Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

Life of 16mm Film

Published : 5th March 2004


Hi to all the Members

What in your opinions is the remaining life of 16mm film primarily for television?

Would you invest in 16mm Film Equipment? What do the owner/operators out there think?

Thanks

Lawrence Jones



I would certainly only invest in Super-16, never regular 16mm.

A decade ago it made a lot of sense for me to buy my Aaton package. If I had to make that decision right now I wouldn't do it unless I knew for sure that I had the work in place to pay for at least half of the investment within a year. Just way too much of the business slipping away to HD and SD video. Last year my camera package worked about 50-60 days. So far this year it has worked 9 while I've been off shooting HD and SD video.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP



Hi,

Personally, I wouldn't invest in a camera package of any kind right now film or video. I would invest in a good lighting and grip package that will work for any format regardless. I recently sold all of my old film cameras except for my Bolex Rex IV which I'm debating about right now. The video cameras I used over a decade ago are good either for a door stop or a black signal generator.

The only way buying a camera package would make since to me now at my stage is if I had a steady clientele of one particular format. Episodic TV shows like In the Heat of the Night or Touched By an Angel would make since to have super 16 gear for, but docs, as near as I can tell are going video SD and HD.

TV features I can see being either S 16 or 35mm, but unless that's your only type of gig, I can't see buying, I would go with renting the camera package as needed.

Marty Hamrick
Photojournalist/Cinematographer
WJXT TV, Jax., Fl



Marty Hamrick said :

>Personally, I wouldn't invest in a camera package of any kind right now >film or video.

Yes, that hit me recently. As much as owning all of our G&E gear has been a pain in the butt, it's the kit that can work on almost any show regardless of format.

I agree, that unless you have a steady, reliable, well funded client who specifically wants to shoot 16mm (or S16) film, it is probably not wise to purchase a camera at the moment. Not to mention all the advantages of renting a camera.

Roderick Stevens
Az. D.P.
www.restevens.com
12On / 12Off



Roderick Stevens writes :

>Yes, that hit me recently. As much as owning all of our G&E gear has >been a pain in the butt, it's the kit that can work on almost any show >regardless of format.

But you're forgetting about DV. Digital doesn't need lights. It said so in the New York Times.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



Brian Heller wrote:

>But you're forgetting about DV. Digital doesn't need lights. It said so in >the New York Times

Except for the one on top the camera when shooting Dogma

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



Brian Heller said :

>But you're forgetting about DV. Digital doesn't need lights. It said so in >the New York Times

Yes, I know that! But I've been fortunate enough to get hired by foolish Producers who hear from other foolish filmmakers that DV indeed does require lighting. I've used this to my advantage by convincing them to rent our truck full of completely unnecessary toys. I of course bring the truck to he set, and have the unnecessary guys unload lots of stands and lights. I often even go through the hassle of plugging them in and pointing them in the general direction of the scene - just so to justify the invoice.

I've got to take advantage of them until they realize that no lighting necessary and Dogsh*# (er-ma) is the way to go. :-)

Roderick Stevens
Az. D.P. (who pretends to light DV not entirely unlike film)
12On / 12Off



>Except for the one (light) on top the camera when shooting Dogma...

What about the light bulb over the director's head that lights up whenever he gets a bright idea? Does that light source count in a Dogma film?

Jessica Gallant
Los Angeles based Director of Photography
West Coast Systems Administrator, Cinematography Mailing List
http://www.cinematography.net



Jessica Gallant wrote:

>What about the light bulb over the director's head that lights up >whenever he gets a bright idea?

Ouch!

Jessica always makes me laugh.

Jim Sofranko
NY/DP



Brian Heller writes :

>But you're forgetting about DV. Digital doesn't need lights.

I had a Super 16mm shoot in the city of Varanasi in India earlier this year for an American cinema documentary where we discovered the location didn’t have electricity and generators were not available. The location was a dark, dingy hospice and the film was actually about the very dark skinned Hindu people in the dark rooms who had come there to die. I had a hundred rolls of Mr Kodaks' 100T and 200T, only one Superspeed - a 9mm Zeiss and a camera I could run at 6fps when the bed-ridden talent didn’t move.

The film has its premier in the Amsterdam Film Festival and it looks astonishing. Who said we needed DV?

Regards

Laurie K. Gilbert s.o.c.
Motion Picture Director of Photography
HD Cinematographer
www.limage.tv



>But you're forgetting about DV. Digital doesn't need lights. It said so in >the New York Times

I actually had a producer/director wanna be want me to shoot a DVCAM feature like that. I bowed out of the gig because he also figured Digi DP's didn't need to get paid.

Marty Hamrick
Photojournalist/Cinematographer
WJXT TV, Jax., Fl



Jessica Gallant wrote:

>What about the light bulb over the director's head that lights up >whenever he gets a bright idea? Does that light source count in a >Dogma film?

No, it burned out the instant he got the idea to shoot a Dogma film.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



Jessica Gallant writes :

>What about the light bulb over the director's head that lights up >whenever he gets a bright idea?

I guess they shoot mostly in the dark then

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based
www.cinematography.net



Touché!!!

I also worked recently on a shoot that wanted a "Documentary" feel and we shot the majority of it on the Panasonic AGV DVX 100 except for some quick "Documentary" style B-roll footage with an old Bolex camera and 100 foot loads of 7245 and 250D and I just saw the final cut and guess which footage was all over the show?!

