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Film Camera?

UnitedNerds's picture
Last seen: 3 years 5 months ago
Joined: 11/12/2010 - 2:19pm

Oftentimes I feel like we forget where this industry has come from. Myself, being a teenager, I can't really forget because I never experienced it before! Ever since I was young, I have used digital cameras to take pictures and video. Even the tape camera I used was using digital-8 tapes! Even more and more movies are being shot digitally today and yet, I still love the sight of film. Since I am an aspiring filmmaker or editor or whatever I decide down the road, I want to understand the different side of videos and how they used to be made before the major conveniences of the 80s-present came out. There is something about working with film that forces you to think through everything you are doing and is a learning experience to use.

So, I have little knowledge in this area and want to learn more about shooting and editing films the way they were 30 years ago and beyond. I know the cameras used film of different lengths and widths, which were cut together using special machines, and then fed through projectors in order to be seen. I don't really care for learning how it was done by reading, if I wanted that I would go read a Wikipedia article. Besides, art can't really be taught just by reading it.

Anyways, I am coming to you to ask if there are any cheap cameras and equipment that are available and usable on the internet today. What materials would I need in order to shoot, (possibly edit), and view my videos? What would the minimum cost be? Is film equipment today extremely expensive or has the demand died down to lower price? I am looking just for cameras for education and not cinema quality. The more I can play with the better. Where should I look? Is it even worth my time?


shippocaio's picture
Last seen: 5 years 10 months ago
Joined: 06/12/2008 - 7:24pm

PJ, from one aspiring teenager to another, here's my personal opinion:

I have always sided more with photography than with videography. So, from my experience with film photography, i can tell you this. It is cool to mess around with film for a while. The things you can do with film are just amazing! You can create some really cool effects by using different techniques when revealing the pictures, and you can actually learn a lot from it. For example, i only fully understood the Dodge/Burn tool onPhotoshopwhen i actually messed with lights and shadows during the chemical process.

But like anything in our fast paced world, it becameobsolete. Thepanicyou can go through when using film is just not worth it. You see, if you shoot digital (be it video orpictures), you can easily fix any mistakes that you overlooked during the shooting process. Is it too blueish? Hue/Saturation will fix it for you. Too dark? Bring the brightness up. Weird black dots? Stamp tool will save you. While if you had shot on film, you would be frustrated, not to mention all the countless hours down the drain.

I understand you wanting to learn the origins of the industry, but why go back to a Compac with 256 MB of RAM when you can work with a MacBook Pro? (Metaphor xD)

If film becameobsolete, there is a reason for it. It is mostly difficult to manage, edit, fix, transport, etc.Digitalis modern, fast, versatile.

I guess my advice would be: Don't spend too much time, nor any money, on film equipment. That's basicallythrowingmoney out of the window, as it will probably be sitting in your closet after the fourth day. Save it and buy a nice HD camera :)

PS.: You are like the only other teenager besides myself that comes to this forum... i am afraid there isn't just enough space for us! LOL Just Kidding :)


birdcat's picture
Last seen: 1 year 7 months ago
Joined: 10/21/2005 - 10:09am
Plus Member Moderator

Shippo - With moving images it is more difficult but with film based still photography, you can certainly do all (really most) of the wonders of Photoshop in the darkroom - Adjust colors, exposure (collectively as in gamma adjust or selectively with burning in and dodging), focus (at least make it softer), special effects (like solarization) and more.

PJ - I would suggest you pick up an inexpensive film based movie camera on eBay - Just make sure you can still get film for it (B&H still carries 16mm and Super 8 film). I started playing around with movies back around 1966 (stills in 1960) and did all sorts of fun things before moving to tape in the mid 80's (where I continued to do fun things).

Bruce Paul 7Squared Productions http://www.7squared.com


Rob Grauert's picture
Last seen: 2 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 02/16/2008 - 10:47pm

"Is it even worth my time?"

I don't think so. The objective is of any film or video is to tell a story. No one will give a hoot if you messed around with film and a film camera. They want to know if you can tell a story, and you don't NEED a film camera to learn how to tell a story.

Sure, those who used film back in the day are probably more more skilled at what they do because they had to really think about what they were doing, but just because you're walking around with a video camera doesn't mean you can't plan ahead like the old timers. Doesn't mean you can't do all the necessary pre-production they had to do. Doesn't mean you can't learn about lenses or how a camera works.

You don't NEED a film camera to do what matters in this field.


dawg007's picture
Last seen: 3 years 3 months ago
Joined: 01/21/2011 - 1:37am

Your comments reminds me of the latest spate of commercials for the Canon D series of cameras that have both still and video capability. The commercial attempts to convey that any person off the street can produce an Oscar winning production without any skill. Just read the embedded README instructions. Don't spend anytime thinking about your shoot, no composition, no post production considerations, etc etc., Just point and shoot and magically a great production is hatched.

