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Why blacks?


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#1 Maheshwar E Singh

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 01:01 PM

Hi,

I was reading through this website, magazines, and other internet articles and I find everyone talking about getting rich blacks, right from kodak to Cinematographers talking about how they achieved rich blacks in processing and Color grading. Am i missing something here? I dont have a good understanding of painting and arts. Why is black given such importance?

Thank You,

Maheshwar E Singh
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#2 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 01:26 PM

Hi,

I was reading through this website, magazines, and other internet articles and I find everyone talking about getting rich blacks, right from kodak to Cinematographers talking about how they achieved rich blacks in processing and Color grading. Am i missing something here? I dont have a good understanding of painting and arts. Why is black given such importance?

Thank You,

Maheshwar E Singh


I am no expert on sensitometry, but I can tell you that from shooting a lot of black & white film, the deeper the blacks = better contrast = nicer picture. I imagine that the better the blacks, the nicer all of the other darker hues in color films would be.

But you are better off waiting for a response from some of the experts on here...
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#3 Tom Jensen

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 02:18 PM

Blacks represent the least exposed part of the negative and you want that area to look black. When you overexpose, you start to see texture and the colors go from black to gray and eventually to the color that the object is. You want your blacks to look rich and not muddy.
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#4 Nic MacDonald

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 04:53 PM

Our entire system of perception is based on contrast. The blacks are the foundation of an image in that everything else plays against them. Red looks redder when there are deep blacks in frame, because our eyes have a reference for not-red. Make sense?

Images with weak blacks tend to look more washed out. Some cinematographers like and use this effect. For example, take Harris Savides, who has been known to use low-contrast film stocks which he then underexposes, sometimes also using older lenses with more veiling glare. Depending on the colours in the respective scene, the blacks in these films (e.g. Birth and American Gangster) tended to take on a lighter, dark greyish or brownish tone, which I would say is more naturalistic than the solid blacks that technical perfection demands. In life, it's quite rare to see a pure black.

Obviously, the nature of the film suggests the cinematographer's approach to the blacks, as with every other aspect of the images, and people have different ideas as to what constitutes naturalism even if that's the approach the film seems to want. And there's no right answer. Whatever you think looks better, is better, as long as it's right for the film.

Edited by Nic MacDonald, 18 July 2012 - 04:57 PM.

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#5 Maheshwar E Singh

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Posted 21 July 2012 - 12:54 PM

Thank You Everyone!

I have always observed colors but never minded the blacks... I should start observing the blacks hereafter i guess...
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#6 Chris Burke

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Posted 21 July 2012 - 04:25 PM

a good film to see varying types of black is Savages. They shot it on color negative, color reversal and b&w negataive. It is a great example of how difference stocks and looks treat the shadows. some if not all of the color reversal was cross processed.
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#7 Maheshwar E Singh

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 09:35 AM

I should be able to get a rental i guess.

Thank You Chris:)
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#8 Chris Burke

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 12:40 PM

not sure where you are, but it is currently in cinemas in the US. 35mm looks very nice on a Sony 4k projector
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#9 Tom Jensen

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 12:51 PM

a good film to see varying types of black is Savages. They shot it on color negative, color reversal and b&w negataive. It is a great example of how difference stocks and looks treat the shadows. some if not all of the color reversal was cross processed.


Also you should look at a film that has been under-exposed with muddy blacks to compare it to because "good" is relative to "bad." You have to be able to compare the two to see why one is preferable. Why one is correctly exposed and why one isn't.
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#10 Chris Burke

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 03:48 PM

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a great current example of underexposure. Several scenes were very underexposed and then attempted to be pulled up. The ending result was very muddy, bluish shadows. Juxtaposing scenes had blacker blacks, which looked great. I don't recall it seeming like an artistic choice, but more like a mistake.
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#11 Maheshwar E Singh

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Posted 27 July 2012 - 03:47 AM

Hey Thanks Chris and Tom :)

I live in South India Chris. By muddy blacks you mean a black that is more grey?
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#12 Nic MacDonald

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Posted 27 July 2012 - 05:10 AM

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a great current example of underexposure. Several scenes were very underexposed and then attempted to be pulled up. The ending result was very muddy, bluish shadows. Juxtaposing scenes had blacker blacks, which looked great. I don't recall it seeming like an artistic choice, but more like a mistake.


Actually, in the November 2011 edition of American Cinematographer, the cinematographer on Martha Marcy May Marlene talks about how the filmmakers made a decision to underexpose all the negative by two stops to give the film a 'worn' feeling. Naturally, this kind of technique shows up more in some circumstances than others.

Sometimes technical perfection isn't the goal.
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