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HELLO FILMMAKERS!

From the music video Get Over You

Welcome to Latent Imager.  This blog was created FOR YOU…. aspiring filmmakers who want to learn about the craft and art of film production.

Much has changed in film production since I made my first film in 1980.  Film stocks have improved dramatically and, with the advent of digital and all its great tools and capabilities, filmmakers have been able to expand the medium to higher levels of quality and practical use.  Film cameras too have also changed significantly, incorporating many of the advances in newly developed technologies.  However, even with all the many camera improvements, older cameras (developed as much as 40 years ago) can still produce stunning images, due to the inherent nature and evolution of the medium itself.

The format of this blog is project based… much like a university film program.  However, for the first nine months I will be assigning myself (see the heading “About“) a series of film projects to shoot and post on this site… much like class assignments.  And to break in into the world of film production gradually, the first assignments will be simple Super-8 film projects (Filmmaking 101),  As the year progresses, the blog will advance (one project at a time, one course at a time) to projects shot in 16mm (Filmmaking 201 and beyond).

As the year unfolds, each project, and sometimes its various stages, will be graphically displayed on the “Timeline” and also categorized under one of the Filmmaking 101-501 headings.  Links to related sites, videos and podcasts will also be posted to help facilitate learning.  I’m hoping you will join the blog, follow my progress, add comments and pose lots of questions along the way.  The first project is due to begin on September 1, 2011.

join… learn… participate… reVISION

IT'S A NEW DAY !

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Getting tired of the polythene wrapper look of digital yet?  Well, Kodak is working on giving filmmakers more image-creating options by making film more functional and easier to use.

super8_pressReleaseImageRecently, Kodak announced plans to offer newly-designed Super 8 cameras with “digital features” along with a host of post-production services and tools. Details are preliminary and limited, but it looks to be a complete shooting and processing solution, including built-in sound recording, crystal sync at all camera speed, film prints for projection, and 4K digital transfers.

Yes, shooting your movie with your DLSR will still be less expensive than Super 8 film, but then what do you really want… “plastic wrapped” see-it-all-the-time digital or beautiful long-lasting film?

http://www.kodak.com/ek/us/en/Consumer/Products/Super8/default.htm

 

   KODAK releases the world’s finest grain motion picture stock to date: the KODAK VISION3 50D Color Negative Film 5203/7203 with unsurpassed image quality, flexibility, archival stability and higher digital compatibility.  Finer grain means cleaner DI files and video transfers, ensuring pristine images full of color and detail, especially in high contrast daylight situations.

   Like its VISION2 5201/7201 predecessor, scenes can be captured with less or no fill, while still retaining shadow and highlight detail and providing faster lighting set-ups.  With unrivaled highlight latitude, KODAK VISION3 50D delivers for filmmaker the world as they see it… and together with the KODAK VISION3 Film family, all the tools necessary to do it without compromise.

 http://motion.kodak.com/motion/Products/

Production/Color_Negative_Films/5203.htm#ixzz1l5KHLWaq

It’s been a bit of a dry spell for me in regards to posts on Latent Imager.  I needed to set aside the projects so I could focus more on my class work at American University.  BUT… I’m back and hope to have the “Shadows” project posted soon.  In the meantime, here’s a :30 spot I put together in a After Effects class to promote the blog:

LONG LIVE FILM !

I think we all know what time-lapse photography is.  Typically, it’s shooting film at 1 frame-per-second or less…. instead of the normal 24fps.  As a result, time gets compressed and everything happens quicker… a flower blooms, clouds race through the sky, suns set, night traffic creates ribbons of light and a building get built in a couple minutes.  For the Project Rebirth film DP Tom Lappin, is shooting 1 frame very 5 minutes to chronicle the the construction of World Trade Center 7, the first building due to be completed at Ground Zero. For more information visit:  http://projectrebirth.org/film/timelapse.html   Here’s a short video about film project… which I DP’d.)

My project will be far less interesting and challenging but no less exciting… well maybe a little bit less.

