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Author Topic: DTS and 16mm exhibition
Alain LeTourneau
Film Handler

Posts: 37
From: Portland, OR
Registered: Jan 2004


 - posted 07-09-2004 06:52 PM      Profile for Alain LeTourneau   Author's Homepage   Email Alain LeTourneau   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
To date, I know of one filmmaker who has used a DTS track on their 16mm film (which does not allow the back-up optical track if the DTS system was to fail).

I'd be curious to hear from people out there why the option for using DTS with 16mm has never been fully realized. Did it ever have the potential to refuel the 16mm format as an option for exhibiting works of independent film?


(I guess a bigger question might be if Kodak is committed to continue manufacturing 16mm film, or is it just a numbers game at this point. Or another even bigger question....maybe a philisophical so don't feel you have to rise to the bate...is the film/video thing just about "resolution". Video will never look like film but it may very well become cheaper.)

Don't feel you have to deal with the above parenthetical comments, unless you're interested that is.

Alain

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Gordon McLeod
Film God

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From: Toronto Ontario Canada
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 - posted 07-09-2004 07:00 PM      Profile for Gordon McLeod   Email Gordon McLeod   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
DTS 16mm has been used on quiet a few film festival presentations and several stuent productions

I believe Kodak is still very commited to making 16mm stock I know they sponsor some of the student film stock requirements at York University here in Toronto
But that said Kodak is a business and eventually a business desision based on the numbers will be made

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John Anastasio
Master Film Handler

Posts: 325
From: Trenton, NJ, USA
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 - posted 07-09-2004 07:50 PM      Profile for John Anastasio   Author's Homepage   Email John Anastasio   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
It's not just a question of resolution. Even if video had the same resolution right now of film, it still wouldn't look like film because there are still issues of latitude, color gamut and contrast which need to be addressed. Film looks like film because of the way it reacts to light. A TV camera reacts differently, even if its HDTV. Because of that, it requires a different mindset when it comes to lighting things. Film is capable of handling a wider range of tones and colors than television. It's why we run into problems sometimes when transferring film to video. It even treats motion differently, unless you shoot your video in 24p. Eventually technology will get us to the point where we'll be able to shoot a motion picture on something that has the look of film but doesn't use a bunch of photosensitive chemicals glued to plastic, but we aren't there yet, so 16mm is going to be used by film students for a long time to come, because of its cost and the lower expense of equipment rentals. There are some really fine film stocks out there that hold up extremely well on the big screen, when shot on 16mm. Kodak's still working on producing a digital replacement for film, but it's still only a dream. As for the question of DTS, I think it's a combination of factors. Positives? It sounds wonderful. Negatives? Not everyone is equipped to run it, and it's a bit more demanding to shoot, post and mixdown a high quality multichannel track than one that's going to printed in mono optical. It's just cheaper and easier to do it in mono and unless that beautiful Dolby 5.1 track is absolutely essential artistically to the success of the film, why go to the trouble? It's an artistic and technical decision as well as a financial one.

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Steve Kraus
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 - posted 07-09-2004 11:38 PM      Profile for Steve Kraus     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Doesn't NFL Films still shoot a ton of 16mm?

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John Hawkinson
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 - posted 07-09-2004 11:55 PM      Profile for John Hawkinson   Author's Homepage   Email John Hawkinson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The impression I've had is that DTS-16mm is not intended for mass use. It's targetted at student filmmakers and special venues, and not at "wide releases" (if you can even call it that).

I don't think "not fully realized" is very fair; I think DTS-16 gets about as much use as it was intended to...

--jhawk

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Leo Enticknap
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From: Loma Linda, CA
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 - posted 07-10-2004 05:14 AM      Profile for Leo Enticknap   Author's Homepage   Email Leo Enticknap   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I think the answer to Alain's point about the death of 16mm as a significant scale release print format has all to do with economies of scale. I certainly agree that DTS potentially offers a solution to the sound quality issue which put it at a massive disadvantage compared to 35mm, even on smaller screens.

But the multiplex revolution of the '80s and '90s increased the amount of 35mm throughput so much that the cost per foot of release printing went significantly down; and as the use of 16mm in other markets gave way to video (e.g. educational films and high-end TV production), less and less of the stock was being manufactured and handled by labs and so the cost per foot went up. When I send archive duplication work to labs, having a 35mm print contact struck from a colour interneg (and, if applicable, track neg) is about 60-70% of the cost of the same job in 16mm. Once you start getting into the realm of more complicated work (e.g. optical reduction or enlargement, step printing, dye fading correction), that gap gets even bigger.

