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cross process, bleach bypass and super saturation


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#1 Chris Cooke

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Posted 15 April 2006 - 03:37 PM

I'm shooting a film soon that will be shot on 16mm and 35mm. I'll be finishing on video for distribution with a possibility of a 35mm blowup for local theaters and film festivals. The film will start out with a very glossy, saturated look on 35mm and end up with gritty 16mm bleach bypass look. I'll also be using a cross processed look for frequent flashbacks on 16mm.
This will be my first time using film for narrative work and I'm looking at how to achieve these looks. I'll obviously be doing some tests but I'm thinking of color correcting in the digital realm rather than photochemically because I'm nervous about being locked into a particular look and I know that photochemical cross processing can be risky. Any thoughts?
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#2 Michael Nash

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Posted 15 April 2006 - 07:57 PM

The costs and complexity associated with multiple formats and processes can add up quickly. Especially if you're thinking of making a traditional 35mm print, you have to factor in the blowup of the 16mm elements. And if you're going to post digitally, the visual difference between film gauges is minimized (depending on the resolution and format you work in).

Often times it's just cheaper and easier to stick with one format (35mm), even though you may pay a little more for stock up front. For one thing, it's the same gear already rented for the shoot, and possibly even the same filmstock the production is already carrying. It makes "picking up" or rescheduling scenes at the last minute much easier. This can have a BIG trickle down effect on the film's final budget. It's pretty easy to "grunge up" 35mm either photochemically or digitally.

But you really need to break down a complete budget for each scenario of stocks/post/release format. Usually the simplest workflow also turns out to be the cheapest and least problematic.

And no offense, but if it's your first time using these techniques you may not want to bite off more than you can chew. It's just as important to deliver a quality product on time and on budget as it is to be artistic.
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#3 Chris Cooke

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Posted 16 April 2006 - 12:40 PM

Thanks Michael. You're probably right about sticking with one format. It's just that our primary release format will be DVD and so I think that it would be cost effective to shoot on super 16mm cropped to 1.85.

And no offense, but if it's your first time using these techniques you may not want to bite off more than you can chew. It's just as important to deliver a quality product on time and on budget as it is to be artistic.


I'm a little nervous about using differerent techniques but I've shot shorts, music videos, comercials and tv shows on video and achieved these looks so if I do it in the digital realm, it wouldn't be that foreign to me. I'd love to do some tests of timing the image photochemically though.
If I color correct the image digitally, is 4:4:4 color space essential? Would you recommend transferring the film to D5 or could I get away with transferring it to DVCPROHD (or any other highly compressed HD format)?
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#4 Michael Nash

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Posted 16 April 2006 - 06:33 PM

If I color correct the image digitally, is 4:4:4 color space essential? Would you recommend transferring the film to D5 or could I get away with transferring it to DVCPROHD (or any other highly compressed HD format)?


To be honest with you, I'm sorting all that out for myself right now! I haven't pushed all the compression formats to their limits yet, to see what you can and cannot get away with. Suffice it to say, higher compression gives you less room to color correct without visible artifacts. I'm curious about DVCPROHD myself, since it's relatively easy to work with on my Mac.

I wouldn't say 4:4:4 is absolutely necessary for a standard-def end product, but the more extreme you push your contrast, saturations, and individual hue changes, the more you're going to get color banding and noise. If you're planning on making a 35mm print off your digital master, then obviously you want to work at the highest resolution and deepest color space you can manage. So it's all relative.

But for an HD or SD video finish, you can create a lot of these looks in telecine color correction BEFORE the image gets laid down to tape, where compression isn't an issue. Then your tape format (or compression codec) only needs to handle a relatively minor color-correction pass to polish the final output.

Regardless of resolution and colorspace though, I always advocate a hybrid approach to creating a look. Do what you can do well in camera, and then polish that look the rest of the way in post. This not only gives you a little more flexibility, but the look is a little more organic.
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