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HD to 35mm workflow

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Alvaro Perez de Madrid
HD to 35mm workflow
on Jan 23, 2009 at 7:06:29 pm

Hi there.
I'm about to shoot a short film with my ex1 and the letus extreme, 1080 25p (PAL area) that is going to be transfered to 35mm. How does the workflow changes when doing that? Is the whole process the same, just getting your final cut to a lab and have it transfered?

Also, It's a low budget short, all night exteriors. I'm afraid of, even having my subjects perfectly exposed, underexposure in some areas, that may be a problem when taking it to 35mm. Any thoughts or tips on that? Any previous experience?

Thanks a lot.


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Richard Herd
Re: HD to 35mm workflow
on Jan 23, 2009 at 9:52:50 pm

Alvaro, your question is a good one, but it's very general. The best thing I can do for you is point you to this month's American Cinematographer Magazine (January 2009), which you can buy and download on line, here: http://www.ascmag.com/magazine_dynamic/digital_edition.php On page 80 and following is a detailed article about transferring video to film print. The article is called "FotoKem transfers Still Me."

On the exposure of night exteriors, your instincts are spot-on about lighting design, but there's some details you need to be aware of. The first detail to understand is called contrast ratio. I learned the hard way that letting things go completely black in video will limit your ability to grade the picture because when it goes black, no data are captured (hopefully, that is--a small amount of data/light will make a grainy muddy image). The point is you should figure out first what the minimum luminance your camera can tolerate and consider that "video black." It'll look bright to the human eye, but will give you marvelous control later on. You might need three lights for exterior night. One big one to pretend it's the moon. Another big-ish one to light the scene around the area. Another one for getting the faces, (nothing's worse than hearing an actor complain, "You can't see me." :-) As you're staging the scene, and blocking the shot, it's wise to have your actors know where they're going, so they can hit their marks, which will coincide with the proper exposure.

Well, that was more than I thought I was going to write.




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Alvaro Perez de Madrid
Re: HD to 35mm workflow
on Jan 24, 2009 at 12:33:53 pm

Thanks, great answer, I'll take a look at the article, and run some test to check the luminance. If anyone has experienced this process with the ex1, I'll be glad to get that input too.





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Don Greening
Re: HD to 35mm workflow
on Jan 25, 2009 at 5:09:07 am

You could send Adam Wilt an email and ask to pick his brain. Be forewarned though: he's a very busy guy. Last summer he shot a feature length movie with a couple of EX1 cameras.

http://provideocoalition.com/index.php/awilt/story/maelstrom_production_par...

- Don


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Todd Terry
Re: HD to 35mm workflow
on Jan 25, 2009 at 6:50:25 am

I know it wasn't one of your original questions, but curiosity has gotten the better of me... and I can't help but wonder why you need a 35mm print.

You say it's a short, so the outlet there usually means festivals. Just about every festival now will take electronic prints over real film... some prefer them over film... some even require them and won't even take celluloid.

Furthermore, you say this is a low-budget project... and striking a film print is wildly expensive. Not sure how much it would be for a short (or how long your project is), but striking a single digital-to-film print for a feature-length project can run in the $40,000-$50,000 neighborhood... or more.

It could be that you have very legitimate reasons for needing the 35mm print, and have to strike one. But I would just encourage you to take a hard look to see if you really really need one. If not, that sure could free up a lot of dough to pour into the budget and kick up the production values a notch... such as a bigger lighting budget to help with your night-shooting concerns (especially with the extremely light-hungry Letus).

Just a thought...


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Alvaro Perez de Madrid
Re: HD to 35mm workflow
on Jan 25, 2009 at 10:59:13 am

Certeanly having it transfered to 35mm is not my call. Unfortunately for us here in Spain, the big Festivals do require film prints, and it doesnt look like that's going to change in the near future, so... We have a couple of budgets out, for an estimate of 15 minutes, and thats about 7500$...many things could be done with that, but again, not my call.



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Todd Terry
Re: HD to 35mm workflow
on Jan 25, 2009 at 4:59:11 pm

Ah... well then you gotta do what you gotta do.

Pity, that sure would have freed up a nice little chunk for the production budget.

