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16mm vs 35mm For A D.I.

Published : 26th Feb. 2008

So, the film I'm working on wants to get a 16mm-esque look.

The way I see it, they should shoot on 35mm and dirty the image in the D.I. Is there anything to be gained by shooting on 16mm besides room on the budget? Sure the camera's are smaller and film is less expensive but if there is room in the budget for 35mm why shouldn't we shoot 35mm? It seems to me that shooting on 35mm would be safer in case someone changes their mind the last minute before distribution and doesn't want a grainy low rez picture.

Any feedback is welcome on this subject.

Thanks,

Jack Flynn


Have a read of American Cinematographer November ( 2006 ) edition with Babel featured. Rodriego Prieto ACS.

They used DI for their grade, and shot some 16 and some 35mm.

Dan Freene
Sydney DOP


Jack Flynn wrote :

>>So, the film I'm working on wants to get a 16mm-esque look.

Hi Jack.

I just wrapped shooting my first feature film. We shot predominantly on Super 16, mainly for story reasons. We also shot 35mm, HD, Digibeta, Mini DV, super 8 and on a mobile phone !

I did some pretty extensive tests on all of the origination mediums and did a 2 min edit to test the DI process through three different post houses that were bidding on the job and see what it would look like once recorded out to 35mm.

I was amazed at how well the Super 16 held up. You could always pick the 35mm though when they were cut against each other. To me, one of the main things aside from the obvious grain difference, was the DOF. DOF on the 35 was just so much greater and more present. It was shot that way of course, but to me that's one of the first things I notice.

You already listed all the reasons why you should shoot Super 16, but then wrote them off !

The advantage of a 16mm camera is that it's smaller and lighter. Stock is cheaper. And it looks like Super 16. I say why not shoot it if that's the look you want. I heard an interview with Dean Semler talking about Apocolypto just today. He gave the actors a small 16mm camera (a-minima?) and had them run through the forest holding it and filming themselves or parts of their body.

If it were me, I would make a commitment to a look and go for it. There are plenty of 16mm films out there. I don't think it's going to hurt your distribution.

If you wanted to play safe though you could always mark up a 35mm GG with a 16mm sized image and blow it up in the DI. Protecting your frame for 35mm of course.

John Brawley
Cinematographer
Sydney Australia
+61417 087 564
www.johnbrawley.com


Jack Flynn wrote:

>>The way I see it, they should shoot on 35mm and dirty the image in the >>D.I. Is there anything to be gained by shooting on 16mm besides >>room on the budget?

If you have the budget 35mm is the way to go imho, if the look calls for a grainy, edgy feel then S/16mm should be discussed, that's more of a creative decision.

Vinny Hogan
Cineworks-Miami


Did some testing on this subject last year.

S16mm can look amazing (witness the Morocco segment of Babel, e.g. shot on 7248). If you want grain, here's how to do it.

However s16 looks quite different on wide shots, as it does shooting in low light wherein lack of resolution and colour info (compared to 35) begins to show. I found 7218 does not underexpose like 5218.

You've got to test this stuff per your specific needs.

Hope this helps

Byron Shah
DP Los Angeles


I think you should decide what the look you want is and then stick to it.

If you want a Super-16 look, then shoot Super-16.

David Mullen, ASC
Los Angeles


>>I found 7218 does not underexpose like 5218.

Byron,

What do you think are the technical reasons for this, assuming all else is equal (exposure, lens, developing, transfer, etc.)?

John Mastrogiacomo
Owner, Spectra Video Productions, Inc.
Las Vegas, NV
Website: www.spectra-video.com
702-363-9289


>>What do you think are the technical reasons for this, assuming all else >>is equal (exposure, lens, developing, transfer, etc.)?

My guess would be there's just not a big enough negative and enough grain density to allow for a lot of shadow detail.

Art Adams
Director of Photography
Film | Hidef | Video
San Jose, CA, USA
www.artadams.net


>> I found 7218 does not underexpose like 5218
>>What do you think are the technical reasons for this, assuming all else >>is equal (exposure, lens, developing, transfer, etc.)?

John

Smaller neg means less info, I guess, which effects both resolution (thus wide shots suffer) as well as colour depth.

Underexposed faces fall apart much faster on the smaller neg less colour info, too, when underexposed colours loose their richness faster and begin to blend.

Your mileage may vary, naturally. i don't have as much info on how overexposure differs.

Hope this helps

Byron Shah
DP Los Angeles


Art and Byron,

Thanks for the info. I'll do some tests with S16 and see what I come up with.

John Mastrogiacomo
Spectra Video Productions, Inc.
8701 Leeward Dr.
Las Vegas, NV 89117
(702) 363-9289
www.spectra-video.com



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