Antique Orthochromatic Look


I have been commissioned to shoot a short drama sequence with my Williamson Paragon Cinematograph. (As seen in Zerb and mentioned in this forum previously) We are to recreate the effect of shooting this short film as if it were being done in about 1920. The film stock at that time was Orthochromatic and the approach to makeup was different to nowadays with the advent firstly of Panchromatic then colour stock.

Has anyone got any ideas about film stock, filters, makeup or any other issues that we might address to give this film a really authentic look. The process of shooting will be all included in a documentary shot on HDCam and we will all be in costume. The resulting B&W short film will be printed and will be displayed as part of the documentary. I will be hand-cranking my old period projector at an open air show at a location on the South English coast.

I am, of course, consulting various experts here in UK but it would be interesting to find out what the CML pool of expertise can submit.

BTW I have used the Williamson many times now for B&W and colour stock and I am very happy with the results in that respect. Original gate weave unsteadiness and lens quality look great so I will be making no changes there.

Thanks in advance
John Adderley DOP UK

I've never done this, but I'd imagine you'd shoot everything on black- and-white stock (if such a thing still exists) through a heavy blue filter.

I think I heard that they painted sets reddish if they wanted them to go darker.

Art Adams | DP
San Jose | CA | USA

What if you tried shooting with Eastman 2378E Sound recording film? (B&W orthochromatic) It is estar base, KS-1866 perf but you're hand-cranking with a Williamson, so it should be no problem...

Best regards,

John Babl
Miami based

Orthochromatic film was, or should I say is, most sensitive to the blue end of the spectrum. It would be a very easy CC to do in post or in transfer. I'd just shoot a decent colour stock and time it properly in post.

I've actually achieved that look in Photoshop using the channel mixer by selecting monochrome, pulling back red and green to nearly 0, and pushing blue up to about 90. I ran a quick test in After Effects just now and it works very well so I'm sure that any colourist could pull off the look for you.

If you really want the look you'll have to use the same makeup techniques that were used at the time. Very pale, sometimes even white pancake makeup was used on the actors faces. Red things turn very dark, blue turns white so you won't be seeing any clouds in your skies.

Rick Gerard
Special Effects DP
Sacramento CA.

I shot a test a while ago, with a #47 (DEEP DEEP Blue) filter and plus X, I did not get an amazingly different look.

I think Art direction will play a major component in the look.

Steven Gladstone
Gladstone Films

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