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I need input on B&W reversal.


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#1 Bugs Haller

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 03:08 AM

Here's my story.

Within the year I plan on shooting my second feature. It's a character driven drama that for the most part takes place in only three locations. Set design will not be elaborate. Cost is an issue. I've always felt that this was a B&W film. Specifically high contrast. Think Pi.

My first feature was shot on video so this will be my first attemp with film. I don't know the ins and outs of all the stocks but after some research felt that a B&W reversal would be ideal. I understand reversal is cheaper to deal with (albeit less forgiving). The entire movie is shot at night (one night) so it seems like Kodak's Double-X 7222 would be my only choice because it's the fastest. I believe it's a 200T.

Agree with this or disagree... and why.

Am I missing something. Is there a cheaper alternative that I don't know about. Should I or could I use a color neg and convert to black and white in post. I know I can but would it be cheaper? I know I could use a faster and more forgiving stock...

Please weigh in on this. I would love to hear what the pros have to say.

Thanks for your time.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 10:42 AM

Shoot a test with both Tri-X and 500T color neg stock at night and see which you like better (assuming this is for telecine transfer / D.I. and you can manipulate the contrast of the 500T stock, plus remove the color.)

If you want that silvery-graininess & more contrast, you could also consider doing a skip-bleach process to the 500T stock, though expensive.

My guess is that unless you have a decent lighting package to create the look you want at night, you'll find Tri-X very limiting in terms of where you can shoot. I would guess that 500T pushed one stop would be similar in graininess to Tri-X.
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#3 Bugs Haller

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 03:12 PM

Shoot a test with both Tri-X and 500T color neg stock at night and see which you like better (assuming this is for telecine transfer / D.I. and you can manipulate the contrast of the 500T stock, plus remove the color.)

If you want that silvery-graininess & more contrast, you could also consider doing a skip-bleach process to the 500T stock, though expensive.

My guess is that unless you have a decent lighting package to create the look you want at night, you'll find Tri-X very limiting in terms of where you can shoot. I would guess that 500T pushed one stop would be similar in graininess to Tri-X.

Thanks for weighing in on this David. I really appreciate it.

Why use Tri-X over Double X?

And is the processing for the Tri-X going to be cheaper than the 500T?
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 03:52 PM

Why use Tri-X over Double X?


Only because you mentioned b&w reversal and "Pi" -- Double-X is a negative stock; Tri-X is the reversal equivalent.

As for costs, I don't know.
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#5 GeorgeSelinsky

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Posted 03 November 2007 - 12:30 PM

I think Pi was shot mostly on 7278, the old Tri-X. There's a new Tri-X out there, don't know the number. The grain is supposed to be a bit finer, don't know about the contrast - I assume it's most likely the same. Kodak didn't want to change the product too radically because the idea was to either discontinue '78 and '76, or to revamp them to a new dichromate-free bleach process.

Double X negative is definitely lower contrast than the old Tri-X reversal I knew. They're two different animals and I'm fairly sure you don't want to intercut them if you want consistency.

Double X buys you just a tad more speed, it's 250 in daylight and 200 in tungsten, but what's good is that apparently Double X lends very favorably to pushing. I have never pushed it myself, only shot it straight, so others may know. I would imagine Double X gets a bit contrastier with a push. I think Kevin Smith's "Clerks" was shot with pushed Double X, for an effective 400 asa. It looks pretty damn grainy and the contrast is more reversal like.

Cost wise, it's a lab to lab issue. Generally black and white is more expensive, because the labs get less of it and they run it once or twice a week. Some charge more for processing the higher speed B&W negative stocks (5222/7222 and Ilford HP-5) because they eat up more developer replenisher, some don't. Reversal tends to be the same for both stocks.

If you find a cheap B&W lab let me know!

Edited by GeorgeSelinsky, 03 November 2007 - 12:33 PM.

