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How can I improve b&w video image?

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Hello all,


I'm beginning principal photography of a short video production. It's b&w and has a silent era aesthetic. I have watched films of the period and did some research on B&W cinematography. However these are all concerning film. I will shoot in color at regular speed and speed it up around %25 in post and convert the image. I did some tests with makeup and wardrobe and realized that the poor contrast range of PD150 (most probably any other dv cam) gets poorer when the image is converted to bw. Relatively higher contrast of the color image decreases since I eliminate color contrast. My solution; wardrobe consists of contrasty costumes, I will backlight the actors so as to separate them from the bg which also suits the esthetics and conventions of the era. I will have hot spots in the frame where ever I can to increase the perceived contrast. I don't have much freedom regarding art direction; we cant dress the locations as we like so we are limited with their original tonal range. I took digital bw stills of the locations and all I get is a muddy gray, low contrast look. I can improve the contrast with lighting but what else can I do?


Another issue; how can I calibrate the videoassist for bw, shall I try to match it with pd150's viewfinder and judge the image from there. Waveform monitor is naturally out of question. Would a combination of calibrated monitor and a viewing glass for bw work? I'm looking forward to hearing your ideas. Thank you all in advance.



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Well, avoiding muddy flat gray images is a challenge even when shooting with b&w film. Creating a certain controllable amount of contrast and depth is the goal of b&w photography generally and it takes some skill. You mentioned the basics: art direction, wardrobe, using back lights, using areas of dark and bright, etc. Luckily since it is video, you can see the results right there and adjust accordingly if it looks too flat. But it's a bit of a stretch to make interlaced-scan DV look like silent era b&w photography...

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