We are now at a stage whereby runs of 1,000 prints plus for major titles in 35mm are routine (in 1971, a British trade paper estimated that the average Hollywood feature was released in 40-50 prints; in 2000 the figure was said to be 300) and labs use high-speed contact printers that can hammer through a million feet per day. Even those working on a much smaller scale get some of the benefit of this huge increase in the world's throughput of 35mm. Add to the fact that most of those cinemas which did use 16mm can either no-longer do so or have a projector gathering dust in a corner which would need extensive servicing before it could be used again, and there simply is no business case for trying to bring back 16mm as a mainstream distribution medium. I know of only one venue (part-time) in the whole of the UK which is 16mm only, and the last I heard even they were in the process of installing 35.

Furthermore, the dreaded d-cinema is likely to eclipse 16mm in terms of resolution and colour depth far sooner than it is 35. It is now seriously being suggested that HD is likely to knock Super 16 out of the market for TV production within the next 2-3 years. If so, that will remove its last major revenue-earning market, which I guess will leave archives as the only major users of the format. As things are and all other things being equal, I'd usually prefer to see a digibeta tape of a high-end transfer projected through S-XGA than a scratched and knackered 16mm print; and 99% of the 16mm prints in distribution here are now scratched and knackered. Sadly, therefore, I can't see any prospect of 16mm ever being revived as a mainstream distribution format for feature films.

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John Anastasio
Master Film Handler

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From: Trenton, NJ, USA
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 - posted 07-10-2004 05:34 AM      Profile for John Anastasio   Author's Homepage   Email John Anastasio   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
NFL Films is the world's largest user of 16mm film, Steve. They're here in NJ, just outside Philadelphia.

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John Pytlak
Film God

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From: Rochester, NY 14650-1922
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 - posted 07-10-2004 08:08 AM      Profile for John Pytlak   Author's Homepage   Email John Pytlak   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
16mm film sales are actually increasing, due to the popularity of Super-16 origination, including for HDTV and low budget feature films:

http://www.kodak.com/go/16mm

quote:
With 16 mm film, you've got it made.
Creatively, technologically, and economically, our state-of-the-art stocks deliver greater flexibility, and control than ever before. Discover why 16 mm film is the perfect choice for your next project.

...Kodak introduced 16 mm motion picture film and equipment in 1923 as an inexpensive amateur alternative to the 35 mm film format. Compared with 35 mm film, the 16 mm format offers advantages such as smaller, less-expensive cameras and lower film stock and developing costs. Because of these factors, the 16 mm format was quickly adopted for professional news reporting, corporate, and educational applications.

...Ken Burns produced the Oscar ® -nominated Brooklyn Bridge, and 18 other documentaries since beginning his career in 1979. In this interview, Burns talks about his experiences with film and electronic capture.

http://www.kodak.com/US/en/motion/16mm/why/filmMaker/neverDieAlone.jhtml?id=0.1.4.3.8&lc=en

...Never Die Alone Opted for Super 16 mm
Dickerson and Libatique explored a resurging approach to producing independent features for Never Die Alone. They opted for the Super 16 film format, which provided both cost benefits and creative flexibility.

http://www.kodak.com/US/en/motion/16mm/why/filmMaker/dicksonBilly.jhtml?id=0.1.4.3.4&lc=en

...ONE TREE HILL
Remember the stories propagated by CBS Television engineers about Super 16 mm film image quality not being good enough for airing in high-definition format? You can forget them. One Tree Hill is artfully produced in Super 16 film format by Billy Dickson, ASC.


http://www.kodak.com/country/US/en/motion/sabol/index.shtml

quote:
Interview with Steve Sabol of NFL Films
http://www.kodak.com/country/US/en/motion/news/nflFilms.shtml

quote:
NFL Films operates a 200,000-square foot facility in New York, housing state-of-the-art television and motion picture studios. The NFL Films archive is the largest sports film library in the world with over 100 million feet of 16 mm film.


http://www.kodak.com/country/US/en/motion/newsletters/inCamera/july99/nfl.shtml

quote:
The combination of 16mm and Super 16 footage was rushed to a waiting private jet for processing at NFL Film headquarters, in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey. By the following afternoon the entire batch of film had been developed and printed, ready for editing. The footage was then used to produce official highlight films for the Super Bowl contenders and several special programs aired on broadcast and cable television. It is also the official archives for the National Football League.
The NFL Films archives contain hundreds of thousands of feet of film going back to the early part of the twentieth century. During the regular season NFL Films assigns at least two cinematographers to document each game. One is at field level and the other in a fixed position high in the stands at midfield. The number of cinematographers present is determined by the importance of the game. As the season progresses, several cameras will be used on important games, placed in strategic locations around the action. However, for the biggest game of the year, Steve Andrich, vice president/cinematography, NFL Films, wants every nuance captured on film.

