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The Good German


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#1 Brian Rose

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Posted 15 December 2006 - 06:28 PM

I've seen clips and trailers for The Good German, and the black and white seems "funny" to me. I can't quite put my finger on it, but something about it isn't right. I'm wondering, is it possible that they shot the film in color (like "Good Night, and Good Luck"), and then converted it to monochrome in post? If so, that would be a shame. When I learned Good Night, and Good Luck was color converted to black and white, it sucked a lot of my appreciation away. I wonder, are studios THAT afraid of shooting in monochrome?

Best,
Brian Rose
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#2 George Lekovic

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Posted 15 December 2006 - 06:45 PM

I have seen an early screening with a freind of mine from WGA about a month ago, and the movie is nothing short of excellent. I wish I had resources, brains and guts to make an old school B&W movie like that.

As per your comment: I think it might look awkward to simply beacuse they were mimicking the old style, Classic Hollywood movies - but, with new film stock, new lenses, etc... so you get a very sharp and clear image, and all of a sudden the rear projection doesn't look right.
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#3 Jan Weis

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Posted 15 December 2006 - 08:40 PM

I read somewhere that original lenses from the 1940s were used.

Edited by Jan Weis, 15 December 2006 - 08:40 PM.

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#4 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 15 December 2006 - 08:48 PM

This answers both questions at hand:

From the Good German official website: http://thegoodgerman...rbros.com/site/

Soderbergh: I looked at some script continuities from some Michael Curtiz films...basically to see in the script supervisor's notes what lenses he was using. He was basically using five lenses and we pretty much stuck to that -- a 50mm, a 40mm, a 32mm, a 28mm and a 24mm, and I'm pretty sure those were the only five lenses we used thru the whole film.

As technology has developed, lenses have improved and one of the things that's happenened is that now there's a coating to reduce flares when there's a light pointing into the lens or kicking off of something.

We were trying to find lenses that didn't have this kind of modern coating on it because we wanted these anomalies you used to get from these old lenses.

Panavision pulled some of their early lenses for us that some people would say aren't as good, but, in our opinion, for this, they were better. And that absolutely had an impact.

We had to shoot color stock because of the blue screen sequences we were doing for the driving sequences. There was some discussion early on about shooting in black and white. I'd shot black and white before, on "Kafka", and I knew that the stocks were very slow and very grainy, so very early on we decided that we'd better shoot in color and pull the color out later, as George did on "Good Night, and Good Luck"
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#5 Max Jacoby

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 04:29 AM

Fake black & white, great...

Now did he do a DI too?
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#6 freddie bonfanti

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 01:05 PM

mmmmhh...

it looks very strange to me, but George has a valid point. However i dont know what to think about the idea of using color stock and make it BW in post...im not convinced at all, not even on HD or video sets...i always make the monitor BW because i feel like lighting monochrome is a whole different story, i need so see my lighting that way, but thats just me
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#7 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 05:44 PM

I wonder, are studios THAT afraid of shooting in monochrome?

Best,
Brian Rose

Bob Elswit tested B&W stocks for Good Night and Good Luck, but found the speed and grain prohibitive. The fastest Kodak B&W stock (5222) is 200ASA, but Elswit found it too grainy. He liked the 5231 more, but it's only 64ASA, which is just too slow for interiors in this day and age. After hearing him talk about it I don't think the studio had any influence over what stock they shot. He ended up shooting the whole film on 5218.
I believe the studio prevented Roger Deakins from shooting B&W stock on The Man Who Wasn't There, but I don't think this was the case on The Good German or Good Night and Good Luck.
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#8 Mike Williamson

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 06:25 PM

I remember hearing that the Coen Bros. had a distribution deal for Europe that required them to deliver color video transfers for their films, which was part of the reason that "The Man Who Wasn't There" was shot on color stock. I've haven't seen any of the European DVD's, but you could probably get a color copy of that movie as a region 2 DVD, maybe from Germany or something like that.
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#9 Brian Rose

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 06:41 PM

"Bob Elswit tested B&W stocks for Good Night and Good Luck, but found the speed and grain prohibitive. The fastest Kodak B&W stock (5222) is 200ASA, but Elswit found it too grainy."

