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grains in black


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#1 Tommy T

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Posted 14 March 2006 - 07:11 PM

Hello All...

I just sent 100 feet of 16mm Kodak Vision2 500T to Post Works in NY. I had the film processed normal and transfered (best light) to DV-Cam. I got the footage back today and really liked what I saw. The only down side was the heavy "dancing" grains in the deep areas of black. The colors looked great, skin tones were awesome, even the greys were pretty clean...but the ole blacks were real grainy. Note, the blacks were not milky in any way. The blacks were very rich and very bold...it just so happens the blacks also had dancing grain all throughout. Finally, I shot a grey card at the head and every shot came out very nicely and evenly exposed.

Any thoughts?

Thank you in advance.
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#2 David Cox

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Posted 15 March 2006 - 07:11 AM

Hello All...

I just sent 100 feet of 16mm Kodak Vision2 500T to Post Works in NY. I had the film processed normal and transfered (best light) to DV-Cam. I got the footage back today and really liked what I saw. The only down side was the heavy "dancing" grains in the deep areas of black. The colors looked great, skin tones were awesome, even the greys were pretty clean...but the ole blacks were real grainy. Note, the blacks were not milky in any way. The blacks were very rich and very bold...it just so happens the blacks also had dancing grain all throughout. Finally, I shot a grey card at the head and every shot came out very nicely and evenly exposed.

Any thoughts?

Thank you in advance.


I'm guessing from your post that you are very happy with the grain level over the rest of the image, its just those in the blacks that are not to your liking? This suggests that there is an appropriate level of grain reduction being used in telecine, as there should be for a "best light" (wheras a "one light" often has no reduction). I am wondering if its a DV compression issue. These formats do tend to compress black areas more, because the thinking is that there is less required detail down there. Do you think the grain structure is looking in any way digitally screwed up - do you think the grain you are seeing in the blacks are different in texture some how to the grain you are seeing elsewhere?

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#3 Tommy T

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Posted 15 March 2006 - 04:17 PM

Ok, here are a couple of screen captures of the test footage I mentioned. As you can see, there is a ton of grain in the blacks. Do you think I tried to push the shadows too much? I was testing for color contrast and deep shadows. Any ideas?

Thanks again in advance.

Posted Image


Posted Image


Posted Image

Edited by Tommy T, 15 March 2006 - 04:20 PM.

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#4 Dominic Case

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Posted 15 March 2006 - 05:56 PM

Even though this is the fabulous Vision 2 stock, remember you are using a high speed emulsion, and it is 16mm.

Remember also that film shows the most graininess in the shadows, because the largest grains are the only ones that get exposed in the low light levels.

I guess that the answer is simple: if you had exposed a stop or so more, you would have moved everything up the scale a little, away from that grainy tonal area.

I think the compression issues that David Cox mentions are also significant. When I lighten up the shadow areas on the frames you posted, and enlarge them, the pattern I see is not a typical film grain pattern but has a chunky, compressed look to it. The compression is doing its best to reproduce the grain pattern, and it's succeeding in producing a pattern - of sorts. It doesn't know you don't want that pattern!
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#5 Mike Williamson

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Posted 15 March 2006 - 08:38 PM

While there are a number of things contributing to the grain in these images (16mm high speed emulsion, video compression, etc.), they simply look underexposed to my eye. As Dominic points out, one more stop of exposure would have helped these images a great deal.

Another option would be to get the footage retransferred a stop darker. It would make the blacks richer and reduce the grain, but you would lose detail in the darker parts of the images, for example the black overcoats which would probably blend into the background.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 15 March 2006 - 09:44 PM

It's a little underexposed and "lifted" looking, but either way, in digital color-correction you could have made those blacks blacker, which would have reduced the problem.
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#7 Tommy T

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Posted 15 March 2006 - 11:43 PM

Thanks everyone! I appreciate your help.

Well, it looks like a majority of you say it looks underexposed. Ok, I am cool with that. However, it brings up another question. I was taking an incident reading with a digital Sekonic and was coming up with an F-Stop of around 5.6. Should I have ignored this number and overexposed by a stop? How and when do you know when to ignore the meter and overexpose?

Thanks again to all.

p.s. I lit the scene with a diffused 2K, so there was plenty of light. Thanks.
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 15 March 2006 - 11:56 PM

We don't know how you rated the stock or if your meter was working properly. It shouldn't have come out underexposed like this if you set your meter up correctly and exposed for what the meter said. If you find that you tend to underexpose, rate the stock slower to compensate. Or get your meter checked.

Unless it was a spot meter reading the faces, in which you case you need to open up by at least a stop because caucasian skin tone is about a stop brighter than 18% gray.
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#9 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 16 March 2006 - 12:22 AM

Even though this is the fabulous Vision 2 stock, remember you are using a high speed emulsion, and it is 16mm.

Remember also that film shows the most graininess in the shadows, because the largest grains are the only ones that get exposed in the low light levels.


That depends how you expose it. I find properly exposed film shows most grain in the midtones.

Is it me or does it look it look more like video noise? It seems like there is a bit of chroma in the 'grain' which leads me to think it make be what they transferred on combined with underexposure. If it was grain from underexposure I think the images would be more broken up. This looks more like an overlay of noise.

Again, hard to judge without seeing it play.
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#10 Dominic Case

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Posted 16 March 2006 - 03:18 AM

How and when do you know when to ignore the meter and overexpose?


Your meter (if it's incident, not spot) will be reading for an 18% and placing that in the middle of the curve.

In a scene like this, where you have large dark areas that you are interested in - and which are going to show grain if you lift the level at all - perhaps it's best to place them closer to the best working zone of the filmstock, rather than leave them bumping along on the toe.

If you only had tiny areas of deep shadow, and wanted most attention on bright highlights, then expose for them.
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#11 stoop

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Posted 16 March 2006 - 05:16 AM

As David Said, even in digital correction you could have made the blacks blacker. Your are loosing some information however

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#12 Tommy T

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Posted 16 March 2006 - 10:07 AM

Wow...that really looks good. What did you to achive that look. Was it photoshop, After Effects. ?

As David Said, even in digital correction you could have made the blacks blacker. Your are loosing some information however

Posted Image


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#13 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 16 March 2006 - 10:15 AM

I agree. Looks like about a stop or two of underexposure -- "milky" blacks and increased graininess start to be more visible with underexposure. As others have noted, you can usually bring the black level down and hide the grain during telecine transfer, but don't expect to get back shadow detail that the underexposure lost.
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