Topics

Is 16mm the real 'champion' of the film look now?

 

As I am actively shooting work on 16mm at the moment plus (because of it) on the look out and really enjoying films on the big screen shot on 16mm e.g. Mother! is the 16mm format now become the 'champion' of the film look as it is very distinctive from 35mm which looks so perfect, let alone 70mm. Scanning 16mm is so good these days that surely this is the 'film look' at its best no? would welcome thoughts and comments from the experts.....

Stephen Perera

Gibraltar

T: +34667661936

Justin Lovell
 
Edited

I have always felt that 16mm has a special place.  The depth of field and grain that makes up the image has a beauty unto itself.

Digital sensors have worked hard to emulate 35 and 70mm.  Post fx plugins have worked hard to emulate the super 8 look.  But not as much focus has been spent to emulate the 16mm look in camera. 

The blackmagic pocket cam, digital bolex and if you recall the silicon imaging si2k often got recognized for having a certain quality, a softness and texture and grain that was more (don't shoot me for using the term) filmic.

Kodak has improved their film stocks to a point that I've shot and seen 50d super 8 look as slick as what I was used to seeing from 500t 16mm.  I've been pushing super 8 50d 3 stops in processing and getting fine grained images that I prefer to the look over 500t processed normally. 

Besides the improvement in Kodak film stocks, what you said about film scanner technology improving is very true.  Unfortunately many post houses haven't upgraded their scanners. No fault of theirs but the volume of work isn't providing a good return on investment and money can be better made elsewhere. 

However companies like Lasergraphics, who make the Scanstation have made great strides staying at the bleeding edge of technology to maximize what is possible to dig out of our neg and pos film. 

We upgraded our scanner to a 5k sensor and that alone made downressing to 2k a very sharp, resolved scan.  Most recently they've added optional functionality to do a 2pass HDR (high dynamic range) scan. 1 flash for the shadows and one for the highlights.  This in turn has proven to minimize significantly the amount of sensor noise that could be prevalent in the shadows and the highlights especially in contrasty images with information wanted out of deep shadows or bright highlights. Cleaner highlights, cleaner shadows then was possible before. 

In turn I've been doing a ton of rescans from CSC members and Cinematographers now that they know what is possible to gain from the tech available today. 

It is important to note that not all scanners are equal. Not all 2k scans are equal.  It's like saying that a 4k iPhone image is the same as a 4k Alexa image.. Different sensors, different technology. 

I've seen a big resurgence at Frame Discreet (the company I selfishly started for my own 8/16/35 scanning).  Local CSC Cinematographer Stephen Reizes just sold 3 Aaton XTR cameras in town (one of which I was fortunate enough to get) and I know of 3 Arri SR3s and a 416 which have all been recently purchased and are getting a lot of action in Toronto. 

Our super 8 production cameras are going out weekly on music videos, behind the scenes for movies and just wrapped a 2nd feature film. (yeah, believe it or not).

As funny as it may seem, now is a great time to be shooting film.  Especially if the film scanner used is up to date with the latest engineering technology, you can get some incredible images.

Justin Lovell 
Associate Member Canadian Society of Cinematographers 
Www.Framediscreet.com
Social: @justin_lovell / @frame_discreet 

 

Thanks for this great email…..

I have an Aaton XTR XC (no electronics) with a Cooke Varokinetal 9-50mm in standard 16mm format and having full gate 2k scans on an Arriscan done at Cinelab London…the quality from the 500T Ive shot so far is superb…..

I had the option of using Arriscan or the Scanity (same price) and a Cinelab tech called me and said if it were his money he goes Arriscan all day any day….so choice was made easily.

So there they are, Cinelab London are the lab for the latest Mission Impossible and the next Star Wars…but they’re also there for the nobody’s like me! sure, its business but hey……GOOD customer service is not always found!

Stephen Perera
Gibraltar
T: +34667661936

On 20 Jul 2018, at 13:54, Justin Lovell <just.love.film@...> wrote:

[Edited Message Follows]
[Reason: Forgot to add signature ]

I have always felt that 16mm has a special place.  The depth of field and grain that makes up the image has a beauty unto itself.

Digital sensors have worked hard to emulate 35 and 70mm.  Post fx plugins have worked hard to emulate the super 8 look.  But not as much focus has been spent to emulate the 16mm look in camera. 

The blackmagic pocket cam, digital bolex and if you recall the silicon imaging si2k often got recognized for having a certain quality, a softness and texture and grain that was more (don't shoot me for using the term) filmic.

