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Super 16 Activity

>Published : 10th February 2006

>Is Super-16 still considered the preferred origination method for low budget feature work? Is it being rapidly supplanted by HD?

>This question was asked a while back, but I would appreciate a current perspective.

>Bob Morein
Indie film maker


>Robert Morein wrote :

class="style11">>Is Super-16 still considered the preferred origination method for low >budget feature work?

>I would say that 35mm is the "preferred" origination format for everything, including low budget. Super 16 is a valid alternative, more valid these days due to improved stocks and the availability (albeit at a price) of digital intermediate post methodologies.

class="style11">> Is it being rapidly supplanted by HD?

>No. At least not this year.

>Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles


class="style11">>No. At least not this year.

>I've been wondering though. The consumer film stills market is crashing so hard and so fast, literally 30% a year, with Kodak shuttering Qualex plants as fast as they can, what effect if any will there be on the professional still and motion picture market?

>Tim Sassoon
SFD Vfx & creative post
Santa Monica, CA


class="style11">>I've been wondering though. The consumer film stills market is >rashing so hard and so fast, literally 30% a year, with Kodak shuttering >Qualex plants as fast as they can, what effect if any ill there be on the >professional still and motion picture market?

>That's been my concern for quite some time. It will become much more of an issue if digital projection takes off, since for every foot of motion picture negative, Kodak (and Fuji, for that matter) probably sell at least 20 times that much print stock. I see digital projection being much closer to wide industry acceptance than digital origination for major features, at least as a regularly used methodology - and it has some financial incentive as well. In all honesty, I don't see much of a downside, if any, to digital projection, even with the current state of the art.

>The pictures I've seen in such theatres (particularly the Chinese, with its very current 2K projector) have generally looked terrific to my tired eyes, superior to film projection in a number of ways. Digital origination, however, has a ways to go before achieving something close to that kind of parity.

>Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles


class="style11">>I've been wondering though. The consumer film stills market is >rashing so hard and so fast, literally 30% a year, with Kodak shuttering >Qualex plants as fast as they can, what effect if any will there be on the >professional still and motion picture market?

>What is a "Qualex" plant? A general name Kodak has for a manufacturing facility?

>Bob Morein
Indie filmmaker


>Michael Most wrote  :

class="style11">>I don't see much of a downside, if any, to digital projection, even with the >current state of the art.

>The downside is that with no prints, it will be uneconomical to keep a lab open at all. Negative processing - at the prices and level of attention we're used to, at least - is the happy side-effect of having a laboratory running millions of feet of bulk-release print through the bath. If there is a genuine move to digital projection, you can look forward to sending your negative to an operation run for love rather than money, or outsourced to lower-wage/lower-tech countries, and waiting a week for rushes, much as happened with Super 8 once home video took over in the amateur market.

>Stand by for conversations containing the line "...we're just waiting for the weeklies to come back from Mumbai..."

>Sam Garwood
Cinematographer
London


class="style11">>Negative processing - at the prices and level of attention we're used to, >at least - is the happy side-effect of having a laboratory running millions >of feet of bulk-release print through the bath.

>That isn't consistent with a story I know that relates to ColorLab, in Rockville, MD.

>Years ago, they had a contract for a shot-in-Baltimore crime series (Law & Order?). When the series ended, there was a period when users complained about the quality of the negative processing (bath problems.) The explanation at the time was that with loss of high volume processing, they were temporarily out of touch with the problem of keeping their baths in good condition. Later, they resolved this. I have used them with excellent results.

>The point of the above anecdote is that Colorlab's bath volume depends on negative processing, not print output. I am surprised (please contradict me here) that the same bath would be used for high volume prints as for negative, considering the irreplaceability of the negative.

>Bob Morein
Indie filmmaker


>Sam Garwood wrote:

class="style11">>The downside is that with no prints, it will be uneconomical to keep a >lab open at all.

>That was my entire point. My comment about a downside was in reference to the audience's experience with digital vs. film projection. I don't really see any.

>Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles


>It entirely depends where the final output will go. If you want it to play theatrically, S16 (or 35) is definitely a better choice. If your highest goal is festivals and perhaps TV/video (if it has a well known actor or two) then HD is a possibility. Good HD still doesn't quite match with good S16.

