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Bleach Bypass


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#1 gogetmagog

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 03:26 PM

I'm thinking of doing a bleach bypass on my next film but am wary of the extra cost of processing. I'm working with 500 ft of film- does anyone have any numbers off-hand? Also, has anyone attempted doing this themselves and if so do you have any advice as to what to avoid and what to be prepared for? I have access to a darkroom and chemicals and have read up on the procedure. Granted, I've never tried it before and am probably insane. Feel free to tell me so. Thanks, kt
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#2 Tomas Koolhaas

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 03:57 PM

Hello,
I have only done a bleach-bypass once on vision2 250D, I did a bunch of tests (which of course is vital when using any special process!) I found that because vision2 has so much lattitude, I could get away with quite a few things that people warn you not to do when doing a bleach bypass.
From the stories I had heard from people who did a bleach bypass I was expecting the blacks to crush a lot sooner than they did, I cant remember exactly how much anymore but it seemed to reduce the lattitude in the shadows by about 50%, so if your stock would useualy be pure black at 5 stops under it will probably get there at around 2.5 or 3 stops under.
I was recomended to underexpose the negative a little for the bleach bypass (by around a stop or so) I actually found (through my tests) that certain shots/scenes looked better slightly overexposed, although be very careful when you do this as your highlights will blow-out very quickly with this process. All in all the footage looked really good, I will try and post a shot from it for you to see what I'm talking about.
Cheers.
Tomas.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 04:34 PM

Often there is a $500 set-up fee plus a .50/foot extra charge, so bunch your footage into one group for drop-off and ask if there's any chance someone else is doing it so you can share the set-up fee.
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#4 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 04:48 PM

Colour photo chemistry and process control always sounded like a complete nightmare to me - too much tricky temperature control, without which it goes green or whatever. I've done black and white darkroom work, but the colour stuff, while I'm sure it's possible, sounds like much more trouble than it's worth.

Also be aware that I'm fairly sure most "bleach bypass" processes skip only a certain proportion of the bleaching; leaving the step out altogether results in a very powerful effect. Presumably you'd bleach it cooler or for less time.

Phil
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 04:57 PM

Unlike some home-processed still photography, motion picture processing is SO high volume that it tends to be rather automated, hence why you can't do much alteration to the ECN-2 or FCP process except push, pull, and skip-bleach, etc. And even those steps don't take a lot of human intervention but just involve threading the film on more rollers or skipping a step, etc. so there are fairly fool-proof other than they give non-standard results that the film was not designed for (so buyer beware).

The only time I've had a problem with the lab doing a non-standard process is when they once FORGET to do it. I had some Ektachrome 100D that they were supposed to process ECN2 but did it E6 instead. Well, they did half the rolls and then called me up to admit their mistake and ask what to so about the other half. So I had them finish the job in E6. They volunteered, for free, to copy all of the footage onto Ektachrome 100D again and THEN cross-process that, basically a dupe that was cross-processed.

Boy, was THAT contrasty.
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#6 gogetmagog

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 05:16 PM

This is all very helpful. So my understanding now is that color film has to be put through a machine and color temperature is an essential factor- which I have no idea how to control- is this correct? someone at my work suggested underexposing the film and then having it printed up- what does this process entail and is it any more cost efficient? Thank you, kt
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#7 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 05:54 PM

Hi,

Colour processing most commonly uses electrically controlled heaters, although home setups sometimes rely on water baths in which the processing trays sit. Obviously then everything slowly cools down, so you end up adding more hot water and watching thermometers. In a darkroom. Oh, and a stopwatch, so you can time everything right; when you process the neg you may well be in an agitating tank which you have to, well, agitate, while somehow maintaining the temperature.

And this is stills. It's a minor nightmare and I wouldn't even think about doing colour motion picture.

Phil
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#8 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 07:24 PM

If your doing a DI, you can do the skip Bleach in the computer. But I think attemping to do a chemical bleach bypass on the negative would be a bit tricky, and pardon for saying, sorta crazy.

If you have the money to shot film, chances are you have the money for a few thousand more in a professional Skip Bleach, you WILL get a much better result.

Plus, the bad thing about do-it-yourself is that you have to test, test and test again, which can cost more money than what it would have cost for a lab to do it.

Do yourself a favor, have it done professionally.
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#9 gogetmagog

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 07:41 PM

I wish I had a few thou to throw around- but unfortunately I don't. I am able to shoot with film because it is part of the class allotment. This said, what about desaturating the color with a corrector in Avid or After Effects? What are the pros and cons of this method? And is there anyone who knows what I mean when I say 'underexpose the film and have it printed up'? Or is this just another term for skip-bleach process?
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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 07:52 PM

And is there anyone who knows what I mean when I say 'underexpose the film and have it printed up'? Or is this just another term for skip-bleach process?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Underexposing and printing-up is a very different thing than a skip-bleach process.

You may underexpose when doing a skip-bleach to the negative but you won't be printing up. Leaving silver in the negative increases its density as if you had overexposed the negative. It's something like the equivalent of a stop & a half overexposure in terms of the density and you'll be printing at very high printing lights to compensate (printing "down", not up.) So some people compensate by underexposing the film by one stop, so that the negative after the skip-bleach isn't so dense. It will probably still be a little denser than normal so you might still be printing down a little.

Underexposing is underexposing.

Printing up is printing at a lower than normal set of printer lights to brighten the image.

Skip-bleach means skipping the bleach step that normally converts developed metallic silver back into silver halide so that it can be removed in the fixer and wash steps along with the unexposed silver halide.
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#11 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 08:04 PM

In my opinion, if your gonna do a DI anyway, why take a chance at trashing the negative when you can play around in the computer? You will be able to get a "Bleach Bypass" look in the computer by doing a number of thing, namely adjusting the amount of color in the image + adjusting the contrast.
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 08:15 PM

In my opinion, if your gonna do a DI anyway, why take a chance at trashing the negative when you can play around in the computer? You will be able to get a "Bleach Bypass" look in the computer by doing a number of thing, namely adjusting the amount of color in the image + adjusting the contrast.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


For the most part I agree but there is a subtle difference between the digital simulation of a skip-bleach and a real skip-bleach to the negative, just as there is a difference between shooting b&w versus shooting in color and turning it into b&w in post.

Silver grains add a unique gritty texture to the image. Digital simulations tend to look "cleaner". Plus you sometimes get interesting "accidents" in exposure when you do it to the film that you probably wouldn't deliberately add if doing it digitally. Of course, you also get accidents in exposure that you don't want...

As for silver retention to the print, not the negative, nothing can copy that look exactly because of the tremendous increase in the D-Max to the print, giving you "super-black" on the screen.

By the way, I don't think there is much chance of a lab "trashing" the negative when doing a skip-bleach (in a sense, the process involves NOT doing something). There is even the potential of running the processed negative through the bleach and rest of the steps much later to remove the effect.

The main problem with skip-bleaching the negative is the big increase in contrast, which can bite you on the a-- now and then. I had a bright window in a smoked room go nuclear on a skip-bleached negative -- I sort of liked it but the director thought it was too much.
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#13 Dominic Case

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 08:15 PM

Also be aware that I'm fairly sure most "bleach bypass" processes skip only a certain proportion of the bleaching; leaving the step out altogether results in a very powerful effect. Presumably you'd bleach it cooler or for less time.

This isn't so, Phil.

In a continuous processor, the film is in the bleach for exactly three minutes, but normally bleaching is complete in less than that (it's a process that starts quickly and slows down, so it is allowed to run to completion and then some, just to be sure). But the end-point isn't clear. So if you cut the time to -say- one minute instead of three, you stop bleaching when the reaction is still happening at full speed: it's a very imprecise point to control, so the results you get may differ from day to day.

So the normal procedure is to skip the bleach bath completely.

In the case of positive print film, where ENR or ACE type processes are used (where the film is bleached and then redeveloped tpo a measured amount), it is possible to get a partial effect with much more precision. But not with negative.

Frankly, KT (or gogetmagog) if you are struggling to cope with what's involved in normal colour processing, don't even think about non-normal colour processing. In a lab machine, the developer is controlled to within 0.1 degrees, the developer time to within a second either way of three minutes, and the agitation must be exactly right (more or less will affect the results). We haven't even begun to discuss removing the remjet backing from the film.

If you are finishing in After Effects or something, then you will have much, much more control over your image there than by playing with the chemistry. But is this what you want to do?