Kodak has improved their film stocks to a point that I've shot and seen 50d super 8 look as slick as what I was used to seeing from 500t 16mm.  I've been pushing super 8 50d 3 stops in processing and getting fine grained images that I prefer to the look over 500t processed normally. 

Besides the improvement in Kodak film stocks, what you said about film scanner technology improving is very true.  Unfortunately many post houses haven't upgraded their scanners. No fault of theirs but the volume of work isn't providing a good return on investment and money can be better made elsewhere. 

However companies like Lasergraphics, who make the Scanstation have made great strides staying at the bleeding edge of technology to maximize what is possible to dig out of our neg and pos film. 

We upgraded our scanner to a 5k sensor and that alone made downressing to 2k a very sharp, resolved scan.  Most recently they've added optional functionality to do a 2pass HDR (high dynamic range) scan. 1 flash for the shadows and one for the highlights.  This in turn has proven to minimize significantly the amount of sensor noise that could be prevalent in the shadows and the highlights especially in contrasty images with information wanted out of deep shadows or bright highlights. Cleaner highlights, cleaner shadows then was possible before. 

In turn I've been doing a ton of rescans from CSC members and Cinematographers now that they know what is possible to gain from the tech available today. 

It is important to note that not all scanners are equal. Not all 2k scans are equal.  It's like saying that a 4k iPhone image is the same as a 4k Alexa image.. Different sensors, different technology. 

I've seen a big resurgence at Frame Discreet (the company I selfishly started for my own 8/16/35 scanning).  Local CSC Cinematographer Stephen Reizes just sold 3 Aaton XTR cameras in town (one of which I was fortunate enough to get) and I know of 3 Arri SR3s and a 416 which have all been recently purchased and are getting a lot of action in Toronto. 

Our super 8 production cameras are going out weekly on music videos, behind the scenes for movies and just wrapped a 2nd feature film. (yeah, believe it or not).

As funny as it may seem, now is a great time to be shooting film.  Especially if the film scanner used is up to date with the latest engineering technology, you can get some incredible images.

Justin Lovell 
Associate Member Canadian Society of Cinematographers 
Www.Framediscreet.com
Social: @justin_lovell / @frame_discreet 

Justin Lovell
 

Glad to help and share thoughts.
 
I agree completely with the choice to use the Arriscanner. We've did a deep dive comparison of our Scanstation scan to that from the Arriscanner. It was some extremely challenging black and white high contrast 3374. Super bright highlights, deep, dark, rich shadows.  
 
The only way to match the Arri was to run our Scanstation in HDR mode (and a few custom tweaks that we've implemented). That got us the smooth clean whites and velvety blacks. 
 
That's the second part to the equation. The technician running the scanner can make a world of a difference. 
 
In relation, the same can be said about the RED camera. The possibilities of incredible images that can be had with the RED are only restricted by the operators deep knowledge of the tech to unlock the full potential of the camera. 
 
Justin Lovell 
Associate Member Canadian Society of Cinematographers 
Social: @justin_lovell / @frame_discreet 
 
 

John Adderley
 

In case you had not seen this before as I have posted it sometime ago….

 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1tyHL_QPD-Awgl71JHdYqA

 

This is that way we used to do it. Our BBC Television Film Studios at Ealing London was at one time the largest 16mm film units in the world. We were continually working all around the world shooting Drama, Documentaries and Current Affairs. I was involved with BBC TFS from 1971 to just a few years ago and it is a pity the culture was totally thrown out by the BBC when they closed it down. As video crept in it seemed that Kodak had always got another new stock better than the rest. All sorts of tricks had to be played with the film to accommodate the earlier stocks for telecine but it became increasingly easier as the technology improved. Unfortunately lots of excellent lab people lost their vocations as the labs closed down but Royal Holloway pays great tribute to them with their research and their consultations with older skilled technicians.

 

Some of the films and series have recently been re-released on DVD such as David Attenborough’s The Tribal Eye. I was assistant camera on the “Man B’Long Custom” and it still looks fab with a newer transfer.

 

I still have several 16mm cameras and they are occasionally used by artists and film makers. For 8mm I find the best results for 8mm are gained from using the Leicina Special with the Optivaron Lens. It is an amazingly versatile camera if used with the right angled finder and the ST1 box.