It is surprising though... here in the states the electronic prints have become the festival standard. A couple of years ago even Sundance required them and wouldn't even take real film prints... although they changed that after some backlash.

I have a feeling the transition will hit the festivals in your area eventually too... probably sooner rather than later. But sadly not soon enough to save you the cash on this one.

As for particularities and specs one of the best info sources for the technicalities would be whatever production house is going to actually strike the film print. There are so many variables involved and different ways that differenty companies work that over here the film houses strongly suggest meeting with them before production (one in particular practically begs producers to do that) to work out all the bugs and the exact optimal workflow chain.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Richard Herd
Re: HD to 35mm workflow
on Jan 26, 2009 at 1:47:09 am

Slightly off topic, but: Why is the "indie market" so bent on digital acquisition? (Not that you have any inside information), but why not make something like "prosumer" processing and scanning machinery? From a marketing-to-customers and price-point-comparison point of view this hypothetical gadget would cost about the same as a Red One (or whatever package suits your fancy).

Anyway, that's my rant. Thanks for listening.



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Todd Terry
Re: HD to 35mm workflow
on Jan 26, 2009 at 5:44:07 am

[Richard Herd] "Why is the "indie market" so bent on digital acquisition?"

Well, it pretty much comes down to money, ease/speed, and ability... pretty much in that order, I think.

On a big-budget feature shoot, the cost isn't really a factor... they will literally spend more in a day on craft services than they do on raw filmstock. However, in the low-budget and indie world, of course, those aren't just film frames flying past the gate at 24 frames a second, they are nickles, dimes... and dollars. When an hour's worth of digital tape is just a few bucks and just over three minutes of 35mm is a couple of hundred bucks (before lab and telecine) for a low-budget or no-budget project it's a no-brainer.

Secondly, shooting electronic is fast and easy. Well... not really (at least not if you do it well), but compared to shooting film it definitely is. And it's definitely faster... and of course time is money. Everything from having to reload mags every 400 feet to the requirements of double-system sound simply makes film many times more complex than video.

And thirdly... shooting film? A lot of people simply don't know how to do it. There certainly is a tremedous amount of skill involved in shooting a great-looking electronic production... but at least you have the benefit of being able to instantly see what you are doing... if it doesn't look great, work on it until it does. Real cinematography, however, is truly an art... and the ability to craft, design, and light a great-looking scene without being able to see the actual result until at least the next day's rushes (and usually longer) is becoming something of a lost talent. Which is a shame.

I'm an old film guy... I've shot a few zillion feet in my day, and for years I insisted on shooting even low-budget mom-and-pop commercials on 35mm... and still nothing can quite match the look, not even RED. But... it's getting very very close, and in more and more cases the time/ease/affordability of electronic outweigh celluloid. The film vs. video argument comes up every now and then on another cinematography forum I belong to, and there are some very old schoolers there who just refuse to accept digital aquisition as even a poor substitute for real film. And God bless 'em, I appreciate their passion for it. However, like it or not the digital train is pulling out of the station, and those old timers are going to be forced to either jump on board, or wave goodbye to it as it is pulling away... because it is definitely going.

All that being said... I still advocate shooting film, if only to learn how to do it. Since starting to shoot a lot more DoF-converted HD, these days my film cameras haven't seen much action in quite a few months... however, being a competent cinematographer has made me a much better director and DP on electronic projects.

Education is never a waste.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Richard Herd
Re: HD to 35mm workflow
on Jan 26, 2009 at 2:36:59 am

Because you have to film out, have you considered shooting film?

At the very least, consider capturing using the SD-HDI link out of the back of your camera.

This particular Cow Mag is amazing! http://magazine.creativecow.net/pdf_issues/COWmag_SeptOct2007_spreads.pdf.z... Every article is important, but check out page 17 by Pete O' Connell called "Seeing the Light: Film, Your Eyes and Cineon Files" because this will explain in technical detail what problems you need to manage in transferring video (linear scale) to film (logarithmic scale). Hopefully, the one who wins your bid knows how to handle these details.



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David Keslick
Re: HD to 35mm workflow
on Jan 30, 2009 at 5:53:10 pm

You may want to check out this information page at DVfilm.com. It offers a lot of info on shooting digital for 35mm transfer.

Hope this is helpful,


Dave Keslick
DVFilm.com


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