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#1 Allyn Laing

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 10:10 AM

Hey there,

After watching 'Mcabe and Mrs. Miller' 1971 I am very interested in the 'flashing' look that has been applied. How is this achieved? Why do they do it, and is it available today? The blacks are very brown and it has a very distinctive look to it.

warm regards

Allyn Laing
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 12:13 PM

It was done at the lab, by exposing the film to a weak amount of light before they process it. Therefore it has to be done in total dark and is risky, hence many labs don't want to do it anymore.

It is more common now to do it in-camera using either the Panaflasher (on a Panaflex) which fits over the alternate unused mag port and flashes the film internally, or an Arri VariCon, which fits into a 6x6 mattebox and flashes the image in front of the lens (so the effect can be seen in the viewfinder.)

One can do it by exposing a roll of film to an overall amount of underexposed light (like by shooting full-frame an underexposed grey card shot out-of-focus) and then rewinding and reexposing the roll, but you'd have to do the rewinding in the dark and if this is 35mm, you'd have to rethread along the same set of perfs.

Flashing is usually white, but it can be colored if you wanted.
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#3 Stephen Williams

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 01:15 PM

One can do it by exposing a roll of film to an overall amount of underexposed light (like by shooting full-frame an underexposed grey card shot out-of-focus) and then rewinding and reexposing the roll, but you'd have to do the rewinding in the dark and if this is 35mm, you'd have to rethread along the same set of perfs.


David,

I was surprised by how much I needed to double expose to make it worthwhile. I was using white paper, however with a grey card I would underexpose about 1.5 stops from normal. Using a Mitchell meant I could run the film back in the camera very easily.

Stephen
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 05:13 PM

David,

I was surprised by how much I needed to double expose to make it worthwhile. I was using white paper, however with a grey card I would underexpose about 1.5 stops from normal. Using a Mitchell meant I could run the film back in the camera very easily.

Stephen


That would get rather unwieldly if one were shooting a lot of flashed footage daily, like 5,000' of 35mm neg per day on a feature.

I've flashed three features using the Panaflasher, for a few shots on an Arri-2C I cheated by using heavy UltraCon filters instead. I've been curious about trying the VariCon but it's hard to find one these days. Doing it in-camera by double-exposure just seems too time-consuming, with a chance for error if done by rewinding whole camera rolls by hand in a darkroom.
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#5 Bernhard Zitz

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 09:19 AM

David,

I was surprised by how much I needed to double expose to make it worthwhile. I was using white paper, however with a grey card I would underexpose about 1.5 stops from normal. Using a Mitchell meant I could run the film back in the camera very easily.

Stephen


Hello,

if I underexpose a grey- or brown-card by 1.5 stops while flashing in camera, how much do I underexpose the scene I'm filming afterwards?

is there any difference between flashing before or after shooting a scene?

What Shutter-speed is best for in camera flashing? since it's called flashing, are short shutter-speeds better?

Bernhard
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 11:18 AM

You don't underexpose the scene itself -- the flashing adds density to the shadows more than the highlights, so you want to expose normally.

It becomes very important that you expose consistently because the heaviness of the flash is relative to the second exposure, i.e. if you underexpose one shot, then the same flash level as the previous shot now looks heavier in comparison.

Flashing is also more visible when you have more black areas in the frame, so you can get away with flashing a day exterior more than a night exterior before it looks too milky.

Shutter speed has no affect on the flashing, or vice-versa.

In theory, there might be a difference between pre and post-flashing, but in practice, no. Some have noticed a slightly better "latensification" effect when using the VariCon, which essentially flashes simultaneously with the image exposure, not before or after. Meaning that there is a little more shadow detail created, as opposed to simply lifting the blacks. Generally, only the first 5%-to%10 of a normal flash improves shadow detail, above that and you are just lowering contrast / softening color by milking up the blacks.

It's important that you TEST different flash strengths to determine the best level for the look you want and the stock you are using, and even the print stock you may use. Higher contrast print stocks will counteract more of the flash, while lower-contrast negative stocks will need less flashing for the same effect.
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#7 Alex Fuchs

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 11:20 AM

Maybe someone here can explain what exactly is this "flashing" look. Never heard about this. Thanks Alex
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 11:29 AM

Flashing is exposing the film to an overall weak amount of light. When done to the negative, it slightly improves shadow detail and then starts milking up the blacks. If the flash is colored, that color will tint the blacks and the darker-toned objects in the frame.