That is a good point..I did not consider grain. Which is too bad, because I really like grain, like a good BW 16mm. It gives it a bit of texture, like wood, y'know?

"He liked the 5231 more, but it's only 64ASA, which is just too slow for interiors in this day and age."

Boy, that makes you really admire those old productions, and what they managed to do on set with all that lighting. Sure makes me appreciate Gregg Toland and deep focus that much more!

All in all, I can understand now why they use color, but it is still too bad. I think BW has some qualities that just cannot be reproduced. When done well, it has a certain sensuality that, I think, rival technicolor. IMO

Best,
Brian Rose
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#10 Max Jacoby

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 06:57 PM

The thing with shooting black& white is that ideally the whole post production chain should be black& white stocks to, up to the print. If you print on color stocks you invariably get color biases in the cinema.
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#11 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 07:21 PM

Does anybody know if any color correction filters should be used when shooting Color for B&W?

I can think of only maybe using black ProMist to really deepen the blacks, but would an 85 filter make a big difference, for example.

Or can everything be manipulated in DI...errrr
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 08:07 PM

From a practical point of view, I can see using color negative stocks -- you could push 5218 to 1000 ASA and still have less grain than 5222, which is only 200 ASA. So it's hard to make an argument for shooting an entire movie on a stock like Double-X which will be slower, grainier, and softer, and give you potential for static damage when shooting or at the lab, not to mention the problem of getting a lab up to speed on b&w developing daily and being consistent at it. Not to mention the more limited exposure latitude.

These are all practical issues, plus of course if one wanted a deep focus look, it would be easier with pushed 500T stock than with Double-X.

I saw "The Good German" today and I thought the b&w look was great, though not completely accurate to the period (not many post-war b&w dramas would have used as much diffusion on the lens for example). It helped that the prints seemed to be on b&w print stock, which I think almost matters more than whether you shot b&w neg or not.

Not that I don't recognize that b&w stocks have a unique texture and beauty, but monochrome in general, if lit right, has a particular beauty regardless of the texture of the grain.
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#13 Mark Dunn

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 06:35 AM

So- if the prints were b/w, he must have had a DI, because b/w print stock isn't panchromatic, right? Or can you have a b/w panchromatic IN?
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#14 Dan Goulder

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 12:35 PM

Having seen theatrical previews for "The Good German", as well as "Good Night and Good Luck", my subjective impression is that this approach to black and white (originating on color negative) still doesn't touch the look of true black and white stock, even when transferred to color print stock, as in the case of "Raging Bull". By the way, does anyone know which stock (5222 or 5231) was used for "Raging Bull"?
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#15 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 12:37 PM

So- if the prints were b/w, he must have had a DI, because b/w print stock isn't panchromatic, right? Or can you have a b/w panchromatic IN?


"The Man Who Wasn't There" was shot on color neg and printed to b&w. Some prints were directly off of the O-neg using high-con panchromatic soundtrack stock, others were color prints made off a b&w panchromatic intermediate. No D.I.

Kodak makes both ortho and pan b&w intermediate stocks.
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#16 K Borowski

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 01:08 PM

I'm glad others here are as DI-phobic as I am, although I generally can tell the difference between a DI and an optical print, unless I'm sitting in the back of the theatre ;-) The problem with B&W stocks is that they essentially haven't been updated since the 1950's. That's great if you want pure nostalgia and a lot of grain (which puzzles me because that sounds like exactly what they were after for this movie), but if you want a cleaner, more modern look, color is the only way to go. It is also going to be saving you money on a lighting package. No one has the cohones to shoot anything under ASA 200 indoors anymore. There have been improved B&W films out since the '80s (which haven't been improved much since) that are finer grained, and incorporate essentially the same advances made in the EXR line of films, T-grain and the like, but supposedly, when developed in whatever developer movie labs use for B&W film, there was far less advantage than with D-76 or another still-photo developer. I don't know if there is any truth to this or Kodak just didn't want to come out and say they don't care about B&W movie stock improvement, but in either case, one could hypothetically get a special order of, say T-Max 400 or even T-Max P3200 rated at 800 or 1000 with MP perfs and shoot that, maybe with a special arrangement from the lab to use a different developer. In the mean time, you're stuck shooting color desaturated, which doesn't have the same tonalities as B&W, or an older, slower, grainier stock with the tonality, but all of the aforementioned disadvantages.

