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Filming black and white in digital


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#1 joshua gallegos

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Posted 27 November 2013 - 02:26 AM

I have a feature project that I'm making into a short film first, I wanted to do that to get a grasp as to how I'm going to film the actual feature before I make it. Realistically, I wish I could afford to rent a C300 or a C100, but I'm afraid I will have to settle for the Canon 5D Mark iii with EOS lenses, it's an upgrade to the t4i which I started off with. My main concern is not knowing how to expose for black and white films, for instance, depending on the picture profile on the camera that will give me the best dynamic range, I will most likely have to expose with color images. I recently did a short film and I've unsuccessfully managed to convert colored clips to black and white, they just don't look right. I wanted my short film to look like a 1940s RKO production, but I would do it in a widescreen ratio like Robert Wise's 'The Haunting'. I need to know where to begin in terms of how to create an authentic black and white image on a digital format, I know for a fact most black and white films were filmed in studios with amazingly built sets, that's part of the reason why they look so good in the past. I guess the most recent black and white film I've seen is 'Too Much Ado About Nothing', but most of that film was actually filmed on the Red camera, with a few scenes filmed on the Canon 5D Mark iii, and there's also 'Nebraska' which they filmed on the Alexa, which hasn't been released yet.

 

The film is in a remote location, to give you an idea this is what it will look like. For night scenes I plan to shoot on a clear day with an infrared filter, Robert Wise used a similar technique, which turns the sky black and the clouds white. When it comes to lighting for black and white movies, is done the same as if it were being done in color?

 

picture-uh=fd498a3324d8273a2e8820a5f0b36

 

 

Here's a few films that I've been researching 

http://bookofenoch.tumblr.com/


Edited by joshua gallegos, 27 November 2013 - 02:27 AM.

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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 27 November 2013 - 11:24 AM

Lighting certainly is not the same in B/w as it is in color. The thing is with color you tend to get separation in your image based just on the color of things. However, in b/w you have to separate things manually--  normally with back lighting (r not back lighting) but also with harder shadows, and multiple layers of of depth information. E.g. where in a color film you can get away with soft lighting w/o a back-light on an actor against a wall-- because that wall is say blue-- when you go b/w you really can't do that because it'll all just blend together.

Also obviously costumes will need to be picked carefully as will any hero props, for color. That comes down to testing.

 

You won't create an "authentic" black and white image on digital-- whatever that means. The only actual authentic digital image is a mosaic of pixelated colors (Bayer mask) which then is processed by the computer. Of course who really cares so long as it looks good. In terms of seeing it on set. I would really just get an external monitor and turn all the saturation down-- I actually wonder what'd happen if you found a monitor with a blue-only channel and just left that on.

 

Obviously one would want to shoot in color for a later black and white conversion (though some cameras, such as a hacked GH2 can shoot b/w native and monitor in it-- might be worth looking into especially with something like a moon hack on it.) The main reason for shooting color is to be able to control how colorful things are in the scene in post which'll then dictate how the convert over to grey values later-- e.g. you can darken the sky because it's blue w/o effecting the greens (too much) before converting it to b/w.

Whatever you do. I HIGHLY recommend testing you whole work-flow out and doing camera tests with actors to get an idea of how they'll read in b/w.


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#3 joshua gallegos

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Posted 27 November 2013 - 12:11 PM

I know about the clothing and how black isn't photogenic, I've seen that in a lot of behind the scenes of Hitchcock films, to me it's really the technical things that involve the creation of black and white, you mentioned turning down the saturation on an external monitor, that's a great idea, the problem is how is the image manipulated in post production to convert color to b&w without introducing noise to the image, but then again maybe so grain wouldn't be a bad idea, when I said authentic, I suppose I meant something that wasn't picked out a 'monochrome' preset, I think by authentic I meant something that is created and not a picture style with the b&w preset. I was watching this master class by Josef von Sternberg and he lights a scene in b&w, the light is very directional, I wouldn't know how to describe lighting, but I think I may have a feel for it since I've seen so many b&w films, I know what's right and what isn't right, so I think with an external monitor I may be able to pull it off and do some tests. But again, I don;t know much about what happens in post production to create a successful image, it's the place I wanted to begin, I've read how most cinematographers do lab work to decide on the exposure and know exactly how certain prints will be printed, but I know very little about manipulating an image in post to make it successful, I'll try to read more on that first before anything else. 

 

Josef von Sternberg master class!

https://www.youtube....h?v=6DX7sll9Gug


Edited by joshua gallegos, 27 November 2013 - 12:12 PM.

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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 27 November 2013 - 12:22 PM

In essence you are pulling out the chroma image in post. I would recommend, downloading a copy of Resolve lite (it's free from davinci) and literally playing around with it to see how well it'll work for you. In my own case, whenever I'm at that stage, anymore, i am thankfully in the hands of a good colorist.

Might be useful as well to try posting on the blackmagic forum which I believe has a section for resolve, and/or creative cow, though a lot of people on here (in the colorist section) may also know.

