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Shoot video in B&W or color?


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#1 Peter J DeCrescenzo

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 08:52 PM

Hi everyone. I'm interested in your advice both as shooters and viewers.

There's a chance I may soon begin shooting a relatively low budget, long-form documentary which may include extensive archival footage, much of which is old black and white motion picture film and stills.

The host and primary subject of this documentary is a well known name in the music world, but I'm not yet at liberty to say who it is. Distribution would be via DVD and broadcast.

If I'll be involved in this project, I'd most likely shoot it with my new DSR-450WSL 2/3" 16:9 DVCAM camcorder. I'd be shooting interviews and music performances in locations such as homes, music clubs, urban & rural streets, and music studios.

I may primarily be shooting solo -- handling cam, sound & lighting myself -- and occasionally with a 1 or 2 person sound or lighting crew.

I'm interested in hearing your opinions about whether it makes sense to shoot the new footage in B&W or color. (My cam can record in either mode.) The final decision will be made by the director, but at this point he's open to suggestion.

One advantage of shooting in B&W is that I wouldn't have to deal with mixed color temp ambient lighting. I can deal creatively with mixed color lighting when required, but it is an extra visual element to address. Especially when working solo, having one less issue to deal with is very tempting.

I really love B&W, so my personal preference is in this direction.

Another reason to shoot B&W is the archival footage which will be edited together with the new footage: Personally I find it jarring to watch frequent switching back and forth between B&W and color footage throughout the course of a program, but that's just me.

Of course, if the director decides to shoot in color, that's all good with me. However, at the moment I'm leaning toward recommending B&W for this particular project.

So what do you think? Given the circumstances: Shoot in B&W or color? Comments welcome.

(And if this project proceeds, I'll post more info in the "In Production" section of the forum.)

All the best,

- Peter DeCrescenzo
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#2 Gordon Highland

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 10:11 PM

Shoot in color. You can change your mind later, so why limit yourself? And "video" B&W is often not really the look people think it's going to be (basically just 0 chroma and flat-looking), so you can crush or adjust the curves or whatnot in post anyway, or desaturate as a "creative" solution on a case-by-case basis for any mixed color scenes you're unhappy with. It's not really like a film stock that has its own inherent character, so give yourself the most flexibility. I'm approaching this less as a shooter or viewer, but like an editor! :)
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#3 Jay Gladwell

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Posted 22 October 2005 - 08:28 AM

Shooting in B&W is not just a matter of dumping the color. Lighting for B&W is different from lighting for color, as you well know.

If I were in your shoes, I'd sit down with the director and have a long discussion with him about it--all the whys and wherefores. Pick his brain. After all, he's the director. This is supposed to be his vision. If he selects color or B&W you both need to know why. What will one accomplish that the other won't? What will one underscore that the other won't? What might shooting both accomplish? What might shooting both undermine?

Going into any project with a vague idea will result, more often than not, in a finished piece that is equally as vague.

Jay
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#4 Peter J DeCrescenzo

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Posted 22 October 2005 - 04:09 PM

Thanks for your comments Gordon & Jay.

Shooting in color and later removing color in post can sometimes be appropriate, but I don't think it's a magic solution. If I leave this option open (by shooting in color) I'd need to consider the whole time I'm shooting "How will this scene look in color? And how will it look in B&W?" In other words, I'd be increasing my workload, not reducing it.

Jay's point about lighting for B&W vs. color is well taken.

Another consideration is composition for B&W vs. color. If I shoot in color, a colorful object in a scene may not have the desired compositional "weight" if the scene's color is later removed in post.

I plan on discussing the pros & cons of shooting in B&W vs. color with the director well before we start shooting. In the meantime I welcome further comments.

Just to be clear, I haven't decided which approach to recommend. However, as I said earlier I currently think B&W might be appropriate for this particular production, but I wouldn't mind being swayed toward color if there are compelling reasons.

Additional comments welcome,

- Peter
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#5 Gordon Highland

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Posted 23 October 2005 - 08:23 PM

Or, light the scene with the desired contrast and production design elements after talking them over (and turn your monitor or VF to B&W if that's what you're working at), but I still would not actually record the signal as black and white. Just. In. Case.
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#6 Peter J DeCrescenzo

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Posted 25 October 2005 - 01:27 PM

[Sound of palm smacking own forehead.]

I should have done a search before starting this new thread. My apologies.

I found the following previous discussions helpful:

http://www.cinematog...amp;amp;w video
http://www.cinematog...amp;amp;w video
http://www.cinematog...amp;amp;w video
http://www.cinematog...amp;amp;w video

(I'm sure there are other "B&W" related threads.)

Thanks again everyone.

- Peter
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#7 BillP

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Posted 25 October 2005 - 03:59 PM

I would record in color.
But monitor in black and white.

During shooting, using the production monitor, you can turn down, or turn up the chroma
and get a sense of how it will look either way.


-BillP
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Abel Cine

Ritter Battery

Broadcast Solutions Inc

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Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS