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panchromatic b/w 16mm


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#1 Brian Rose

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Posted 19 May 2005 - 11:00 PM

FOr those of you who have seen Carl Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc, you will undoubtedly be familiar its striking cinematography, one that used newly developed panchromatic black and white film to capture the detail of the human face, sans makeup. Although any film would need to be heavily assisted by lighting (as Dreyer used extensively) to achieve this look, what b/w 16mm, neg or reversal, would you say is best to achieve this look, this wide range of "colors?"
Best,
BR
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 May 2005 - 12:24 AM

FOr those of you who have seen Carl Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc, you will undoubtedly be familiar its striking cinematography, one that used newly developed panchromatic black and white film to capture the detail of the human face, sans makeup. Although any film would need to be heavily assisted by lighting (as Dreyer used extensively) to achieve this look, what b/w 16mm, neg or reversal, would you say is best to achieve this look, this wide range of "colors?"
Best,
BR

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I'm not sure I understand what you're asking: b&w camera film has been panchromatic since the late 1920's with very few exceptions. There should not be any real difference in the spectral response of the film that Dreyer used to the b&w movie film currently available.
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#3 Brian Rose

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Posted 20 May 2005 - 10:04 AM

I'm not sure I understand what you're asking: b&w camera film has been panchromatic since the late 1920's with very few exceptions. There should not be any real difference in the spectral response of the film that Dreyer used to the b&w movie film currently available.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Sir,
I apologize for the misunderstanding. Perhaps this is a better way of putting it. How would I go about achieving the look of "The Passion of Joan of Arc," i.e. the sharply constrasted, highly detailed faces? Was there something special about his film (I had read somewhere that Dryer shot "Passion" with a new panchromatic stock, but after what you have said, it seems that this information is innaccurate), or was the effect acheived through lighting? Either way, what 16mm stock, neg or reversal, would you think best to achieve this level of detail, contrast and saturation? I hope this clarifies my query. Thank you for your response!
Sincerely,
Brian Rose
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 May 2005 - 11:03 AM

Panchromatic film was fairly new at the time that Dreyer used it, but it became the norm soon after that. So it may look unique for silent films but not for sound movies in terms of the spectral response of the film stock.

Basically you are seeing the effect of lighting and slow-speed 35mm b&w film stock. Possibly development too -- it was less standardized in the 1920's, developed for a desired contrast. It may have been developed to a lower gamma. Or shot in flatter light and developed to a higher gamma.
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#5 Charles Haine

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Posted 02 June 2005 - 11:45 AM

I think what you would probably like to test would be 7231, the slower speed Kodak B&W stock, also known as Plus-X. The other 16mm Kodak stock, the '22, would probably be both too grainy and too low-contrast (funny to think of '22 as lo-con, but compared to the '31, it is) to create the contrast that is in Joan of Arc.

Especially at telecine, when properly exposed this stock is very fine-grained, but I bet that if you are trying to re-create that look on a large screen, you'll want to shoot 35mm, since B&W stocks tend to be grainy when compared to their color cousins, and for a large screen projection 16mm B&W tends to look pretty grainy.

I think the make-up issue that you talk about has to due with early films being sensitive to a narrower spectrum of light, so you had to use make-up that appears unnatural (brown lipstick, I hear), to make faces come out normal on film. Panchromatic stocks, the standard in B&W since then, allow you to make a person up normally, but it seems unlikely that Maria Falconetti wouldn't be wearing any make-up at all. Or, even if she did, that you would want to do the same. Few people look great on film with no make-up. Like production design, make-up and hair is one of the area's where it's hard (but not impossible), to scrimp.

I would say that you should do a lighting test to see if you can create the look you want. Kodak makes B&W still stocks that roughly equate to the B&W motion picture stocks (they have the same name, and react similarly, but I'm told are chemically different). Again, you would probably want the Plus-X.

Also, you could experiment with pushing and pulling the stock, which would be similar to the custom processing that David talked about. Any good still lab will be able to do that kind of work.

good luck,

chuck
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#6 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 02 June 2005 - 09:51 PM

I agree with the choice of Plus-X 5231, and emulating the more contrasty "theatrical" lighting used in that era. You can boost contrast by having the lab increase developer time. As always, test, Test, TEST.
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