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Ben Brahem Ziryab

Increase contrast photochemically (contact printing)

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When contact printing the OCN (with no IP/IN steps) what are some ways to increase the contrast and deepen the blacks?

 

The methods that I know of are no longer available like printing on Vision Premier and ENR/ACE/CCE/OZ. I try to avoid skip bleach all-together because it desaturates the color in the process.

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I got a fairly contrasty contact print from Fotokem -- basically I overexposed the negative and was printing in a low 40's. Fotokem can increase the contrast of the print a little more by push-processing it.

 

An idea that I've considered but never tested is to push the negative one-stop but rate it normally and then print down the extra density. I've seen that done in stills and the results seemed more saturated and contrasty.

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I guess I ran into the same problem lately: for me it was the first time I used Vision 3 50D (and film again in general for the first time in about 10 years) and what I did not expect in the direct print was the "softness" of the colors: I like the more saturated and hard colors with deep blacks I was used to. I learned from somebody at the lab that Vision 3 is designed with DI in mind, that Fuji in their last years of producing motion picture film had a special print stock designed that could increase contrast and saturation from these "softer" working negatives, but that nowadays this is simply not possible anymore, in an analog way.

Now, if you still want to finish all-analog and if you still want that look like 1990's prints often had (I hope you will forgive this vague and subjective description) do you think it can be brought back if you experiment enough with these sort of "tricks"? Or is the only real hope some manufacturer brings back an "old-fashioned" working film stock (I am thinking of the restarting Ferrania company in Italy maybe)?

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Kenny, I don't know... (as you will guess I am not a DOP and this is not something I do every day, I hope you all appreciate that I try to learn about it though...). I remember a conversation I had with the grader when I asked about the negative, he considered it fairly normal. What I did at the first session was asking for a less bright image till I sort of liked what was on the monitor screen, this produced a print which was in parts somewhat too dark, without giving in return the extra saturation and deep blacks I was expecting to get.

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I don't understand -- you color timed on a monitor and yet produced a physical print? So this was some sort of low-budget D.I. but with a monitor instead of a digital projector? You were working from a film scan or a telecine transfer? How did the files get transferred back onto film? A laser recorder? Was it transferred directly to a print or to a digital negative and then a print was made?

 

Because if you shot film and directly made a contact print, you would have screened a projected answer print to work out the timing -- there would be no monitor involved. Unless the timer took you into his hazeltine room for a pass before the 1st answer print, which is unusual.

 

If you color-corrected this digitally, you can make a normal negative look high in contrast and saturation, exceeding whatever the earlier EXR negative stocks used to give you.

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"Unless the timer took you into his hazeltine room for a pass before the 1st answer print, which is unusual." - Yes, this was exactly what happened, except it was a Colormaster. Second session was with the answer print, looking at it directly through a magnifying glass and through different color filters.

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So if it was a direct contact print, what would affect your contrast and saturation are your printer lights -- if you overexposed the negative and then were able to print down, let's say in the high-30's / low-40's on average instead of the high 20's (normal), you'd get a print with more "snap". But you would have needed to start out with a denser negative in order to do that, otherwise just printing down would make the image darker than normal.

 

Like I said, some labs can push-process the print stock more to get a bit more contrast out of it.

 

That's about it in terms of improving the contrast and saturation of a normal Vision print.

 

I got a fairly contrasty print for "The Love Witch" recently mainly because I overexposed the stocks by one-stop and printed down.

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Thanks David, that is all very valuable information. If we do another project all-analog there will be some heavy testing before, and then I want to bring in people anyway who are more skilled in this field than I am myself. I love the idea of working with film and film only, but if if the qualities I associate with that cannot be produced anymore with the materials available right now it would be mad to refuse digital finishing.

(So, we "were" in the same festival in Amsterdam ! I couldn't be there the day "The Love Witch" played, so unfortunately I have not seen it yet.)

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