"We assign each cameraman to cover specific parts of the game from selected points of view, but mostly we leave it to them to use their expertise and their experience to come back with exciting shots that capture the essence of the game," Andrich says.

NFL Films has developed a recognizable visual style. "Most people recognize us for the slow motion and the up-close, tight shots," says Andrich. "It's been described as 'athletic ballet'. It's the kind of thing you don't see unless you see it in slow motion."



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Gordon McLeod
Film God

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From: Toronto Ontario Canada
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 - posted 07-10-2004 08:59 AM      Profile for Gordon McLeod   Email Gordon McLeod   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Most of the british detective serries (Morse for an example) are shot useing the Panaflex 16 camera in super 16
Film is an international standard so transfers to the video language of each country is a none issue
The AE serries Hornblower was shot on 16 using arri 16SR cameras

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Leo Enticknap
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From: Loma Linda, CA
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 - posted 07-10-2004 07:26 PM      Profile for Leo Enticknap   Author's Homepage   Email Leo Enticknap   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Agreed, 16/S16 is still alive and well (just) as an origination medium. But the issue Alain raised in kicking off this thread is specifically related to exhibition:

quote: Alain LeTourneau
Did it [DTS 16] ever have the potential to refuel the 16mm format as an option for exhibiting works of independent film?
I suppose we need to be clear exactly what Alain means by the term 'independent', but I'm going to guess that he means small print runs of arthouse movies. When I first worked in cinemas in the late '80s/early '90s, yes, 16mm would have been the natural format for this kind of stuff. I showed 16 regularly in a whole load of fleapits and university film societies. But the massive increase in 35mm printing that started to take hold around that time gradually pushed 16mm out of the market for release printing. I think it was 1995 that the British Film Institute (the largest distributor of arthouse/rep product here) announced that it would no longer strike any new 16mm prints. Their rationale was that most of the venues which screened 16mm also had 35mm capability by that stage, and those which didn't could almost all be helped round the problem in some way.

For a long time there are going to be venues which will want to continue an active 16mm capability due to special circumstances - in our case, for example, because our archive has a lot of 16mm viewing copies. But, given that 35mm has now become the de facto cinema release format and that the economic factors which maintained 16mm as a 'semi professional' exhibition format no longer exist (i.e. video and increased 35mm usage have between them filled the niches in the exhibition market which 16mm previously occupied), I honestly can't see DTS 16 making much of a difference.

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Alain LeTourneau
Film Handler

Posts: 37
From: Portland, OR
Registered: Jan 2004


 - posted 07-11-2004 08:02 PM      Profile for Alain LeTourneau   Author's Homepage   Email Alain LeTourneau   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
First off, thanks Leo and others who took the time to respond thoughtful to my query.

By "independent" I mean the films distributed by places like CFMDC in Canada, Lux in the UK, the coops in France, Canyon Cinema in SF, FMC in NYC, and MoMA's print collection of 16mm films. Not to mention the scores of filmmakers who self-distribute their work.

In addition to this are the documentaries and ethnographic films made over the last 50+ years in the 16mm format.

I'm not referring to televsion shows shot on 16mm (and never intended for theatrical distribution), nor 35mm reduction prints made by distributors like Swank and Criterion for the College Circuit or what remains of it in the states (which ain't much).

There is a rich history here. 1000s and 1000s of films represent independent film history. From Man Ray's Kodachrome home movies shot in the 1930s, to Morris Engel's documentaries, Timothy Asch's ethnographies of the Yanonami Indians, the work or Leacock, Maysles Brothers, Pennabacker, and the huge body of work of experimental films (Remember Stan Brakhage). These examples do not even touch all the narrative films shot in 16mm for theatrical release....Jon Jost, Caveh Zahedi, Andrew Bujaksi, Yvonne Rainer, Robina Rose (to name a few) are names not known by everyone but worth knowing about.

And people continue to shoot and finish in this format.

While the back end costs are indeed getting closer if you compare Lab rate sheets for 16mm and 35mm services, the front end cost do not compare. 35mm rawstock is still twice (or more) the cost of 16mm and one gets almost 1/3 less film (16mm 100' = 2:47; 35mm 100' - 1:07) to use. These front end costs stack up. And getting your 16mm or super 16mm material on to 35mm is a costly affair.

I would love to see 16mm revived given its history of providing a format for independents to use, and it's hallmarks of lightweight equipment and ease of use. I realize what is stacked up against the format and it is most likely the case that the format will fade as a choice for acquisition and exhibition before it can see its 100th birthday.

Maybe if DTS had been an option in 1985 things might have been different?

