Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Colour Timing A 16mm Feature

I am in the process of color timing a short film shot in standard 16mm. I've had bad experiences with 16mm projection in the past, namely, the projector/screen was not bright enough.

I would like to compensate for the possibility of encountering another dark projector by adding some density to the print. The lab I'm working with, Fotokem, suggested that I time the print normally and then they'll do an overall trim to make the release print (we're only making one print) brighter. I'm trying to hedge my bets in terms of exactly how much brighter I should go and am guessing + 1/2 stop (my negative is healthy and can easily take a 1/2 stop). Does anyone have any experience or suggestions regarding this? Also, is it true that the screen brightness standard is lower for 16mm than for 35mm?


Patrick Rousseau

Camera Operator/Director of Photography

Of course in practice things may not match the theory (or the specification)


Kevin Wheatley

Technical Services Manager

Cinesite Digital Studios

(These are the opinions of nobody and are not shared by my employers)

Of course in practice things may not match the theory (or the specification )

I've always tried to look at 16mm dailies @ about 12 ftL. (anything more is pretty optimistic).

My experience : festivals, theatrical, cheap dives (sometimes I WISH ) You can't cover all the bases.

Too thin a print can look as bad than projection too dark in 16mm especially. I'd say get the AP YOU want at Foto-Kem, timed looking bold & snappy.

Try to screen it in your classier venues.........

Sam Wells


I'm trying to hedge my bets in terms of exactly how much brighter I should go

My serious inclination is to say you should only EVER make a print that is correct, and demand correct projection - if you make a light print and hit an on-standard, correctly set-up projector in a good venue, your print will look second-rate.

But the reality is that many projectors are too dark and few are too bright.

In practical terms, looking at the numbers, you have to be careful talking in terms of stops of correction, as that relates to your camera negative exposure, and not either to the printer trims or to projector brightness. Also, a lighter print doesn't exactly offset a darker projector - the whites can't get brighter however light the film is. But, taking all that into account:

1. the lab would probably interpret your "half a stop" as about four trims lighter.

2. that will make the print between 0.25 and 0.30 (density values) lighter.

3. density 0.30 lighter lets through twice as much light, which would compensate for a projector at 8 fL. That's really quite dark, given that the standard is 16 fL.

My advice would be to ask for no more than 2 trims lighter, which would suit a projector at about 12 fL, and won't be too bad on a good projector either. Go for 3 at the very most.

Dominic Case Group

Technology & Services Manager

The Atlab Group

My first film was a period piece, cir1885, and we shot extensive tests to figure out a filer/diffusion pack to generate a "antique look" we tested antique swede, sepia, coral and others, Joey V. at Technicolor took it form there printing greens low. We were shooting in historic Philadelphia, (Sam Wells, you may appreciate this), and screened dailies at the Bala Theater. When we viewed the test, everything we had planned on seem to have the opposite effect on screen. Everything in my being, told me I was right and the print should of had a warm look, however, it was blue. (like a daylight scene shot Tungsten without correction). So after pulling out my hair, a flurry of calls, and a trip to Technicolor's screening room (I was not aware of the CML or if it even existed then -1993-)

My initial thoughts as to the effect I was going for were correct. It turned out the bulb in the projector had lost it's coating or it was very old or something to that effect. We promptly changed where we viewed dailies and once a week I took a trip to Technicolor. It was well worth it. Today I go out of my way to be around for all stages of print timing and/or colorization. If I'm not paid, I look at it as an investment in knowledge.

If only that can be tax deductible!

Richard W. Gretzinger Director of Photography

Hi Rich,

You make an excellent point. A xenon lamp on it's way south will sure cc your print or dailies. Good idea to screen in a controlled site with a knowlegeable projectionist. BTW the lamphouses should have an hours meter on them. Around 1800 - 2000 hrs it's time to start watching out, says my projectionist friend Michelle. (I wonder if this varies with lamp wattage. Jeffrey Johnson are you here ?)

Go to a theater not using platters in 35mm - ever notice those color shifts at the reel change ? ;-) they can be Major if lamp life is not kept the same. Bring your CT meter ! ps even lamphouse alignment can effect contrast etc.

-Sam "known to hang out in the booth" Wells

P.S. Rich, I don't know the Bala.. Have I missed a cultural or architectual experience ? Or am I better off ?

Standard SMPTE 196M "Screen Luminance and Viewing Conditions" applies to 16mm, 35mm and 70mm prints. The aim luminance in all cases is 16 footlamberts (55 candelas per square metre), with an allowed range for theatres of 12 to 22 footlamberts.

In general, making a "thin" print to try to compensate for dim, sub-standard projection will compromise the image quality on ALL projectors. SMPTE 196M specifies the viewing conditions for both labs AND theatres.

I actively participate in several Internet user groups for projectionists, theatre service engineers, and theatre managers, encouraging "Film Done Right", including maintaining proper screen luminance:

Kodak also offers Projection Training and Cinema Evaluation services through its ScreenCheck program:

John Pytlak

EI Worldwide Technical Services Research Labs

Eastman Kodak Company Rochester,

New York 14650-1922 USA



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