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Questions about pushing and pulling

pushing pulling super 8 kodak la la land

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#1 Nick Collingwood

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Posted 02 February 2017 - 05:47 PM

Got some questions about pushing and pulling film stock after reading this fantastic article about shooting La La Land on film, and after a recent wedding I shot. I'm not a complete novice or anything but still only been shooting motion picture film for a couple years now.
 
As I said, I shoot weddings among other things on Super 8 and sometimes, you just gotta deal with the light you're given. Last wedding I shot, the ceremony was EXTREMELY dark, I'm talking like, you could barely see the couple with your eyes dark... So I was shooting 500T on my Beaulieu 1008XL (f1.2 lens, 225º shutter) wide open then I had CineLab push it a stop in development. I DID get back an image amazingly but it is pretty darn grainy. It's ok but I'll have to work around it with my other footage. And it got me to researching it some...
 
After reading about pushing and pulling online and on Kodak's website here it seems like pushing may not be the best idea for low light contrary to my thinking. Plus this quote "Push processing is not recommended as a means to increase photographic speed." I know pushing only increases light that's hit the film therefore more light gets brighter whereas little light get a little brighter hence more contrast. So why does Kodak speak against it so much? In low light should I just shoot at box speed and then fix in the scan. I know Phil of Pro8mm says on his site that pushing is largely unnecessary with the quality of scans these days. Thoughts from other scan labs like Gamma or CineLab? What's the point in pushing film then?
 
Also... pulling film. In the La La Land article, they mention shooting 250 at 100 and 500 at 200 and then pulling in development. Does anyone do this? For film I've overexposed, I've always just done normal processing and fixed in post due to the large latitude of V3. Would it be better to pull? They mention finer grain and lower contrast in the article. I always just figured it was a fix for overexposure. A novice viewpoint, clearly. Also how they heck are they shooting nighttime at 200ASA!?
 
Sorry for the long post but a bit confused and curious about more experienced shooters' thoughts.

 


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#2 Stephen Baldassarre

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 10:21 PM

As I said, I shoot weddings among other things on Super 8 and sometimes, you just gotta deal with the light you're given. Last wedding I shot, the ceremony was EXTREMELY dark, I'm talking like, you could barely see the couple with your eyes dark... So I was shooting 500T on my Beaulieu 1008XL (f1.2 lens, 225º shutter) wide open then I had CineLab push it a stop in development.

 

Nice camera!

That is less than 20 Lux assuming you shot at 24fps!  In the days before everybody shot on DSLRs with built-in noise reduction, lighting was automatically considered part of the job.  There is no substitute for light and one of the last weddings I shot on film, I scouted the location ahead of time and found it to be only 30 Lux.  I brought in 2K Fresnels to bring the stage up to 300 Lux and shot 200 ISO.  I would never do a serious shoot without at least an open-face kit and a clip-on lamp.  I actually just got a battery-powered LED array that clips onto a cold shoe, has adjustable color temp and is dimmable.  It's not a perfect solution but there's no substitute for light, not in the lab or in editing.  On that note, I consider 600-1200 Lux to be ideal for most shoots.

 

 

 
So why does Kodak speak against it so much? In low light should I just shoot at box speed and then fix in the scan. I know Phil of Pro8mm says on his site that pushing is largely unnecessary with the quality of scans these days. Thoughts from other scan labs like Gamma or CineLab? What's the point in pushing film then?

Pushing a negative increases highlight contrast but adds cost because they can't develop as much film with the same amount of time and chemistry.  You can do that for free in the scan because it's just a matter of adjusting a digital gain.  Getting more technical, it takes a certain number of photons to get film to register an image.  Pushing or increasing gain won't put photons onto the film, so it doesn't really compensate for underexposure.  In the days before "digital everything", you would flash the film (re-expose it to a small amount of light) to bring out more shadow detail, often in conjunction with push-processing.  This still isn't the same as more light, but it's better than pushing alone.

 

Kodak speaks against pushing so much because they spent decades creating and optimizing stocks/developers to look as natural as possible.  Changing the optimal chemistry because you didn't bring any lights makes for sub-par film, which indirectly makes them look bad.

 

 
 
In the La La Land article, they mention shooting 250 at 100 and 500 at 200 and then pulling in development. Does anyone do this? For film I've overexposed, I've always just done normal processing and fixed in post due to the large latitude of V3. Would it be better to pull? They mention finer grain and lower contrast in the article.

I have never "pulled", but the idea behind it is you effectively get lower contrast in the highlights for the final print than you would simply shooting a slower stock.  However, you'd still get finer grain shooting a 200 ISO film than treating 500 ISO film like 200 and pulling it.  So the reality is that they simply wanted less highlight contrast, similar to what they'd naturally get in Vision2 if it still existed.

 

Super-8 is incredibly grainy even shooting 200T at its native exposure index, so I never for an instant thought of accepting less than 200 Lux.  Even when I shot 16mm, I never used an EI of more than 200 ISO.  You can get away with over-rating 35mm a lot more easily because it has more than 4x the real estate of 16mm and thus, grain appears to be 1/4 the size.  Super-8 is 1/10th the area of 35mm so the grain appears 10x larger.  My favorite thing to do for 16mm and S8 was shoot on 100T as if it was 50T and have it "printed down".  The net result was less contrast in the highlights but it also preserved a tad more shadow detail without bringing out more grain.  Film is also more forgiving of over-exposure than under-exposure, because there's about two stops more head-room than foot-room.

 

My number one piece of advice, if it isn't obvious, is to always have lighting equipment and not try to fix stuff in post.  That applies for video as well.  Most decent video/DSLR cameras are natively around 200-400 ISO.  In order to get higher ISOs, they increase the gain and use noise reduction to compensate.  That causes loss of detail, particularly in the shadows.  A lot of cameras have an option to turn off noise reduction, but that's simply post-processing.  There's still noise reduction built into the sensor itself on modern cameras that can't be bypassed, so it's always a good idea to find out what the native ISO is and shoot at that ISO as much as possible.

 

I hope that helps.


Edited by Stephen Baldassarre, 04 March 2017 - 10:30 PM.

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#3 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 05 March 2017 - 02:01 AM

Super 8 is already a pretty grainy format unless you were shooting Kodachrome (now no longer available), so unless you want an extra grainy image it's probably best to avoid pushing the film. That said, you gotta do what you gotta do to get an exposure sometimes. But I've always been disappointed with the results when pushing Super 8 color film.

If you don't mind grain, pushing Tri-X reversal 7266 can be very cool-looking in an Impressionistic way. Somehow the black and white image makes heavy grain more acceptable, at least to me. A 2-stop push creates crisp swirling Seurat-like grain that is almost pure black and white with no grey tones.

Also, an on-board light can be a lifesaver in some situations. I've used the battery-powered Dedolight Ledzilla LED on my Canon Scoopic's hot shoe in a pinch. Works well for these types of scenarios.

Another trick you can use in low-light is to undercrank down to 6-18fps, thereby increasing your shutter speed. Not everything needs to be 24fps all of the time. You can also duplicate frames in post to get back to real-time, creating interesting motion blur.
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