My point is, producing any footage of any kind requires a lot of things, degree of creativity, an intimate knowledge of your tools, the art of film making and more. This comes with years of diligent practice.

In answer to your question PJ, pick a camera. It doesn't matter for now. Study it Experiment with it. What are its strengths and weaknesses. Do some adhoc shooting and work in your NLE of choice. Read about your craft. Grow with each new concept learned. That's how you will know what to do next.


vid-e-o-man's picture
Last seen: 1 month 1 week ago
Joined: 02/06/2010 - 4:20am
Plus Member

PJ,in answer to your questions. You can find Super 8 movie cameras on lineand probably at garage sales at prettylow prices. Projectors for this format are also available similarly. One of the other posters mentioned that the film is available too. I think that you might have to check locally or by mail for someplace to develope the film (processing) .

By using flilm you willget to the basics of shooting (light, aperature, shutter speed, DOF,etc). This might help you to understand what you can do digitally with modern equipment. One thing that might discover is the difference between digital and analog images. I'm quite a bit older than you (probably 3-4x your age) and I rememeber the look ofb&w photos, 'moving' pictures, technicolor movies etc. as compared to digital extra-clear, super-bright digital imaging.


UnitedNerds's picture
Last seen: 3 years 5 months ago
Joined: 11/12/2010 - 2:19pm

Beyond learning the format I also simply just want a camera for collection's sake. And to clear it up, I'm just using these cameras to learn, not to replace my digital cameras.

Thank you everybody for commenting!

Any specific cameras I should be looking at?


grinner's picture
Last seen: 6 years 3 months ago
Joined: 12/29/2007 - 2:56am

You'll be able to find many a fine 16mm camera on ebay, man. I recomend Canon's scoopic. Shoots and feels like a camcorder you'll be familiar with. No mag loading whatsoever... you just thread a cartridge and roll for a second. It's very idiot proof. You just keep a little aperture needle you'll see in the viewfinder in the middle.

I see no need to venture into high dollar film cameras today. The scoopic or a cheap bolex will do ya fine.


vid-e-o-man's picture
Last seen: 1 month 1 week ago
Joined: 02/06/2010 - 4:20am
Plus Member

I thought that I should add some to my previous post. If you choose to purchase 8mm or 16mm type equipment, you might look into the equipment for viewing and splicing it. This allows you to view frame by frame and make your 'cuts' and splices.



composite1's picture
Last seen: 3 weeks 2 days ago
Joined: 12/11/2008 - 7:54pm
Plus Member Moderator

PJ,

Film and Analog/Digital Video are currently the artist's or technician's tools for creating motion media. Film is a much more involved and 'painterly' (to apply an art term) method of making movies. There are still plenty of schools and filmmakers out there who are still using film to get their advice and know-how from. I have shot film for both photography and motion pictures way back when and still keep a brace of film still camera's for special projects.

Film is still a wonderful medium but the bottom line is as others have already mentioned; the amount of time, money and labor to produce it isn't attractive anymore. Unless you're in filmschool, a hard-core aficionado or in a poor country, nobody's 'cutting' film on a flatbed anymore. Even when shooting film, when the Dailies come out of the 'soup', they go straight to a telecine for scanning into digital format. Nowadays, the entire film is cut in an NLE and a 'Digital Print' is put on a harddrive to either go straight to exhibition or take a side-trip to be transferred back to film. That second step adds an additional cost the industry is less and less inclined to pay. Now exceptions are made for IMAX and the like because the size of the format makes for a unique and profitable product. The minute 6k and larger cameras and projectors become economical to use, IMAX will start to disappear too!

Yes there was a certain level of confidence, professionalism and craftsmanship when film was the only game in town. However, even the best of the best still sometimes missed the mark on exposures, focus, suffered mechanical failures or had film 'die' in the processor. Even today, when working with film those variables are still there. It's really just a matter of the tools changing. Imagine the lamentations old 'handcrank' silent filmmakers went through when electric motor-powered sound cameras changed the industry. Then not too many years later, when B&W film got the boot for color and after that the Technicolor process got bumped for the cheaper Eastmancolor process (note: technicolor did come back and is still used, but the independent film movement chose the Eastman process and technicolor remained a tool of the large studios only.) Now you have hardcore Directors and DP's all switching to Digital. You can literally hear them changing course in the third installment of "The Great Shootout 2010" as DSLR 'footage' is projected onto theatrical format screens with capabilities that egual, rival or far exceed that of film for tens of thousands less!

