Comments on watching and making films.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

PHX Blog - How Telecine destroyed my chance of shooting film

My number one goal in my "professional" filmmaking career has been to shoot everything I could on film. Let's be honest with each other, film will not always be around. It has another ten to twenty years before the monster that is digital will probably swallow it up. Don't get me wrong, I would like to see film around for, at least, the rest of my lifetime, if not beyond. There is something truly magical about it, and that is why I desperately wanted to shoot PHX on film, more specifically Super 8 Ektachrome 100D and Vision 2 200T. So why couldn't I? Well, with the budget I have, affording the film was no problem. The developing wasn't really an issue either, as it would be about the same cost. What killed it? Telecine.

For those of you that are somewhat unfamiliar with what Telecine is, it's actually quite simple. A Telecine machine scans each frame of film, and converts it to a digital video signal to be put onto tape or hard drive in order to edit on a computer. Most telecines are now HD capable, but there are very few that are capable of doing Super 8 in HD. After having called this handful of places and talking to folks at each one, and getting transfer rates and attempting to talk people down (quite unsuccessfully), I realized that the dream of doing this project, with the money available, was over.

The breakdown was simple - The industry standard rate for Super 8 transfer seems to be 3:1, which means for every hour of film you have, you are charged for three hours of Telecine. Now, most places that run standard definition (SD) Telecine's, will give you a 1.5:1 transfer, especially if they just throw it up on the machine and let it go (no color correction at all), but I couldn't get any of the places I called to give me a break, except one - Frame Discreet, in Canada. Unfortunately, though, the break they ultimately were willing to give me was still a little too expensive for the budget. Can you imagine if my only choice was some of these other guys? Figure, roughly, eight hours of footage, at 3:1, and a rate of 300 dollars an hour. Got your number? Needless to say, that's more than the whole budget of my film.

It was a tough decision to make, but, in the end, I had to go HD. We just don't have enough money, or time to go back and reshoot anything that might get messed up, to shoot on film. It's unfortunate, and I hate it, but, it's what's best for the project. Maybe if this one does good, we can do film for the next one.

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