Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

Feature Film Process

>Published : 21st September 2003

Since I've spent my career shooting for a TV finish I haven't dealt with the basic process of shooting for a project that will originated on film and then pass through the steps to eventually be printed for theatrical release. Now I may get involved in a low budget short and I want to understand what the normal process involves. Right now I am assuming 35mm origination, Avid cut and at some point film finish. But since the first stop for the project will probably be the festival circuit, I'm guessing there could be a video finish first and then a film finish much later, if ever.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">My questions are :

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Is camera neg TK'd for video dailies and then a print struck? (or vice versa) Or do dailies come from a print transfer to safeguard the original neg?

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">If not, is a print struck at all at this stage? Are dailies reels used for offline editing? Anything I should know at this stage that I may not have thought of?

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Thanks in advance,

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Randy Miller, DP in LA

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>Is camera neg TK'd for video dailies and then a print struck? (or vice >versa)

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Any of the options you've mentioned are possible and have been done.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Typically, here, the neg is transferred after the dailies are printed, but in low budget work, dailies are rare. Fight to get at least something printed regularly - a roll a week, one take from each set-up etc. You won't see everything in video dailies that you will see in the final print.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Sometimes if everything is printed, the print is used for transfer as you suggest. It's essential in that case that the print exactly matches the neg (i.e. taking out frames or shots before transfer will confuse the living daylights out of the neg matcher at a later date).

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">After neg matching, we recommend a "pos conform" whereby the neg matcher extracts all the required takes, they are printed and cut together to match the edl. This becomes a cut work print which is used (a) to check the neg match, sync etc) and (b) as a guide to fine-cut the neg.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Some producers say "just cut the neg from the edl". They are dicing with death.

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style="margin-top:0;">Geoff doesn't like advertising on this list, so I won't mention my book "Film Technology in Post Production - 2nd edition" from Focal Press, but someone else might.

It might answer many of your questions.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Dominic Case

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>Dominic Case wrote :

>Geoff doesn't like advertising on this list, so I won't mention book

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">>"Film Technology in Post Production - 2nd edition" from Focal Press.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">I'll be glad to mention it. The Pos Conform makes good sense, though in some circles the term POS has other meanings.

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style="margin-top:0;">Jeff "always pull with long handles" Kreines


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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">The most common path is to telecine from original negative camera rolls to tape for offline editing, then generate a edit list with key code numbers and have negative cutter conform negative to edit list. Then an answer print is struck, first on a Haseltine timer, later ones on a comparator. Often the first answer print is silent and the rest also have the soundtrack on it (called a composite print.) You screen the answer print at a theatre in the lab with the timer, who takes notes on the fly as the film plays out in real time, using the footage counter as a guide.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">He goes off, makes the changes, shows you a new print, and you repeat the process, reel by reel, until you run out of time or money or start getting worried about over-printing the o-neg...Just kidding. Usually by the third answer print, you are just reprinting an individual reel here and there that still has a problem.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">After answer printing has determined all the printer lights needed to correct each shot, the final answer print might be your first projection print and you might order a few more prints made off of the original negative ("show prints"), but usually at this stage you also strike a color-timed interpositive (I.P.), both as a protection master and as a film element for a final telecine transfer.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Some people might just strike a low-con print for a final telecine transfer.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">The I.P. can be used for making an internegative (I.N., aka "dupe neg") or multiple dupe negatives even, for making lots of prints.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">This is assuming that you photographed the film in a standard 35mm projection format (1.85 matted widescreen or 2.35 anamorphic widescreen) so that you can do all printing steps using a contact printer. If you shot in Super-35, 3-perf, etc. you'd have to convert the image at one of the stages (usually between the I.P. and I.N. stages) to a standard projection format, so that this new internegative can be used to make contact prints for projection. This is usually done in an optical printer but you can also use a digital intermediate to convert one film format to another.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Most of the issues are really editorial - i.e. the film will be projected at 24 fps, so anything that needs to be sped up or slowed down in post has to be done to a final dupe negative element that can be cut into the assembled negative. You also have to decide if fades and dissolves will be done using A-B rolls or optical printer dupes.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Just remember that traditional color timing limits you to controlling overall color balance and density (brightness). You can't fix one color independently of another and you can't change gamma shot to shot, nor black level on an individual basis, etc. Your notes to the color timing will be on the order of "make that shot brighter...make that one a few points darker...that looks too green...let's warm that scene up and make it more yellow-orange...etc. Basically warmer, colder, brighter, darker, to be ridiculously simplistic about it (it's a little more flexible than that but nothing like digital color-correction.)

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">David Mullen ASC

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Cinematographer / L.A.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Hazeltine timer, later ones on a

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">>comparator.

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style="margin-top:0;">OK, I know what a Hazeltine is, not much here has changed in the 23 years since I worked in a lab, but what's a comparator?

Marty Hamrick

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Photojournalist/Cinematographer

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">>OK, I know what a Hazeltine is,

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">..... it's the same as a Hazeltine

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">......Many labs now use Colormasters, which do the same job but also display a moving image.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">>what's a comparator?