I like film but have no intention of every shooting any again unless there's a specific thing I want that I know I can't get from digital. Also, I'm also glad to see it go. I worked in film labs and they are chemical nightmares! That and I've gotten quite good at shooting with the same confidence in my shots as with film, but can immediately look at what was shot for safety or direction's sake. Yes, you can do that with a video assist but that's more gear I have to bring when it isn't necessary. Shoot, now even oldschool Digital Video tape is going the way of the 'nickel ferry' in favor of solid-state recording media!

Again, it all comes down to the tools changing with the advances available. I guarantee that if you could have offered Cecil B. DeMille the digital filmmaking process back in the day, he would have taken it! But as I said earlier, filmmaking is art. So there's no reason to lament its passing as it hasn't faded away yet. Instead, Film will become just like painting and sculpture in that it will be a medium used by those purely dedicated to creating works with that particular tool.

H.Wolfgang Porter, Composite Media Producer Dreaded Enterprises Unlimited, Inc. www.dreadedenterprises.com



artofseeing's picture
Last seen: 3 years 2 months ago
Joined: 02/06/2011 - 2:25am

Probably the best camera is whatever you can find cheap off of Craigslist. There has never been a better time to experiment with film, the cameras are dirt cheap and there is a variety of options for digitizing film. I'd recommend Super 8 or 16mm for a beginner. While the quality of 16mm is stunning, the film is more expensive and the cameras are quite heavy. Super 8 is more compact and the film is easy to load and the cameras are designed for auto-exposure. But even then Super 8 cameras are from a totally different era, they will be larger and noisier than what you are used to.

Many of the popular high end Super 8 cameras are really dirt cheap compared to video cameras for a couple hundred you can have a high end Nizo or Canon with built in timelapse functions and variable shutters. However for a novice I would reccomend the Canon 310XL or 514XL, these are small, cheap and are good in low light. I'd also suggest the Nikon 8X or Nikon Super Zoom 8.

I'd recommend you get a projector eventually, projected film has a different look and the truth is that no video camera on the market can compete with the amazing colour of reversal film. Start with Ektachrome 100D as your first film, Dwayne's Photo is an affordable place for processing and they offer in house telecine.

While the gear is cheap the film is not, nor is processing or telecine. With telecine you get what you pay for in the quality which is one other reason to recommend you project your first rolls to really see how you are doing.

The main trick with film over digital is learning the dying art of anticipation. Digital photography is all about machine gun shooting and dealing with the abundance of material in post. You'll only get 3 minutes on a 50 ft roll of Super 8! For starters shoot some non staged stuff with your friends and family outdoors. Shoot lots of closeups and medium shots for best results. With good light, you'll have amazing colour.

Contrary to Shippocaio's experiences you can do a lot to fix poorly shot film but its easier with negative film than reversal. A good transfer can do wonders and with still film there are many photochemical tricks to fix bad exposures, dust, scratches and low contrast but its not done with a mouse click but by your hands and chemistry. Many professional art photographers originate work on film and complete the photo digitally. It all depends on how far you want to go.

But heed the advice given earlier, don't spend much money to start and if you like what you're doing then consider other cameras or 16mm.


shippocaio's picture
Last seen: 5 years 10 months ago
Joined: 06/12/2008 - 7:24pm

Ok, just so i make myself a bit more clear:

It is POSSIBLE to fix whatever footage you have on film, but it is going to take soooooo much longer than if you did it on a computer.

@Birdcat: I know they are possible to do in a dark room. I have already tried them out. But if you are dodging in the darkroom, the you have to be very precise with the path your point of light is going through, and if you mess up, there is no going back, and it takes a couple of minute to get it the way you want (i say it from personal experiences.), while in photoshop, it takes me 15 seconds to dodge someone's eyes with my tablet, and if i mess it up, there is the almighty CTRL-Z.

@Artofseeing:I know you can fix film, but you must agree with me that is would take so much longer and potentially cost more to fix it, while in a pc it would take maybe 30 seconds and it comes included with your NLE, no extra fees.

I think that the fact you are trying to learn how to use film is extremely cool, dont get me wrong. But i try to be a bit more practical.Like, knowing how CTR televisions worked might be great if you traveled 5 years into the past, but what good does it make now?? They have become obsolete and useless. Like a wastedknowledgealmost.

I am sided with Rob on this one.


birdcat's picture
Last seen: 1 year 7 months ago
Joined: 10/21/2005 - 10:09am
Plus Member Moderator

Shippo -

I couldn't disagree more. You may never use the knowledge but it is NEVER wasted - Sometiimes you don't had a need for it but knowledge is it's own reward.

There are many things I know that I will never use again - like programming a mainframe computer in assembler, which I haven't done in over 20 years - but having the knowledge of them is part of what makes me who I am and knowing the concepts behind that (assembler) makes me better at what I do today.

