Avoiding Film Mistakes

We worked with a very short crew, sent in weeklies instead of dailies and had various people shipping film and taking it to the lab. Good procedures will prevent headaches of lost film and negative later. Because stop motion take months memories fade. Here are some suggestions.

Because many rolls are shipped as partial rolls, give every roll of film a consecutive number and the date when they are purchased. Then label film shot from that roll with the same roll number and A, B, C etc. when they are shipped for processing. It will keep track of possible negative manufacture problems. You might label different film stocks with a different series of numbers. It will also be a record of the age of the film.

Purchase orders and camera reports should be filled out with as much information as possible long before the rush to ship the film to the lab. Things as simple as job and company name confusion can result in the film being misplaced at the lab. When dailies or transfers get back, someone should check if you got back everything that you expected. We had some shots that many thought they had seen in dailies but we never found the daily or the negative. When the dailies come back, make good notes. Camera report records aren't always accurate. Make readable copies (press hard) of the camera reports and file them carefully. You might file copies in the box with the dailies when they are returned. Return dailies to their own box.

Down load lunch boxes or animation computers to some other storage device before erasing anything. You might need to refer back to shots later.

If you are doing film dailies and film to tape transfers later, good records will avoid lost time looking for shots during transfer sessions. Telecine costs much more than a little record keeping.

Make sure that camerapeople and animators shoot readable and accurate slates.

Write down and distribute to all involved instructions to the lab and transfer house to avoid misunderstandings. Give the lab your relevant contact's phone numbers, such as the DP or editor.

Because animation can create both exposed film and short ends, send any doubtful short pieces of film to the lab. It is not as embarrassing to develop a blank piece of film, than it is to expose a shot to the light. We lost a shot because of this.

Make sure that camera, magazine, lens, date, people involved, phone numbers etc. are on the camera reports and/or purchase orders.

Now these suggestions may not agree with stop motion industry standards and there may be better ways. I am suggestion them here from experience on this job and 30 years of regular film production. In regular film production some cameramen will not use short ends or even recans. In stop motion this is not possible. Good care and records have to be kept. Also it is important to use very clean black bags when recanning film from a magazine. Good labeling helps too.

I highly recommend using a safe darkroom and not changing bags.

Bryan brought a strip of paper guide to measure how much film is left in a magazine. You pull film out of the supply side for one revolution of the supply pulley and measure the length of film with the gauge. You can make one with a bad short end and measuring tape or synchronizer. You can also estimate roughly how much film is left by turning the supply pulley and feeling for how much inertia there is to the film. When the film gets short though it is difficult to estimate.

© Copyright 2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.