>Generally I find HD to have a distinctive video look. Shows like Arrested Development and Enterprise look OK, and even good in certain instances, but they are still unable to match the beauty of film.

>Jim Eagan
NY editor/cameraman


>Agreed, I have seen some great digital projection of the Star Wars films and a Pixar movie. Huge screens and it looked great. But these movies were sort of a typical ways to show off the technology, since they're computer-digital in origin. And also, the Varicam stuff in Star Wars exhibited some digital artefacts. So I'd say the issue is definitely the cameras at this point, and not the projection.

>Jim Eagan
NY editor/cameraman


class="style11">>The downside is that with no prints, it will be uneconomical to keep a >lab open at all.

>I dunno, from all I hear The Lab at Moving Images in the hot place in NYC. No I haven't examined their books ! Of course they are offering telecine & post services.

>P.S. Re Colorlab I get pristine 16mm negatives from them, ditto 16mm work print when I've done it. (also, the show was "Homicide")

>Sam Wells


class="style11">>And also, the Varicam stuff in Star Wars exhibited some digital artefacts. >So I'd say the issue is definitely the cameras at this point, and not the >projection."

>There was NO Varicam imagery in Star Wars...You have only seen Sony F900 footage recorded in camera for Star Wars Episode II. Episode III has been shot using F950s recording Full Bandwidth Low Compressed images on Sony SRW5000 Recorders.

>Regards,

>Bill Hogan


class="style11">>I dunno, from all I hear The Lab at Moving Images in the hot place in >NYC. No I haven't examined their books! Of course they are offering >telecine & post services

>I think that you are dismissing the economics of digital projection. This is a huge hurdle until the resolution of who is going to pay for the technology is agreed upon. I don't think you can look at the amateur market as a barometer of where labs are headed, I am seeing the labs embrace fully scanned DI technologies where they can provide a calibrated end to end solution for print as well as digital master outputs, this is a new revenue stream and may supplant the income derived from mass duplication.

>Arri and Panavision continue to develop cameras, something you also aren't seeing reflected in the business plan of consumer driven amateur companies, there is a little more at stake in motion picture and I would hope that eventually we see the end of digital Vs Film and more of "what is suited to the production, thinking. Having said all of this I would say that Indie filmmaking is still in love with S16 for its filmic look and consider the HD path only when the project can't afford celluloid.

>In my market you have to be shooting a reasonable amount of S16 film before the end to end costs of a F900 (in production mode with all the right kit) with all of the post issues becomes a more viable alternative.

>Nick Paton
Director of Photography
High Def./Standard Def./Film
Aaton Xtr Prod owner operator
Brisbane, Australia
www.npdop.com


class="style11">>What is a "Qualex" plant?

>Kodak's overnight contract developing. The projections are that overnight will disappear completely very soon - only on-site minilab will remain, and mostly for (ironically, considering the other posts) printing from digital source. The overall question is, what happens to the pro segment when the majority consumer segment disappears? Does Rochester hang on to a single coating plant for all of pro, and the rest are shipped to China? Or, like IBM's PC business as a recent example, does it all go, and we shoot Seagull Vision? Rochester may be closer to Armonk than we think.

>PS remember the painted silver cans from Kodak Mexico?

>Tim Sassoon
SFD Vfx & creative post
Santa Monica, CA


>> Does Rochester hang on to a single coating plant for all of pro, and the >rest are shipped to China? Or, like IBM's PC business as a recent >example, does it all go, and we shoot Seagull Vision? Rochester may >be closer to Armonk than we think.

Production of photographic film cannot be compared to PC assembly. It is more akin to LCD panel fabrication, or a chip foundry. These are large, monolithic operations with extremely tight quality control. Currently, most of the chips and all of the LCD's are made outside of China, by industrial combines in Korea and Singapore that have long experience at this sort of thing. We don't have to assume the utmost of stupidity on the part of Kodak, which would be the attempted transport of an entire film "foundary". More likely is that the division would be spun off. Large, elder corporations tend to incorporate higher calculations of overhead, which mask the inherent profitability of some manufacturing activities.

Bob Morein
Indie filmmaker


class="style11">>We don't have to assume the utmost of stupidity on the part of Kodak, >which would be the attempted transport of an entire film "foundary".

