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negative vs. reversal


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#1 Evan Cox

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Posted 01 January 2006 - 04:37 AM

Hello, I am new to the film world, and I am wondering which way to go. I have heard that reversal is better for amatures because once processed it is ready for projection, and that negative is more for professionals who wish to edit their work. I am the amature that wishes to edit my work. Is it true that when you get negative film developed, you get both a negative, and a positive roll? Please help me, I am confused. Happy new year.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 January 2006 - 10:30 AM

Hello, I am new to the film world, and I am wondering which way to go. I have heard that reversal is better for amatures because once processed it is ready for projection, and that negative is more for professionals who wish to edit their work. I am the amature that wishes to edit my work. Is it true that when you get negative film developed, you get both a negative, and a positive roll? Please help me, I am confused. Happy new year.


Depends on how you are going to edit it.

(1) If on a computer, you can transfer either negative or reversal to video -- the negative image is just electronically turned into a correct positive one in the transfer. Then you'd digitize the video into your computer.

(2) If you plan on editing on film (using a flatbed or upright editor, splicing tape, etc.) then you need a workprint made off of the processed negative. So you'd drop the shot film off at the lab and order both a negative processing and a print to be made off of the negative.

Negative has more exposure latitude, a more natural contrast -- reversal has a very high contrast and needs to be exposed accurately, with little margin for error.
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#3 Evan Cox

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Posted 01 January 2006 - 11:04 PM

Is there such a thing as a black and white negative stock for super 8? I can only find B&W in reversal.

Edited by E.C., 01 January 2006 - 11:06 PM.

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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 January 2006 - 11:24 PM

Is there such a thing as a black and white negative stock for super 8? I can only find B&W in reversal.


No, I don't believe so. However, b&w reversal looks excellent, if rather high in contrast. However, if you feel more comfortable shooting negative, you can shoot color negative in Super-8 and turn it b&w in the transfer.

Kodak motion picture b&w neg stocks haven't really changed, in terms of their image structure, since the 1950's, so would be rather soft & grainy in Super-8 compared to b&w reversal and color negative.

Edited by David Mullen, 01 January 2006 - 11:26 PM.

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#5 Charles MacDonald

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 12:16 AM

Is there such a thing as a black and white negative stock for super 8? I can only find B&W in reversal.

The Kodak reversal stocks CAN be processed as a negative. It is in the fine print on the data sheet. Note that I have been told there is really not a good way to get super 8 B&W prints from negatives anymore... SO you would probaly be looking at Digital scanning.

Developing as a nagative Just MIGHT give you a little more latitude in a scan situation. You would have to override the film speed in an automatic camera as doing it as nagative does change the speed.
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#6 Jaan Shenberger

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 02:57 AM

Hello, I am new to the film world, and I am wondering which way to go. I have heard that reversal is better for amatures because once processed it is ready for projection, and that negative is more for professionals who wish to edit their work. I am the amature that wishes to edit my work. Is it true that when you get negative film developed, you get both a negative, and a positive roll? Please help me, I am confused. Happy new year.



if you're most concerned with learning and developing your skills, then i'd suggest you go with reversal.
1. it's cheaper, since you don't have to pay for a workprint that you'll need to screen & edit. in theory, this would allow you to shoot more footage, which is obviously an important part of improving your cinematography skills.
2. workprints often look kinda crummy and aren't fully indicitive of how you lit & shot your neg. this obviously makes it harder to figure out what you're doing right & wrong early in the learning process.
3. shooting reversal gives you a better learning environment because there are less variables involved when going from the camera to the projector, since it's the same roll of stock. inconsistencies in workprints won't potentially confuse you.
4. reversal is unforgiving. there's no latitude-- your exposure/density is set forever once you set aperture and start shooting. imo, this is very important for students of cinematography. if you make a mistake in exposure, it will be right there and obvious. shooting neg and getting a workprint (especially a best light) can potentially hide errors in exposure. you need to know what you're doing wrong from the get go.

the biggest problem with shooting reversal is the editing. you'll be splicing your only copy, so you'll have to be very thoughtful about your editing (though this potentially good for learning editing too). and your cuts will "jump" a little when projected because of the splice tape. and your film is going to get pretty dirty & scratchy really fast, continue to get even more so every time you project it. but again, if you're most concerned about learning cinematography, i would highly suggest reversal.

once you want to shoot a project of any importance beyond an exercise, you should shoot neg. but if you start off shooting reversal, you'll find moving over to neg to be somewhat relaxing, like changing from curling a 20 lb barbell to a 15 lb barbell.

hope this helps,
jaan
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#7 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 03 January 2006 - 12:18 PM

Yes, negative films tend to be more "forgiving" of exposure errors because of their much greater latitude. Projection contrast reversal films like KODACHROME 40 Movie Film are designed primarily for direct projection, and not duplication.

Shooting on reversal film, and editing your camera original is a good learning tool, but not really best suited to production for theatre release or television.
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