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Exposing Black and White


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Hello, I’m shooting a short film in a few weeks that’s mixing 7219 and 7222 (Double-X Black & White). I know overexposing color negative will generally result in a tighter grain pattern, but I recall hearing that overexposing black and white has no affect on grainy-ness; that it performs best when exposed as rated. Am I imagining this or does that sound correct? I want a pretty crisp look for the the scenes on 7222 and want to know the best course. Thanks!

Tristan Noelle

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"Crisp" is a subjective term, but I have a feeling you will get what you want from Double-X - it's a very high contrast film, and the prominent grain gives a noticeable 'bite' that makes the footage stand out on the screen.

I would second the recommendation to stick to the box rating.  The flip side of Double-X's high contrast is that it has a much more limited dynamic range compared to 7219, and the highlights will "block up" (i.e. clip) fairly quickly when overexposed.  

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Thanks for the response, guys. I’ll expose as recommended.

I did our photo boards with Cinestill Double-X 35mm in my Nikon F5, and our highlights outside the window at the location we’re 4+ stops over and were barely there, but still looked pretty good. 

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The trick isn’t so much to overexpose the b&w stock overall but to light the scene so that have a good tonal range with some hotter highlights, otherwise the image can look muddy. When Janusz Kaminiski did “Schindler’s List” he discovered that he sometimes had to expose faces to a lighter tone to create stronger highlights, so he wasn’t so much overexposing the stock as he was overexposing parts of the frame.

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When you ask these questions why are you not doing a film test to find the answer? Asking is fine, but testing is for sure.

In the old days they would test lighting set-ups and everything with stand-ins for important shots. Is your budget too tight for a short film test? I'm not poo-pooing you, I know tight budgets myself, but just curious.

Edited by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.
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2 hours ago, Daniel D. Teoli Jr. said:

When you ask these questions why are you not doing a film test to find the answer? Asking is fine, but testing is for sure.

In the old days they would test lighting set-ups and everything with stand-ins for important shots. Is your budget too tight for a short film test? I'm not poo-pooing you, I know tight budgets myself, but just curious.

If you do this test, also test developing the film at different development times.  You might find that "pulling" one stop on development protects your highlights for the scan.  It might also make for a more grainy final image, and that's why you would need to test this 🙂

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On 7/13/2019 at 9:15 PM, David Mullen ASC said:

The trick isn’t so much to overexpose the b&w stock overall but to light the scene so that have a good tonal range with some hotter highlights, otherwise the image can look muddy. When Janusz Kaminiski did “Schindler’s List” he discovered that he sometimes had to expose faces to a lighter tone to create stronger highlights, so he wasn’t so much overexposing the stock as he was overexposing parts of the frame.

Thanks for the insight, David. That makes a lot of sense. In my limited tests, the shots with a full range of tones popped more. I’ll actively keep it in mind.

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11 hours ago, Daniel D. Teoli Jr. said:

When you ask these questions why are you not doing a film test to find the answer? Asking is fine, but testing is for sure.

In the old days they would test lighting set-ups and everything with stand-ins for important shots. Is your budget too tight for a short film test? I'm not poo-pooing you, I know tight budgets myself, but just curious.

Well it’s a multi-faceted answer really.  Ideally, of course, proper testing of all aspects should be done. And thats a drum I beat a lot myself, believe me.  It really just comes down to time and money. 

This is a short passion project I’m doing pro-bono with a friend.   We have a small window to make the project  because the director starts a full time position next month, and this has been a crazy summer of travel/work for me, so scheduling testing and getting the results was too difficult to make happen; I can’t take time off to do them. The location scout and photo boards on DoubleX 35mm was a compromise in that regard, and were very informative.  Also money is short, as always. Were this a feature or something more well funded, I’d test as one ought to. Given the limitations of this project, we do what we can. 

At the end of the day,  I know I can ‘trust’ the negative to give me a good image if I treat it right. And the insight from the members here has helped understand how to do that. 

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