If the flashing is done to the print, it will darken the whites, making them greyer.

Flashing lowers the perceived contrast of the image.

Think of it as controlled fogging. It would be similar to using something like a heavy UltraCon or Double-Fog filter except that flashing does not soften details nor create any halation (blooming, glowing) -- although anything you lighten the blacks and lower contrast, you make the image feel softer.

For example, Lubezki shot Cuaron's "A Little Princess" with no diffusion (other than smoke) but flashed the negative 10% overall.

Often flashing these days is done in conjunction with a contrast-increasing process like silver retention printing (like ENR, skip bleach, etc.) The idea is that you can counteract the contrast increase from the silver in the print by flashing the negative, thus getting softer colors but not a harsh contrast in the final onscreen image.

Since digital color-correction can adjust gamma, alter the blacks, and even tint them, I'm not sure flashing is as necessary for anything going to video or using a D.I. -- you really need to see movies that were flashed projected in prints to see the effect.

The most famous movies for flashing were in the 1970's, mostly shot by Vilmos Zsigmond. Freddie Francis also flashed a number of films using the Lightflex device, the early version of what became the VariCon.

Heavily flashed films:
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
The Last Goodbye
Sugarland Express

Slightly flashed films (Panaflasher):
A Little Princess
Maverick

Colorflex/Lightflex/VariCon:
Young Winston
The Wiz
French Lieutenant's Woman
Dune
Glory
The Straight Story
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#9 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 12:53 PM

Flashing can also be done at the master positive, duplicate negative, or even release print stage. Flashing a negative image (e.g., camera film, duplicate negative) affects mostly the shadow areas, flashing a positive image (master positive or final print) affect mostly the highlights. Flashing can either be neutral, or have a deliberate color bias (e.g. flashing a negative with red light to give warm shadows or flashing a print to give sepia-toned highlights).

Kodak has presented SMPTE technical papers about lab flashing techniques, and these techniques are "in the bag of tricks" available from many technically-astute labs.
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#10 Allyn Laing

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 08:27 AM

If the flash is colored, that color will tint the blacks and the darker-toned objects in the frame.


Would this apply to making the blacks brown in Mcabe and Mrs miller? Would they have added a brownish tinge to the light?

warm regards,

Allyn
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 09:52 AM

No, I don't think the flash was tinted brown. The movie has been timed warmer than it used to be in the past, so there is an overall warmth to it.

"Young Winston" flashed some scenes with Sepia, and "Dune" flashed the Arrakis scenes with brown light, but those are the only examples I can think of a brown flash.
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#12 Allyn Laing

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 05:13 PM

The movie has been timed warmer than it used to be in the past, so there is an overall warmth to it.


Hi David,

when you say timed warmer does this relate to the processing bath and chemicals?

Allyn.
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 05:31 PM

Hi David,
when you say timed warmer does this relate to the processing bath and chemicals?
Allyn.


No, just conventional film print timing & telecine color-correction as well for the home video mastering.

The film was flashed with white light. If the blacks now look warm, it's probably because the overall print has been timed to be warmer. It could be due to some aging of the negative, but usually the opposite effect occurs -- the blacks get bluer. I don't know if aging interpositive gets more magenta over time, but I suppose that's another possibility, that current prints are from an IN made off of an old IP, but I doubt it.
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#14 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 28 June 2006 - 10:18 AM

No, just conventional film print timing & telecine color-correction as well for the home video mastering.

The film was flashed with white light. If the blacks now look warm, it's probably because the overall print has been timed to be warmer. It could be due to some aging of the negative, but usually the opposite effect occurs -- the blacks get bluer. I don't know if aging interpositive gets more magenta over time, but I suppose that's another possibility, that current prints are from an IN made off of an old IP, but I doubt it.


Kodak VISION Color Intermediate Film 2242 has excellent image stability, and many films have B&W separation positives made as additional protection elements. Most color pre-print materials made in the last 30 years have excellent image stability if stored and processed properly (see SMPTE Recommended Practice RP131).
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#15 Oscar Godfrey

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Posted 07 July 2006 - 09:56 AM

I was wondering how the look in this video was created. Do you think it was flashed? It isn't a very good quality video i'm afraid but it is the best i can find.

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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 July 2006 - 11:31 AM

You can't tell with stuff transferred to video because you can easily lift the blacks in color-correction for a flashed look.
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