Lens Filtration When Shooting B&W


G'day all. Today I had an interesting conversation with the DP I assist. He has a coming job where he will shoot B&W neg to print it on colour pos. He says that he is after a monochromatic picture.

Has anyone experienced this technique?

Now, is the monochromatic colour ( red, green or blue ), after shooting and printing that is, actually governed by what B&W filter was used? Or emulsion types used ( Neg or Pos or both )? Colour timing? Combination???


Kamal bou Nassar
Beirut - Lebanon

Kamal bou Nassar wrote :

>He will shoot B&W neg to print it on colour pos. He says that he is after >a monochromatic picture. Now, is the monochromatic colour ( red, >green or blue ), after shooting and printing that is, actually governed by >what B&W filter was used?"

Using the proper filters for B&W neg will allow you to control the relative grey-scale tonality of the variously coloured objects in the scene. You will of course have only shades of grey, black, and white at that point. What you do afterward to create the color positive by way of filtering and other techniques will determine the final result.

In producing a satisfactory B&W neg, you can use a filter similar in hue to the objects you want to lighten and a complementary (opposite on the color wheel) color filter to those you want to darken (basic example : use a red filter to darken green foliage; a green filter will lighten the foliage and darken a red apple).

Ira Tiffen

When you print a silver image B&W film to color print stock, you can get a fairly neutral image, but careful lab control of printing and processing is necessary. Color print film tends to have a B&W tone scale with slightly warm highlights and slightly cool shadows, as that works best for color images.

Here are Kodak's B&W silver image print films :







Remember, although most labs have D-97 B&W print processes, not all still have the capacity for large print releases.

Silver-image print films also absorb more infrared energy during projection, so more care is needed to avoid heat damage or heat-related effects like "focus flutter". Heat filters and avoiding lamp house "hot spotting" are especially important. On larger screens, the projectionist may need to refocus between color prints and silver image B&W prints :





John Pytlak
Eastman Kodak Company

What about the opposite : shooting color stock to print on B&W?

I've shot several tv spots where we shot color neg, used B&W filters, and telecined black & white.

Jeff Barklage, s.o.c.
US based DP
View reel : www.reelsondemand.com

>shooting color stock to print on B&W?

Shooting colour neg and transferring to b/w on telecine is one thing. In that instance, the secret is to get the right levels of gray for each colour when you desaturate.

But printing to b/w print film is an entirely different animal. Print stocks like 5302 (JP recently sent the link to the Kodak specs) are blue-sensitive, so the print will appear like a blue separation: yellows reproduce as an unnaturally dark gray, and blues as unnaturally light gray. In some instances this won't matter, but flesh tones will always appear too dark. You would need a fairly serious yellow lens filter to even begin to offset this in the negative. I remember an occasion where a finished colour neg was printed onto b/w print. The titles, yellow on black, disappeared completely. If they had been yellow on blue, they would have printed up as black on white.

The only photochemical solution to this is to make panchromatic b/w pos of some sort, then a dupe neg and print that way, unfortunately, all those generations don't do anything much to help the grain or resolution.

Dominic Case
Atlab Australia

Hello, CML!

Kamal, what your DP is attempting has been done many times.

The filters used in shooting have nothing to do with the final color of the positive image. You just get a B&W negative. What you change with color filters on camera is the relationship of grey tones on the negative as Ira Tiffen explained.

But to attain a neutrally balanced or a "monochrome" (any colour) image, you just go through a normal timing session with your lab timer.

Since the B&W negative lacks the yellow/orange mask of color negative, the prints tend to be yellowish brown if printed with a balanced set of lights (e.g. 25-25-25). Your basic balance for neutral will be something like 40-30-05 (R-G-B).

If the whole negative is B&W, no color negative intercuts, the timer will prepare a pre-filter to reduce the blue light output in the printer, so his printing lights return to a more balanced set.

Have your laboratory show you their possibilities...

Jose Llufrio
Technicolor East Coast
New York City

Dominic Case wrote:

>The only photochemical solution to this is to make panchromatic b/w >pos of some sort, then a dupe neg and print that way, unfortunately, all >those generations don't do anything much to help the grain or >resolution.

As Roger Deakins recently did in "The Man Who Wasn't There":



"Roger shot some tests in black and white, and had really fallen in love with that look, so we had to figure out how to get there starting with color negative. We got the idea of printing onto a black and white film Kodak (5369) makes for titling. Basically it's designed to reproduce the blackest blacks you can get. Most titles are white characters on black backgrounds, so you want the black as black as you can get it. The film has been around for a long time."


"First off, there was extensive film testing for "The Man Who Wasn't There." At one point, Roger Deakins, the director of photography, was split 50-50 as far as shooting the film on either black & white or color negative film stock. Ultimately, USA Films (later to be known as Focus Features), the financial backers, made the final decision, and the film was shot on color negative stock (Kodak 5277) so that there could be an overseas edition of the film in color - much like the one available in France.

By the way, all of this information can be found in an interview with Roger Deakins on the Region 1 DVD release of the film. You can also find extensive articles regarding the process at the following links:




And so, "The Man Who Wasn't There" was actually originated on color negative stock, then printed on a high contrast black & white print film (5369). No digital intermediate, la "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", was performed, as Deakins, instead, chose to handle the printing process photochemically, utilizing Beverly Wood and the other wonderful people at Deluxe Film Labs to help accomplish the beautifully stylised look "The Man Who Wasn't There" has."





John Pytlak
Eastman Kodak Company

John Pytlak, quoting Roger Deakins, said

>We got the idea of printing onto a black and white film Kodak (5369)

Yes' I'd forgotten the panchromatic hi-con stock - also used, if I'm not mistaken, for "The Girl on the Bridge" (La Fille sur le pont) - shot by Jean-Marie Dreujou and processed/printed at Eclair labs a couple of years back. But it's not a cheap stock.

Colour neg is sometimes insisted upon by conservative producers who fear lack of sales of a b/w film - it gives them a fall-back. But that must compromise the lighting style a lot, surely?

Dominic Case
Atlab Australia

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