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Reversal film's exposure vs negative's


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I've been making a bit of a decision for my super 16 movie: Tri-X reversal film or Double-X negative film.

I believe my questions would be best summed up in these bullet points:

  • How much does the 50 ISO matter between the 200 ISO Tri-X and the 250 ISO Double-X?
  • Does the Double-X's more forgiving range actually affect your decision to take it over Tri-X?
  • Can you tangibly tell if a place/spot wouldn't work on a Tri-X, but would work on a Double-X?
    • Is it just more convenient then to use Double-X?

Apologies if the questions were repetitive; I am fanboying rn on Tri-X because it's reversal (and I find reversal cool), but maybe I should open my eyes and convert to the negative film masterrace.

edit: upon a quick lookie, it seems that maybe it's not to do with the ISO, but rather with the nature of reversal and negative film themselves (?)

Edited by Joshua Robert Dy
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  • Joshua Robert Dy changed the title to Reversal film's exposure vs negative's

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I am trying to consider the same decision for a short (horror) film I plan to shoot next year. As for the 50 ASA difference, it depends on if you are shooting indoors primary or out.

For indoors, unless you have a powerful light kit, that 50 ASA will matter. Also, it depends on what kind of look you are going for. The Tri-X has a strong contrast and the Double-X is lower contrast. Obviously, you can correct a certain amount in post but you should go into it with this is mind.

It may be that your film can utilize both stocks depending on the moods and whatnot. 

In general, if you want the deepest blacks you can get, I would go with the Tri-X (and light accordingly). If you want a more dramatic feel, I would go with the Double-X.

Edit: I am probably going with the Tri-X since I believe the strong contrast will work more for horror.

Edited by Matthew W. Phillips
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4 minutes ago, Matthew W. Phillips said:

For indoors, unless you have a powerful light kit, that 50 ASA will matter.

Actually, the more I think about it, this really isnt true. The reversal film will do better being properly exposed (or even underexposed by a wee bit; 1/3 stop or so) whereas the negative film would do better being overexposed by about 1 stop. Therefore, you might be better off with the reversal for indoor (if light is at a premium).

Sorry about the mistake; I need to slow down and think through posts before I clack away!

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6 minutes ago, Matthew W. Phillips said:

It may be that your film can utilize both stocks depending on the moods and whatnot. 

oooohh Matthew thanks for your anecdotes; it seems more practical this way! I've been looking at the Sensitometry, Modulation Transfer, Spectral Sensitivity curves and stuff so I could make sense of what's going on between reversal and negative films, but your anecdotal evidences are really what's helping my decision making much simpler! Thank you so much for this Matthew!

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I would go with double x. Tri-x is rated at 160 under tungsten and 200 under daylight. Double x is rated at 200 under tungsten and 250 under daylight. Also, double x will scan better than tri-x for sure. With reversal, you have to be dead on exposure wise.

With double x you don't want to overexpose actually but rather expose it at box speed.

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Tri-X is a very neat stock, but you have to be very careful, you can't light in a modern style, you have to really get every part of your shot lit and lit well. The latitude at best is around 6 stops and when it falls off the shelf, especially in the blacks, it can be just gone with no recovery. 

Double-X is a much more versatile stock, you can kinda shoot the way you would on color lighting wise and get away with it. The stock has a lot more latitude, not quite as much as color negative, but close. Negative is also a bit more silky smooth compared to reversal, which can be very crunchy. That smoothness is not only in grain structure, but also contrast. Some people like it, some people don't. 

The great thing about negative is that you can always adjust the finished piece to mimic reversal if you want. So if you want those crushed blacks, then all ya gotta do is crush them in post. 

Honestly, I'm not much of a black and white guy anymore, I always shoot color and turn it black and white in post. I find the workflow of color negative to be much easier. More labs that can process the stuff. More transfer people who know how to make it look good. You'll make far fewer mistakes on set, especially indoors, with a 500 ISO stock than a 250 ISO stock. Plus you can push 500T 2 stops if you want and get some pretty grainy but also a more contrasty look. It maybe blasphemy to a proper filmmaker, but nearly every black and white movie shot on film in the last 20 years has been done that way. 

That's not to say the current black and white stocks aren't useful, they are... I mean people shoot with them all the time. It's just in the past, it was mostly a cost savings measure rather than a creative decision. Today since the pricing isn't wildly different per foot, it's for sure more of a creative decision. 

If I were you, I'd do a camera test. Do reversal, B&W negative and color negative. 

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9 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

If I were you, I'd do a camera test. Do reversal, B&W negative and color negative. 

bro Tyler, I think I can speak on behalf of cinematography.com in thanking you for all of the knowledge you've shared on this forum for years. I'm a scrubnoobbeginner when it comes to cinematography but everyone is so patient, supportive, and encouraging while we, the zoomies gen, are going through these learning periods. I will have a test go at all of them before ultimately deciding what is best for my film; to see if I can take up the challenge of Tri-X or maybe dial down and work with Double-X or 500T. Tyler, you da frickin bomb my guy

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25 minutes ago, Joshua Robert Dy said:

bro Tyler, I think I can speak on behalf of cinematography.com in thanking you for all of the knowledge you've shared on this forum for years. I'm a scrubnoobbeginner when it comes to cinematography but everyone is so patient, supportive, and encouraging while we, the zoomies gen, are going through these learning periods. I will have a test go at all of them before ultimately deciding what is best for my film; to see if I can take up the challenge of Tri-X or maybe dial down and work with Double-X or 500T. Tyler, you da frickin bomb my guy

You're welcome. 

To me, it's all about getting a good product and the easiest way to insure you do, is to play it safe. 

 

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32 minutes ago, Giray Izcan said:

Or just challenge yourself and shoot trix and light accordingly.

I agree with this. Although Double-X will be more forgiving, when you come from a Super 8 background, you were at some point forced to shoot reversal since that was largely what was available. 

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