Super Unsaturated Look For Projection

I am shooting some tests this week for a super16 short that may end up being projected. One of the looks that I am unsure how to create is to have the colors unsaturated to the point of almost B+W.

If this was for video only I would do it in TK. I am going to call a couple of labs to see if it can be done at least partially in timing of the print.

Anyone have any test suggestions, or any experience with this?


Steve Smith

Print timing has nothing to do with the effect you are looking for. The way to render images in print desaturated to such extent is by having an B&W interneg. made out of the color negative (via interpos. and then print both in appropiate percentages onto the color print stock, in your case favouring considerably the exposure of the B&W interneg. over the color neg. You'll have to test in order to find out the percentages that should suit your purpose.

Arturo Briones-Carcare

Filmmaker Madrid (Spain)

I have a general list of desaturation techniques that I'm mailing to you separately.

But in terms of the extreme desaturation that you want, I'm afraid there are two methods, both expensive:

Optical printing. Make a color and b&w positive from your negative and combine them in an optical printer onto a new desaturated dupe negative.

Digital. Transfer your negative on a Spirit Datacine to a 2K data file, desaturate, and have it scanned back out to 35mm internegative using a laser recorder.

You can't easily "time out" chroma levels in conventional printing.

David Mullen Cinematographer / L.A.

If you want to think about the digital options, bear in mind that the device mentioned above may not be the highest quality option for you. It's a pity to take beautifully shot 35mm material and then compromise the sharpness and grain digitally. Have a look around to see what digital scanners are in use for quality visual effects work around your neck of the woods.

* I have no link with any company that makes scanners or provides bureau scanning as a service *

Paddy Eason

Double Negative,


Yes, I probably should have been more thorough and mentioned more expensive film scanners as an option, with better color information, better registration, and the ability to work at higher resolutions than 2K as well. The Spirit Datacine technique is just one way of going from film to digital.

What are the odds of a 4K Datacine with better color information being built? I thought I heard about something like that...

David Mullen

Cinematographer / L.A.

It's worth checking with these "datacines" to see if, when they give you a big digital image (2k or 4k), they aren't just using up a lot of pixels on something that is, at the end of the day, optically soft as hell, and then digitally de-noised and sharpened in an attempt to fake some of the lost detail back.

Just because it says 2k or 4k on the can, as it were, doesn't mean there really is 2 or 4 thousand lines of information in the image. The best scanner I've come across (and I've worked with images off many of them) is the one at CFC, London. They are currently completing the design and build of a new set of scanners, which are meant more specifically for high volume work (incl IMAX), with no quality compromise. Worth a look, when they're ready.

* NB I don't work for CFC, or anyone to do with them! *

Paddy Eason

Double Negative,


Something I did once, which did have some rather extreme side effects, was expose the film almost entirely in the toe of the stock, except the blue layer which was less fully underexposed, only about 1.5- 2 stops, and had that printed. The grain was extreme, but I got the very very washed out blue-gray look I wanted. 7293, outdoors, with an 80A on the lens, underexposed 2 1/2 stops on the lens barrel. It might be worth a look, although Arturo briones-carcare had what sounds like a better and more controllable method (the B+W interneg) which I wish I had thought of a few years ago when I did that shoot.



I thought Spirit/C-Reality are currently only capable of 2K data... if you need to go to tape (real time) the only improvements have been recording onto two D5's... one records luminance, the other full(er) chroma ? so you're working 4:4:4'ish rather than half chroma rez (D6 voodoo looking ever more attractive too).

Or did 4K TK slip by me ? (very possible)

As sharp as it is, I also wonder if C-Reality optics are really up to snuff for 4K.

Mark "4:4:4 4K" Doering-Powell LA

The Spirit (like any other non-video film scanner worth its salt) is capable of spitting out Kodak-spec 10 bit logarithmic, which is a good way to maintain the subtlety of colour and range of density of colour neg within a manageable data size.

10 bit log is catching on quite widely among digital facilities, and is certainly a big improvement on 8 bit linear which was always a terrible compromise for digital film work.

However - doing the maths you need to do for colour correction, compositing, defocussing and sharpening etc in logarithmic number space is a pain in the arse, and easy to get wrong unless you really know what you are doing, so there is a good argument for ditching the 10 bit log thing, and going straight to 16 bit linear.

Paddy Eason

Paddy Eason wrote :

>10 bit log is catching on quite widely among digital facilities, and is certainly a big >improvement on 8 bit linear which was always a terrible compromise for digital film >work.

I heartily agree with that.

> so there is a good argument for ditching the 10 bit log thing, and going straight to 16 >bit linear.

Except for the 60% increase in file size and the knock-on effects in (digital) processing times and storage space.

Martin Parsons

The Moving Picture Company


Well, it isn't my invention. This technique comes, in practice, from as far as 80's or even 70's, and its theoretical basis is no obscure mistery.

Arturo Briones-Carcare Filmmaker Madrid (Spain)

Sure - but when you have watched the waste involved in dealing with log colour, the need to repeatedly convert in and out of linear space, the confusion it causes among CG people, and the compromised results caused by people getting it wrong (mainly because every visual effects tool out there except Cineon is fundamentally designed to work in linear colourspace), then I would take that 60% hit of going straight to linear every time.

Paddy Eason

Combining color & b&w goes back even further -- for "Moby Dick" (1956), the Eastmancolor negatives were separated into three b&w positive matrices at Technicolor using "wide-cut" or "wide-band" filters, meaning that each color separation was not perfect, but still had some of the other two colors mixed in. The three passes in the dye transfer printer produced a desaturated image that looked washed-out until a fourth b&w image (silver, I guess, not black dye) was added.

"Reflections in a Golden Eye" (1967) was done differently since Technicolor no longer was able to make a fourth b&w "key" image pass in the dye transfer printer. Positive b&w separation matrices were made from the color negative, and then a b&w dupe negative was used to double-expose a b&w image over each matrix before final development.

David Mullen ASC

Cinematographer / L.A.


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