Modern productions shot on 16mm film?

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by Senn20, Nov 4, 2011.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Senn20

    Senn20 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Madison, WI, US
    I've noticed recently that a few current production television shows and films are being shot on 16mm. I know it's a popular choice for lower budget productions, but is it still that much cheaper than shooting digital?

    Shows like Chuck and The Walking Dead have that softer, grainier look to them as compared to shows shot on 35mm (or high resolution digital). I can imagine that the use of 16mm on The Walking Dead is purposeful, as it looks to my eye as though digital grain enhancement has been used to accentuate the grain. Perhaps I'm wrong and it's a higher ISO film stock in use (it is a pretty dark show) but it looks like digital processing to me, reminiscent of the processing used on the film Sideways to give a sort of dated, low budget 70's look to the film.

    Any other recent productions you can think of shot on 16mm/Super16?
     
  2. Dan C

    Dan C Forum Fotographer

    Location:
    The West
    Breaking Bad, for sure...however I think since season 4 they've been using a mixture of digital and 16mm. Not sure why.

    I really believe Chuck is shot digitally, but I haven't seen the show in a while so I don't know. They went through massive budget cuts a few seasons ago to rescue it from cancellation.

    I posted an article a while back on the shooting of 'Walking Dead'. It's real grain, no digital enhancement, and it's certainly there for a reason. I like it a lot, others seem put off by it.

    dan c
     
  3. Senn20

    Senn20 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Madison, WI, US
    Thanks for the clarification on The Walking Dead. I wasn't sure.

    According to this list:
    http://www.cinematography.net/edited-pages/production-formats-2010.html

    Chuck is shot on 16mm and it looks it to my eye. I knew Scrubs was shot on 16mm before it ended (original run), One Tree Hill and Psych.

    Surprising some of the shows shot on 35mm that don't really look it, as fuzzy as they make the image with soft lighting and digital de-focus. They might as well shoot on 16mm instead and save some money! More evidence on how unimportant pixel count really is, especially in the wrong hands.
     
  4. Chuck looks worse in HD than any other network show. Even the Blu-ray sets are mediocre at best.
     
  5. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    Yeah, I worked on a bunch of Super 16mm TV shows over the years. You can technically do HD from it, but it's grainy, soft, plus there's not a lot of stability to the image (lot of wobbling due to lack of pin registration). Some people still love it -- the recent award-winning movie Black Swan was shot (mostly) on Super 16mm.

    The last two shows I worked in in Super 16mm were Grownups (for I think CW) and Dave's World (for CBS). There were good things about shooting in 16mm in those days, but I think great digital trounces it in most ways today. 16mm is still better than bad digital, and there's a lot of that out there.

    Pixels ain't nothin' but a number. This is why many, many DPs like shooting on the Arri Alexa, which (technically) has much lower resolution than the Red Epic digital camera. Trust me, the Arri is sharp enough for 90% of what people use it for. Heck, the new movie In Time was shot on it by the great Roger Deakins, one of the best cinematographers in the world.
     
  6. Damelon

    Damelon New Member

    'The Hurt Locker' was mostly shot with (Super) 16mm as well.

    Regarding the Alexa, I haven't seen any films yet on the big screen to judge it's quality. 'Drive' is also shot on Alexa and is out, but I would like to see it on film as I pretty much hate digital projection*.

    Reading the American Cinematographer article on 'In Time' makes me curious, although I am a bit wary of all the hype. As I have never had a special affinity for digital, shooting nor projection. While I understand and I have experienced the ease of use of digital on the set, I prefer film.

    *slightly offtopic, full disclosure: I haven't seen 4K projections yet. Although I have seen digital projections in all shapes and sizes, from socalled Imax, to very early digital projection 'Attack of the Clones', to out of focus (....!) 2D and 3D projections and everything - except 4K -, in between. However, I have never been as impressed as a good or excellent film projection. Even 'The Incredibles', for example, looked way better on 35mm than on a huge THX screen - projected digitally. The colors, especially the reds ofcourse, were much more nuanced and natural than the harsh video colors of the digital projector.
     
  7. kevinsinnott

    kevinsinnott Forum Coffeeologist

    Location:
    Chicago, IL USA
    Isn't Burn Unit shot on Super 16? For some reason I thought it was.
     
