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Question about (S) 16mm B&W stocks

Super16mm film black & white

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#1 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 01 December 2016 - 11:04 AM

Hello Group,

 

Planning on a short film in Super 16mm B&W. Did some first B-Roll shots as a test with Kodak Tri-X 7226 reversal, waiting for the scan to return. I happened to have two 100ft rolls (one still in the freezer). The idea is to evoke a 1940s-50s period feel. Not sure about excessive film grain in S 16mm though. I have seen a lot of recent footage (excellent digital scans) of Tri-X reversal, Double-X neg, Orwo UN 54 and FomaPan R 100. The latter seems to suffer from unpleasant round white spots (like air or gas bubbles during processing) frequently. Other than that I really can't tell the difference, since it heavily depends on grain management during scanning and grading. The Tri-X reversal is actually the most expensive, but I have seen Double-X and even Orwo UN 54 with about the same amount of grain - all looking very good. Sharpness seems great on all film stocks.

 

Seen Vision 3 de-saturated. Doesn't work for me: it's somehow too milky and the gray values seem off. IMHO a Black&White film should be shot (if possible) on genuine B&W stock. Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

 

I am asking because if the Tri-X reversal turns out too grainy in the scan (will have it scanned with a 2K Muller scanner, it's used by the most inexpensive lab I can find where I am located (EU) and the results are always great) - I might switch to Double-X neg and if it works, mixed with the Orwo (when I don't need 200/160 ISO/ASA). 

 

I am not after the "near grainless" 35mm look from the late 1940s and '50s. A little grain is just fine as long as there are no digital artifacts (I have seen Tri-X reversal scans in 16mm/S 16mm ranging from "unusable, gritty and very grainy" to excellent with fine detail in the highlights (one wouldn't expect with reversal). I guess some labs apply sharpening with the wrong settings that brings out the grain (especially in darker areas) way too much. 

 

Any input and tips very much appreciated,

 

Cheers,

Christian


Edited by Christian Schonberger, 01 December 2016 - 11:04 AM.

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#2 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 01 December 2016 - 01:56 PM

I've shot a lot of stuff on Plus-X, Tri-X and B&W negative. If your goal is to scan back to digital, you'll find the finer grain negative stock to work the best. It's less noisy, but it also has more latitude then the reversal stocks. I was never truly happy with the Tri-x and Plus-x stuff I've shot over the years, it was always too noisy and muddy for my taste. I like a more glass-like look with depth to the image, which is what you get with negative.

From the Orwo stuff I've seen, it's WAY noisier then the Kodak 7222 double-x negative. I don't know the ISO of the Orwo, but I rated the 7222 at 70 ISO and it was really nice looking. I'm not a fan of over-exposure, so I like to protect my highlights a bit, especially with B&W.

I made a few short films over the years where I used reversal mixed with 500T that I've turned B&W to match. Well... it doesn't look like B&W reversal or negative, which have very distinct looks. So I agree that shooting color may not be the right option. Plus Kodak 7222 is a lot cheaper to work with then color. I'm sure if you call them up, they'll give you a killer deal, they've probably got boat loads of it sitting around.

In terms of scanning, especially super 16. It's wise to go a bit higher then 2k. You'll get less digital noise when you scan at like 2.5 - 3k because the silver granulates will be more complete vs half or quarter. This is what causes a lot of the digital noise with scanned material. Then you can add a softening mask in post, which gives yo more control over the grain, then scanning with less resolution. Obviously if the only machine at your disposal is the 2k one, you don't have a choice. But I've done quite a few tests and I'm a firm believer at scanning higher and softening, then scanning low and preying. :)
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#3 Kenny N Suleimanagich

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Posted 01 December 2016 - 03:50 PM

I did a 16mm shoot for a fashion brand recently, was very pleased with the black and white results. The references were 1960s-era documentaries with very spotty, single-source lighting. 

 

Orwo N74: 

 

Expired 7222: 

 

Both are 2K Prores 4444 scans from Metropolis in NYC. 


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#4 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 01 December 2016 - 04:18 PM

Kenny,

 

Thanks for posting. Looking great! The Orwo (400 neg) isn't available here in Europe as far as I know. The expired Double-X looks great also. Here comes the obligatory question: is it Super 16mm or cropped regular 16mm? 

 

Anyway: love the look of both film stocks - excellent grain management, adds a lot of character. Nice creative focus work!

 

Thanks for sharing!