John Adderley                             *
Lighting Cameraman UK       .
www.adderley.net             *
+44 20 8542 4847                        *
Mob +44 7973 730 042      *                          *                  *

51°24'56.89"N, 0°12'23.67"W

 

 

LOVE that series on YOUTube John, watch it over and over again many times!! 

My Aaton XTR 16mm cameras has the viewfinder extension that used to belong to Nigel Meakin who confirmed it had been all over the world on the Michael Palin series!!!! he noted “no wonder it looks a bit knackered!” and told me its been to the south and north poles plus the Himalayas etc etc

Stephen Perera
Gibraltar
T: +34667661936

On 20 Jul 2018, at 16:53, john@... wrote:

In case you had not seen this before as I have posted it sometime ago….
 
 
This is that way we used to do it. Our BBC Television Film Studios at Ealing London was at one time the largest 16mm film units in the world. We were continually working all around the world shooting Drama, Documentaries and Current Affairs. I was involved with BBC TFS from 1971 to just a few years ago and it is a pity the culture was totally thrown out by the BBC when they closed it down. As video crept in it seemed that Kodak had always got another new stock better than the rest. All sorts of tricks had to be played with the film to accommodate the earlier stocks for telecine but it became increasingly easier as the technology improved. Unfortunately lots of excellent lab people lost their vocations as the labs closed down but Royal Holloway pays great tribute to them with their research and their consultations with older skilled technicians.
 
Some of the films and series have recently been re-released on DVD such as David Attenborough’s The Tribal Eye. I was assistant camera on the “Man B’Long Custom” and it still looks fab with a newer transfer.
 
I still have several 16mm cameras and they are occasionally used by artists and film makers. For 8mm I find the best results for 8mm are gained from using the Leicina Special with the Optivaron Lens. It is an amazingly versatile camera if used with the right angled finder and the ST1 box.
John Adderley                             *
Lighting Cameraman UK       .
www.adderley.net             *
+44 20 8542 4847                        *
Mob +44 7973 730 042      *                          *                  *
51°24'56.89"N, 0°12'23.67"W
 

Andy Hoehn
 

We shot 3 different film formats on First Man (release date is October of this year), 16mm, 35mm, and Imax.  I'm excited to see the finished film!


Andy Hoehn
First Assistant Camera
Atlanta, GA

Aasulv Wolf Austad, FNF
 

I just want to 2nd the opinion that scanning resolution (and DR) matters a lot in 16mm, often more than with 35mm. 16mm grain has had the unfortunate ability to 'break' some compression algorithms and "interfere" with certain scanning resolutions. That's not a very good technical explanation, I'm sure somebody else can explain it better! Bottom line is that I've had images go 'soft' when scanning HD/2K, but then it turns out they are perfectly sharp if you scan the 16mm film at 4K and downrez. Basically, if you have issues with an image you might want to roll it at 4K on the ArriScan (which of course is 6K downsized to 4K) before you reshoot as image might be just fine. Just my 2 cents.
--
Aasulv 'Wolf' Austad, FNF
DP, Altadena, California
http://wolfaustad.com

 

First Man is one of the films I'm really looking forward thanks for coming in on this would be great to hear some anecdotes etc of ur filming.....

Stephen Perera
Design + Photography
T: +34 667661936
T: +350 22240028


On 21 Jul 2018, at 16:04, Andy Hoehn <andyhoehn@...> wrote:

We shot 3 different film formats on First Man (release date is October of this year), 16mm, 35mm, and Imax.  I'm excited to see the finished film!


Andy Hoehn
First Assistant Camera
Atlanta, GA

 

Hi Wolf
I have a LOT of experience scanning photographic film on a Scanmate 5000 drum scanner and on Imacon Flextight 646 scanner and downrez is always what I did to get best results….eg if the final image was to be full page A4 on a brochure I scanned way above that….

…..since the Arriscan etc work in the same way scanning frames its no surprise of course….it does work to hide focus problems etc

interestingly the grain of film actually works to produce more sharp edges or even edges where there are none precisely when downrez-ing……even more interesting is how ‘film’ images work better on social media sizes etc like Facebook image posts again cos of the grain producing this effect of a more acute image when sizes down

Stephen Perera
Design + Photography
T: +34 667661936
T: +350 22240028



On 21 Jul 2018, at 18:14, Aasulv Wolf Austad, FNF <wolfandredhood@...> wrote:

