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Contrast masking


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#1 Filip Plesha

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Posted 02 February 2006 - 07:51 PM

Has this technique ever been used in motion picture printing?

I assume it would come in handy when printing from reversal film, but has it been done before? And if yes, how is the blur on the mask acomplished? One thing that comes to mind is shifting the optical printer slightly out of focus.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 February 2006 - 09:23 PM

Has this technique ever been used in motion picture printing?

I assume it would come in handy when printing from reversal film, but has it been done before? And if yes, how is the blur on the mask acomplished? One thing that comes to mind is shifting the optical printer slightly out of focus.


There was an article in an old "American Cinematographer" I believe, although I may be confusing two articles I read on masking to reduce contrast: one person talking was Jim Danforth, who used masking to create low-con prints to be used in rear-projection for "Dynamation" stop-motion work; the other person said they used masking for some matte painting work for some film ("Dark Crystal"?) It may have been in Cinefex instead.

Not really necessary anymore since digital compositing does not cause an increase in contrast.
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#3 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 02 February 2006 - 09:49 PM

Has this technique ever been used in motion picture printing?

I assume it would come in handy when printing from reversal film, but has it been done before? And if yes, how is the blur on the mask acomplished? One thing that comes to mind is shifting the optical printer slightly out of focus.


It certainly can be done. You can blur the mask somewhat by printing through the base, or optically, as you describe. Just as with still printing, masking is a "lost art" for many.

As you know, the orange color of modern color negative films (pioneered by Kodak in the 1940's) is a sophisticated form of masking to enhance color reproduction.
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#4 Filip Plesha

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Posted 03 February 2006 - 05:46 AM

I would not call it "lost art" because the principle is used in digital processing as well, and it's done the same way too. You can do it manually in photoshop by making a black and white negative layer, or you can use the highlight/shadow tool, which works on the same principle. Since this tool is one of the most popular tools in photoshop (so many people have problems with shadow detail on bad slide scans), I'd say this technique is quite alive, allthough not in its physical form.


Besides fixing contrast issues, it can also be used for creating a rather interesting looking texture on the image, or for smoothly increasing color saturation without change in contrast, or even for sharpening, creativity is the limit.
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#5 Sam Wells

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Posted 03 February 2006 - 10:11 AM

Jean-Pierre Beauviala (Aaton) invented a fillm printer light that was a CRT and that could do various kinds of color and presumably contrast masking.

He decided not to pursue this for the reason that digital compositing was coming of age.

-Sam
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#6 Filip Plesha

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Posted 03 February 2006 - 02:20 PM

Jean-Pierre Beauviala (Aaton) invented a fillm printer light that was a CRT and that could do various kinds of color and presumably contrast masking.

He decided not to pursue this for the reason that digital compositing was coming of age.

-Sam


I bet if labs offered some quality masking service for a price cheaper than DI, people would go for it, since many indipendent filmmakers find DI still expensive, and some prefer the quality of optical printing compared to 2K DI.

Bascially, all the photoshop-like tools used in DI derive from analog techniques.
Sharpening? Contrast control of any part of the dynamic range? Selective color adjustments? Saturation? Desaturation? You name it, most of the digital algorithms use for these procedures are based on darkroom tricks, and most of these tricks can be used in motion too, using a regular effects optical printer.

I'm suprized that before the digital age nobody tried to persue the creation of special looks, like the ones we see today in DI-ed films, because there is a way (even though complicated and hard) to create a lot of modern DI looks with analog tricks, exept where compositing is in question. Optical printers have proved to have problems with that.
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 February 2006 - 06:37 PM

There may be over 1000 shots in a feature film, which is why individual optically-printed adjustments in contrast or saturation are not feasible, but the final look would only be in the dupe negative (IN), which would have to be now treated as your "original" negative for making IP and IN's for making release prints, or else you'd have to recreate those effects for every IN made of the movie.

So that's neg --> IP --> IN with effect --> IP --> IN--> release print

Contrast masking only made sense for people doing optical printer special effects compositing.

For ordinary scenes where you just wanted a little less contrast, it would not have been worth the cost, plus you'd be fighting the increase in contrast just from having to use dupe elements, so it was counterproductive. So it only made sense in situations where you had to make dupes anyway for some other reason, like for a composite effect.

Besides, with modern Vision-2 and Fuji Eterna stocks, some people are complaining about a lack of contrast, not having too much contrast.
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#8 Filip Plesha

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Posted 03 February 2006 - 07:19 PM

Besides, with modern Vision-2 and Fuji Eterna stocks, some people are complaining about a lack of contrast, not having too much contrast.



I'm not just talking about contrast reduction masks, I'm talking about masking in general.

It's nice that you have mentioned the low contrast of modern films. You can also use masks to increase contrast.

With a combination of 2 masks you could make any vision-2 film
have higher contrast, all appearing in the master positive.


Of course, as you say, it would be a pain to repeat the procedure for every new master positive.
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#9 dd3stp233

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Posted 03 February 2006 - 09:39 PM

I remember reading an interview with Lucas about "Phantom Menace" He said some shots had up 17 different elements composited togather, so a lot can be done with optical printing.
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#10 Filip Plesha

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Posted 04 February 2006 - 09:16 AM

I remember reading an interview with Lucas about "Phantom Menace" He said some shots had up 17 different elements composited togather, so a lot can be done with optical printing.



