Sunday, January 27, 2008

Going 16mm: film stock

I recently decided to make a new film in 16mm and the process has been interesting! Most of my films were shot on a professional Oxberry animation stand using 35mm color negative film. This provides a beautiful high resolution image from which 35mm prints can be made, or the film can be transferrred to a digital video format and the work finished in video. However, the countless days and weeks required to shoot the animation meant I had to work at Cal Arts or a professional facility in Los Angeles. I've always wanted to be able to work in my own converted garage studio!

So deciding to work in 16mm and building a simple animation stand has been my problem solving challenge the past weeks. I thought I would share some of this on my blog! The format of 16mm is half as large as 35mm and so the image will have half of the resolution- but there is something beautiful about 16mm in that it shows the grain and artifacts and texture of the image in a special way. I want to make a film in which the film quality is inhabited by the images- this is different visually than recording perfectly paintings and drawings laid below the camera. I decided to shoot in black and white to further simplify the image and let the film quality show.

In investigating film stocks and local processing options I've decided to shoot in Kodak #7222 Double X negative film. I am doing this on the advice of master independent filmmaker and friend Peter Hutton. This film is ASA 200 which will give a somewhat more contrasty and grainy image than the lower ASA 64 #7231 Plus X film. I'm also going to shoot some tests of Kodak Hi Con (Kodak High Contrast Positive Film II ASA 6-8/ double perf. (7363 233 009.02) to see what the artwork looks like VERY hi-contrast. Double perf film is very hard to find these days but fortunately my Bolex can shoot single perf which is widely available. Also, reversal film is hard to find and there are only a few labs which will process it (Spectra in LA is one). I'm going to use FotoKem Film Lab in LA to process and print my negative.

As I'm not sure whether I will finish on film or video (or both) I will shoot negative and make workprints so I can see the image projected without worrying about scratching (as with projecting reversal). Then at some point transfer all the film to video (or not!). One of the things I like about the process of developing this new film is adopting an attitude of ever-evolving decision making. This is a new turn for me as I previously always planned everything in detail. Obsessive compulsive goes evolutionary!

More to follow on 16mm! animation stand, camera, lens, animation motors, etc.

For information about my animated films please visit
A DVD of all my work is available for $25- please email

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