Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

B & W Cinematography

Published : 10th October 2003


Does anyone have experience with B&W cinematography? It’s hard to find documentation.

Here are my questions :

Is the assumption “expose for the blacks and print for the highlights” in order to crash the blacks valid for B&W negative as well?
Can the Kodak 7222 be pushed 2 stops and show a reasonable grain (I know this is very subjective)?
Does underexposure in B&W produce the same effect that does with color, such as milkiness in the blacks and grain?

Thank you very much,

Gian Claudio



Gian Claudio wrote :

>Is the assumption "expose for the blacks and print for the highlights" in >order to crash the blacks valid for B&W negative as well?

Not to the extent it is with color neg. You want to have good solid shadows on the neg, so they don't get milky, but not too much overexposure in the midtones (as they get very grainy quickly, especially if they consist of flat walls and things like that).

>Can the Kodak 7222 be pushed 2 stops and show a reasonable grain (I >know this is very subjective)?

It gets quite grainy, and more contrasty. I like this look, sometimes, you may not. Shoot tests. Are you pushing for speed or for the grainy look? You may find 7222 to be grainy enough processed normally, if you're used to color neg.

If you need the speed, you have no choice, though you might try Ilford HP5, if you can get it to run through your camera (many cameras don't like it). Another lovely stock, tho no machine readable code, if you're editing on an Avid (or equivalent) and going back to cut neg. Another stock to try is the lovely Tri-X reversal, great for telecine or for printing on 7361 -- just beautiful.

Peter Hutton and Robert Fenz make great use of this combination.

>Does underexposure in B&W produce the same effect that does with >color, such as milkiness in the blacks and grain?

A thin negative is not a good thing. You do get the above effects. An overexposed neg (over a certain point) also gets a lot more grainy, the opposite of what most color neg stocks do. You have to think differently - many people routinely overexpose a good bit with color neg, as it has advantages. Not so with B&W.

A couple of test rolls will be very much worth your while here.

Remember every lab seems to process neg to its own favourite gamma, so your results may vary.

5222/7222 is a great stock. It was invented in 1959, and Godard wrote “that it was the one film stock that could be loved by both Russell Metty and Richard Leacock”.

Enjoy it.


Jeff Kreines



Hi Gian

You can have a lot of fun with black and white. Best thing is to test it. In Russia, one of the tricks with their fantastic NK2Sha (written HK2W) stock is to paint faces/hands etc a blueish grey colour then film through an w85. With the right exposure, worked out from the test, as the rating of the stock varies, you can get some wonderful silvery looking B&W with fantastic blacks and great detailed highlights. I can't remember everything about the technique as it's been a few years since I did it but if you are interested, I could dig out my old notes. I'm sure you could do this with Kodak stock too as the Russian stuff only comes in 35mm and is a bit hard to track down, though my AC shot some of his own tests on it last year.

Hope this helps.

Chris Maris
UKDP
www.chrismaris.com