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#1 Ashley Barron

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 05:47 PM

Hi,
I'm about to shoot on black and white 16mm for the first time and was wondering if anyone has any tips of which is the best stock to use? I want to avoid grain and mundanity.
If anyone has any tips on how to make black and white look good, that would be helpful too.
Thank you muchly in advance,
Ashley.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 06:46 PM

If you really want to avoid grain, you'd either have to consider shooting on color negative and turning it b&w in post (assuming a digital post) or shoot on the slowest b&w stocks.

Plus-X reversal, for example, is very sharp & fine-grained, but very contrasty and hard to expose correctly. But it would probably give you the highest quality b&w image in 16mm using real b&w film.

However, if you needed to contact print to make a final 16mm print with an optical soundtrack, you'd want to shoot Plus-X negative instead.
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#3 Ashley Barron

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Posted 28 January 2008 - 10:35 PM

Thank you David, I'll look into it!
Much appreciation,
Ashley.
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#4 K Borowski

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 12:42 AM

If you really want to avoid grain, you'd either have to consider shooting on color negative and turning it b&w in post (assuming a digital post) or shoot on the slowest b&w stocks.

Plus-X reversal, for example, is very sharp & fine-grained, but very contrasty and hard to expose correctly. But it would probably give you the highest quality b&w image in 16mm using real b&w film.

However, if you needed to contact print to make a final 16mm print with an optical soundtrack, you'd want to shoot Plus-X negative instead.


From what I've dealt with using Plus-X, and all of the other non-T-grain B&W stocks, you want to underexpose anywhere from 2/3 to 1 full stop from the box E.I. Whereas people tend to underexpose 1/3 of a stop now with the 2-electron sensitization stocks, with the older stocks (Plus-X has not been improved since at least the late '50s or early '60s as far as I know), you have to give even more generous overexposures to boost your exposure info into the fine-grained layer of the film.

I know from my work with Tri-X and Plus-X still films that they are remarkably versatile latitude-wise, even more so than modern color, but are markedly more grainy. For instance, with contrast filtration (or in cinematography with digital intermediate software), you could get away with as much as 2 1/2 stops of underexposure, but again it will cost you grain. With color films, my experience is that, at most, you can get away with two stops of underexposure with ECN-2 or C-41 stocks.

Plus-X is, from what I have heard and experienced, more difficult to expose for than Double-X or Tri-X still film. The high-speed and low-speed layers are closer together in terms of speed, so if you are off you are farther away from both. Because these are non-T-grain films, underexposure errors that are fixable are still going to be noticeable in terms of "graininess penalty". Ansel Adams, for instance, hated Plus-X, even though Tri-X was his standby film (comparable to Double-X in cinematography). I'd say that perhaps this is because its true speed is worse compared with box speed compared to the difference between Double-X's E.I. and actual speed.

Anyway, I'm rambling here. Just do tests and give as generous an exposure as you can without blowing out the highlights and you'll be fine. Personal opinion, B&W has a look that digitally- or optically desaturated color film doesn't, but you're dealing with stock that is probably older than your parents, so you have to realize that you have to get exposures right (i.e. meter right) and whatever you do not to underexpose with it if you are going for a fine-grained look.

Also, read up on a movie that was shot here in the "In Production" Forum here at cinematography.com that was shot entirely on 5222 (Double-X 35mm), and it looked GREAT. So this stuff is definitely capable of producing professional, polished results.

Edited by Karl Borowski, 30 January 2008 - 12:44 AM.

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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 01:21 AM

He said he was shooting 16mm and wanted to avoid grain -- and Double-X is quite grainy in 16mm. Tri-X is a little better. Jason's Double-X feature was Super-35.

But if you don't want much grain in 16mm b&w, that leaves Plus-X neg or reversal -- or color negative.
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#6 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 02:18 AM

My impression is that Tri-X (160T/200D) reversal is finer grained than Plus-X neg (64T/80D) when projected in 16mm. I'm always unpleasantly surprised at how grainy Plus-X neg is in 16mm whenever I shoot it. The extra silver in the stock does create a certain "bleached" look that can be pleasing, but at the expense of more visible grain. I have not played with underrating the stock however. I have not shot Plus-X reversal, but it's almost certainly finer grained than Plus-X negative because it's a more modern stock and hence has less silver in it.

Shooting high contrast subjects will also help you avoid grainy images because most visible grain is in the midtones. I've shot rainy night exteriors on Tri-X reversal that look practically grainless because there were very few midtones in the image to begin with.
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#7 Richardson Leao

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 07:12 AM

Orwo UN-54 is very fine and if you develop it as reversal it is even finer:

http://www.filmotec...._e/un_54_e.html

I have used it recently and it's very nice, in my opinion, right amount of contrast, strong blacks, worth considering. It can be purchased from wittner kino in germany or dancan international for several countries:
http://www.dancan.com/

or from:

Mr. Ekkehart Sachtler
Midridge Imaging Supplies
10 Franklin Ave. Midland Park
New Jersey USA-07 432
USA

phone: +1 - 201 444 9025
fax: +1 - 201 444 8695
mail: vidikon@att.net

(i copied it from their web)

My impression is that Tri-X (160T/200D) reversal is finer grained than Plus-X neg (64T/80D) when projected in 16mm. I'm always unpleasantly surprised at how grainy Plus-X neg is in 16mm whenever I shoot it. The extra silver in the stock does create a certain "bleached" look that can be pleasing, but at the expense of more visible grain. I have not played with underrating the stock however. I have not shot Plus-X reversal, but it's almost certainly finer grained than Plus-X negative because it's a more modern stock and hence has less silver in it.

