No cut negative. Penny wise and pound foolish. - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 5 Old 05-15-08, 11:22 AM Thread Starter
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Richard W. Haines
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No cut negative. Penny wise and pound foolish.

I thought I'd pass this along to everyone to see how penny wise and pound
foolish some in the movie business can be.

I just completed the final cut of my feature film, "What Really Frightens You".
It's ready for negative matching...except...almost every negative matcher on
the East Coast has folded since I shot the picture last June.

You may be can that be? Every movie needs a final cut negative
in 35mm so that it can be released in theaters and on DVD, Blu-ray and cable.
Let's say the final cut of the movie is about 1000 shots and 90 minutes long.
That's five reels of cut camera negative. That means each shot selected from
the dailies (which could be anywhere from 30 to 100 rolls of film) has been removed
from those rolls and cement spliced onto a final cut negative. The cut camera negative
is then 'timed' which means in a color analyzer in the lab each shot of the movie is
given numbers that represent the correct red, green and blue ratio and overall contrast.
Similar to what you have in your monitor when you set your color. A 'timer' is the person
who adjusts the colors and contrast (lightness and darkness) of each shot so they match
within a scene. You don't want the sky too blue in one shot within a sequence and then
washed out blue in the next shot.

Once the timing information has been inputted into a printer, a fine grain positive of
the feature is made (in color it's called an interpositive and in black and white it's called
a fine grain master). Then from that an internegative is made for release copies. For
the high definition video master, the fulled color corrected interpositive is usually used.

However, in the last year there has been a major change in this procedure. Here's what
many producers are doing which is what caused most of the negative matchers to fold...

After they edit the movie digitally (the 35mm rolls of negative that were shot on the set
or location are transferred to digital files for editing), they are sending all of the small
rolls of film which is 30 to 100 rolls to a video transfer facility and only taping the actual
shots they used for the final cut onto whatever the current format is. In other words,
they aren't actually cutting the negative dailies into a final cut camera negative of 5
reels. They are taking all 100 reels of dailies with the slates and everything and just scanning
in sections of those shots for the video master. From the video master, they are outputting
a 35mm negative for printing and both DVD and Blu-ray copies.

What's wrong with that? Well to begin with, video formats keep changing. First there
was two inch videotape followed by one inch then Beta SP all in the analog format.
Then came standard DVD followed by high definition DVD. Within the high definition systems
it started with 2K resolution which has been replaced by 4K resolution. But that's only for the
moment. Some day they will have greater resolutions for home and theatrical use. That means
that each time they want to make a new video transfer of the film, they'll have to scan in 1000
shots from the original 100 rolls a shot at a time. Not only is that astronomically expensive but if
the distributor loses one of those rolls, they'll be missing shots. And we know how reliable distributors
are about preserving movies over the decades. You're lucky if they saved a final cut of 5 reels
much less the 100 reels of dailies. I can just see future problems of films where some of the dailies
reels are missing and they can't find some of the shots of the movie.

I think this is a major mistake for the future of any movie mastered in this manner. I absolutely
insist on having a final cut negative of my film. I might end up conforming the negative myself
if there are no negative matchers left in my area. They've been folding like dominoes over the
last few months. It's a real eyestrain to match a negative (I did it on my first feature).

Anyway, ten years from now when you hear about some producer or distributor trying to make
a new video master of some movie and complain they are missing some shots, you'll know why.
I've heard a number of television shows are doing this too including "Law and Order". They might
not have an actual cut 35mm negative of the series. Just the dailies which have been scanned
into a video master a shot at a time.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 05-15-08 at 11:28 AM.
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post #2 of 5 Old 05-16-08, 07:54 AM
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Re: No cut negative. Penny wise and pound foolish.

How are they ever gonna sell the multiple director's cuts, and final cuts of all these movies in ten years without the extra footage?

How do they transfer the 35mm negatives to there a hi-tech scanner of some sort that they run through?

I just completed the final cut of my feature film, "What Really Frightens You".
What can you tell us about the film?
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post #3 of 5 Old 05-16-08, 10:00 AM Thread Starter
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Re: No cut negative. Penny wise and pound foolish.


It's going to be a mess, that's for sure if they don't have a final cut negative in 35mm, just
a mass of camera rolls that they shot on set or location. The way they do it is to put each reel
into the digital scanner and then just scan in the portions of the shot they need leaving out the
slate and extra footage. It's done a frame at a time and extremelly expensive.
You're charged by the frame. In conventional film printing you're charged by
the foot and the machines are fast. When they just scan in the individual shots, they end up with a digital master but no cut negative. What they do
is to output a 35mm printing negative from the digital master for release prints but when you make
between 2000-4000 prints from it, it becomes very scratchy and worn out so for the
long run the 35mm internegative derived from the digital master is worthless. That leaves them only
with the digital master for the future or going back to all of those little camera rolls and scanning in
each shot from scratch to make a new digital master. Really, really stupid. For one thing, they
keep upgrading the scanners. Until a couple of years ago, they were scanning everything in at
2K. Those masters are worthless now because they've been upgraded with 4K. Those look fine,
for the time being, but they are already developing a 6K scanner for sharper results.
If you have a cut camera negative, you can use it to make all future materials from color
interpositives to color internegatives (for release prints) to any digital format or hard drive developed
decades from now. It's not that difficult or expensive to keep track of 5 reels of film but somewhat
overwhelming to keep track of hundred of little camera rolls per feature film. Think of the amount
of storage that would require.
In any event, I think I found a lab that can match my negative so I have a cut one for all
current and future use.
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post #4 of 5 Old 05-16-08, 10:09 AM
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Re: No cut negative. Penny wise and pound foolish.

Thanks for the interesting info. Glad you found a lab.
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post #5 of 5 Old 05-17-08, 05:36 AM Thread Starter
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Richard W. Haines
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Location: Croton-on-Hudson, NY
Posts: 792
Re: No cut negative. Penny wise and pound foolish.


I'll post complete information on my movie when it's ready for release and/or where to see
it etc.
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cut , foolish , negative , penny , pound , wise

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