Getting the right exposure when using film for time-lapse photography can be tough, especially when shooting outdoors or at night.  During the day, light levels change when clouds pass through or as the sun rises or sets.  When shooting at night, it becomes difficult to measure the ambient light accurately or the light level of say, on a sign or building.  A spot meter will help immensely but still, unless you’ve run tests, you are still somewhat guessing how some areas of the picture will look.  (Of course when shooting negative, you always want to error on the side of overexposure, since film has far more overexposure latitude than underexposure.)  However, on this project, I plan to use my digital camera, to take out some of that guesswork and get the exposure just where it needs to be… at least in theory.  With this sort of application, the digital camera, in practicality, becomes my light meter.  But then there’s reciprocity failure, which is not a problem with digital cameras but is a problem with film, requiring longer exposures times to get the same degree of change.  Log exposures with digital cameras makes for noisier images which doesn’t happen with film.  “Back in the day”… we used Polaroid cameras to check exposures (and lighting ratios)… but because the cost per print was high, it wasn’t used much.

I also plan to experiment with making some longer exposures… a commonly used still photography technique of  keeping the shutter open longer than normal on each frame to convey movement or create unique images.  Using a film camera in the same way, creates a sort of dreamy effect, especially at night and when the objects move and stop.  Determining the proper exposure gets even trickier, but eagin, that’s where I hope the digital camera will help.

Extend Exposure on a Single Frame

Anyway, I’d better get to it.  Hope to have a couple new projects to show you soon.  Please post your questions and comments… or you can email me.

 

John Cassavetes' SHADOWS, 1959

To shoot a project on the theme like shadows, you need of course, light… ideally direct light… like sunlight on a clear day. My plan was to shoot the Shadows outdoors, relying the hard light qualities of the direct sunlight to create the shadows. Unfortunately, Maryland hasn’t had much of that kind of light lately… plus, it’s been rainy and heavily overcast.

The soft light of an overcast day does still produce shadows, but shadows that are far less distinct, and disappear rapidly as object to background distance increases. The shadows from objects are therefore, very short or non-existent. I thought about using time-lapse photography to get the shadows moving and more visible but, as I looked out my window yesterday (rainy and overcast again), the shadows were extremely soft and without much source direction. Even time-lapse wouldn’t do much to make the shadows more noticeable.

So far I’ve only shot about 2 minutes for the project.  My goal is to shoot three 50′ rolls of Super 8, which at 24fps totals 7.5 minutes. As I wait for the skies to clear, I going to start my next project: Time-lapse. This is going to be a unique project, in that I plan to do a mix of traditional time lapse and long frame exposures using a digital camera to calculate my exposures. Not all film cameras can do the longer frame exposures and, as far as I know, video cameras can’t do it at all… at least not as single frames in the form of a motion clip. Please visit the post about the project to get more details: Filmmaking101_Project: Time-lapse

HARD LIGHT

SOFT LIGHT

Need film stock?  You can order it directly from Kodak.  Just call 1-800-621-3456.  If you’re a student, you can get a 30% student discount simply by emailing them a copy of your Student ID:  eiamericas@kodak.com Do it five minutes before you call.  You’ll need to email them your ID each time you order.

To greatly streamline the ordering process, go online, http://motion.kodak.com/motion/Products/Production/index.htm, and get the catalog #’s for the stock you want to purchase.  It will be shipped from either NY or LA, depending on how late in the day you order and/or how quickly you need your film.  You can, of course, place orders online as well.

No matter how you order, they will charge you tax but ordering from Kodak insures that your stock will be fresh.

Hope you all had (or are still having) a splendid summer.  Today, I begin work on the first Super 8 project for this blog. (See previous post, Filmmaking 101_First Project, 6-27-2011)  It’s cloudy right now but we’ll see what the remainder of the day brings.

I’ve decided to shoot this project on Tri-X B&W reversal film (7266) instead of on color negative as originally planned.  Watching other filmmakers’ Super 8 films online, I’ve been intrigued by the tonal quality of their B&W work.  Shooting B&W also forces one to think more in terms of dark (shadows) and light and therefore, I felt a more appropriate stock to use for this project.  Setting the exposure with reversal stock will certainly be less forgiving than negative stock, since inherently, reversal has far less exposure latitude  than negative stock and doesn’t bode well to overexposure (unlike negative) unless it’s done intentionally to create an high key type effect… but I’m up for the challenge.

