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Necessity of shooting a grayscale...


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#1 Nick Eriksson

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 04:25 PM

Hi All,

I am looking for a second opinion on an upcoming short film that I am shooting.

In order to give the film a cool, blue cast right off the bat, I have chosen to shoot uncorrected Fujifilm Eterna 250T in daylight.

Having already undertaken a couple of tests already, I am satisfied with the effect this provides. We will of course undertake additional tweaking in the timing session with the Colour Timer on the project.

I am a little unsure as to whether it is a good idea to instruct my camera assistants to shoot a grayscale? I will be attending the flat grade transfer to HDCAM at the lab, and will be further finessing the timing in a separate session with our dedicated Colour Timer at a later date.

Therefore, is there anything to gain by shooting a grayscale, given that I do not wish the lab to make any changes to our image at the time of transfer?

Any feedback on this matter is greatly appreciated.

Many thanks in advance,

Nick Eriksson
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 05:21 PM

A greyscale shot under what you would consider to be a neutral color temp as your white base is mainly a communication tool to colorists or print timers as to what their basic frame of reference should be when they see the following scene in comparison to the neutral greyscale. It's useful when you won't be there to supervise the timing.

If you are going to be there, then it's less necessary, though personally I always like to see a colorist sort of calibrate his basic colors to a neutral greyscale so when the first image comes up after that, I can see how closely I nailed the look. So part of the reason I do it is just educational on my part, I first want to see something that I know exactly how it was exposed, etc. that is fairly bulletproof, not prone to misinterpretation.

But it's not necessary to have a greyscale if you are there to tell the timer what your intentions were. But what's going to happen, without a greyscale, is that the timer will first neutralize the image -- basically correct-out the blue -- and then add the blue cast back that you want, whereas if he timed for a greyscale shot with an 85 filter using tungsten stock outdoors in daylight, then the first shot doesn't have the 85 filter, you'd see the resulting blue image and start adjusting from that point.

When doing print dailies, a greyscale was also useful because you could see the timing lights for the greyscale and get a sense of how your negative was printing in general.

A lab just processes the negative, the whole roll, the fact that a greyscale is the first shot on a roll does not affect processing nor price. They just need to know whether to process normal, push, or pull.

As for the color correction session / transfer, you're being charged for doing a supervised session, so that sort of overpowers anything else. But even for an unsupervised dailies transfer, there is no charge for having a greyscale at the head of the roll that they time first, again, it's just to help you more than anything else.

Now if you were going to make a print, then there is a difference in price between a one-light, best light, and a timed print -- but if the timing is based on the greyscale at the head of the roll because you said "print to greyscale" the charge is still for the cheaper one-light print because that's your one light, they don't change it after the first shot is timed, the whole roll is printed at that one light. So a greyscale just helps make sure your one light is closer to being what you wanted.

When a colorist gets to the first image on a roll, they will usually look for something black and something white in the shot to adjust the overall levels, get the blacks and whites to be neutral, etc. So all of that is easier and faster if your first image is a greyscale. They correct it pretty fast though because they want to get on to the footage, but some still find it helpful.

I also find that when there's something wrong with the footage -- odd color shift, grain, whatever -- it helps to have a neutral greyscale to look at and see if the odd effects are visible there too. It's just one more point of reference to track down a problem.
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#3 John-Erling Holmenes Fredriksen

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 05:35 PM

Hi All,

I am looking for a second opinion on an upcoming short film that I am shooting.

In order to give the film a cool, blue cast right off the bat, I have chosen to shoot uncorrected Fujifilm Eterna 250T in daylight.

Having already undertaken a couple of tests already, I am satisfied with the effect this provides. We will of course undertake additional tweaking in the timing session with the Colour Timer on the project.

I am a little unsure as to whether it is a good idea to instruct my camera assistants to shoot a grayscale? I will be attending the flat grade transfer to HDCAM at the lab, and will be further finessing the timing in a separate session with our dedicated Colour Timer at a later date.