  8. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    Found some more 16mm TV shows:

    Dawsons Creek
    The OC
    Scrubs
    Sex and the City
    Buffy the Vampire Slayer (first two seasons)
    Charmed (first season)
    Gilmore Girls
    One Tree Hill
    Veronica Mars
    Malcolm in the Middle
    Third Watch
    Monk
    Renegade
    Pensacola
    Invisible Man
    Tour of Duty
    West Wing (last season)


    The quality of these shows varies all over the map. Quite a few of these were only edited in standard-def, so the studios will have to make the decision on whether (or when) to retransfer them all for HD.

    Forgot the last 16mm network project I worked on: Singles Table, an NBC series that got cancelled after the first episode aired. Aside from star John Cho, it wasn't too good -- but was very well-shot.

    I really think that well-made digital HD shows look better than 16mm in 2011. But the lighting makes all the difference. Crap lighting will kill any format. And great mastering can't salvage crappy photography (or a crappy master recording in audio).
     
  9. Senn20

    Senn20 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Madison, WI, US
    One of those, Gilmore Girls, I know was edited and broadcast in HD in later seasons, but the DVDs are all pan and scan. I imagine that's pretty common with TV from the early 2000s.
     
  10. goodiesguy

    goodiesguy Confide In Me

    Location:
    New Zealand
    Was the Drew Carey Show shot on 16mm film or 35mm film? I know all the titles and credits are all digitally added, and the finished episodes put onto somesort of digital tape (as the scrolling of the "Drew carey show" caption during the intros moves across the screen at the standard video frame rate. I know that at least 1 scene of the show was shot on standard video tape, it was part of an employee video they were making in one episode.
     
  11. DragonQ

    DragonQ Forum Resident

    Location:
    The Moon
    Life on Mars was shot on 16 mm film (Super 16 actually) and it worked amazingly well to give it that gritty, 70s look. Ashes to Ashes was shot on 35 mm though, so would work better in HD formats.

    Surely these days shooting in HD is cheaper and, usually, would look better, so I can't imagine 16 mm staying around for TV use, except as a niche.
     
  12. daglesj

    daglesj Forum Resident

    Location:
    Norfolk, UK
    16mm was used pretty much exclusively by the BBC for outdoor work as it was more portable and required a smaller crew to work with.

    Read - Cheap.

    The issue I have with 16mm use in the UK TV industry is that so much of it shown on TV today looks so washed out. Especially stuff shot from the mid-80s to the mid-90s. Its like a grey filter has been applied across the board. I don't remember the UK being that drab through that period.

    However, shows that have been properly remastered such as The Sherlock Holmes series look far far better. Much more vivid and alive.
     
  13. DragonQ

    DragonQ Forum Resident

    Location:
    The Moon
    For the remastered Fawlty Towers DVDs they re-scanned the original 16 mm film used for the outdoor segments (which includes the opening title sequence). They look much, much better than the original broadcast versions.
     
  14. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    The scene where the boom mike comes in and hits the main character on the head had me screamin' out loud. The movie is kinda all over the map, but it has some very funny moments. I think it was even transferred from print, so it really does have a "beat-up 1970s movie" look to it.

    That was shot on 35mm 3-perf negative at Warner Bros. I'm pretty certain that (like Will & Grace, another WB show I worked on during those years) it was initially edited in standard def, then transitioned to HD around 2001 or so. WB can always go back and rescan all the material to HD to create a widescreen 16x9 high-def version, but it takes time and money.
     
  15. kevinsinnott

    kevinsinnott Forum Coffeeologist

    Location:
    Chicago, IL USA
  16. dirwuf

    dirwuf Temporarily Misplaced Chicagoan

    Location:
    Fairfield, CT
    really?
    Really?
    REALLY?
     
  17. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    Yeah, West Wing really went to hell that last year. The picture really looked dingy and awful, with tons of jerky handheld camerawork. I couldn't stand it.

    The original DP, Thomas Del Ruth, won a couple of Emmys for his stellar work on the first four seasons. That was one of the most beautiful shows for that era. Once Aaron Sorkin left, I think the show lost something indefinable, and when it switched to 16mm in 2004 for some of the Jimmy Smits episodes, I just couldn't watch it anymore.
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page

molar-endocrine