Bruce Paul 7Squared Productions http://www.7squared.com


vid-e-o-man's picture
Last seen: 1 month 1 week ago
Joined: 02/06/2010 - 4:20am
Plus Member

PJ,kudos for sparking a lively discussion. Iknow that my prior experience (with still camera film usage) has enhanced my knowledge and understanding of digital photo/video.Likewise my learning adding and subtraction in analog terms helped me understand how the basics of math work and I'm not sure if later generations who used calculators from the start will havethis sameappreciation for what is going on in the basis of mathematics. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.


shippocaio's picture
Last seen: 5 years 10 months ago
Joined: 06/12/2008 - 7:24pm

When you said "lively discussion", i just imagined me and Birdcat fighting hahahahahaha I guess my head doesn't work very well late at night :)

God, how i love this forum :)

But i guess we have to respect each other's opinion. That's what i really like about VideoMaker. It doesn't matter if you are 15 or 115, people will always treat you with respect and never look down upon you. You will always be able to find and have intelligent arguments here :)


birdcat's picture
Last seen: 1 year 7 months ago
Joined: 10/21/2005 - 10:09am
Plus Member Moderator

Debate, or "lively discussion", is always a good thing.

In years past, I was a very highly compensated technogeek. When everyone would just agree with the head honchos, I would be that person in the back asking "what about this or that", pointing out possible (or sometimes very glaring) problems. When one corporate president challenged me on why I just don't "go along" with what I thought was a bad idea, I told him (and he agreed) that he paid me a lot of money to hear "my" opinion - he already knew his own and paid that high salary to hear what I (and others) had to say.

I haven't "met" anyone on this forum whom I don't like and even if I am critical, I am always voicing my opinion - which is highly subjective, even if sometimes based in years of experience (and sometimes just based on gut feelings).

At very worst, we can agree to disagree and each continue in our own opinions - but sometimes I'll "see the light" and my opinion will change, and maybe sometimes yours will, but in the end, we are all better off for having discussed something.

And BTW - Shippo would beat the crap out of me in a fight!

Bruce Paul 7Squared Productions http://www.7squared.com


artsmith's picture
Last seen: 5 months 1 day ago
Joined: 03/02/2011 - 9:06pm

To theyounger posters, P.J.McConnell and others, please note this, from someone who has tried both film and video. During the 1970's I was the President of a large successful and prestigious movie-maker's club, 'The Otago Cine Club'of Dunedin, New Zealand, with quite an international reputation, it's own theatrette and 'the-works'. At that time, video was for the future, and I filmed in 16mm using a Bolex Reflex camera plus (in Super-8) a semi-professional Beaulieu machine as well. The advantages of that were largely illusory; the film cost an arm-and-a-leg, had to be sent to Australia or the USA for processing and just abouttook over our lounge during the time it was being edited. The weight of what I was required to hump around on trips, was augmented by a largish anamorphic lens, and other gear. Despite its prosperity, the club eventually disappeared down-the-gurgler, a victim of the first Oil-Shock, (with 'carless-days'), the better availability of colour TV and the tendency of people to no longer join 'clubs' as they once had. Film-making had lost out to 'I Love Lucy', unbelievable, but true.

Film-making was horrendously expensive, as reel after reel rolled through the trusty 'Bolex'. At the end of that timeaudio had to be organised as it was non-synched with camera or projector. It was always a relief when it was finally committed to magnetic stripe, and hadturned out OK. Battery-powered audio recording gear was rare, bulky and expensive as well.

As the first correspondent pointed-out,he/she had not experienced film-making of that type, and I feel he only has a very hazy grasp of what it entailed. But, would I sacrifice the advantages of modern video to go back to where I started-out? No-way. I am able to get five times as much work done in video as I did in film, at a fraction of the cost, inconvenience and film thrown out dueto cock-ups of various kinds. Audio is in-synch. end-of-story, and even the worst of it, short of total disaster, is at least on-a-par with what you might have expected from good reel-to-reel tape-gear in the 1960's, as-of-right. We even went as far as doing our own colour-processing of 16mm film-stock, using ourbath-tub for the 'second-exposure'and stringing film while drying, in great loops running down the length of the house, and back again.

So, take it from one who 'knows', that you have every reason to be thankful for what is available now. Although we had great fun on a social-level making-film, and were quite proud of our efforts, they don't get within a bull's-roar of what we can accomplish with much less effort and expense, these days.


vid-e-o-man's picture
Last seen: 1 month 1 week ago
Joined: 02/06/2010 - 4:20am
Plus Member

I recently viewed the movie "Super 8" with my young adult son and my wife. All three of us enjoyedit. We had to explain a few things to our son- CB radios, film camers, etc. 1979 doesn't seem that long ago to me! Point is one of the plots in the film revolves around producing a movie shooting with a super 8. I think you might like the movie expecially from the point of view of producing video. At the end of the movie (don't leave too early) is the finished product.