 

Lighting, well if you know what's right and wrong, then you'd pretty much so set. There is a vast swath of how to light there's really no stock answer, aside from the use of b/w filters on a color imager probably won't work in the way you intend them to-- though I also don't know what so it'd be worth a test.


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#5 joshua gallegos

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Posted 27 November 2013 - 09:40 PM

Found some time to do a quick conversion of some of the footage I previously shot on the Canon 650D. I had better results by not color grading and simply doing a color pass, then changing the contrast, tonal range and RGB color balance. I wonder if contrast control filters would work better on digital, but I think maybe the editing program could take care of that.... 

 

https://vimeo.com/80518030

 

https://vimeo.com/80515598


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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 November 2013 - 12:46 AM

Color contrast filters (red, yellow, etc.) don't work that well on a color camera, you're better off shooting a full-color scene and then you can control color contrast by color-correcting the color channels individually -- for example, darkening the blue channel and then going to monochrome has the effect in b&w photography of adding a red filter.


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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 November 2013 - 01:08 AM

Here's a quick example -- I had a photo I took on a location scout with blue skies and green trees, and I had a Pola filter on the camera to get a rich blue color in the sky:

color1.jpg

 

This is a simple conversion to b&w in Photoshop Elements:

b&w1.jpg

 

Here I selected the blue color only and darkened it, creating the effect of using a red filter on b&w film:

b&w2.jpg

 

Here I darkened the blue colors and also lightened the green colors before converting to b&w:

b&w3.jpg

 

So you see that you actually have more color contrast control in the final b&w image if the original image has good saturation and strong color differences.  Of course, for wardrobe & art direction, it's better to choose monochromatic (gray) colors in the tonal value you want for the final image, but for things you can't control like skies and trees, it's better to capture their colors with good saturation so they are easier to select and isolate in the color correction software.


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#8 joshua gallegos

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Posted 28 November 2013 - 01:13 AM

I see, so it will only work with actual film cameras on b&w stock. For that matter, it would be better to manipulate the image in post when converting it to black and white. Does this mean that color temperature etc will be completely irrelevant? I should just see the image in terms of white, grey, and black and where the light should be. I was watching 'The Wrong Man', I really loved Robert Burks' style, I think this film alone is worth studying, but I can't seem to find how these films were actually made, articles, etc.

 

the-wrong-man.jpg?1289433813


Edited by joshua gallegos, 28 November 2013 - 01:16 AM.

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#9 joshua gallegos

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Posted 28 November 2013 - 01:32 AM

Here's a quick example -- I had a photo I took on a location scout with blue skies and green trees, and I had a Pola filter on the camera to get a rich blue color in the sky:

color1.jpg

 

This is a simple conversion to b&w in Photoshop Elements:

b&w1.jpg

 

Here I selected the blue color only and darkened it, creating the effect of using a red filter on b&w film:

b&w2.jpg

 

Here I darkened the blue colors and also lightened the green colors before converting to b&w:

b&w3.jpg

 

So you see that you actually have more color contrast control in the final b&w image if the original image has good saturation and strong color differences.  Of course, for wardrobe & art direction, it's better to choose monochromatic (gray) colors in the tonal value you want for the final image, but for things you can't control like skies and trees, it's better to capture their colors with good saturation so they are easier to select and isolate in the color correction software.

That's interesting, I suppose IR filters won't work on the digital format as well. I'm going to do most of the lighting with Mole Richardson fixtures since Arri is a bit more expensive to rent, I'll only be able to use tungsten, I believe tungsten lights have more red in the color spectrum, so that will inevitably affect the look as well? 

 

I see what you're saying, the images shouldn't be too flat, I should color grade the image as if  I were doing it in color and then convert it to black and white as is. I'm doing it on Adobe Premiere Pro CC. I was thinking of doing a b&w version of the stuff I shot just to become familiar with it. Thanks again for your help Mr. Mullen, and a happy thanksgiving. 


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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 November 2013 - 12:59 PM

All digital cameras have built-in IR filters in front of the sensors because the sensors are naturally sensitive to IR.  Hence why there are companies out there who will convert your digital still camera into one that shoots infrared photography -- by removing the IR filter.  The sensitivity to IR in digital is another reason why people have been using the heavier ND filters with IR filtering added to them, because otherwise they start to get IR contamination in the image.  

 

Infrared photography often uses heavy red filters in front of the camera to get rid of most of the visible light spectrum so that the infrared-sensitive film mainly gets infrared information, not both visible light and infrared.

 

Good b&w is mostly about contrast, either in lighting or in production design.

 

Yes, you can light sets with tungsten in a day interior if the final image is going to be converted to b&w, the only problem being that you are now committed to making it a b&w image since it will have a mixed color temperature look if left in color.

 

There are a few b&w digital cameras -- Leica makes a monochrome still camera, Red will convert an Epic to monochrome for you… mainly they just remove the Bayer color filter array so you just have a monochrome sensor. At that point, color contrast filters work on the camera just as they do when shooting on b&w film.

 

This company will convert your still camera for you:

http://digitalsilverimaging.com/ir


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