Shooting high contrast subjects will also help you avoid grainy images because most visible grain is in the midtones. I've shot rainy night exteriors on Tri-X reversal that look practically grainless because there were very few midtones in the image to begin with.


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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 12:34 PM

My impression is that Tri-X (160T/200D) reversal is finer grained than Plus-X neg (64T/80D) when projected in 16mm.


You may be right, it's been awhile since I shot Tri-X reversal. Just depends on how well you can deal with the contrast. I once shot a whole short film on 4X 16mm reversal (no longer made) and was surprised that it wasn't that grainy. Reversal is great if you can expose it correctly. Nothing really beats Plus-X reversal for fine grain & sharpness.
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#9 Hal Smith

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 02:56 PM

You may be right, it's been awhile since I shot Tri-X reversal. Just depends on how well you can deal with the contrast. I once shot a whole short film on 4X 16mm reversal (no longer made) and was surprised that it wasn't that grainy. Reversal is great if you can expose it correctly. Nothing really beats Plus-X reversal for fine grain & sharpness.

Is that because reversal film is in effect a very intimate contact print?
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#10 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 06:57 PM

Is that because reversal film is in effect a very intimate contact print?

Well, it's the camera original, so it's going to be sharper and less grainy when projected than a contact print, all other things being equal. But I'm sure there are other reasons as well.

David, Kodak reformulated their B&W reversal stocks several years ago, so they're probably even finer grained than you remember. I really love the look of 7266 projected, it's a beautiful stock. I did shoot a short film on the old Plus-X reversal in Super 8 years ago and it was very sharp and fine grained. Unfortunately, the film was marred by mistimed camera shutter, so it had an unintentional "Saving Private Ryan" look throughout! I'll have to try shooting Plus-X again in 16mm.
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#11 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 03:09 PM

Is that because reversal film is in effect a very intimate contact print?


The larger grains pick up the initial exposure forming the negative image.
After developing they are bleached away, leaving unexposed smaller grains which are exposed and developed.

I suppose you could stretch that into claiming the final image is a print of the initial latent negative image.

But that seems like quite a stretch.
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#12 K Borowski

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 11:12 PM

He said he was shooting 16mm and wanted to avoid grain -- and Double-X is quite grainy in 16mm. Tri-X is a little better. Jason's Double-X feature was Super-35.

But if you don't want much grain in 16mm b&w, that leaves Plus-X neg or reversal -- or color negative.


I'm sorry to David and Ashley for misreading it as a 35mm production.

I'd recommend 16mm Plus-X REVERSAL for minimal grain. I don't know if this is possible anymore unless you have your own processor, but you want to try your best to get Plus-X processed in the OLD chemistry with the R-9 bleach instead of the new, more-environmentally-friendly bleach they use now.

Unfortunately, Kodak really dropped the ball when they came out with the new bleach for the B&W reversal process a few years back because it caused a speed gain for Plus-X, which increases grain. The new stock will, to my knowledge (I only ever used the older version myself), be compatible with the old process and older, stop slower speed if you can find a lab or processor that will process it that way for you.

If not, Plus-X reversal would probably still be your best bet at the stop faster E.I., but it looks a stop faster. I'd assume it'd have an increased contrast also due to a 1-stop push equivalent with the new process compared to the old.

~KB

One more thing, I believe "Pi" was shot on the B&W reversal shots, so the outdoor scenes would be a good example of what you can expect from Plux-X, although it may in fact be that they shot neg.

Edited by Karl Borowski, 02 February 2008 - 11:14 PM.

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#13 Ashley Barron

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 04:54 PM

I'd recommend 16mm Plus-X REVERSAL for minimal grain. I don't know if this is possible anymore unless you have your own processor, but you want to try your best to get Plus-X processed in the OLD chemistry with the R-9 bleach instead of the new, more-environmentally-friendly bleach they use now.

Unfortunately, Kodak really dropped the ball when they came out with the new bleach for the B&W reversal process a few years back because it caused a speed gain for Plus-X, which increases grain. The new stock will, to my knowledge (I only ever used the older version myself), be compatible with the old process and older, stop slower speed if you can find a lab or processor that will process it that way for you.

If not, Plus-X reversal would probably still be your best bet at the stop faster E.I., but it looks a stop faster. I'd assume it'd have an increased contrast also due to a 1-stop push equivalent with the new process compared to the old.

~KB


I'm not sure if I can get Plus-X Reversal. I've picked myself up a 100ft roll of just Plus-X for testing, hopefully it should do the trick. It's 80D but if it's interior it's 64 correct?
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#14 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 09:26 PM

I'm not sure if I can get Plus-X Reversal. I've picked myself up a 100ft roll of just Plus-X for testing, hopefully it should do the trick. It's 80D but if it's interior it's 64 correct?

More precisely, it's 80 ASA in sunlight but 64 ASA under tungsten light. So if you were shooting day interiors and using the sunlight coming thru the windows, you would still rate at 80 ASA. I suspect that HMIs and 5500K Kino Flos would also give you an 80 ASA rating, but I'm not 100% sure about that - maybe someone else can confirm this. If you wanted to use tungsten lights inside to augment the natural daylight (it is B&W after all!) then you would meter and expose the daylight at 80 ASA but meter the tungsten lamps at 64 ASA. The difference is only a third of a stop.

* That's Plus-X negative, 7231: 80D/64T. Plus-X reversal is 7265: 100D/80T. Just making sure.

Edited by Satsuki Murashige, 04 February 2008 - 09:30 PM.

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