 

Christian


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#5 aapo lettinen

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Posted 01 December 2016 - 04:28 PM

The Orwo (400 neg) isn't available here in Europe as far as I know

 

did you ask from Orwo directly? they have a minimum order quantity of about 10 or 20 rolls if I remember correctly but it should be available if they still manufacture it ( I mainly shoot 35mm so don't know the current 16mm stock availability)


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#6 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 01 December 2016 - 04:40 PM

 

did you ask from Orwo directly? they have a minimum order quantity of about 10 or 20 rolls if I remember correctly but it should be available if they still manufacture it ( I mainly shoot 35mm so don't know the current 16mm stock availability)

Thanks for the tip. Well I won't need the N 74. I'm more than fine with 200 and 100 ISO B&W stocks. Let's see how the Tri-X 7266 reversal turned out. Had to zap the film at 48 fps through the gate for some shots because 200 was too fast and my humble Zenitar 16mm lens doesn't have an ND filter. If I had the $$$ for stock, processing etc. I'd very likely get a nice classic 35mm camera such as the Arriflex 35 IIC (4-perf - ouch!).... thanks for the reply.

 

Christian


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#7 Kenny N Suleimanagich

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Posted 01 December 2016 - 04:58 PM

It was Super 16 on MkII Super Speeds. Just an example of a good scan with good compression rendering grain a bit better. 


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#8 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 01 December 2016 - 05:24 PM

It was Super 16 on MkII Super Speeds. Just an example of a good scan with good compression rendering grain a bit better. 

Thanks for the information.

 

Christian


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#9 Christian Schonberger

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Posted 03 December 2016 - 08:12 PM

I've shot a lot of stuff on Plus-X, Tri-X and B&W negative. If your goal is to scan back to digital, you'll find the finer grain negative stock to work the best. It's less noisy, but it also has more latitude then the reversal stocks. I was never truly happy with the Tri-x and Plus-x stuff I've shot over the years, it was always too noisy and muddy for my taste. I like a more glass-like look with depth to the image, which is what you get with negative.

From the Orwo stuff I've seen, it's WAY noisier then the Kodak 7222 double-x negative. I don't know the ISO of the Orwo, but I rated the 7222 at 70 ISO and it was really nice looking. I'm not a fan of over-exposure, so I like to protect my highlights a bit, especially with B&W.

I made a few short films over the years where I used reversal mixed with 500T that I've turned B&W to match. Well... it doesn't look like B&W reversal or negative, which have very distinct looks. So I agree that shooting color may not be the right option. Plus Kodak 7222 is a lot cheaper to work with then color. I'm sure if you call them up, they'll give you a killer deal, they've probably got boat loads of it sitting around.

In terms of scanning, especially super 16. It's wise to go a bit higher then 2k. You'll get less digital noise when you scan at like 2.5 - 3k because the silver granulates will be more complete vs half or quarter. This is what causes a lot of the digital noise with scanned material. Then you can add a softening mask in post, which gives yo more control over the grain, then scanning with less resolution. Obviously if the only machine at your disposal is the 2k one, you don't have a choice. But I've done quite a few tests and I'm a firm believer at scanning higher and softening, then scanning low and preying. :)

Tyler,

 

Thanks a lot for the detailed reply and information. Where I am located (EU) I can't get good deals on film stock. It's gererally more expensive here. I fully agree: as much as I like that retro and nostalgic feel of good reversal stock (such as the Kodak Ektachromme 100D), I prefer negative because it has much more depth to it and draws you into the picture - just enough in 16mm. Bought the Tri-X a while back because I could have it hand processed (with ace results!) at about half the price, but it will be split and re-spliced around the 50ft mark because of the tank size. 

Let's see how my Tri-X B-roll footage turned out (had it machine processed by a top notch lab with no splice). I have a feeling that I will switch to Double-X negative, which is cheaper anyway. The Orwo is 100 ISO at daylight and I might need it (it seems to mix well with Double-X since it is also a negative stock that can also be processed as reversal but I won't need that) for daylight shots. 

 

About scanning: Since it's a short film project I am planning on using the inexpensive but great 2K scan for a first final edit. I will keep the film footage cool, dry and sealed and have 4K overscans made for a frame-by-frame re-edit when I have the $$$, including a fast computer, software and data storage. This way I also can apply noise reduction, grading, image stabilization and accurate framing. But I'll save that for later to get a true high quality version.

Well I am fully with you here: I like depth and clarity in the film image. 16mm provides just enough grit and softness to make it look "finished" (for lack of a better word, but that's what I see in well shot film: it looks polished, silky, classy, finished and with just the right amount of distance to the viewer to never have that last hint of "TV" look). There's a fine line between that nice organic grain pattern, providing the right feel and patina - and "too much, too coarse", the latter drawing way too much attention to itself in Super 16mm. 

 

Thanks again,

Christian


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