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#6 GeorgeSelinsky

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Posted 03 November 2007 - 12:38 PM

P.s. Personally I don't like the idea of shooting color film and turning it to B&W, it never looks as real as the silver nitrate imho. But economics may force you to make that decision, believe it or not. I just priced in 35mm what it costs to shoot B&W versus color neg short ends, and it works out in favor of the color. This is quite a difference from ten years ago when you could pick up B&W short ends for $0.05 a foot, I'm not talking about the seventies when B&W 35mm to shoot & develop was $0.04/ft. But lets leave the nostalga...
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#7 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 03 November 2007 - 02:28 PM

. It looks pretty damn grainy and the contrast is more reversal like.

Cost wise, it's a lab to lab issue. Generally black and white is more expensive, because the labs get less of it and they run it once or twice a week. Some charge more for processing the higher speed B&W negative stocks (5222/7222 and Ilford HP-5) because they eat up more developer replenisher, some don't. Reversal tends to be the same for both stocks.

If you find a cheap B&W lab let me know!



One thing to be aware is the cheaper labs often don't change their chems as often as advisabe. For a cheaper price on processing you maybe getting some really nasty dirt-coat on your camera original footage, and it won't come off. I won't name any names, but they are out there.
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#8 GeorgeSelinsky

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Posted 03 November 2007 - 07:32 PM

One thing to be aware is the cheaper labs often don't change their chems as often as advisabe.


In that case you can ask "Please hold these for a fresh bath", I did that once.

- G.
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#9 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 03 November 2007 - 09:30 PM

In that case you can ask "Please hold these for a fresh bath", I did that once.

- G.


Hmm, I find strange to have to have to ask a lab to do their job properly. I much rather take my business elsewhere. Which is what I did.
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#10 K Borowski

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Posted 03 November 2007 - 09:38 PM

I'd agree that if you have to ask a lab to follow Kodak's procedures, they aren't likely to heed instructions you write for them anyway, although a reputable lab that actually does follow procedures would probably hold a run of film until they have started a new batch of chemistry.

I agree that the look of real B&W film is much different than either chromogenic films (C-41 dye based B&W) or color film stock desaturated. However, you get far more grainless images from color or chromogenic than you do from B&W. There's something about the tonal scale of B&W film that I favor over color though. You can tell real B&W from desaturated color, in any case. Now that the space and size limitations on this forum are more reasonable, I think that one of these days I'm going to run a comparison so that there is no more room for speculation as to differences, but rather a concrete set of samples showing the strengths and weaknesses of each method of producing a B&W image.

~KB
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#11 GeorgeSelinsky

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Posted 04 November 2007 - 02:24 PM

Hmm, I find strange to have to have to ask a lab to do their job properly. I much rather take my business elsewhere. Which is what I did.


If the difference amounts to $0.05/foot, I'll suffer the inconvenience of asking them to do that. I find it ridiculous that I have to pay MORE to shoot and soup B&W film.

- G.
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#12 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 04 November 2007 - 07:18 PM

If the difference amounts to $0.05/foot, I'll suffer the inconvenience of asking them to do that. I find it ridiculous that I have to pay MORE to shoot and soup B&W film.

- G.



I know it is counterintuitive but from a lab perspective it is more difficult to deal with B+W chemistry. Silver reclamation with reversal is much more difficult than with ECN because you have to tank the bleach and add alum to separate the silver for reclamation where ecn the silver recovery system runs directly on the tank. Also for some places with lower volumes of B+W the machines do not run as often etc. etc. Also using environmentally friendly reversal bleach (not chromium based) is more labor intensive due to the tendency of the bleach to go bad... there are other labor issues involved but running b+w properly is costly.....

-Rob-
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#13 GeorgeSelinsky

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Posted 04 November 2007 - 07:35 PM

I know it is counterintuitive but from a lab perspective it is more difficult to deal with B+W chemistry. Silver reclamation with reversal is much more difficult than with ECN because you have to tank the bleach and add alum to separate the silver for reclamation where ecn the silver recovery system runs directly on the tank


Hi Rob!

I see you're a lab person, nice to meet you...

I was primarily talking about B&W negative, although I agree that some reversal labs don't replenish the bleach too well. One lab was kind enough to call me and say that I should put off developing my '76 until the bleach was replenished - although it meant getting my film back later I said okay.

I think that B&W negative is pretty much a no brainer. The main idea is to keep the D-96/97 fresh and the fixer, that's basic B&W darkroom. Btw, I believe many continuous processors don't do a stop bath but go directly to a wash. I always thought that was wasteful because the fixer gets killed much faster that way, and fixer is much more expensive than acetic acid.

The color processes seems so complicated by contrast, you have very tight temperature control and have to watch pH, spgr, and all that stuff. You have like 6-7 baths to keep track of, if I recall. But I guess volume is the main reason, all the waste with starting up the machines, keeping the chemicals fresh in tank, etc.

Edited by GeorgeSelinsky, 04 November 2007 - 07:36 PM.

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#14 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 04 November 2007 - 08:18 PM

I own a piece of cinelab and I am making several films and own cameras, etc... So I am a bit of a closed loop for my films... :lol:

We had been running 16mm B+W reversal at $0.16/foot for the longest time and just upped the price to $0.17/foot because of the issues with silver recovery and bleach, we run constantly every day I cannot remember the last time we did not run B+W reversal.... both 16mm and super8.

We had been charging $0.14/ft for 16mm B+W negative which is the same as our 16mm ECN and you are right the Color Negative is a much more controlled process and i guess it's as close as you get to a "commodity" in terms of MP processing, we have 2 machines dedicated to ECN, one for 8mm and 16mm and the other for 35mm.

We did up the charge for B+W negative to $0.17/ft recently due to volume issues and chemistry going flat this is mostly to defray some expenses for short runs of B+W negative and we will certainly give a good discount to a customer with 1200' or more. This may all change in the near future as I am trying to put 35mm B+W negative and print in place which may help up the volume a bit for archival projects.

I think B+W negative is a important area now and in the future as a 35mm B+W 3 strip separation has a 1000yr or more shelf life and I think it is a very good candidate for data archiving in the future, plus I love the look and feel of real B+W......

-Rob-
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#15 GeorgeSelinsky

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Posted 04 November 2007 - 10:36 PM

I own a piece of cinelab and I am making several films and own cameras, etc... So I am a bit of a closed loop for my films... :lol:


Wow, that's interesting I bet. It does seem like a scarier time to be involved in labs I have to say. I just witnessed my favorite NY lab, Lab Link, close shop. They were great with things like minimums and the like, B&W was the same price as color, pushes were no extra charge. I loved it. Now I'm at Duart, where Tony Landano and his boys went. I'm going to be picking up my first batch tomorrow probably.

We had been running 16mm B+W reversal at $0.16/foot for the longest time and just upped the price to $0.17/foot because of the issues with silver recovery and bleach, we run constantly every day I cannot remember the last time we did not run B+W reversal.... both 16mm and super8.


Interesting, I gather that's film students doing their first assignments. I assume the crash tests are no longer coming in...

This may all change in the near future as I am trying to put 35mm B+W negative and print in place which may help up the volume a bit for archival projects.


Awesome. I wish I could shoot a feature in B&W 35mm, I actually am trying to plan my next one in a way where I get a lot of B&W done. I was a bit unhappy that it cost me more to develop Double X and HP5 at Duart than Lab Link, which had a flat rate for everything.

I think B+W negative is a important area now and in the future as a 35mm B+W 3 strip separation has a 1000yr or more shelf life and I think it is a very good candidate for data archiving in the future, plus I love the look and feel of real B+W......


I wonder if HD films are going to get laser recorded to 3 strip, lol. If I had the money I'd certainly do it!

I totally agree about real B&W. I'm so sick of seeing the desaturated color negative look. I think it's more often all about "We really aught to shoot it in color JUST IN CASE" and "I don't remember I haven't shot it in so long, I'd rather just stick to what I'm familiar with and play with it in post"
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#16 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 04 November 2007 - 11:42 PM

Wow, that's interesting I bet. It does seem like a scarier time to be involved in labs I have to say. I just witnessed my favorite NY lab, Lab Link, close shop.

it is not a business for the faint of heart, but then neither is making films....

Interesting, I gather that's film students doing their first assignments. I assume the crash tests are no longer coming in...

It is a whole bunch of stuff certainly not limited to student.



