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Desaturated Color Film Same as B/W


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#1 Craig Knowles

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 10:29 AM

Generally speaking, if you want to make a black-and-white film, are you losing anything visually by shooting color and then desaturating to black-and-white versus shooting strictly in black-and-white to begin with?

The reason I ask is that I caught "Good Night and Good Luck" recently (which was black-and-white, but it was shot in color and desaturated to B/W afterwards) and something about it didn't feel right to me. If I hadn't known it was shot in color, I may have never given it a second thought, but it didn't seem quite as traditionally B/W as I'm used to.

Is there a perceptible difference (other than grain)?
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#2 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 11:01 AM

Generally speaking, if you want to make a black-and-white film, are you losing anything visually by shooting color and then desaturating to black-and-white versus shooting strictly in black-and-white to begin with?

The reason I ask is that I caught "Good Night and Good Luck" recently (which was black-and-white, but it was shot in color and desaturated to B/W afterwards) and something about it didn't feel right to me. If I hadn't known it was shot in color, I may have never given it a second thought, but it didn't seem quite as traditionally B/W as I'm used to.

Is there a perceptible difference (other than grain)?


Generally, the "grain" is the most obvious difference. A processed B&W film has silver grains of varying size. On a microscopic level, they have a "gritty" appearance, with hard edges. A color film captures the image on silver halide grains sensitized to red, green and blue light. During processing, the oxidized developer reacts with dye "couplers" to form dyes, and the silver grains are removed by bleaching and fixing, leaving "dye clouds" to form the image. On a microscopic level, the dye clouds have a smoother appearance than silver grains. A color negative can be rendered as a B&W image by using digital intermediate, or printing the negative onto a panchromatic B&W film. The tonal rendering of various colors can be varied by selective filtration during printing (e.g., using a red filter to print only the red record using the cyan dye of the negative).
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 11:25 AM

Besides the grain structure and contrast, color neg uses a different anti-halation backing, rem-jet -- there is a tendency with real b&w photography to get halos around bright lights sometimes, like car headlights, sort of a ring effect.
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#4 Craig Knowles

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 11:31 AM

Besides the grain structure and contrast, color neg uses a different anti-halation backing, rem-jet -- there is a tendency with real b&w photography to get halos around bright lights sometimes, like car headlights, sort of a ring effect.


Thanks, John and David. Very interesting. So (at least in this instance) I'm not completely insane for thinking there is a perceptible difference. It really depends on your preference, but I'll be sticking to 'actual' B/W.

Edited by Craig Knowles, 10 January 2006 - 11:33 AM.

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#5 Chance Shirley

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 11:35 AM

I don't think digitally desaturated color film looks as good as true black and white. However, the producers of Good Night, and Good Luck got around this problem by using true black and white stock for the release prints.

There's a really great article about the way the crew shot the movie in AC magazine. Unfortunately, it's not available in the online archives. The way I remember it, they shot on color 7218 negative (500T) because they wanted a high speed film, but thought the high speed black and white (EASTMAN DOUBLE-X) was too grainy. By the time they went to the black and white release prints, they felt they'd captured the look of low-speed, fine-grain EASTMAN PLUS-X black and white negative.

I thought this process was very effective -- the movie never felt, to me, like "fake" black and white.
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#6 Chris Fernando

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 11:38 AM

A color negative can be rendered as a B&W image by using digital intermediate, or printing the negative onto a panchromatic B&W film.


John,
Wasn't The Man Who Wasn't There done in the panchromatic B&W printing method you describe above (originating on a color stock)? Some of the most beautiful B&W stuff since Tolland, in any case.
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#7 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 11:46 AM

John,
Wasn't The Man Who Wasn't There done in the panchromatic B&W printing method you describe above (originating on a color stock)? Some of the most beautiful B&W stuff since Tolland, in any case.


Yes:

http://www.cameragui...onversation.htm
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#8 Craig Knowles

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 12:46 PM

Wasn't The Man Who Wasn't There done in the panchromatic B&W printing method you describe above (originating on a color stock)? Some of the most beautiful B&W stuff since Tolland, in any case.


The plot thickens. I thought The Man Who Wasn't There looked great. Maybe it's not so much the process in Good Night and Good Luck that I didn't care for, just the look of the film they were going for (no grain B/W television).
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#9 Sam Wells

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 01:24 PM

The spectral response is different with B&W camera film. Falls off fast in the red part of the spectrum.

One reason it looks differnt than removing color from color film. For the look of B&W Television it's probably more accurate to shoot it like "Good Night and Good Luck"

unless you wanted the look of a kinescope....

-Sam
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