Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

Black & White Film

Published : 14th August 2003


Dear list,

>My apology’s, as the desaturation menu solves the problem instantly. However, are there are any tips on maximizing the look; would love to hear some.

Scott Henderson
Still hangin tough with HD in upstate NY,



Scott Henderson wrote :

>are there are any tips on maximizing the look?

Black and white film emulsion reacts to colors to produce shades that are substantially different than the result obtained by simply desaturation video. That's an important distinction to make if one is trying to achieve the look of black and white film.

While it might be possible to achieve this look in camera, I would recommend that this be done through a daVinci for grater control. In fact, because of this, it would be a better idea to shoot in full color. Then, once in front of a daVinci, you can use the color information to guide the look and feel of the black and white output. You might want to consult with Kevin Shaw (of daVinci) for further detail on how to achieve this effect and manipulate the resulting imagery.

Martin Euredjian
eCinema Systems, Inc.

www.ecinemasys.com



Thanks for the plug Martin.

>Black and white film emulsion reacts to colors to produce shades that >are substantially different than the result obtained by simply >desaturating video.

Shooting B/W in camera has the advantage of seeing what you get, but is not as flexible, and possibly wont give you exactly what you want.

If you shoot color, a da Vinci can create separate contrast in each of the RGB channels. There are several ways to do it depending on how much control you need, You can use some or all of the techniques.

For example:

1) Setting [Make Lum] to 0 and [Sat] to 0 leaves a B/W image, but the color joyballs still affect density for each of the RGB channels. Therefore adding red with the Gain joyball makes light reds (skin) relatively lighter than light blues/greens. Removing red with the lift joyball makes dark reds darker than dark blues/greens. B/W film stock traditionally shows red as dark/ black and blue as light - hence the use of yellow and red filters to increase contrast, -but you guys know that better than anyone.

2) A similar but more precise way of doing the above is to isolate a color with secondaries and use secondary lift and gain to control density for that isolation. Again Sat somewhere (usually at the end) should be 0 to maintain B/W. This is less "film like" and more work but more controllable.

3) Last but not least, my preference is to define the different RGB densities with custom curves, this is the most film like, and probably the easiest to achieve. Individual RGB densities can still be tweaked scene to scene using RGB custom curve controls and both the above techniques still work.

An example of the last technique is available as a Powergrade from the da Vinci Codex, in the library "Tones".

http://www.davsys.com/Codex/pgrade.htm

A power grade library is a grade that can be applied over the top of a regular grade, and is a good way to save, teach or explain a look to a colourist. Power grades are resolution and source independent but must be loaded on a 2K with similar options. The Tones library requires a 2K Plus with one Power Tier, but all the above methods can be achieved on a standard da Vinci 888, 2K or 2K Plus.

Kevin Shaw
Director of Training
The da Vinci Academy
Total Image Solutions
www.davsys.com



Kevin Shaw writes:

>If you shoot color, a da Vinci can create separate contrast in each of the >RGB channels.


Fine with 4:4:4. How about when shooting under sampled color? Won't using color information to derive various B&W tones also affect sharpness?

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



Dan Drasin wrote:

> Fine with 4:4:4. How about when shooting under sampled color?

You callin' 3:1:1 under sampled?

I still think that shooting with true monochromatic photosensitive material (i.e. film or CCDs) yields a far superior B&W look than shooting with color and pulling the chroma.

Jeff "purist" Kreines



From Jeff K

>Shooting with true monochromatic photosensitive material (i.e. film or >CCDs) yields a far superior B&W look

Why do you think this is? Is it to do with the relative brightness of the colours as reproduced in shades of grey? - in which case it ought to be possible to match b/w film or CCDs with de-chroma'd colour recording, either by filtering the camera for the b'w shoot, or by colour correcting before desaturating the colour video image.

Or is to do with resolution, or contrast or something else?

Dominic Case
Atlab Australia



Dominic Case wrote:

> Or is to do with resolution, or contrast or something else?

Well, in terms of film, I think it's a matter of dyes vs. actual deposits of silver, among other things (grain, etc.).

In video part of the difference might be due to the simplicity of the optical path (no prisms) and the fact that chroma is usually subsampled.

This isn't to say that I haven't gotten decent B&W from color video originals, but it always pales next to true monochrome.

If only someone made a real monochrome HD camera, now that's something I'd buy!

Jeff "no, not the Sony 1035 line box camera" Kreines



>Well, in terms of film, I think it's a matter of dyes vs. actual deposits of >silver, among other things (grain, etc.).

I must say I've never liked still prints from chromogenic negative as much as from silver negative.

That chromogenic stuff is a trap also if you want b/w for image permanence - photos for your great grandchildren etc. It's probably no more stable than colour.

oops - this is cml-hdtv, time to shut down and move my transmitter

Dominic Case
Atlab Australia



A few points to clarify :

For Dan: Separating the RGB layers to control contrast works on any source, because da Vinci's internally as 16 bit RGB, even if the input is 4:2:2 (or less). And separating the colors does not have any affect on sharpness, we are not throwing away any of the color channels, just matrixing them in a different way. If it were true that manipulating color channels affected sharpness, da Vinci could claim that 4:4:4 upsampling increased resolution, but it does not. It would also follow that any basic color correction would affect sharpness which it does not. Increased contrast appears to make images sharper. And so does grain. But that is another story.

For Jeff: I tend to agree with you, in fact Nitrate stock gave the best B/W of all, but it's not always practical. A large part of why monochromatic systems look better (IMHO) is exactly because they are not designed to make all colors read as gray. I am told in the good old days stars wore red dresses instead of black because they took the light better, and still registered as black on B/W film. My point is the same result can be obtained electronically. In classes I describe it as crushing the reds, rather than just crushing everything (ie equal amounts of RGB) That's an over simplification but the result usually gives significantly better tonal range than just removing saturation. Of course it works much much better if it is shot and art directed with that in mind. Which is what you would have to do if you did shoot B/W stock.

In commercials I used these techniques often because the agency were not comfortable with being locked into B/W, and wanted a get out, in case. Some DoPs then experimented with the use of color to define tone, in ways beyond the realm of traditional stocks. Are any HD cameras setup with a true monochrome matrix, or do they just desaturate the image?

Kevin Shaw
Director of Training
The da Vinci Academy
Total Image Solutions
www.davsys.com



Dominic Case wrote:

>I must say I've never liked still prints from chromogenic negative as >much as from silver negative.

Nice to hear that from an esteemed lab man who knows what he's looking at!

>That chromogenic stuff is a trap also if you want b/w for image >permanence

Well, I'd guess it's a bit better, right? I mean, isn't most of the problem with chromogenic color fading the fact that different color layers fade at different rates?

Jeff "slather on the silver with a trowel like the old days" Kreines



>Well, I'd guess it's a bit better, right? I mean, isn't most of the problem >with chromogenic color fading

er. . .I think you mean the problem with colour dye films . . .

But…yes, but really, most of the problem is that the different colour layers fade…period.

I guess bleach bypass prints are the way to go - you get colour now, and still have a black and white silver print long after the dyes are all dead.

Dominic Case
Atlab Australia



Dominic Case wrote:

> er. . .I think you mean the problem with colour dye films . . .

Yes, indeed!

> I guess bleach bypass prints are the way to go…

Ha!

On Estar, of course...

Jeff Krines