Regards,

~Karl Borowski
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 06:33 PM

I would consider doing a b&w movie using Plus-X outdoors (so I could use color-contrast filters) but 5218 indoors for the speed/grain, but I'm not sure if that means I would have to have different cameras tweaked for the thickness of b&w and color stocks.

Double-X is a pain-in-the-a--- to get to look right, to be consistent -- it can turn to soft, grey, grainy mud if you're not careful. I have a love-hate relationship with that stock. In film school, I preferred using Tri-X b&w reversal in 16mm.
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#18 Christian Appelt

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 07:17 PM

I remember hearing that the Coen Bros. had a distribution deal for Europe that required them to deliver color video transfers for their films, which was part of the reason that "The Man Who Wasn't There" was shot on color stock. I've haven't seen any of the European DVD's, but you could probably get a color copy of that movie as a region 2 DVD, maybe from Germany or something like that.


German DVDs are black&white, just like the 35mm release was.

If you want to emulate or imitate a certain vintage look, it makes sense to use the tools of the period. IMHO, that includes the film stock. Eastman is not the only manufacturer of b&w negative, we have discussed this numerous times on the forum. I agree with David's evaluation of Double-X, there is no way of duplicating 1940s/1950s characteristics of Eastman or DuPont negative with current film.

Shooting with vintage lenses on the one hand and using modern high speed color film on the other hand does not really make sense to me. If you want the special look, use the materials and accept the lower speed and need for more light.

It may be of interest for some people that a company actually recreated 1950s fine grain b&w stocks from old emulsion formulas, and many still photographers claim that it comes very close to vintage images:

ADOX CHS ultra resolution film stock

I believe they are available with neg perfs upon special order. The photo stock is available from

JandC

Many cinematographers trying to emulate or match vintage footage did not do their homework like researching at what stop and with what type of lenses old films were shot. An excellent overview for common f-stop uses can be found in Barry Salt's great book FILM STYLE - FILM TECHNOLOGY.
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#19 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 08:08 PM

The movie itself is somewhat of a hybrid -- since the lighting is not always vintage-style (too much soft light for that, although there was some soft lighting in that era) I can live with the stock not being vintage either.

The filtration looked like ProMist, unless it was all digitally added, but I think Classic Softs would have been more accurate to the period, plus created a ring halation not unlike that from the halation backing (non rem-jet) of b&w negative.

Overall, the movie doesn't really work -- it's far too humorless compared to a film of that era, especially compared to the similarly-themed "The Third Man" (and especially compared to "Casablanca"). Hence why you start thinking about the technique all the time. I liked the use of medium and wide-shots and staging things in fewer angles and cuts, compared to the modern style of lots of close-ups.

The use of archival footage of bombed-out Berlin was probably the most interesting aspect of the movie. Shooting a movie in b&w gives you that flexibility, to mix in b&w archival footage. That low-budget b&w movie "Color of a Brisk & Leaping Day" had that advantage too.

What I love about b&w, especially the old Film Noirs, is that it can simultaneously be gritty and "real" yet highly stylized and Expressionistic, and have those two different aspects blend together. I just watched a fun B-movie called "I Wake Up Screaming" (with a witty script, unlike "The Good German") and you have these police interrogation scenes which are partially lit by real practicals, but you also have these German Expressionistic angles and shadows in the background. The lighting is both motivated yet very theatrical, and I think b&w allows you to get away with that since it is already a step removed from reality. The monochromatic image seems to more immediately simulate a state of mind and represent the hidden psychology of the scene.
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#20 Paul Bruening

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Posted 18 December 2006 - 12:52 AM

Holy Moly, David,

I remember shooting Tri-X 16mm. It was my first class in film. I later, ended up running the processor there at school.

Do you remember how you felt when you projected your first roll of film?
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