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Workprint vs. Answer Print vs. Release Print


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Hi guys,

 

Just a quick check to make sure I'm not loosing my mind. Since both a workprint and answer print are contact printed off of the original negative, there should be no difference in sharpness, right?

 

I ask because awhile back I had a disagreement with an AC friend (he's on the forum here also). I had shot a 35mm lens test with S4s which came out soft. I think we used the 18mm, 25mm, 35mm on a BL4, and they all looked the same. They were focused properly on the subject (and the projection was in focus). They just never snapped, and looked unacceptably soft to me on a 30' screen (I was sitting more than 1.5 screen heights away).

 

Several months later, my AC friend mentioned this to an older DP who said that we were "ridiculous" for judging lens sharpness off of a workprint - according to him, we should have gotten an answer print (or maybe he even said release print, this was around half a year ago so my memory is hazy). Obviously, the release print comment is way off, so he probably didn't say that.

 

So, was this DP right? Would an answer print be sharper than a workprint, and if so would the difference be noticeable enough to invalidate a lens test? The only way I can see that happening is if the answer print was pin-registered or printed at a slower speed than the workprint.

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I assume they are all contact-printed the same exact way, or are there optical work-prints out there? I seem to remember a lab flowchart listing both B&W 35mm and 16mm reduction workprints, so the latter would have to be optical and could be subjected to improper focus. I assume a contact-printer could skip too if there were spliced printstock or negatives involved.

 

 

What would effect *perceived* sharpness is density and color correction. On workprints, they don't use the same finesse, or they let the "new guy" do the timing.

 

Some labs may (just a guess on my part) run workprints through chemistry at the end of the day that isn't in control, but none of this should effect focus, perceived or not. I suppose if a shot is way under-timed, so that the print isn't dense enough, it may appear to be out-of-focus when the negative is not, but this would be due to halation, not the actual softness on the negative.

 

 

EDIT: Some people who do lens tests just shoot B&W Neg. and project the negative, if sharpness and camera registration are your only concerns. I remember doing this with a 16mm camera about four years back.

Edited by Karl Borowski
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I can see where the lab folks may pay more attention to making an "answer Print" as they would be recording the timing that they are using with the hope that it would be used for several release prints. BUT they would both be made on the same printer and the same stock, and as long as they were "best Light" rather then "one light" the tech should have the timing set "close".

 

MInd you for an absoute focus test, Looking (or even projecting) the negative or a reveral test would be the way to go as it removes one variable.

 

BTW a lab will not run any release prints until the producer/director or Cinematographer (or all three) have already approved at leat one answer print., and they also would like to have a soundtrack by that stage of the game.

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What would effect *perceived* sharpness is density and color correction. On workprints, they don't use the same finesse, or they let the "new guy" do the timing.

 

Some labs may (just a guess on my part) run workprints through chemistry at the end of the day that isn't in control, but none of this should effect focus, perceived or not. I suppose if a shot is way under-timed, so that the print isn't dense enough, it may appear to be out-of-focus when the negative is not, but this would be due to halation, not the actual softness on the negative.

I don't know of any lab that would turn out poor quality work prints or 'let the new guy' grade them. Again I don't know of any professional labs that 'run work prints through chemistry at the end of the day that isn't in control'. Labs keep their processes in control all the time. When film was the only way to work labs made their work prints overnight so that the production company, cameraman etc could look at them first thing next morning, check them so that the set could be struck if everything was OK..

 

I worked at Humphires Film Labs when they were processing for Stanley Kubrik, he examined every frame of a work print and expected the Technical Director to come in in the middle of the night if there was a spot on the print.

 

If you produced low quality work prints you would soon lose the rushes processing and ultimately the bulk release.

Brian

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There are prints run on pin-registered machines, I think they are called step contact printers, and on belt-contact machines at high speed for making release prints. Answer prints, IP's, etc. are usually made on the step contact printers but I don't know about dailies. Considering that dailies are usually high volume, they might be done on the continuous belt-contact printer -- but I'm sure you can ask for camera tests to be printed on the step contact printer.

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There are prints run on pin-registered machines, I think they are called step contact printers, and on belt-contact machines at high speed for making release prints. Answer prints, IP's, etc. are usually made on the step contact printers but I don't know about dailies. Considering that dailies are usually high volume, they might be done on the continuous belt-contact printer -- but I'm sure you can ask for camera tests to be printed on the step contact printer.

 

Hi David,

 

In the past Labs were not happy to do a step print overnight as they wanted the neg to stand for 24 hours after processing. I often had overnight roraty prints made onto print stock with B+H neg perfs.

 

Stephen

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I'd expect the big difference to be between workprints and answer prints direct from the original negative on one hand, and check prints and release prints that are IP/IN generations away.

 

I looked around on the internet for info on the classic Bell & Howell model C and J printers, and came up empty. So, I have a request for the actual lab guys who have access to this kind of equipment (Dominic, Robert, Karl, anybody else?): Could you please shoot some digital stills of your printers and give us a little show and tell on how they work? It's a part of the process that a lot of us know nothing about. Perhaps it could be saved here as a FAQ.

 

 

 

Thanks --

 

 

 

 

-- J.S.

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I'd expect the big difference to be between workprints and answer prints direct from the original negative on one hand, and check prints and release prints that are IP/IN generations away.

 

I looked around on the internet for info on the classic Bell & Howell model C and J printers, and came up empty. So, I have a request for the actual lab guys who have access to this kind of equipment (Dominic, Robert, Karl, anybody else?): Could you please shoot some digital stills of your printers and give us a little show and tell on how they work? It's a part of the process that a lot of us know nothing about. Perhaps it could be saved here as a FAQ.

 

 

 

Thanks --

 

 

 

 

-- J.S.

You will find information on the B & H Model D and J on my website http://www.brianpritchard.com/Model_D_&_J_Printer.htm

There is also a picture of the Model C lamp house.

Brian

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Thanks, Brian -- These should help people understand contact printing. The pictures on page 13 of the first PDF and page 10 of the second show the printing sprocket and aperture. The light comes from inside the sprocket, and goes out thru the negative to the print stock. That's why negative stock has a slightly shorter pitch than print stock, 0.1866" vs. 0.1870". Bell and Howell, BTW, also made the perforating machines.

 

 

 

 

-- J.S.

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A lab with unsharp prints is not viable. Soft copy doesn't sell.

 

What is possible is that the answer print in question has been a so-called wet print, i. e. a positive derived under a liquid. Most work prints, rushes, dailies are dry copy. Negative and raw stock come together partially around a toothed drum of 64 perforations circumference. Both films run onto the drum under some tension and leave the same in a slack with no tension. It's virtually impossible that the print comes out unsharp. A bit critical it is with step printers but I'd like to say that there, too, all lab folks are very well aware of their equipment and what comes out of it. Could be as an other possibility that there were different lenses in use for projection. You may want to check this before more investigation. Believe me, sometimes it is only a ridiculously small thing to trouble big minds.

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It's virtually impossible that the print comes out unsharp.

 

Yes, and in the rare case that a contact printer loses contact, it would come out so massively unsharp that the high speed checker would catch it immediately and have the job run again.

 

 

 

 

 

-- J.S.

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