Finally, underexposing and printing up will give you a LESS contrasty image. Bleach bypass gives you MORE contrast, and serious desaturation of the colours. THey are not terms for the same thing, nor do they have the same effect.
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#14 gogetmagog

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 08:49 PM

Thank you all for your help. Does anyone have examples of films which used a bleach bypass, those which printed up, and/or color corrected in post-- or can point me in the right direction of images/ articles? And Tomas if you have your examples I'd be very interested in seeing those. Thanks again
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#15 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 July 2005 - 10:50 PM

Films that used a skip-bleach or other silver retention process for the prints generally use a normal color IP for the video transfer and just simulate the skip-bleach look with digital color-correction.

Films that have done skip-bleach to the negative (and thus can be seen in the home video transfer as well) are: "Minority Report", opening section of "Three Kings", daytime desert scenes in "Pitch Black", parts of "Amores Perros", parts of the last section in India of "Alexander" (excluding the infrared Ektachrome shots), the concentration camp flashback in "The X-Men", the planet where they find the scattered android parts of Data in "Star Trek: Nemesis".

I don't what you mean by examples of "those which printed up, and/or color-corrected in post". Every movie is color-corrected in post.
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#16 gogetmagog

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Posted 22 July 2005 - 01:02 AM

I was hoping for examples of films which used a color-correction process in post (Da Vinci, After Effects) in order to achieve a skip bleach look, as opposed to films which used a chemical process. Hope this clarifies.
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 July 2005 - 02:03 AM

I was hoping for examples of films which used a color-correction process in post (Da Vinci, After Effects) in order to achieve a skip bleach look, as opposed to films which used a chemical process.  Hope this clarifies.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Almost any film on home video that used a skip-bleach for the prints but transferred to video from a normal neg, IP, IN, or low-con print.

"Snow Falling on Cedars" or "Sleepy Hollow" for example. "Saving Private Ryan". Or my own "Northfork".
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#18 Tim J Durham

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Posted 22 July 2005 - 06:51 AM

Films that used a skip-bleach or other silver retention process for the prints generally use a normal color IP for the video transfer and just simulate the skip-bleach look with digital color-correction.

Films that have done skip-bleach to the negative (and thus can be seen in the home video transfer as well) are: "Minority Report", opening section of "Three Kings", daytime desert scenes in "Pitch Black", parts of "Amores Perros", parts of the last section in India of "Alexander" (excluding the infrared Ektachrome shots), the concentration camp flashback in "The X-Men", the planet where they find the scattered android parts of Data in "Star Trek: Nemesis".

I don't what you mean by examples of "those which printed up, and/or color-corrected in post".  Every movie is color-corrected in post.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I just watched "Snow Falling on Cedars" and the first 20 minutes or so looked like bleach-bypass.
Very dense blacks and desaturated almost to the point of being B&W. The shot of the fishing net being pulled out of the water and the shots of the water itself were almost surreally contrasty but beautiful. It made the water look like ink. 'Course I don't know if it actually WAS skip-bleach...

This movie had some of the most beautiful photography I've seen. Spending a great deal of the screen time shooting in the bottom half of the tonal range, particularly the exteriors. It must've taken huevos grandes to pitch this film since so much of the look is dependent on being shot at twilight and in foreboding weather. Still, can't argue with the results, atleast as far as the look is concerned.

How come nobody mentions this film?
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#19 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 July 2005 - 09:50 AM

How come nobody mentions this film?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


How do you know we haven't?

We've discussed this movie in the past, ever since it came out. It was my favorite work of cinematography that year.
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#20 Tim J Durham

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Posted 22 July 2005 - 02:00 PM

How do you know we haven't?

We've discussed this movie in the past, ever since it came out. It was my favorite work of cinematography that year.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Well, I didn't KNOW that no one had, I just hadn't read anything about it and jumped to the easy conclusion based upon zero research :huh:. So were those first scenes bleach-bypass? That inky water look was mesmerizing. And the shots through the boat windows out into the fog...

Also, I was wondering about when the characters were kids and they hid from the rain in the trunk of that big cedar tree. Would they actually construct a...box (for lack of a better term) with the same shaped opening in which to shoot those scenes?
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