Obviously couldn't shoot sound with the Bolex but if you're talking image quality and minimum or no lighting the comparison wasn't even close!

Tom McDonald
D.P.
Southern Cal



Jessica Gallant wrote:

>What about the light bulb over the director's head that lights up >whenever he gets a bright idea?

>Does that light source count in a Dogma film?

No, but it does explain why some low budget films have so many directors.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



I did a project in Varanasi also 16mm a couple of years ago, available light shooting on the river and funeral pyres, beautiful location, looks like it did 500 years ago very little western dress and great color. I shot '48 and '93 and some'79 looked fantastic.

Nick Hoffman NYC 600



Brian Heller wrote:

>No, but it does explain why some low budget films have so many >directors

Dim bulbs all, eh?

Jeff Kreines



Jeff Kreines writes:

> Dim bulbs all, eh?

Not at all. Just saves on lighting.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



Nicholas Hoffman wrote :

>I did a project in Varanasi also 16mm a couple of years ago, available >light shooting on the river and funeral pyres, beautiful location...

I'm thinking throughout that whole Dogma discussion that the aesthetics of available/existing / subtly enhanced/modified light should absolutely not get tied down and boxed up just in terms of Dogma rules....

I was given the Criterion DVD of "Bande a Part" (Godard) for my birthday - Coutard shooting I'd say about 80% existing light, right they've got matching overcast days around Paris, but still....I mean Coutard's an ex combat cameraman from the French Vietnam War, I suspect he did not say to the French Expeditionary Forces and the Viet Minh "hey could you cats take five, we've gotta rig a butterfly and some Brutes...."

Really, he *gets it* - from the tonality of the B&W negative.

Sam "shooting existing light lately but sometimes cheating with a fog machine" Wells



Jeff Kreines wrote :

>the close ups were not bad, but the wider two-shots looked like they'd >been faxed in.

Mark Smith writes:

>That's really funny

It sure is. I've stolen it already.

Brian "Thanks, Jeff" Heller
IA 600 DP



I also just finished a show in which I shot the talking heads on the Panasonic DVX 100 in 16x9 @24P and intercut that with MOS B-roll I shot on my XTRprod . I hate to admit it but the formats actually intercut fairly well which does not bode well for the future of Super 16.

I also have to add that I am just now getting my Prod overhauled after putting 510,000 feet of film through it. It has never had a single failure of any kind despite my putting it into some very extreme environments (heat, humidity, cold, sand etc.) If Jean P. is out there my kudos go out to you for making a truly stellar camera that has served me well.

Dennis Boni
DP/Steadicam owner op
IA 600



Dennis Boni wrote:

>I also just finished a show in which I shot the talking heads on the >Panasonic DVX 100 in 16x9 @24P and intercut that with MOS B-roll I >shot on my XTRprod .

Just did a similar project DVX 100 24p material mixed with S 16, which was transferred to DV cam for the edit. It also intercut well after the S 16 material was "dumbed down" to DV cam. Try dumbing the DVX material up to 35 and put that side by side with S16 footage also "dumbed up" to 35 and then make a comparison.

I love the DVX for what it has brought to the DV world but DV and Super 16 are really 2 different animals.

Mark Smith
Oh Seven Films
143 Grand St
Jersey City, NJ 07302



Mark Smith wrote:

>...I love the DVX for what it has brought to the DV world but DV and >Super 16 are really 2 different animals.

We're working on a similar situation with a multi-image presentation. It will be projected digitally, so we're testing some digital projectors at the screen size we'll use to see how video will hold up against 16 film and 35 and larger transparencies, often on the screen simultaneously so you have a real side by side comparison. The screen is 8 feet high and we'll have 3 projectors stitched together for a total width of about 30 feet. But some viewers will be as close as 8 feet away.

DV looks surprisingly good IF you're shooting close-ups that don't move much, for example, head and shoulder CU's. As soon as they move away to a 3/4 length or more it falls apart. And as soon as there's movement the resolution drops and you see vivid sawtooth edges from field displacement. Anything at a distance looks awful--very poor detail. If we reduce the DV to about half the screen size it looks better, of course. We're probably going to have to shoot any real action on film and use DV clips in smaller windows.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



Wade Ramsey wrote :

>DV looks surprisingly good IF you're shooting close-ups that don't move >much, for example, head and shoulder CU’s.

Yep. Saw a trailer in 35mm for a DV-originated film called "The Event" -- the close ups were not bad, but the wider two-shots looked like they'd been faxed in.

Jeff Kreines



Dennis Boni writes :

>If Jean P. is out there my kudos go out to you for making a truly stellar >camera that has served me well.

Thank you Dennis for this truly stellar compliment.

Do you mean that XTRs would work for Mark Smith's 'creatures living under the ice caps on the moons of Saturn' too?

That would open up new opportunities for Super16.

Jean-Pierre Beauviala/ Aaton
“…eagerly awaiting three new film stocks from a yellow planet, and a fourth you could process in salted spas...”



Jean-Pierre Beauviala writes :

>eagerly awaiting three new film stocks from a yellow planet, and a fourth >you could process in salted spas...

Okay Jean-Pierre, I get the first three, but what's the salt-stock about?

Mitch "happy LTR-54 owner" Gross
NYC DP