Best,
Alain

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Warren Smyth
Expert Film Handler

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From: Auckland ,New Zealand
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 - posted 07-11-2004 10:53 PM      Profile for Warren Smyth   Email Warren Smyth   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Alain LeTourneau
maybe if DTS had been an option in 1985 things might have been different
This may well have already been thought of, as there are very few ideas which are original. It has always seemed to me that adding DTS to a 16mm release print wouldn't be too difficult.

The two possibilities would be, for the time code to be recorded on separate sprocketed tape and for a double system (band) projector be used, or for it to be recorded on the com-mag track on the film. This would not require modification to a standard projector, only that the mag output be reconfigured.

The sep-mag option has the advantage in repect that a standard optical print could be used and the optical sound track would still be available. The down side is, that the print would have to conform to the DTS sound element to maintain sync, similar to any other sep-mag presentation.

Maybe I'm dreaming as there could be unforeseen complications, (if there are, I'm sure we will be informed), but I can't see any reason why either alternative wouldn't work. Reluctantly however, I have to agree that the digital alternative these days, is probably more practical with comparable screen results.

It would however, be an interesting exercise, to lock a 35mm and 16mm double system projector together and dub the time code from the 35mm track to the 16mm sep-mag tape. If possible, dubbing audio to the edge track would help.

The next step would be to check the completeness of the 16mm print of the same title against the 35mm print from which the time code originated. Modification (editing a few frames from the print or the tape) could be required to maintain sync. If audio was dubbed at the same time on to the edge track, syncing it to a 16mm print would be an easy task on a Steenbeck or something similar, using the audio as a guide.

In theory, the output from the sep-mag tape would run the DTS disk in sync with the 16mm print.

Note, that I suggest this as an experimental exercise only and do not advocate commercial piracy of intelectual property. If permission was obtained from the appropriate licence holders however, it could provide an alternative with upgraded audio in a situation where 16mm only is an option. Naturally, it does require the installation (maybe temporary) of a DTS sound system.

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Steve Guttag
We forgot the crackers Gromit!!!

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 - posted 07-11-2004 11:47 PM      Profile for Steve Guttag   Email Steve Guttag   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I still deal a lot with 16mm (and even super-16). While I don't see shooting with 16mm dying out anytime soon...as a projection medium...most projector manufacturers have turned their back on it.

Both Kinoton and Ernemann offer 16mm in addition to their 35mm projector. I can honestly say the Kinoton FP-38E is the best 16mm I've ever seen or heard. However, the cost of the thing does not make 16mm the economical format anymore.

The value priced 16mm projectors from companies like Eiki and Elmo were not discontinued in the face of customer demand...the demand for 16mm projectors has fallen off the chart in their traditional venues (educational). If you have a high-end screening room, then the Kinoton offering will do you. But, by the time you set up an FP-38E (the basic model...they go up from their) you are talking about a $50,000+ machine. Compare that to a typical cinema projector and you have anything but low-cost.

As to DTS...if you have a Kinoton...then go with the pulse-tach route. That is, connect the DTS up via their time code box and skip the sep-mag thing all together. That is, treat the DTS unit as a dubber, not run it via a dubber.

Steve

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Steve Kraus
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 - posted 07-12-2004 12:31 AM      Profile for Steve Kraus     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
16mm film sales are actually increasing

Negative. But what about print stock?

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Warren Smyth
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 157
From: Auckland ,New Zealand
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 - posted 07-12-2004 03:26 AM      Profile for Warren Smyth   Email Warren Smyth   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
connect the DTS up via their (Kinoton) time code box and skip the sep-mag thing altogether
Will the feeding of just time code to a DTS unit run a theatrical disk? I have assumed, maybe incorrectly, that title and reel information would also be required before a disk will play. Is there is a way of cheating this and just feeding timecode?

Part of my reason for suggesting the sep-mag route, is the ease of checking on an editing bench, the 16mm print against the audio track (recorded on the edge track from the 35mm element) for sync. You can't do this using just a stream of time-code. The 16mm print has no sync reference except for it's image and mono audio.

I realise that the pulse tach method is used with success but usually in a production environment where the picture and sound elements are new and intact. My suggestion is to cover a situation where there is a requirement to marry a DTS disk with a standard 16mm release print which may not be in mint condition nor complete.

In using the pulse tach method in such a situation, one would only have to strike a few splices in the 16mm print, not a totally unusual occurence, and a sync problem would occur that would be an absolute nightmare to solve.

The sep-mag route enables the time code to be edited against the picture to ensure continuous sync prior to screening. (pulling the audio up into sync at a film splice, will similateously pull the time code up as well). Four plate 16mm Steenbecks are pretty cheap these days to hire or buy.

[ 07-12-2004, 08:49 AM: Message edited by: Warren Smyth ]

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