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Kodak 5294 (and 5293)


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#1 Ed Davor

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 03:29 PM

Going through some articles in old editions of American Cinematographer (available through Questia subscription), I tried to find the filmstocks used for some 80s movies, and what I was surprised was to find that Fright Night was all done on 5294. I haven't seen Fright Night in theater, but the difference between this film and for example Ghostbusters, on blu-ray is a bit confusing to me. Ghostbusters looks kind of contrasty, consistently so, in both Blu-ray editions (one from, what I guess was an old IP, and the other a 4k scan of the OCN), so you can't blaim the transfer. The color rendition is pretty poor in shadows and pastel tones. And the whole thing is very grainy. Aliens and Terminator share a similar look (though the production uses a lot less color). On the other hand Fright Night looks less harsh, smoother. I was under the impression that it was done on 5247 for that reason, but I was wrong.
Another similar stock 5293, looks very harsh in terms of contrast and either it has a bad case of color crossover in shadows, or I'm seeing a really bad dupe on the Gremlins Blu-ray.

 

So can someone try and explain, why, for example Ghostbusters and Fright Night look so different? One thing mentioned about Fright Night was that the stock was rated at 200 EI. Could that account for the difference in color rendition?

 

P.S. Both Ghostbusters and Fright Night Blu-rays were sourced out of a 4k scan (presumably from OCN in both cases). 

 

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Here are some examples from Ghostbusters:

 

http://www.blu-ray.c...17/#Screenshots

 

a a couple of examples of 5293 from Gremlins. This looks exceptionally problematic to my eyes in terms of contrast and color fidelity. But maybe it's just an old dupe.

 

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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 04:06 PM

Sure, rating 400T 5294 at 200 ASA would give you less grain and more snap to the image.

 

Besides differences in source materials (o-neg, IP, etc.) and transfer processes and color-correction -- all of which will have major affects on the image -- there are also the differences in how the stocks were exposed, the lenses used, filtering, and even lab practices.  Some labs "cooked" the negative more than others though within Kodak specs so there wouldn't have been major variations unless push-processing was requested, but still, I often found some results at some labs to be more contrasty than others.  And Kodak was tweaking these stocks between some batch runs, which is why movies tried to buy all of their stock up front from the same batch.

 

It's funny to read the differences in opinions about these stocks back in the day.  David Watkin, who tended to over-expose his stocks, loved 5293 and felt that 5294 lost a stop of detail at the high end (and switched to Agfa XT320 as a result), whereas many people felt that 5295 was the contrasty stock compared to 5294.  So as stocks got more contrasty, the older version looked less contrasty in comparison.  Then after the EXR stocks, it seemed like the Vision negative stocks were getting lower and lower in contrast, though the early Vision print stock was definitely more contrasty than the previous print stock.

 

But the fact that different DP's working with different labs could get different results from the same negative just shows you the importance of the cinematographer.

 

Keep in mind that these new transfers may or may not go through some noise reduction as well as some sharpening which affect the look of the stocks too. So many variables.


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#3 James Compton

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 04:20 PM

Skin tones are one constant that you can use when comparing those movies shot on the same film stock. Consider that 'GHOSTBUSTERS' is a New York movie, it has that muted east coast palette. Set design, costume design play heavily into the looks of those films. Call me crazy, but 'FRIGHT NIGHT' and 'GREMLINS'  both have a California movie studio feel to them.


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#4 Ed Davor

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 04:31 PM

Thanks David for the detailed answer. You are right about the differing opinions. I found a couple of cinematographers quoted as saying that they feel 94 is grain free. For example Russell Boy said he found 94 to be: "very fast, very grain-free, with a nice contrast range." On the other hand, I cannot number the times I've heard people complain how grainy it is. And Aliens bluray transfer confirms it (and it's a pretty good transfer, they didn't seem to use much noise reduction, so it has a lot of detail too).

 

 

I've searched for a couple of more examples of 5293, and I have yet to find one example where the colors look "clean". It's all brownish mush on the skintones in the shadows, almost monochromatic shadows. Perhaps this is due to the fact that a lot of them shot 5293 at EI 500 and even 1000. One cinematographer claimed that 1000 is it's true rating, and that Kodak would eventually re-rate it at a "conservative" rating of 640. 

 

P.S. Does anyone have any idea, what was used for Body Double (1984)?


Edited by Ed Davor, 26 January 2015 - 04:33 PM.

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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 05:28 PM

That's a pretty sweeping statement about 5293 considering how many movies used it... Watkin shot "Yentl" on it, there was "Tootsie", much of "Return of the Jedi", the interiors in "The Big Chill", "Blue Thunder", "The Right Stuff", "Fanny and Alexander", "War Games", "Flashdance", etc. almost any interior scene for a movie shot in late-1981 through 1982, released in mid-1982 through 1983.  Besides, most high-speed stocks make faces look bland in the shadows when underexposed too much, I didn't think 5293 was worse than 5294 in this regards.

 

What I think the problem is that cinematographers, after years of using 5254 and then 5247, thought they could underexpose the new high speed stocks like they were used to on the old slow-speed stocks (out of necessity mostly in the 1970's) -- a different attitude towards exposure had to be learned in the 1980's.

 

Plus this was the era of faster processing at higher temperatures and this was having some effect on the look of films.


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#6 Ed Davor

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 05:50 PM

I'm not suggesting 5293 was worse than 5294. I've seen bad examples of 5294 too. What I was speculating on was, as you said it yourself, that there was a trend to underexpose 5293 beyond its limits. Though what looks "neutral", "clean" etc. is certainly subjective in cinematography.

 

Anyway, I wish to go back to something you mentioned earlier about certain labs "cooking" the film a bit more. You mean pushing it slightly (without it being a requested "push process")? This is really interesting. Would you name any names from your personal experience in terms of the differences between labs?

 

As for the higher temperature ECN2 process. Are you suggesting that the very nature of early ECN2 had some drawbacks compared to late ECN in terms of image quality?


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#7 John E Clark

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 05:57 PM


Plus this was the era of faster processing at higher temperatures and this was having some effect on the look of films.

 

It also seemed to be that some of those 80's films you list, had 'more haze/grain' as a style, rather than due to the particulars of the film.

 

The Wife and I argue about whether a film was well transferred or not, and often it centers of how crackly the shadows or some of the lower than mid tones are. I tend to believe the 'grain' was intentional.

 

But we haven't seen these films in theaters, if we ever did in the first place..., so I can't say things are badly/goodly transferred.

 

What may be interesting in the future, with material that was digitally shot, and all the 'controls' archived... how future 'criterion' or 'restored' releases may be...


Edited by John E Clark, 26 January 2015 - 05:58 PM.

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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 06:06 PM

Smoked sets certainly emerged as a style in the 1980's and some movies perhaps overdid it.  Anything that lowers contrast / black levels like smoke or diffusion will make the grain more obvious since grain is more visible in mid tones than in blacks or whites.

 

One thing you see in the early 1980's is cinematographers who routinely used Fogs and Low Cons with 5247 were starting to regret using them on the new high speed stocks, so by the late 1980's, that sort of filtering was less common, and if diffusion was wanted at all, they would use the newer SupaFrost and ProMist filters, which did not create as much of a veiling milkiness as the older filters did.


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#9 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 06:15 PM

Plus this was the era of faster processing at higher temperatures and this was having some effect on the look of films.

 

What was the purpose of changing the processing speed/temperature?  Faster turn-around times?


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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 06:31 PM

Yes and more volume
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#11 Ed Davor

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 06:34 PM

Smoked sets certainly emerged as a style in the 1980's and some movies perhaps overdid it.  Anything that lowers contrast / black levels like smoke or diffusion will make the grain more obvious since grain is more visible in mid tones than in blacks or whites.

 

One thing you see in the early 1980's is cinematographers who routinely used Fogs and Low Cons with 5247 were starting to regret using them on the new high speed stocks, so by the late 1980's, that sort of filtering was less common, and if diffusion was wanted at all, they would use the newer SupaFrost and ProMist filters, which did not create as much of a veiling milkiness as the older filters did.

 

So, does that mean that side-by-side, 5247 had higher contrast/gamma in the linear portion of the curve?


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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 08:00 PM

Mainly it meant that 5247 was less grainy. It might have been slightly less flat in the blacks but I'm not sure.  Even 5247 got tweaked ever since it was introduced in 1974 so it didn't have a consistent look over its existence.


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#13 cole t parzenn

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Posted 27 January 2015 - 05:42 PM

Plus this was the era of faster processing at higher temperatures and this was having some effect on the look of films.

 

Could you elaborate?


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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 January 2015 - 06:21 PM

This was something cinematographers at the time were complaining about, but a lab person would have to tell you if it were true or not.  Basically you control density during processing through time & temperature, so you can shorten the time if you increase the temperature, but there will be some side effects.  In the 1980's, particularly for release prints (FCP processing) but also negative processing (ECN-2) to a lessor degree, some labs were trying to get film through faster by increasing the temperatures to one end of Kodak's recommended range.  At least, this was according to some DP's complaints, because they were seeing more problems with grain and contrast at some labs.


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#15 Dirk DeJonghe

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Posted 29 January 2015 - 06:51 AM

"What was the purpose of changing the processing speed/temperature?"

 

Decent labs process at the official process temperature (for ECN2 it is 41.1 +- .1C). Push processing is done by reducing the speed of the machine, increasing time in developer. Pull process by reducing developer temperature.

Maybe they refer to the old ECN1 process that was low temperature for non-prehardened films, similar to photographic process C22 evolving into C41 'hot process'.

 

If the chemistry gets out of balance, grain and sensitometric qualities will suffer; very important is the bromide level in the developer, it is given off by the film, and needs to be in a close range. It acts as a restrainer and for example would show an increase in Blue D-Min if too low in ECN2. Since blue is the most grainy layer, it would quickly become disturbing on smaller formats.


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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 January 2015 - 08:47 AM

When ECN1 switched to ECN2 with the change from 5254 to 5247, was the processing time shortened along with the increase in temperature?


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#17 Dirk DeJonghe

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Posted 29 January 2015 - 09:51 AM

The development time went from 7-9 minutes at 25°C in ECN1 to 3'15" at 41.1°C in ECN2. So an identical machine could run twice as fast. I never worked with ECN1, I started ECN2 in 1980, before that only ME4, VNF1 and ECO3.


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#18 Ed Davor

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Posted 29 January 2015 - 12:51 PM

Thanks everyone for your contributions to this thread. Some very interesting bits of information came out here.

 

I do my own E6 processing at home manually in a tank. The tolerances for the temperature of the first developer are 0.5+/- degrees Celsius, which is very strick when all you have is warm tap water and a lab thermometer, but I manage to stay within limits. I've never tested with a gray card and color checker chart to see just how sensitive it is. But there are supposed to be color shifts when you change temp in E6. By the time it gets to bleaching the tolerances are much looser. 


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#19 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 January 2015 - 03:56 PM

I used to be aware in the early 1990's when I started shooting 35mm that results at one lab could look contrastier than the results at another lab for the same negative stock, though this was when viewing a projected print, so it is hard to know if the variations were happening in the negative stage or the printing.


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#20 John E Clark

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Posted 29 January 2015 - 05:32 PM

I used to be aware in the early 1990's when I started shooting 35mm that results at one lab could look contrastier than the results at another lab for the same negative stock, though this was when viewing a projected print, so it is hard to know if the variations were happening in the negative stage or the printing.

 

While I've never had motion picture film developed, when the Wife and I switched from hand developing wedding B&W stills, to a photo service, we had about a month's worth of back and forth with test rolls to get their development process to where we wanted to print our negatives.

 

For hand developing times under 5 minutes were 'discouraged' due to not being able develop evenly even with continuous agitation.

 

Only hand developed color film a couple of times... too many solutions, too close a tolerance on the process... Then there was the printing, without a color analyzer...


Edited by John E Clark, 29 January 2015 - 05:32 PM.

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