Therefore, is there anything to gain by shooting a grayscale, given that I do not wish the lab to make any changes to our image at the time of transfer?

Any feedback on this matter is greatly appreciated.

Many thanks in advance,

Nick Eriksson


Well, the eminent mr. David Mullen already covered pretty much everything. I would just add that I personally always like to shoot a greyscale so that whatever happens, I know there is one fixed parameter that I can refer to. Even when sitting in on a transfer, my eyes can get biased and confused over time, even while taking all precautions. The time and effort required to shoot one, pretty much always makes it worthwhile in my book.


John-Erling Holmenes Fredriksen
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The Norwegian Film School
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#4 Nick Eriksson

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 06:07 PM

A greyscale shot under what you would consider to be a neutral color temp as your white base is mainly a communication tool to colorists or print timers as to what their basic frame of reference should be when they see the following scene in comparison to the neutral greyscale. It's useful when you won't be there to supervise the timing.

If you are going to be there, then it's less necessary, though personally I always like to see a colorist sort of calibrate his basic colors to a neutral greyscale so when the first image comes up after that, I can see how closely I nailed the look. So part of the reason I do it is just educational on my part, I first want to see something that I know exactly how it was exposed, etc. that is fairly bulletproof, not prone to misinterpretation.

But it's not necessary to have a greyscale if you are there to tell the timer what your intentions were. But what's going to happen, without a greyscale, is that the timer will first neutralize the image -- basically correct-out the blue -- and then add the blue cast back that you want, whereas if he timed for a greyscale shot with an 85 filter using tungsten stock outdoors in daylight, then the first shot doesn't have the 85 filter, you'd see the resulting blue image and start adjusting from that point.

When doing print dailies, a greyscale was also useful because you could see the timing lights for the greyscale and get a sense of how your negative was printing in general.

A lab just processes the negative, the whole roll, the fact that a greyscale is the first shot on a roll does not affect processing nor price. They just need to know whether to process normal, push, or pull.

As for the color correction session / transfer, you're being charged for doing a supervised session, so that sort of overpowers anything else. But even for an unsupervised dailies transfer, there is no charge for having a greyscale at the head of the roll that they time first, again, it's just to help you more than anything else.

Now if you were going to make a print, then there is a difference in price between a one-light, best light, and a timed print -- but if the timing is based on the greyscale at the head of the roll because you said "print to greyscale" the charge is still for the cheaper one-light print because that's your one light, they don't change it after the first shot is timed, the whole roll is printed at that one light. So a greyscale just helps make sure your one light is closer to being what you wanted.

When a colorist gets to the first image on a roll, they will usually look for something black and something white in the shot to adjust the overall levels, get the blacks and whites to be neutral, etc. So all of that is easier and faster if your first image is a greyscale. They correct it pretty fast though because they want to get on to the footage, but some still find it helpful.

I also find that when there's something wrong with the footage -- odd color shift, grain, whatever -- it helps to have a neutral greyscale to look at and see if the odd effects are visible there too. It's just one more point of reference to track down a problem.



Dear David,

Thank you very much for your comprehensive reply, this is all very enlightening.

I believe I will use the 85 filter to shoot a greyscale at the beginning of the roll.

I am a little wary of the colourist taking out the the intended uncorrected tungsten cast, and then dialling blue back in, as I always like the timing to move subtly away from the negative, and not undergo any drastic changes. I believe I am also right in thinking that uncorrected tungsten shot under daylight is a very specific type of blue, and not 'generic' (if there is any such thing as generic blue!).

Thank you very much for your response,

Just to let you know that this project is being shot on Super 16mm.

Best wishes,

Nick Eriksson
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Rig Wheels Passport

Metropolis Post

Visual Products

Technodolly

CineTape

Paralinx LLC

Aerial Filmworks

FJS International, LLC

Ritter Battery

The Slider

CineLab

Abel Cine

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Glidecam

rebotnix Technologies

Wooden Camera

Opal

Willys Widgets

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Tai Audio