I just want to 2nd the opinion that scanning resolution (and DR) matters a lot in 16mm, often more than with 35mm. 16mm grain has had the unfortunate ability to 'break' some compression algorithms and "interfere" with certain scanning resolutions. That's not a very good technical explanation, I'm sure somebody else can explain it better! Bottom line is that I've had images go 'soft' when scanning HD/2K, but then it turns out they are perfectly sharp if you scan the 16mm film at 4K and downrez. Basically, if you have issues with an image you might want to roll it at 4K on the ArriScan (which of course is 6K downsized to 4K) before you reshoot as image might be just fine. Just my 2 cents.
--
Aasulv 'Wolf' Austad, FNF
DP, Altadena, California
http://wolfaustad.com

Jason Crump
 

Hi all.
Here in NYC we have also seen a tremendous uptick in all types of productions choosing 16mm as a capture medium. Thanks to Kodak opening a lab in Queens, our clients can now get a quick turnaround.

My partner and I founded Metropolis Post almost ten years ago when labs were closing and other post facilities were trashing their telecine and scanners. We were determined to continue to offer film enthusiasts a dependable place for film scanning and finishing. We have since collaborated with numerous filmmakers including many who have presented their S16mm feature films in all the major festivals. Early on it was only a handful but it is certainly growing quickly especially among the younger filmmakers and not just 16mm...35mm and s-8mm as well.

I totally agree with what everyone is saying here. Not all scanners are the same and not all scanner operators are the same. Every scanner out there certainly has its limits. 

When we started, we tested most of the major scanners. We mostly focused on signal to noise ratio and resolving power. At the time, speed was less of a concern. We also closely considered stability.  When challenged with dense or thin film (neg or pos) the Lasergraphics 5K HDR Director outperformed them all. There was no comparison with respect to signal to noise ratio. However, resolving power was a tricky thing to objectively compare as many of the manufacturers use digital sharpening algorithms to increase perceived sharpness. While other manufacturers scans may have appeared sharper, I could easily reproduce that perceived sharpness with sharpening tools readily available on all the grading systems. I could also reproduce that perceived sharpness by adding digital sharpening while scanning on the Director. We now consider sharpening (and grain reduction) as much of a creative tool as color grading and all of our scans are done without any added sharpening.

We have been working very closely with Lasergraphics for many years now. We have upgraded our Director twice and also have a Scanstation. We are currently working with Lasergraphics to be the first to install a new, very impressive sensor in our ScanStation. The results have been surprising!!

I can't wait to see what all these creative filmmakers will do with the new EKTACHROME that is coming. 

/j.

   jason crump
   president | colorist
   metropolis  post
(o)  212.563.9388
(m) 347.563.3762


On Mon, Jul 23, 2018 at 5:29 AM Stephen Perera <anthonystephenperera@...> wrote:
Hi Wolf
I have a LOT of experience scanning photographic film on a Scanmate 5000 drum scanner and on Imacon Flextight 646 scanner and downrez is always what I did to get best results….eg if the final image was to be full page A4 on a brochure I scanned way above that….

…..since the Arriscan etc work in the same way scanning frames its no surprise of course….it does work to hide focus problems etc

interestingly the grain of film actually works to produce more sharp edges or even edges where there are none precisely when downrez-ing……even more interesting is how ‘film’ images work better on social media sizes etc like Facebook image posts again cos of the grain producing this effect of a more acute image when sizes down

Stephen Perera
Design + Photography
T: +34 667661936
T: +350 22240028



On 21 Jul 2018, at 18:14, Aasulv Wolf Austad, FNF <wolfandredhood@...> wrote:

I just want to 2nd the opinion that scanning resolution (and DR) matters a lot in 16mm, often more than with 35mm. 16mm grain has had the unfortunate ability to 'break' some compression algorithms and "interfere" with certain scanning resolutions. That's not a very good technical explanation, I'm sure somebody else can explain it better! Bottom line is that I've had images go 'soft' when scanning HD/2K, but then it turns out they are perfectly sharp if you scan the 16mm film at 4K and downrez. Basically, if you have issues with an image you might want to roll it at 4K on the ArriScan (which of course is 6K downsized to 4K) before you reshoot as image might be just fine. Just my 2 cents.
--
Aasulv 'Wolf' Austad, FNF
DP, Altadena, California
http://wolfaustad.com

 

Great insight Jason, thanks for commenting…..what do you think Ektachrome will add to the aesthetics of film stock choice?