>Then let's all buy it as a collective!

>Jim Sofranko
NY/DP


>>Then let's all buy it as a collective!

Back in the 70's, Henry Saltzman, producer of the James Bond movies, bought Éclair and moved it to England. Why he wanted to own a camera maker is elusive, but perhaps his motivation was similar.

>Robert Morein


class="style11">>We don't have to assume the utmost of stupidity on the part of Kodak, >which would be the attempted transport of an entire film "foundary".

>I don't think it's an insignificant concern, nonetheless. Wasn't America's entire microwave tube capacity sold to LG (nee Goldstar) some years ago? There are plenty of examples of entire textile factories crated up and shipped off, for example. I don't want to be too alarmist, but I do a lot of commercial still work too, and even there it seems like no-one shoots film anymore. But that's more than a dozen years after the first viable digital equipment appeared (the original Leaf DCB); I don't see anywhere near the same level of maturity in motion cameras - I'm on my fourth generation of high-res Bayer-chip DSLR's saving RGB or RAW to on-board hard drives, now comfortably past 4K.

>When the Kinetta/Origin/Genesis/D20 comes out, we'll be at Generation 1.5 in motion. IMHO it would be tragic if the film supply chain were thrown into turmoil at this stage. I doubt we'll be ready to meet DCI spec with full digital origination before the end of the decade.

>Will Kodak still be selling halide products then?

>Tim Sassoon
SFD Vfx & creative post
Santa Monica, CA


>>I don't think it's an insignificant concern, nonetheless. Wasn't America's >entire microwave tube capacity sold to LG (nee Goldstar) some years >ago?

There's always Russian B&W stock

Bob Morein
passionate B&W reversal filmmaker


>Robert Morein wrote :

class="style11">>Back in the 70's, Henry Saltzman, producer of the James Bond >movies, bought Éclair and moved it to England. Why he wanted to own >a camera maker is elusive, but perhaps his motivation was similar.

>Saltzman destroyed a once-great company. I don't know what his motivation was, but it sure wasn't anything like Joe Dunton's purchase of Mitchell.

>But at least we got, from the ashes of Éclair, Aaton (I believe Saltzman was stupid enough to fire JPB, the man who brought crystal sync to Éclair! How dumb!).

>Jeff "camera manufacturer, very junior grade" Kreines


>Robert Morein wrote:

class="style11">>"The point of the above anecdote is that Colorlab's bath volume >depends on negative processing, not print output.

>ECN2 is the neg process. ECP2 is the print process. Different processes, different machines. In some labs, print stock is processed so quickly (1500+ feet per minute) to grind out thousands of release prints per day. Not something you'd want your original neg to go near!

>Jeff "slow it down, make better prints" Kreines


>Jim Sofranko wrote:

class="style11">>Then let's all buy it as a collective!

>Count me in !

>(not sure what I'm gonna use for money, but.....)

>Sam Wells


>There are two different scales of film labs, at least in the US. One is the big, high-volume labs which are mostly in LA that crank out all the prints. The other is the smaller "boutique" labs that mostly developed negative. These are mostly for transfer work. A facility such as The Lab at Moving Images evolves because a transfer facility (Moving Images) has a large enough client base that it can sustain a processing lab in-house. So even if all the projection facilities in the US (and worldwide--don't forget about that part of the equation) go digital, these chiefly negative processing labs will remain unaffected.

And to get back to the original question, the reports of Super-16's death for Indie film have been highly exaggerated. (Thank you Mr. Clemens.)

>When the CineAlta and then the Varicam first hit the market there was a definite drop in S-16 production but in the past few years as producers have properly run the numbers & clients have viewed the results and especially since Kodak has done a marvellous PR job with the introduction of Vision2 stocks (sure they're finer grained but it ain't the invention of sliced bread here), Super-16 has seen a resurgence in the Indie community. I no longer have the numbers, but reps from Kodak NYC as well as some of the local labs have told me about the increase in Super-16 stock usage. While not a definitive measure of the industry as a whole, certainly NYC is a good barometer for the independent cinema business. So while HD has eaten away a bit from the top and DV from the bottom, Super-16 is still alive and kicking. Hope that answers the question.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP