 01:52 PM

Love the link Macks... wonderful example where it clearly has the film look, but isn't distracting to the viewer.

 

Here's actually a short that I am really looking to emulate... has the perfect balance between "grungy" yet not distracting

 


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#6 Giray Izcan

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 01:54 PM

I really like the video Tyler, solid work.
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#7 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 01:57 PM

Wow Tyler!
 
That is damn crisp... almost looks like 35mm 2-perf and not 16mm!
 
How did you achieve such an image? The exposures are absolutely spot on.


Good glass, good cinematographer, good transfer... that's all ya need. Super 16 can be made to look stellar if you KNOW how to make it look stellar. :)

Tips/tricks? Well, it's just lighting properly. Notice that even the night scenes, we had A LOT of light around. The color is temp btw... but still, it wasn't just 'dark' ya know? If you light well, you will get a good/decent image.
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#8 AJ Young

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 01:29 AM

1) it seems this often happens when pushing the stock too far with underexposure. 

 

2)How does the camera system effect its clarity?

 

3)Are there certain categories of lenses I should stay away from?

 

4)How should I treat exposure with film to get the most "grainless" image? 

 

First of all, it sounds like you're trying to make a digital image. ;)

 

1) You've kind of answered your own question. Over exposing and then pulling from the bath or adjusting the exposure in the DI will yield a sharper, less grainy image. See: Link 1 and Link 2

 

2) You'll need to make sure the 16mm camera system is working correctly, particularly with the gate. Are the tension bands holding? Pull down claw in sync with registration pin? A good rental house will have their film cameras in tip-top shape (like Panavision or Keslow). If I'm not mistaken, Panavision has the scratch tests from the magazines ready during prep.

 

3) Prime lenses are the sharpest you can get because they have the least amount of glass. In general, the less glass in a lens, the sharper the image. Furthermore, shooting at a deeper stop will give a sharper image (see F/64 club).

 

4) Film, particularly Vision 3, has an incredible highlight retention. It's best to over expose and correct in development or DI. Basically, see point number 1.

 

Of course, you're going through all this trouble to get, by what you've been asking to do, a digital image. No grain, no image bounce? Walks like a duck, sounds like a duck... But, I'm definitely curious: why do you want to shoot on 16mm film? How does it serve the story?


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#9 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 03:45 AM

Jacob,  have a look at the trailer for member Jeff L'Heureux's film,  with day exteriors shot on 50D.  Very sharp,  finely detailed. 


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#10 Chris Burke

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 10:21 AM

The Zeiss super speeds mk3 at boston camera make for a very sharp image. The widest aperture have ever used on them is T2. They were extremely sharp at that T stop.
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#11 Chris Burke

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 10:27 AM

Also consider using 200t instead of 500t. This may or may not work for you. ?? It will give you cleaner shadows in low light situations.
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#12 Simon Wyss

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 04:59 AM

You don’t need the most expensive lenses for a clear image. A clean triplet or a Tessar type lens, correct in its seat, produces cut sharp pictures. You only have to focus precisely, nail exposure and take care of good processing. In the digital field you see pixels in RGB additive mixture. With projected film you see dye clouds or silver wool. The films simply don’t resolve the fineness of what lenses can draw. To say nothing of projection lenses and scanners


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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 11:46 AM

The thread title is very similar to the title of an article in American Cinematographer, October 1978 by Ken Richter, I think it was called "Getting Clear Pictures in 16mm" or something like that.

 

Ken Richter was presenting his nature / travel films, shot and projected in 16mm for small audiences, and someone asked him why his photography was so sharp, so he wrote an article explaining his process.  Of course, some elements are now obsolete, like shooting in 16mm reversal, etc. but the gist of the article was very instructive, even today.

 

His point was that sharpness and clarity in the final presentation was the accumulation of dozens of factors, choices made, that there wasn't one trick.  It was about using sharp lenses at optimal f-stops, it was about avoiding anything that lowered contrast like haze, flares, etc.  It was about finding scenes of decent contrast to create the impression of sharpness, images with good lines, decent blacks, etc.  It was about using slower film with fine grain and good sharpness, and it was about exposing it properly.  It was about the contrast of the print, the projector lens.  

 

Basically his point was that all these elements combine to create a final product that feels sharp & clear to the viewer, some choices technical and some creative (sharpness is both a measurable thing and a perceptual thing.)


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#14 Freya Black

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 01:53 PM

 

I'msoftness and over-grittiness of 16mm, and it seems this often happens when pushing the stock too far with underexposure. 

 

How should I treat exposure with film to get the most "grainless" image? 

 

 

If you are planning on shooting Vision colour negative then you want to try and OVERexpose the negative by approx 2/3 stop. 

 

Hope that helps.

 

Freya


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#15 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 08:38 PM

Shoot the slowest speed stock possible, overexpose it a little, use sharp prime lenses stopped down to the middle (usually) or at least two-stops closed from wide-open, shoot high contrast subjects with strong edges, and then post and present in as high a quality as possible.  That's all!  Trouble is that not everything can be shot in those conditions...


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#16 Samuel Berger

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Posted 25 September 2017 - 12:51 AM

Shoot the slowest speed stock possible, overexpose it a little, use sharp prime lenses stopped down to the middle (usually) or at least two-stops closed from wide-open, shoot high contrast subjects with strong edges, and then post and present in as high a quality as possible.  That's all!  Trouble is that not everything can be shot in those conditions...

 

How about on Super-8? Serious question.


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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 25 September 2017 - 12:55 AM

Same rules apply to any film format from Super-8 to IMAX.


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#18 Samuel Berger

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Posted 25 September 2017 - 01:33 AM

Same rules apply to any film format from Super-8 to IMAX.

So like right now, taking from your example, I would shoot 50D, but when it comes to shooting with primes, most Super 8 cameras only have zooms.

 

Ignoring my ZC-1000 because there's no US distributor of Single 8 film, I'm stuck to my Canon 814xls.


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#19 Nick Collingwood

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Posted 09 October 2017 - 12:44 AM

So like right now, taking from your example, I would shoot 50D, but when it comes to shooting with primes, most Super 8 cameras only have zooms.
 
Ignoring my ZC-1000 because there's no US distributor of Single 8 film, I'm stuck to my Canon 814xls.

 
You're exactly right. I have a Canon 814XL-S as well and can get stunningly sharp images sometimes. Arguably rivaling 16mm but in this thread about making 16mm look like 35 or better, I won't get into that discussion haha. 

 

For the sharpest images for Super 8 (but especially the Canon 814XL-S:
 

  • Shoot 50D.
  • Overexpose 1/2+ stop. It should overexpose it a little with how it reads the cart already
  • Nail your focus by zooming all the way in and focusing then zooming out to your focal length
  • Use the smaller shutter angle of 150º to help with crisper images as well
  • Use a tripod or have rock solid hands (and even those will fail you most of the time).
  • Stop down to f5.6 or higher.
  • Get a 2k scan from Gamma Ray (in my opinion the sharpest S8 scans ever).

 

You will get crazy sharp images for Super 8.

 

Here's a sample shot from a recent wedding I shot (Canon 814XL-S, Vision3 50D). Added some simple contrast and saturation to the 2k scan but no sharpening or grain reduction. Linked the small image here in the forum but click it for the full res.

Zn4Mggd.jpg


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#20 Samuel Berger

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Posted 09 October 2017 - 08:08 AM

Nick, thank you very much for this. Funny I forgot I posted that, and it's only been a few days. Since then, I ordered Provie 100 from Tak at Retro 8 and he's sent me a bunch of Single 8 carts.

 

I'll still try to do this with my 814XLS. Looks amazing. Did you use 18fps or 24fps?


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