Stephen Perera
Gibraltar
+34667661936

On 23 Jul 2018, at 23:51, Jason Crump <jasoncrump@...> wrote:

Hi all.
Here in NYC we have also seen a tremendous uptick in all types of productions choosing 16mm as a capture medium. Thanks to Kodak opening a lab in Queens, our clients can now get a quick turnaround.

My partner and I founded Metropolis Post almost ten years ago when labs were closing and other post facilities were trashing their telecine and scanners. We were determined to continue to offer film enthusiasts a dependable place for film scanning and finishing. We have since collaborated with numerous filmmakers including many who have presented their S16mm feature films in all the major festivals. Early on it was only a handful but it is certainly growing quickly especially among the younger filmmakers and not just 16mm...35mm and s-8mm as well.

I totally agree with what everyone is saying here. Not all scanners are the same and not all scanner operators are the same. Every scanner out there certainly has its limits. 

When we started, we tested most of the major scanners. We mostly focused on signal to noise ratio and resolving power. At the time, speed was less of a concern. We also closely considered stability.  When challenged with dense or thin film (neg or pos) the Lasergraphics 5K HDR Director outperformed them all. There was no comparison with respect to signal to noise ratio. However, resolving power was a tricky thing to objectively compare as many of the manufacturers use digital sharpening algorithms to increase perceived sharpness. While other manufacturers scans may have appeared sharper, I could easily reproduce that perceived sharpness with sharpening tools readily available on all the grading systems. I could also reproduce that perceived sharpness by adding digital sharpening while scanning on the Director. We now consider sharpening (and grain reduction) as much of a creative tool as color grading and all of our scans are done without any added sharpening.

We have been working very closely with Lasergraphics for many years now. We have upgraded our Director twice and also have a Scanstation. We are currently working with Lasergraphics to be the first to install a new, very impressive sensor in our ScanStation. The results have been surprising!!

I can't wait to see what all these creative filmmakers will do with the new EKTACHROME that is coming. 

/j.

   jason crump
   president | colorist
   metropolis  post
(o)  212.563.9388
(m) 347.563.3762


On Mon, Jul 23, 2018 at 5:29 AM Stephen Perera <anthonystephenperera@...> wrote:
Hi Wolf
I have a LOT of experience scanning photographic film on a Scanmate 5000 drum scanner and on Imacon Flextight 646 scanner and downrez is always what I did to get best results….eg if the final image was to be full page A4 on a brochure I scanned way above that….

…..since the Arriscan etc work in the same way scanning frames its no surprise of course….it does work to hide focus problems etc

interestingly the grain of film actually works to produce more sharp edges or even edges where there are none precisely when downrez-ing……even more interesting is how ‘film’ images work better on social media sizes etc like Facebook image posts again cos of the grain producing this effect of a more acute image when sizes down

Stephen Perera
Design + Photography
T: +34 667661936
T: +350 22240028



On 21 Jul 2018, at 18:14, Aasulv Wolf Austad, FNF <wolfandredhood@...> wrote:

I just want to 2nd the opinion that scanning resolution (and DR) matters a lot in 16mm, often more than with 35mm. 16mm grain has had the unfortunate ability to 'break' some compression algorithms and "interfere" with certain scanning resolutions. That's not a very good technical explanation, I'm sure somebody else can explain it better! Bottom line is that I've had images go 'soft' when scanning HD/2K, but then it turns out they are perfectly sharp if you scan the 16mm film at 4K and downrez. Basically, if you have issues with an image you might want to roll it at 4K on the ArriScan (which of course is 6K downsized to 4K) before you reshoot as image might be just fine. Just my 2 cents.
-- 
Aasulv 'Wolf' Austad, FNF
DP, Altadena, California
http://wolfaustad.com



Jay Young
 

I've just learned that Jonah Hill's 1990's period piece was shot on 16mm with 2x 416's and some DV cams for the skateboard fisheye sections.  It looks amazing. I had a very strong feeling it was shot on film, but I never would have guessed it was 16mm.  I guess 16mm really does benefit from as best a scan you can throw at it.  This has given me new thoughts.  I feel 16mm could be viable for a lot more projects.

First man looks amazing as well.  I love a good space picture. 


On 7/22/2018 7:05 AM, Stephen Perera wrote:
First Man is one of the films I'm really looking forward thanks for coming in on this would be great to hear some anecdotes etc of ur filming.....

Stephen Perera
Design + Photography
T: +34 667661936
T: +350 22240028



-- 
Jay Young - Cinematographer
606-312-2628
YoungPictures.org
Kentucky