As for the color negative 7213 stock, last month I shot a series of resolution/exposure tests with that film stock.  I have posted a portion of those results on the blog entitled “Beach”.

I plan to have this project posted by September 29th.

Super-8 live action test.

Last month I ran Super 8 film tests with 7213, a medium speed Kodak Vision3 negative stock.  Most of the tests were boring… resolution chart kind of boring, but very telling about the mechanical and optical integrity of my three newly-purchased used Leica Special Super 8 cameras and their lenses (the lenses are interchangeable on these cameras).  To see how the cameras/lens and, more importantly, the 7213 stock would perform in an actual situation, I shot some beach footage.  Not having seen the resolution tests results yet, I just chose the camera that seemed to have the least wear.  Turns out, according to the tests, all three cameras produced about the same picture quality.

Leica Leicina Special

To process the film, I used AlphaCine in Seattle.  I chose LightPress (also in Seattle) to do the film-to-file transfer.  The processing of the film was “normal” (no push or pull processing) and the negative was scanned with almost no color and exposure correction, outputting to a 10-bit 4:2:2  uncompressed Quicktime file.  From the uncompressed file, a ProResHQ 4:2:2 copy was made and brought into a Avid Media Composer in it’s native ProRes format.  After some editing, the footage sequence was exported “as source”, in other words, still in its native ProResHQ 4:2:2  file format.  This file was then taken into After Effects where I did some modest grain reduction and sharpening and exported that as a H.264 file for uploading to Vimeo.  Here are the results.  To playback in HD, be sure the the “HD” is red.  Oh yes, there isn’t any sound.

Beach from Steven Holloway on Vimeo.

OBSERVATIONS:

• The negative on a couple of the shots (the girl on headphones) was underexposed by about two-thirds of a stop.  An error on my part.  Generally with negative film it is always better to overexpose when in doubt to protect detail in the shadows of the image.  Underexposed shadows quickly begin to look “milky”  and lose detail as an exposure decreases.   When overexposed, highlight detail can generally be retained up to about two stops.  To my surprise, the 7213 held up well to this slight underexposure of the negative.

•  Sharpness was better than expected but the grain (particularly in the sky areas) was a bit higher than expected.  A technique sometimes used to reduce grain is to overexpose the negative and under develop the negative in processing.  This is called “pull processing”.  I plan to try the technique and post the results later this fall.

• I was hoping for a bit more steadiness in the image (some of the shakiness was due a few shots being handheld shots).  A jumpy frame is very common in footage shot with most Super 8 cameras but considered by some to be an important part of the “Super 8 look”.   I would prefer it be more rock steady but then the footage might for some start looking too much like 16mm.  For me the grain structure alone is enough to set it apart.

As always, I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions!

The first project of the FILMMAKING 101 course will begin on September 1, 2011.

The project will be a conceptual film based on the theme of shadows.  Shadows are an important element as to how we see objects.  They add form and shape and relief to our images.  Since film images are largely 2-D, filmmakers rely on shadows to help separate objects and create a sense of depth to their pictures.  Shadows are also used to build drama and mystery in films.  Sometimes the images themselves are in their own shadow or are party concealed by shadow.

This project will serve two purposes:

1) to encourage discovery.

2) to demonstrate film’s unique shadow characteristics.

Kodak’s 7213 200T Vision3 negative film stock will be used for the project.

When “The One That Got Away” was produced editing was accomplished by splicing the camera footage (shot to shot) using an adhesive tape splicer and a film viewer.  All “special effects”, like dissolves, needed to be done in the camera.   For “The One That Got Away” the only two effects that were used: title fades and some slow motion effects (the knife falling to the ground in the fight scene and one running scene).  Unfortunately the film often got scratched and picked up dust in the process.  The final edited film was projected on a screen with a Super 8 projector.  The audio consisted of music and sound effects.  It was pre-mixed and played back from a multi-track 1/4″ reel-reel tape.  Syncing the picture and sound together was hit or miss, +/- a half a second or two.  Of course, these modes of editing and screening are long gone but unfortunately so is the art behind the craft.