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Questions about my first workprint


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#1 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 01 June 2007 - 03:20 PM

I have just received a workprint made from a 16mm negative film I exposed recently. When I unroll the film so that it passes down from the bottom right of the spool to the bottom left (like when you load a projector) I was surprised to see that the perforations were on the opposite side rather than the side closest to me! Is this normal for a workprint? I guess I'll just have to wind it onto another spool, re-orient it and then wind it back so that the perforations end up on the side closest to me so that I can run it through the projector.

And another thing, when doing a one light workprint, I realise that the lab adjusts the printer light settings so that the first shot retains a normal level of brightness and so do all the following shots, provided that they were exposed the same. However, when I viewed the first shot on the workprint (in which I placed a grey card for reference) it seemed a little light. Most of the colours in that first shot appeared a little lighter than when I recall viewing the scene in real life. However, the majority of shots that followed looked relatively normal in terms of their level of brightness. I found this puzzling.
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#2 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 04 June 2007 - 05:30 PM

I have just received a workprint made from a 16mm negative film I exposed recently. When I unroll the film so that it passes down from the bottom right of the spool to the bottom left (like when you load a projector) I was surprised to see that the perforations were on the opposite side rather than the side closest to me! Is this normal for a workprint?

No, the perfs should be towards you -- the lab made a mistake and did not rewind the film. I always check my workprints at the lab's checkout counter before I leave to make sure the wind is correct. If it isn't, I simply hand it back to them and ask them to rewind it for me. The counter person always gives me a funny look (and sometimes they argue with you that you are wrong!), but I've caught several mistakes this way and since I don't have a rewind bench at home, this has saved me lots of grief. I also always check the grey card at the head of the roll to make sure they printed it correctly. I always do this politely, and never demand anything though -- it's important to maintain good relations with the lab.

And another thing, when doing a one light workprint, I realise that the lab adjusts the printer light settings so that the first shot retains a normal level of brightness and so do all the following shots, provided that they were exposed the same. However, when I viewed the first shot on the workprint (in which I placed a grey card for reference) it seemed a little light. Most of the colours in that first shot appeared a little lighter than when I recall viewing the scene in real life. However, the majority of shots that followed looked relatively normal in terms of their level of brightness. I found this puzzling.

Well, with a one-light workprint, the lab only has to give you one set of printer lights, so if you have't shot a grey card and instructed them to print the roll to it, then the lab timer will decide what the best RGB settings are for your roll overall. So if you have one shot that is a bit underexposed, and the rest is exposed normally, then they will time for the normally exposed footage. In reality though, the lab will sometimes give you up to three RGB settings on a roll for a "one-light" print. They don't really have to do this, but it's nice when they do it (usually when they're not too busy).

I always try to shoot a grey card at the head of every roll and tell them to time to that exclusively. So if I get a roll back and the grey card is off, then I hand it back to them and ask them to reprint it, since I have it in writing that they were supposed to time it to the grey card. This means that you and you alone are responsible for how the film was exposed and how it is printed. Thus any mistakes made are yours alone and you know what to correct next time. If the lab feels that you don't know what you are doing or that you lack experience, they may try to do this stuff to you (I'm not saying that all labs or all color timers do this, but it's been my experience that once they trust you a bit, you'll find them easier to work with).

One caveat: Color timers (and especially telecine colorists) never believe the grey card 100% of the time. They will scroll through the rest of the roll and make small adjustments to the RGB numbers to get the fleshtones just right. Sometimes, this is because maybe the tungsten light you used to exposed the grey card has a bit of green in it, so the fleshtones are too green. So they subtract a few points of green (or add magenta) to make the fleshtones neutral. Tiny variations like this are normal.

I think in your case, the color timer looked at your grey card, then looked at the rest of your roll and assumed that you made a mistake underexposing most of your footage. So they printed everything up a bit, so that the underexposed portions would look correct. If you wanted them to print to the grey card, you should instruct them to do so (usually just checking the proper box on the order form is enough, but I also write it in the comments section). If you had done this, (or maybe you did!) then everything after the first shot would have been printed a bit dark. But maybe that is what you wanted?

If you were going for an intentional look, then it helps to also type up a little note to the color timer saying that you know some of the roll is underexposed, but that you did it intentionally and you want it printed dark. Just attach the note to the order form when you turn in your negative. Always make sure you have special instructions in writing, otherwise the lab may make you pay for a reprint!

Hope this helps.
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#3 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 06:58 AM

"....the lab made a mistake and did not rewind the film."

Ahm...it actually looks like the film HAS been rewound. I checked various frames with a loupe and the first shot that I see when I initially unroll the film is the first shot that I exposed while shooting (which contains the grey card.) Yet, the perforations are on the opposite side! I guess it's an A wind film then but for some silly reason they put it on the wrong way. I could just reorient it and wind it back and forth on my projector. This lab is in another state so for them to wind it back and forth, I would have to post the work print to them and then they would have to post it back.

"I think in your case, the color timer looked at your grey card, then looked at the rest of your roll and assumed that you made a mistake underexposing most of your footage. So they printed everything up a bit, so that the underexposed portions would look correct."

That does sound logical but I'm not that bad with my exposures! This is the first negative movie film that I have exposed and with the many reversal and slide films that I have shot in the past, my exposures have been fairly good the majority of the time throughout the rolls, but not 100%. With this Fuji Eterna 250D film, I used a grey card to meter from with all the shots plus I rated the film about half a stop slower to reduce the chances of accidental underexposure. Additionally, I often read that with underexposed negative film, when they 'print it up' there is an increase in grain. When I checked various frames on this work print with a loupe, the images appeared fairly clean and fine grained. Though then again, what you say does sound plausible. Could there also be a chance that I accidentally overexposed the first shot (containing the grey card) just a touch?
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#4 Nick Mulder

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 03:52 PM

I'm not that experienced with workprints or projection but aren't workprints meant to be flipped ? If you do a emulsion to emulsion print the print should be flipped horizontally ... (yes, yes, no?)

Also my projector here has the capability to run film that has been wound other way round (ie. both emulsion and base out) - at least with small loads like 400' or less. Never had the manual for it though, hope I'm not wearing it out.

Interested to find out what going on ! ;)

Have you rung the lab ? that'd be the fastest way to get the answers ...
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#5 Dominic Case

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 05:38 PM

To me, a one-light workprint is a print mad at the "standard" light - in other words, the light that gives a good result from correctly exposed negative. A "one-light graded' print is what you get when the grader looks through the roll and chooses a light that is right for the majority of the roll - or the first few shots if it all looks much the same.

But terminology varies a little from lab to lab, and certainly from country to country.

There should be a lab report advising you what printer light was used. That should settle your uncertainty quite easily.

As far as the winding is concerned, a work print will always be "A" wind (or "A-type" as I prefer to call it, as it's not quite the same issue as raw stock windings).

Camera original (neg or reversal, all the same) is B-type. It is viewed correctly with the Base towards you, and the emulsion away from you. (Obviously, as the emulsion was facing the lens and the subject in the camera).

A contact print is made from that by printing emulsion-to-emulsion. So the image is a reversed version of the original (A-type), and must be viewed (and/or projected) with the emulsion towards you, and the base Away from you.

There is no universal convention about which way work prints should be wound for delivery. Obviously they should be head out: but some regular customers specify emulsion in, some specify emulsion out, most just accept what they get (and in fact very very few order work prints at all!). If your roll seems to be the wrong way, most projectors will allow you to feed from the top feed roll in either direction, so it's not a problem.
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#6 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 02:51 AM

Hey Dominic. The lab that did the work print was Cinevex in Victoria. A lab report was not supplied with the films. Perhaps I need to request one when ordering a work print. If they still have the information onhand, I hope they can supply me a lab report free of charge.
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#7 Dominic Case

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 06:05 PM

A lab report was not supplied with the films.

You should find a report either in the negative can or with the print. It will tell you that the negative was processed normally, that a print was made, and what printer lights were used (though that might just say "standard" or something).

If not, phone the lab. They should be able to send you a copy if yours is missing.
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#8 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 02:21 AM

Hi Dominic and Patrick,

"Wound or rewound..." Whatever -- the point is, it's wound wrong! Guess you'll have to fix it yourself though. The few times I've caught this problem at the lab, I was told that a new employee was in training and had screwed up. Hasn't happened to me since.

About the exposures: There are only two ways to know for sure if your exposures were inconsistent: look at your RGB numbers or look at your negative. Obviously, if there is a difference in density between the first and second shots on your negative, then you made an exposure error somewhere. The RGB numbers will confirm this if there is only one set of numbers -- that means that lab did not alter the density of the print between the first and second shot, so any difference in exposure occured in camera.

