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Getting the best quality image on Film


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#1 Jase Ryan

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Posted 06 January 2010 - 02:48 AM

this is a fairly novice question so i apologize in advance. I'm wondering what the best approach is to getting the richest and best images on 16mm or 35mm film.

I've shot a bit on 16 and have played with 35 as well. The images are exposed, but the quality is not quite there that I would like. I know experience is first, but would like to know some basic principals to getting those rich images that you see on big movies.

Does over exposing the image by 1 stop, then pushing (push means bringing the exposure back down?) a stop in development help get rich images?

I know you want a dense negative, whats the best approach?

Sorry for the stupid question. I have a shoot coming up and want to know this!

Thanks!
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 January 2010 - 03:00 AM

First of all, "best" is content dependent -- strong color saturation, for example, may be best for one project and wrong for another. Same goes for sharpness, graininess, etc.

But if you are talking more technically, which in my mind means making one format look like the next higher format -- making 16mm look like 35mm, 35mm look like 65mm, etc. -- then there is no single factor.

There was once an article in "American Cinematographer" from the late 1970's by someone named Ken Richter, who shot 16mm nature movies, ski movies, travelogues, etc. and travelled around projecting them in 16mm. He was often asked how he managed to get such sharp 16mm images, so he wrote an article about it. The gist of the article was that there are dozens of small factors that add-up in creating the perception of sharp images, from camera thru post all the way to exhibition.

So basically you use the sharpest, finest-grained film stock, expose it well, use the sharpest prime lenses at their optimal stop, and have enough contrast in the lighting, etc. It goes on and on. You don't really need to do special processing -- pull-processing lowers contrast, which can lower the perceived sharpness, but it does help reduce graininess on high-speed stocks IF combined with overexposure (but then, you might as well just use a slower film stock.)

You then contact print it on the sharpest, more contrasty print stock (like Vision Premier) for theater screens, you transfer it using the best telecine / scanning equipment for home video, you color-correct it well, etc.

There's no magic bullet, no trick, it's just solid photography done well.
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#3 David Rakoczy

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Posted 06 January 2010 - 08:53 AM

this is a fairly novice question so i apologize in advance. I'm wondering what the best approach is to getting the richest and best images on 16mm or 35mm film.

I've shot a bit on 16 and have played with 35 as well. The images are exposed, but the quality is not quite there that I would like. I know experience is first, but would like to know some basic principals to getting those rich images that you see on big movies.

Does over exposing the image by 1 stop, then pushing (push means bringing the exposure back down?) a stop in development help get rich images?

I know you want a dense negative, whats the best approach?

Sorry for the stupid question. I have a shoot coming up and want to know this!

Thanks!


Get This Book ;)
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#4 Robert Costello

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Posted 06 January 2010 - 03:03 PM

http://www.amazon.co...k/dp/0935578161

I lucked out and found this book at Salvation Army..

It is a text book that breaks down scenes from movies and the lighting, lenses, stock, and processing they used. It has stills and diagrams. It is really amazing to see the amount of lights and their subtle use in some scenes.

Lighting makes a huge difference.
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#5 Jase Ryan

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Posted 07 January 2010 - 02:42 AM

Thanks for the answers!

I'll check out those books - I've heard great things about Reflections.

Can you tell me a bit about processing? What happens to the image when Pull processing or what happens when push processing?

I hear some cinematographers talk about how they always over expose the image by a half o full stop. I'm guessing when they do this, they pull process it to bring it back? What else does that do besides getting your exposure back?

Thanks.

Jase
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#6 Tom Jensen

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Posted 07 January 2010 - 03:18 AM

Thanks for the answers!

I'll check out those books - I've heard great things about Reflections.

Can you tell me a bit about processing? What happens to the image when Pull processing or what happens when push processing?

I hear some cinematographers talk about how they always over expose the image by a half o full stop. I'm guessing when they do this, they pull process it to bring it back? What else does that do besides getting your exposure back?

Thanks.

Jase


Do a google search, http://www3.telus.ne...m/push-pull.htm
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 January 2010 - 11:47 AM

Most cinematographers who overexpose a negative by 1/3 or 2/3 of a stop (thirds are convenient if you are doing the overexposure by inputting a slower ASA into your light meter, like rating 500T at 400 or 320 ASA) just process normal so that the developed negative is slightly denser than normal and would print at higher printer light numbers (let's say, the mid 30's instead of the high 20's.) This gives the print image deeper blacks and a tighter grain structure.

Overexposing by one-stop and pulling by one-stop would lower the contrast. The overexposure would also tighten the grain structure.

Underexposing by one-stop and pushing by one-stop would increase the contrast. The underexposure would also increase the graininess.
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#8 Tim Carroll

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Posted 07 January 2010 - 12:29 PM

There was once an article in "American Cinematographer" from the late 1970's by someone named Ken Richter


David,

May that be the Ken Richter of Richter Collimator fame?

Would love to see a reprint of that article.

Best,
-Tim
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 January 2010 - 12:55 PM

David,

May that be the Ken Richter of Richter Collimator fame?

Would love to see a reprint of that article.

Best,
-Tim


It was from the "Deer Hunter" issue, another great article, October 1978. The topic was called "Clear Pictures" or something like that.
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#10 Dominic Case

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Posted 07 January 2010 - 11:18 PM

Can you tell me a bit about processing? What happens to the image when Pull processing or what happens when push processing?

I hear some cinematographers talk about how they always over expose the image by a half o full stop. I'm guessing when they do this, they pull process it to bring it back? What else does that do besides getting your exposure back?

Thanks.

Jase

Probably 90-95% of all negative is processed normally. Push or pull processing isn't that useful, and it rarely improves the image quality. That's why normal is normal.

Push processing is increasing the development time (or very occasionally the temperature), to obtain a darker, more developed image. It's usually acheived in a commercial motion picture lab by slowing the machine down - typically 20% slower for a stop, though that is a bit conservative these days as stocks are more stable to variations.

As all the other chemical stages such as bleach and fix are done to completion, an extra 20% doesn't make any difference. But in the developer stage, you get increased density, slightly increased contrast, and slightly more grain, particularly in the shadow areas. Also the fog level or D-min of the neg goes up. With black & white neg, there is a more noticeable contrast increase.

It compensates for underexposure to the extent of bringing the mid tones back to where they would have been with normal exposure anyway. So in effect, a neg exposed at 200EI and pushed one stop will be the same density as a neg exposed at 100EI and processed nornally. But you don't actually see a stop further into the shadows, so it's not a true increase in speed.

Pull processing is the opposite - speeding up the processing machine to under-develop the negative.

Cinematographers who overexpose half a stop or a stop do so to ensure good rich blacks in the image, and to minimise grain. In fact, under-exposure gives you grainy, grey blacks very quickly, so part of the over-exposure policy is to avoid underexposing at any cost! It's not usual to pull process in this instance, as the purpose is to get good solid density on the negative - so pulling would negate the effect.
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