Awesome. I wish I could shoot a feature in B&W 35mm, I actually am trying to plan my next one in a way where I get a lot of B&W done. I was a bit unhappy that it cost me more to develop Double X and HP5 at Duart than Lab Link, which had a flat rate for everything.

I am negative cutting a 16mm B+W film (with sound) right now maybe I'll show it in Dec or so, I started this short back almost 10yrs ago when I was starting out in this film stuff.... it's 7222 and 7231 with one 700fps shot in it and a scrap of hicon for a title. i think it is really important to see b+w continue as a living part of the film medium.

I wonder if HD films are going to get laser recorded to 3 strip, lol. If I had the money I'd certainly do it!

I think just about all studio pictures will get a archival separation master...

I totally agree about real B&W. I'm so sick of seeing the desaturated color negative look. I think it's more often all about "We really aught to shoot it in color JUST IN CASE" and "I don't remember I
haven't shot it in so long, I'd rather just stick to what I'm familiar with and play with it in post"


digititus and ease of post symptoms and hedging too many bets lack of clarity in intent....

-Rob-
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#17 GeorgeSelinsky

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Posted 04 November 2007 - 11:56 PM

it is not a business for the faint of heart, but then neither is making films....


Well said, lol. It's nice to see that the independent film movement still has a strong pro-film contingent, and that this contingent is involved with labs.

I am negative cutting a 16mm B+W film (with sound) right now maybe I'll show it in Dec or so, I started this short back almost 10yrs ago when I was starting out in this film stuff.... it's 7222 and 7231 with one 700fps shot in it and a scrap of hicon for a title. i think it is really important


Good luck with it! I think it takes an extra sense of courage and vision to put across a black and white film today, especially feature length. I still imagine there's a serious anti B&W bias in the distribution business. It seems fine to shoot a music video or TV spot with it, but that's about it. I'm not sure audiences feel the way distributors claim they feel, although there are probably a few simpletons out there who'd see something on TV and say "Oh, it's black and white..." and flip the channels.
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#18 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 05 November 2007 - 01:28 PM

Well said, lol. It's nice to see that the independent film movement still has a strong pro-film contingent, and that this contingent is involved with labs.



Good luck with it! I think it takes an extra sense of courage and vision to put across a black and white film today, especially feature length. I still imagine there's a serious anti B&W bias in the distribution business. It seems fine to shoot a music video or TV spot with it, but that's about it. I'm not sure audiences feel the way distributors claim they feel, although there are probably a few simpletons out there who'd see something on TV and say "Oh, it's black and white..." and flip the channels.



My B+W film is a short, not that I would not want to produce a B+W feature, and I have a MV I am shooting coming up which will be all B+W with some nasty dirtied up reversal and some 5231 hand cranked in my eyemo....


Clooney just got away with a all B+W feature didn't he? and the opening to the newest Bond feature was "real" B+W so.....


-Rob-
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#19 GeorgeSelinsky

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Posted 05 November 2007 - 02:09 PM

Clooney just got away with a all B+W feature didn't he? and the opening to the newest Bond feature was "real" B+W so.....


Well, that's Clooney of course. Reminds me of when Schindler's List came out, everyone was like "Yeah, but that's Spielberg". But who knows, if enough precidents become succesful distributors might not flinch at it as badly as they used to.
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#20 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 05 November 2007 - 04:48 PM

If the difference amounts to $0.05/foot, I'll suffer the inconvenience of asking them to do that. I find it ridiculous that I have to pay MORE to shoot and soup B&W film.

- G.


What I find ridiculous is that I would have to ask someone to do their job right. I much rather pay a professional lab who doesn't need me to tell them that their soup is too old for my film than some cheap lab who just runs as much film as possible on the soup to maximize profits. I am not rich, but penny pinching on certain things has never paid off. If one wants something done right, one does it oneself or pay someone who will without one having to supervise them.

When you go out to dinner, do you expect to pay rock bottom prices but ask the wait staff to have the cook use clean utensils and fresh ingredients to make your food?

Certainly we all want affordable, quality product- but when prices are too good to be true, well, more often than not they are. For discriminating patrons, paying more for better results is the way to go.

Arguing that cheap, non-standard photographic process is better than more expensive, fresh chems photo process just bewilders me to no end . . .
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