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>Darkroom Sequence

Published : 16th August 2003


Hi all

I have a shoot coming up where we will have to shoot a photographer in a dark room developing a print under red light and then switches the light on - does anyone have any experience with shooting this type of scene and care to share them ?

Cheers

Matthew Woolf
London DOP



Matthew Woolf wrote:

>I have a shoot coming up where we will have to shoot a photographer in >dark room

One issue is that when shooting under totally red light, if you set focus by tape measure as you do under "while" light, the scene will appear to be soft. You need to fudge the focus closer than the actual measured distance, like you do when shooting infrared film, but not as much.

Another issue: it will be difficult to measure the correct exposure of the red lighting with your meter, as light meters "expect" to see an even mixture of all colors, i.e. "white" light. The meter will tend to tell you to give more exposure to the negative than it needs.

When in doubt, text, test, test. Even testing with a still camera, loaded with color negative film, you will learn a lot.

Bill Bennett
DoPe
Los Angeles, CA USA



Bill Bennett wrote :

>You need to fudge the focus closer than the actual measured distance


There has also been much discussion of how to 'bluff' darkroom shots on the list in the past - there must be plenty of info in the archives on this subject!

On the subject of focus shift under red light I'm curious to know what would happen if a scene was lit with white light then shot with a red filter on the camera? [Not a suitable solution for a darkroom scene I know] I often use a deep red filter when shooting B&W still(s) but since I'm focussing by eye I never think twice about the distance shifting. I assume it does. There must be some calculation for this but I'm buggered if I've ever come across it.

Tom Townend
Cinematographer/London.



Fotokem did a demo of shooting a darkroom scene under tungsten light and timing the scene red. It looked far better than the same scene shot under only red light. Give them a call, they might still have it available.

Illya Friedman
Senior Camera Rental Agent
Moviola Cameras
www.moviola.com



>Fotokem did a demo of shooting a darkroom scene under tungsten light >and timing the scene red.

I think their test showed that by shooting under magenta-gelled light instead of red-gelled light, and then timing for red, you got a sharper image because you exposed more information on the other layers.

I saw the demo and I don't think they tried taking a white-lit shot and turning it into a red-lit shot through timing (that would be a rather strange balance of printer lights...)

David Mullen
Cinematographer / L.A.



Folks,

I realize this has been covered here, but Bill's post confused me. If you light a scene using only red light, then read it with your meter, your meter reads the red light, then because of its' programming, adds the other colors. This would seem to tell the meter that there is more light than there is, rather than less. It would therefore result in underexposure rather than overexposure. Or am I making some sort of mental error?

Marty Mullin
DP
Los Angeles



Bill Bennett said :

>it will be difficult to measure the correct exposure of the red lighting with >your meter


Continuing with this thought, this is only a real problem when the shot has another light reference in it -- such as an open door or a white light being switched on or off. Otherwise it could be timed to your liking. When the red lighting is combined in the same shot with another source, you may find that exposures between the white and red lights are not what you expected. I've found what Bill says above to hold true. Additionally, when you switch off a white light and reveal a red safe light, you naturally expect the red safe lighting to be darker! You don't want the red at key level, 'cause it just looks too bright.

I especially like amber safe lights, not only for actual darkroom use, but for filming darkroom scenes by. Combining red and amber lights can look great, if you want a little more spectrum. This appears to be a minority view, I suppose because it's not the typical "bathed in red" darkroom look.

Christopher Mosio
Cinematographer/Seattle



>This would seem to tell the meter that there is more light than there is, >rather than less.

Yes. The meters are biased to read more green light than any other color. They also respond to light that is in the crossover section of the 3 emulsions (RGB) and can give wrong readings, particularly in the red/orange areas. You can read more at my website in the article, "From Candle light to Daylight."

Mark Woods, Director of Photography
http://www.markwoods.com/
Stills That Move, Pasadena, CA



David wrote:

>I saw the demo and I don't think they tried taking a white-lit shot and >turning it into a red-lit shot

I agree. However, in that demo you may recall that the scene was shot three times under three different lighting conditions, 1) all red light, 2) magenta, and 3)tungsten. All captured on tungsten stock. I remember the tungsten looking by far the sharpest.

The host (I think it was Mark) explained that this was because of the balance of exposure in each layer. The red timing was a Fotokem "thing"- or to say in other words, Fotokem was touting their timing ability to make the scene have that dark room safe-light look. I don't recall if Fotokem claimed it to be a proprietary timing system (like their post speed ramp timing system) or if it was just a preferred way to capture the look.

Illya Friedman
Senior Camera Rental Agent
Moviola
www.moviola.com



Illya Friedman wrote :

>I remember the tungsten looking by far the sharpest.

I remember in college (when we printed our dailies), watching two different prints of the same neg, the shot had a very bright light source in it. On print was timed so the light source was red, the other so the light source was yellow. Both looked like they had intended to be shot the way they were printed.

As to sharpness, that is perhaps the essence. Sure you can light tungsten, and time it red, or shoot through a red filter. However darkrooms that I have been in, always look very dim, and a little blurry. It's on the edge of human vision and dim as well.

Something aesthetic to think about.

Steven Gladstone
Cinematographer - Gladstone Films
Cinematography Mailing List - East Coast List Administrator
Better off Broadcast (B.O.B.)
New York, U.S.A.



Hi Matthew

I did this shot in film school (still enjoy seeing it) although it's been done ooodles of times since, in dozens of movies etc. never as realistically, though, IMHO....

Take full developed print place into bath (tray) of ferrocyanide bleach in full lighted darkroom (I used a #25 filter over lights & printed down) rock tray slowly as you hold camera upside down over tray, shooting (if you're there hand-holding, hold your breath--the fumes are nasty) as picture bleaches away to white slowly slide the paper up & out (so when printed it looks like it's going into the tray--this will take practice) print in reverse & you have the "effect" you want (all done in camera) most movies never allow you to "see" the print coming up in the developer because, of course, that takes place in the dark (but hardly anyone thinks about that or knows, etc. so the magic is wasted on typical audience) but that's how we did it once upon a time in the hills of Southern Ohio (Ohio University Film School) & impressed our peers!

Best regards,
Don Daso
Lighting Cameraman (Charlotte, NC & Washington, DC)



Congratulations and thanks Don on an innovative way of shooting a much talked about scene - will have to test that out some day and thanks everyone else too.

Matthew Woolf
London DOP