I write a lot about accessible, i.e. "cheap" filmmaking. But as I explicitly mention in The Guide, filmmaking does cost money, and often the camera and what's in it comprise the least expensive aspect of a shoot.
And while we all know (and I don't say it enough) that color negative film is still the gold standard for motion picture image quality, we also know that it's expensive. Usually, if I eschew film for digital acquisition, it's for workflow reasons—but sometimes it's purely due to cost.
But what if film stock and processing was half price?
Panavision sent me this press release today:
PANAVISION PROPOSES TWO-PERF FILM SYSTEM FOR INDIE FILMMAKING IN TROUBLED ECONOMIC TIMES
Venerable Film System Provides High-quality Images Coupled with Significant Cost Savings
April 7, 2009—Woodland Hills, Calif. — While there is no easy antidote for the effect of the recession on independent filmmakers, Panavision suggests that the venerable two-perf film system may prove to be both an artistic and economic godsend in these troubled times.
Three recent productions – “Curve of Earth,” “Shoot First and Pray You Live” and “Gallow Walker” – are examples of films shot in 35mm two-perf that delivered the artistic vision of the production team, and saved roughly 50 percent on film negative and processing costs over standard four-perf, full-frame production.
Panavision now offers modified 35mm Panaflex cameras with two-perf movements available for rental. All handle Panavision’s range of legendary spherical film lenses from super speeds to Primos.
(For those unfamiliar with two-perf, the term refers to a modified film camera’s ability to record two images within the space usually inhabited by a single four-perf frame. “Perfs,” short for perforations, are the holes on either side of a piece of film that a camera sprocket engages to advance the film past the camera’s shutter.)
According to Andy Romanoff, Panavision Executive Vice President, Technical Marketing and Strategy, two-perf provides filmmakers with the ability to shoot 2.35 wide-screen images, usually attributed to higher-end systems, at reduced costs. It delivers a widescreen viewer experience but slices film stock and negative processing costs by 33 to 50 percent.
“In today’s difficult times,” said Romanoff, “filmmakers want the unique qualities of film, but find themselves daunted by cost. Using digital technology is a viable alternative, certainly, if you are using a sophisticated digital cinema system such as the Panavision Genesis. Using a less robust digital system will produce less robust images, and can compromise an artistic vision.
“With two-perf, no compromise is necessary. The two-perf system delivers true film images, allows creatives to lay down the images they imagined, and still create their film affordably.”
For more information, contact your local Panavision representative.
There's nothing new about 2-perf 35mm—George Lucas used it on THX 1138, back when it was calld Techniscope. No mention of whether the modern incarnation might use the full width of the 35mm frame (Super Techniscope?). The OG Techniscope used Academy width, which, when split horizontally created a perfect 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
This kind of smart use of film is very digital-friendly. Formats like Techniscope and 3-perf never really caught on before the advent of the DI, because they required an optical process to convert to projectable film. But now that every film image is likely to be digitally processed in post, such duplication is unnecessary.
What I like about 2-perf over 3-perf is that it brings some of the cajones back to 'scope filmmaking. There's no post-reframing or full-screen unmatted video versions of a Techniscope film. What you shot is what you got, much like anamorphic 'scope.