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Replicating the photochemical characteristics of older Eastman stocks using modern film: a comprehensive questionnaire. (5248) (5250)

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18 hours ago, David Mullen ASC said:

FCP color processing of motion picture print stock is very automated / standardized, it's not really designed to be manipulated but maybe a small lab would be willing to try.

I'm not sure why you are so against pushing the negative but want to push around the print stock... Anyway, Fotokem once had a demo of a high-contrast print image created I think by using a color print as an interpositive (still requiring a dupe negative be made for printing.)  I could be mistaken.

I still think all of these ideas are going far beyond recreating the look of 1950s/1960s color negative stocks -- they weren't THAT weird in color and contrast...  Plus all of this is just to get a 16mm contact print that you can project? There's no need for a digital master, no D.I., you're going to A-B roll cut the negative, etc.?  Because as soon as you have the option of digitally color-correcting the image, then changing saturation and contrast is relatively simple.

I think it could be a generational difference coupled with the fact that much of my introduction to and understanding of motion picture celluloid comes from high quality scans transmitted through a digital medium, not projections of the prints themselves. I am sure that if I had lived to see these older negatives used, printed, projected, updated, replaced, refined, and perfected over the decades I would have a different understanding of what differentiates them from how we see modern stocks today. 

I believe that a significant portion of what I associate with the look of older films is a product of older film prints, less optical resolution in the negative, increased granularity, lack of tonal range, richer color density, the fading and deterioration of these prints over the decades, as well as their subtractive color printing from older dyes and their transfer process. Thus, the way you have come to understand and internalize the qualities of these older negatives may vary greatly from mine. Perhaps many of the characteristics I associate with older films are largely due to the deterioration of the prints that were scanned than the actual qualities of the negatives themselves. I am not certain. Perhaps I am more captivated by the composition and color rendition of print film than I am of the larger latitude and tonal range found in negative stocks. I am not certain. Either way, this thread has given me quite a bit of clarity on this issue, and I highly value all of the advice and insight nonetheless. 

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 6/1/2024 at 6:40 PM, Gautam Valluri said:

The first thing you have to understand is that photochemical timing works in the subtractive colour space (CMYK) and digital colour grading takes place in additive colour space (RGB et al). In a contact printer, you are basically playing with how much light you're letting through your image negative and onto the positive at a first level and various colour filtrations in a second level.

When I made my first contact prints on the Matipo, we used to make an exposure/ filter band (which is basically a 35mm shaped carboard strip) by punching holes of various diameters (for controlling exposure) and then manually pasting colour filters on to the holes. It was also kind of freakishly counter-intuitive as the print film sees the colours as "opposites". So to take out Cyan from your image, you need to paste a cyan filter on your filter band. You make the filter band in order of various sequences in your image negative and then you make a tiny "notch" on the perf-side of your neg (crazy I know) to trigger the next filter in the band to enter the contact printer.

But of course these Matipos were 1950s tech and labs now have much more advanced ways to do the colour timing. There's some material and manuals on various kinds of contact printers on the filmlabs website:


Ultimately, you have to prepare yourself to doing at least 3-4 passes in colour timing to get everything right. To save time and costs, we at L'Abominable do a "bande courte" where we take about 120 frames of each sequence from our final negative (or frames that closely resemble the shots) and put together into a smaller cut negative and colour time it. For my 10-minutes films, I usually ended up with a "bande courte" roll of about 2 minutes that I would contact print several times with various changes to get to the final filter combination, which I will then use on my final edited negative. I'm sure MONO NO AWARE have their own method of going about this. One must adapt to their lab in this case.

Good luck, enjoy the process and share your results with us!

I am pretty confused about whether color timing with printer lights is an additive process or a subtractive one. I don't want to post the exact same thing twice, so check out my full question about that in the "post production” topic forum or just as the latest post in my profile. I go pretty in depth about my uncertainty on that subject.

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It’s a subtractive color process in the sense that the colors you see in the final print have dyes that subtract certain wavelengths. The fact that colored printer lights allow the image to be corrected doesn’t make it an additive process anymore than the fact that the original scene had colored light hitting the negative makes it an additive process.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I still do filmgrading on weekly basis, in the Bell &Howell lamphouse, the white light of the lamp is split by dichroic mirrors in Red, Green and Blue channels, each channel has a lightvalve that can be programmed to switch from one setting to another between frames (almost). This is called an additive light source even if the film dyes are substractive.

We have modified dichroic filtersmade by Balzers with a narrower bandwidth than the standard B&H ones, resulting in more saturated colors in the print, but most visible in reversal to reversal prints (printstock no longer manufactured).



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