Well, as far as I know, Episode was was composited digitally
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 February 2006 - 12:21 PM

Well, as far as I know, Episode was was composited digitally


Yes, it was. Actually, it's "Return of the Jedi" which holds the record for number of individual elements composited into a single shot using an optical printer, for the final space battle.
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#12 K Borowski

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Posted 04 February 2006 - 12:36 PM

Filip, I agree with you. Optical masking, though complicated, can make for all kinds of image manipulation. Contrast, tonality, density, and detail that ordinarily would be lost from negative to print can all be manipulated to affect the look of a positive. The problem is that of having to repeat the masking process, unless one is to run all of the INs from the one master positive. It is a shame that the technology to simplify this process was not developed. I'm sure someone could have come up with a simplified method of doing it. While it is daunting to mask an entire movie, and arguably simpler to do everything "in camera" or with a DI, optical masking would make for lossless manipulation and given the same control to cinematographers as Ansel Adams had when he printed his pictures. The 16mm short film I'm working on is actually going to experiment with dodging and burning of image areas through masking. I am either going to try to mask using my Uhler printer, or "tripack" the negative, mask, and print film in a Bolex H16 when I print it. I'm shooting the film on Plus-X and Double-X negative. It is going to take a while to finish, but I will be certain to post examples and comparisons between masked and unmasked prints (daylies and the finished print) of the final film.

Regards.

Karl Borowski
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#13 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 04 February 2006 - 02:43 PM

I'm not just talking about contrast reduction masks, I'm talking about masking in general.

It's nice that you have mentioned the low contrast of modern films. You can also use masks to increase contrast.

With a combination of 2 masks you could make any vision-2 film
have higher contrast, all appearing in the master positive.
Of course, as you say, it would be a pain to repeat the procedure for every new master positive.


---If distribution companies quibble over the cost of print stocks and ENR, will they approve this extra cost.

I once saw an article in SMPTE which discussed using a Kodak color masking stock for restoring faded negatives and dupes.
What ever became of that? it would seem there wasn't enough of a market to sustain it.

---LV
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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 February 2006 - 06:09 PM

---If distribution companies quibble over the cost of print stocks and ENR, will they approve this extra cost.

I once saw an article in SMPTE which discussed using a Kodak color masking stock for restoring faded negatives and dupes.
What ever became of that? it would seem there wasn't enough of a market to sustain it.

---LV


Time is money in post-production, so even though digital methods are expensive, they are faster, simpler, and more powerful, and as costs drop, more accessible, which makes old optical printer methods less necessary or desirable.

Not to mention that whatever you do in an optical printer ends up creating a new negative two generations removed from the original negative, whereas a digital method can create a new negative with the same grain structure as the original. Plus can you imagine how much wedge testing is necessary for subtle adjustments in contrast shot-to-shot, especially if the point is to match some "normal" footage?

Spending the time on masking, etc. in an optical printer only makes sense now for DIY projects where you aren't charging yourself for the time.

That said, already a lot of simple restoration work IS still done optically, especially for b&w films where a generational loss is not such a bad thing compared to color.
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#15 Filip Plesha

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Posted 04 February 2006 - 06:33 PM

---If distribution companies quibble over the cost of print stocks and ENR, will they approve this extra cost.

I once saw an article in SMPTE which discussed using a Kodak color masking stock for restoring faded negatives and dupes.
What ever became of that? it would seem there wasn't enough of a market to sustain it.

---LV



Special masking films can simplify such processes, but they are not necessary. Any kind of film stock can be used for masking in restoration. It's just that it would be a lot easier if you have a film that is going to guarantee you to do the job in a certain way. Otherwise you'd have to experiment with the density and contrast of your masks to get what you want.
Since masking is an optical process, there is always an alternative to everything. If all else fails, you can make shadows with your fingers in shape of a bunny.
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#16 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 06 February 2006 - 02:14 PM

Special masking films can simplify such processes, but they are not necessary. Any kind of film stock can be used for masking in restoration. It's just that it would be a lot easier if you have a film that is going to guarantee you to do the job in a certain way. Otherwise you'd have to experiment with the density and contrast of your masks to get what you want.
Since masking is an optical process, there is always an alternative to everything. If all else fails, you can make shadows with your fingers in shape of a bunny.


---It was principly for restoring faded colors.
One would measure the color densities of a known black, such nas a frameline in the faded film.
This would be used for determining the exposure for the masking stock.
It have been reversal.
it would then be bipacked with the faded film and a new corrected dupe would be made from the combo.

---LV
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#17 K Borowski

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Posted 06 February 2006 - 07:34 PM

Jean-Pierre Beauviala (Aaton) invented a fillm printer light that was a CRT and that could do various kinds of color and presumably contrast masking.

He decided not to pursue this for the reason that digital compositing was coming of age.

-Sam


Sam: do you know where I could find more information on this system? I had considered building the same type of printer, using a film recorder as a printer light for printing the negative.

Regards.

Karl Borowski
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#18 Sam Wells

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 11:34 AM

Sam: do you know where I could find more information on this system?


I don't know how far the development went. I never heard of it being demonstrated, and like I say he apparently decided not to pursue it, for the reasons I gave (so he told me in 1992 or thereabouts).

And Aaton had other fish to fry....

-Sam
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