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How do you make high contrast black and white video?


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#1 Richard Beirne

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 12:10 PM

Hi, my names Richard Beirne and i'm a student studying an MA in Television Production at Falmouth University (Cornwall, UK). I've recently been commisioned on an idea that is influenced by the style of photography used in "Sin City". Ive made films and short video pieces before but i really want to make this piece to the highest quality. The piece shall be filmed in black and white using a JVC DV5000 camera and I have access to numerous lighting rigs e.g. Red heads, blondes etc. I shall be filming using mini DV and shall be removing all colour in post production. I was wandering if anyone could help with any ideas on lighting or camera techniques that would ensure the contrast in my images would be of the highest quality i.e. my blacks the darkest blacks and my whites the purest white? Any tips and suggestions would be truely appreciated!

Cheers dudes, Rich
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#2 Nicholas Jenkins

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 04:26 PM

First, find some sort of monitor that you can view what you're shooting in Black and White so you're not guessing about contrast. Shooting in B&W is different in terms of balance than color. With color, you can sculpt with different colors/temperatures of light. With B&W you're dealing entirely with contrast. I'd advise to shoot for a fairly mid range contrast (so you have grays and have definition to those mid range grays) and then pump the contrast in post.

My biggest thing is to get that monitor that can be just black and white.
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#3 David Sweetman

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 04:42 PM

I classify expressionistic black and white images in two categories: photographed expressionism, where the image is created in-camera, or where the changes added in post do not 'create' the image (this includes obviously films like The Killers, The Big Combo, etc.) - and fantastical expressionism, where the image is so tweaked in post as to almost altogether remove the impression of photography. This could include recent films such as Sin City and the color A Scanner Darkly.

I also include desaturated color in "photographed expressionism" when the appearance of photography is not removed.

Anyway, all that to ask, are you leaning more twoard photographed or fantastical expressionism?
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#4 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 05:29 PM

Is there a chance that you'll still want to leave some color in your images, or will this be flipped to complete monochrome? Because if you don't plan on leaving any color in at all, why shoot color? Shooting digital color or B&W is not like shooting color film vs. b&w film, where with film the biggest issue is the grain on b&w film.

If you're a "first time filmmaker" and don't quite have much experience in playing with contrast in b&w images, I would just shoot b&w so you will surely see what your final results will be. Or, perhaps you could just switch your monitor to play back in black & white, so you'll still be capturing the color images, but watching the b&w images while shooting.

How many times and in how many different ways can I write "black & white"? ;)
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#5 Richard Beirne

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Posted 30 January 2007 - 12:24 PM

Thanks for replying.
I'll definatel be taking your advice and hiring out a monitor, but i ahve to check if they have a black and white option as they are of a very poor quality. Also, if i aim to film using a mid range contrast, and adjust the contrast in post, would that jeapordise the quality of my 'Colour pass filter' in premier? maybe if i use the 'colour pass filter' in premier first, then import into avid and adjust my contrast there?would that work?
Rich

First, find some sort of monitor that you can view what you're shooting in Black and White so you're not guessing about contrast. Shooting in B&W is different in terms of balance than color. With color, you can sculpt with different colors/temperatures of light. With B&W you're dealing entirely with contrast. I'd advise to shoot for a fairly mid range contrast (so you have grays and have definition to those mid range grays) and then pump the contrast in post.

My biggest thing is to get that monitor that can be just black and white.



Hey, thankyou for replying.

Is there a chance that you'll still want to leave some color in your images, or will this be flipped to complete monochrome? Because if you don't plan on leaving any color in at all, why shoot color? Shooting digital color or B&W is not like shooting color film vs. b&w film, where with film the biggest issue is the grain on b&w film.

If you're a "first time filmmaker" and don't quite have much experience in playing with contrast in b&w images, I would just shoot b&w so you will surely see what your final results will be. Or, perhaps you could just switch your monitor to play back in black & white, so you'll still be capturing the color images, but watching the b&w images while shooting.

How many times and in how many different ways can I write "black & white"? ;)


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#6 Rory Hanrahan

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Posted 30 January 2007 - 06:20 PM

Remember that most of the backgrounds in Sin City were created digitally, so photographing something that emulates that look perfectly may not be possible. In terms of working with what you can shoot practically though, you may want to look into software like After Effects, or creating an automated effect in Photoshop and running the film thru this as an image sequence. The latter can be time consuming, but I've worked this way in the past and was very happy with the results. I haven't worked w/ Premier since 2001, so I'm not sure if the current version is robust enough to properly handle what you want to do, but as a user of Final Cut I would go with a higher end software.

MiniDV has some limitations in terms of how far it can be pushed with CC and effects, but if you embrace the fact that it probably won't look like high-end HD I'm sure this will come out great. In fact, a friend of mine did an effect like this to a short he made 3-4 years ago and the results were very cool.

Are you going to be doing all of the post work, or are you collaborating with an editor/effects person?
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#7 Rory Hanrahan

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Posted 30 January 2007 - 06:30 PM

Apologies for the double-post, but there are also some great extras on the Sin City DVD (the 2-disc version, although I'm not sure if its the same in the UK) that show how the film was made, what the real lighting conditions were like, and even some cool FX using fluorescent colors (like Marv's bandages and Hartigan's glowing white blood). Check it out if you get the chance!
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#8 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 01 February 2007 - 11:10 PM

You may want to consider some filters as well. Check out the different grades of black promist, they might get your black down to a level that you're looking for :)
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#9 Joe Turrentine

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Posted 25 February 2007 - 09:44 PM

Is there a chance that you'll still want to leave some color in your images, or will this be flipped to complete monochrome? Because if you don't plan on leaving any color in at all, why shoot color? Shooting digital color or B&W is not like shooting color film vs. b&w film, where with film the biggest issue is the grain on b&w film.


Not to contradict Jonathan, but it would seem to me that if you shot in color, looking at a B & W moniter, you have the most versatility because then you would still be able to change the colors in post, and then convert to black and white. Shoot some test footage and take out all the, say blues, and then turn it to B&W. Or, you do this in the real world with a filter as he said. Just a thought.


Joe
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Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

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Aerial Filmworks

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Metropolis Post

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Tai Audio