This doesn't necessarily mean that you underexposed the film however, only that there was a difference in exposure. Especially if you rated the stock 1/2 stop slower, underexposure is unlikely. It's more likely that the first shot was exposed 1/2 stop over and the second shot normal-ish. So you wouldn't see additional grain or milky blacks in the later shots if the print was timed to them, they would simply look normal. I think you must have overexposed the first shot somehow, but check the neg and the RGB numbers.

To me, a one-light workprint is a print mad at the "standard" light - in other words, the light that gives a good result from correctly exposed negative. A "one-light graded' print is what you get when the grader looks through the roll and chooses a light that is right for the majority of the roll - or the first few shots if it all looks much the same.

But terminology varies a little from lab to lab, and certainly from country to country.

I use Monaco Labs in San Francisco, and their workprint options are:
best light print (print timed to the best overall light for the roll, may include a few printer light changes)
one-light print (mid-light print printed at 25-25-25, or print timed to grey card)
workprint at call light (DP specifies printer lights)
timed print (scene to scene correction)

They've only once given me a print without an RGB slip (or lab report), which was for a one-light B&W workprint timed to grey card. I asked them for one, and they gave it to me the next day. You could just as easily call them and I'm sure they would figure it out for you. There should not be any charge for this.

There is no universal convention about which way work prints should be wound for delivery.
... most projectors will allow you to feed from the top feed roll in either direction, so it's not a problem.

It is annoying though if you intend to project the print only to discover the print is wound the wrong way. None of the 16mm projectors I've used will allow for reverse feeding, at least, not without damaging the print. I don't understand why anyone would want a different wind -- does anyone know?
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#9 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 08 June 2007 - 01:31 AM

I contacted Cinevex though I was told that they do not normally issue lab reports with tests. Though I'm not sure why he thought my film was a test! Perhaps because I didn't have a title. It's actually part of an ongoing project of mine.

Anyhow, he had the information available - the film was processed normally and the printing numbers were 29.29.35. Judging by these numbers, it looks like the film was 'printed down.' Though I am still not quite sure exactly what the numbers mean. For example, I notice there are usually three numbers. Why is this? And in my case, the last number is different to the first two. Why would this be the case?
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#10 Dominic Case

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Posted 09 June 2007 - 01:58 AM

The three numbers refer to the red, green and blue printer lights used to make the print. in your case, the neg got 29 Red, 29 Green, 35 Blue.

Different labs have slightly different set-ups, so the 29-29-35 that you have quoted will not have any meaning in another lab. Don't let anyone tell you that 25-25-25 is "normal", or 30-30-30 or any other number. Or that there is something odd about the numbers not being all the same. (Kodak and Fuji stocks need different lights for example, so a lab that is set up to print level numbers on Kodak would have different lights for Fuji stocks.) They might know about their usual lab, on their usual stock. That's all.

However, normally exposed neg usually prints with numbers somewhere in the 25 to 35 range. The printer can go from light 1 to light 50 in each colour. An exposure change of one stop in your negative would need a correction of 7 printer lights. (i.e. one light is equivalent to one seventh of a stop in your camera exposure.)

What you need to find out from Cinevex is what their standard light for this Fuji negative stock is. I think you will find that it is exactly the lights you were quoted - so there was no "printing down".
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#11 Sam Wells

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Posted 11 June 2007 - 01:01 PM

Hi Dominic and Patrick,

"Wound or rewound..." Whatever -- the point is, it's wound wrong! Guess you'll have to fix it yourself though. The few times I've caught this problem at the lab, I was told that a new employee was in training and had screwed up. Hasn't happened to me since.


It is annoying though if you intend to project the print only to discover the print is wound the wrong way. None of the 16mm projectors I've used will allow for reverse feeding, at least, not without damaging the print. I don't understand why anyone would want a different wind -- does anyone know?


I agree with Dominic - it's not "wrong" -- some labs will give you workprint in "projection wind" heads out, some make you do it yourself. If you're cutting w/p you should have a pair of rewinds anyway. Good excercise for mouse users ;)

-Sam (enjoying a Workprint thread, it's been awhile)

p.s. Some timers will often go for bright happy snappy if not informed to do otherwise.
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#12 Patrick Cooper

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 08:27 PM

"What you need to find out from Cinevex is what their standard light for this Fuji negative stock is. I think you will find that it is exactly the lights you were quoted - so there was no "printing down". "

This is the response that I got:

"This is a standard lite regardless of your exposures and is applied to a
correctly exposed negative.If you are altering your exposures and want to
achieve the best look, you then need a fully graded w/p."
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