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">.....I think David was referring to the system of scene-testing where just a couple of frames of each shot are printed on a special printer, and displayed on a filmstrip projector. The timer then holds colour filters in the light path to estimate the effect of making corrections, before making a full-length print.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Dominic Case

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Atlab Australia

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">>...I think David was referring to the system of scene-testing where just a >couple of frames of each shot are printed on a special printer

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">No, that's sometimes called a "proof print" at some labs. One of the timers called the machine that he puts up the previous answer print, with a read-out on a screen of the printer lights used, in order to input new timing lights, a "comparator" but I guess it's not a standard name for that sort of thing.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Anyway, it's not a Hazeltine anymore after the first answer print.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">David Mullen

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Cinematographer / L.A.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">> a "comparator" but I guess it's not a standard name for that

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">I'd call it a "Regrade station". (probably not standard either)

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">The projector is synced up to the timing data so it tracks the RGB values for each shot. The timer can edit the data as he/she goes.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Dominic Case

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Atlab Australia

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Dominic Case wrote :

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">>I'd call it a "Regrade station". (probably not standard either)

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Does anyone still use the Neumade device that consists of a light box at an angle between two rewinds, arranged top-to-bottom (not left-to-right)? DuArt added a sprocket with shaft encoder to get footage and frame counts, and that's how they timed both reversal originals and corrected prints.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Jeff Kreines

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David & Dominic,

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">A belated thanks (got busy for a couple days) for the information. I recently did a film out on an HDCam project and after sitting with the timer at Deluxe for a screening I know a little about the last stages of the process. What could be changed by printing, what couldn't. It became obvious why DI has become so popular. I was just not sure how things were dealt with in between the O neg being unloaded and the IP/IN work being started.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Since the shoot will be 5 days, if I have a budget to print anything I'll probably do something from each location/set-up.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Will labs print partial rolls?

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Thanks again for the help.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Randy Miller, DP in LA

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>Since the shoot will be 5 days, if I have a budget to print anything I'll >probably do something from each location/set-up. Will labs print partial >rolls?

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">In 35mm, labs will print circled takes on the camera reports - but the trouble with that is that they often cut out those takes from the roll and splice them onto a "printing roll". For tests, I think it is better just to print the whole camera roll rather than have it cut up, which is more handling of your negative than is necessary.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">David Mullen

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Cinematographer / L.A.

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>For tests, I think it is better just to print the whole camera roll rather than >have it cut up, which is more handling of your negative than is >necessary.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Or if you can keep a "test" or "print" roll in an extra magazine and print it when ready. You just pop the mag on and burn a few feet or a rehearsal for each set up. Then you'll have a clean separate roll to print and analyse.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Best Regards,

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Anders Uhl

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">cinematographer

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>Will labs print partial rolls?

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style="margin-top:0;">Almost anything you ask for (and pay for)!

>Traditionally, labs only print the "circled" or "print" takes. The cost (on an hourly rate) of a negative breakdown operator pulling out all the B-takes is usually less than the amount saved (per foot) by not printing them. Therefore there's no reason why the lab can't pull out any takes you nominate on the camera sheets, for printing.

The only drawback is that those shots will then be on a separate negative roll, so will be telecine'd separately, and as a result, syncing sound, digitising, and reviewing the rushes all become a little more complicated. If you choose to transfer first, then select some takes to print, talk to your neg matcher first: there may be implications in the time-code/key-code logging that will need to be taken care of if the neg is cut after transfer.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Dominic Case

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Atlab Australia

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">David Mullen wrote :

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">>In 35mm, labs will print circled takes on the camera reports...which is >more handling of your negative than is necessary.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">David when are YOU going to write a book?

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Eric Swenson

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">http://www.ericvfx.com

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">IATSE Local 600 Dp and Supervisor

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Eric Swenson wrote :

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">>David when are YOU going to write a book?

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">How about David and Dominic teaming together and write the ultimate book on post-production?

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Cheers

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Martin Heffels

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Filmmaker/DP/editor,

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Sydney, Australia

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style="margin-top:0; margin-bottom: 0;">"Today's mighty oak is just yesterday's nut that held its ground."

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">>How about David and Dominic teaming together and write the ultimate >book on post-production?

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style="margin-top:0;">Yeah, he could provide all the knowledge and my contribution would be to Americanise his terminology...

David Mullen

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style="margin-top:0;">>David when are YOU going to write a book?

>That's what I said to David too. Maybe he should just compile every word he has written to cml - he manages to encapsulate everything that matters without any waste.

But I don't entirely agree with David when he says :

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">>In 35mm, labs will print circled takes on the camera reports...which is >more handling of your negative than is necessary.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Labs have extracted circled takes for many many years - it's a sensible cost-saving exercise, and well-trained, careful and skilled negative handlers have always been able to do it without putting handling marks on the negative, and, years ago, without the benefit of wet gate printing to mask any problems. Where marks arise now, it is a combination of lack of skill, and too much haste.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Traditionally, printing only circled takes would also save the editor's time in syncing, and also in reviewing the material to work with.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Dominic Case

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Atlab Australia

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