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Patrick Cooper

Colour correcting negative film

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Posted (edited)

At some point in the near future, I may be photographing a performance on 800asa film indoors (stills photography.) The film will be daylight balanced and there's the likeyhood that the artificial lighting will predominantly be tungsten lighting. Obviously, this is going to produce a rather warm yellow / orange cast with the film. For digitising the negatives, I'll be using a Panasonic M4/3 camera with macro lens and a tablet for the light source. Ive used this same method in the past with digitising black and white negatives and was pleased with the results. 

With regards to colour correction, would it help immensely if I used a blue filter on the macro lens during the digitising process? Or would that be unnecessary and Lightroom or Photoshop would be more than sufficient in removing the warm colour cast? There does seem to be the belief that negative film is easier to colour correct than slide film. I know that some may suggest using a blue filter on the lens of the film camera during shooting but I'll be using it hand held and will need as much light as possible to enter my lens.

Out of curiosity, back in the old days with optical printing, would they have used a blue filter on the enlarger when printing from daylight neg film that had been exposed to tungsten lighting?

And there's another thing I'm curious about. If negative film has as much latitude with colour correction as some people suggest, why is there a need for both daylight balanced and tungsten balanced negative film stocks for cinematography? Say for example, if you had a daylight neg film and a tungsten neg film and exposed them both to tungsten lighting with no filters, would it be possible to remove the warm colour cast from the daylight film completely with software so that it matches the tungsten film in overall colour balance? I'm guessing probably not.

Edited by Patrick Cooper

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I do this all the time with a light box and my iphone. This is how I check negatives before I transfer and get some stills to the client ahead of time. Obviously with a macro lens, it would be a lot better. This is cropped in heavily from the original image. Easy to correct in photoshop using the manual color tool, just time consuming, especially if the white balance on the film changes from shot to shot. I haven't tried a blue filter, but I can't imagine it being any better. 

 

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That looks like a nice result with an iphone and lightbox. And extra nice seeing a crop of 35mm cine film. I'm not familiar with the manual colour tool in Photoshop - unless that's the option where you change the colour balance with sliders? I do know of the white balance tool in Lightroom though I heard someone using that for scanned slide film and apparently got poor results. I guess a blue filter might be quicker perhaps than doing the work with software? I guess at some point, I'd have to remove the orange mask from the neg film. With whatever software trick is used to remove that orange mask, I guess it's quite selective and hopefully wouldn't remove or reduce my blue filtration.

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It does seem strange to me that as far as I know, there are no negative tungsten film stocks designed specifically for stills photography. When it comes to high speed neg films like 800asa, 1000asa and 1600asa, surely, the majority of people would use these indoors under artificial lighting or perhaps night city scenes. Sure, there might be some people who use such films outdoors during daylight hours for whatever reason. It just seems more logical to me to have tungsten versions of high speed films (thinking about most intended uses of such films.) If that was the case, people using these high speed films outdoors during the day could use the appropriate orange filter which would not only colour correct the images but would also act like an ND filter, reducing the chance of overexposure on a sunny day. And of course people using such films indoors under tungsten lighting could do so hand held without any filtration and get good colour in camera. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

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If you’re using Kodak Portra, you’ll find it’s very flexible with regards to color temperature. Lomography 800, which is rebadged Kodak Gold 800, should be ok also. If you really want a tungsten balanced stock, try the Cinestill 800, which is Kodak 500T with the rem jet removed. It’s expensive, and I’ve heard varying reports about the quality control (not Kodak’s, but Cinestill), but it might suit.

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This is a cinematography forum and you appear to be unaware of the filtration standards.

Until the 80s there was only one Kodak MP neg stock and it was tungsten balanced. You used it unfiltered in the studio and an orange 85 filter in daylight. Tungsten-balanced stills film was discontinued some time ago- flash really took over from tungsten a long time ago. Daylight balanced MP stock became available with the advent of HMI lighting.

By the book you should use an 80A filter under tungsten lighting. The factor is 2 stops. Filtering when you scan won't produce the same results- the blue layer in the film will be severely underexposed. A test would be a good idea.

The alternative is to use one of the tungsten MP stocks repackaged for stills use- 5219 is 800ISO.

https://shop.silverprint.co.uk/CineStill-800-Tungsten-120-Film/product/100111/100111/

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1 hour ago, Stuart Brereton said:

If you’re using Kodak Portra, you’ll find it’s very flexible with regards to color temperature. Lomography 800, which is rebadged Kodak Gold 800, should be ok also. If you really want a tungsten balanced stock, try the Cinestill 800, which is Kodak 500T with the rem jet removed. It’s expensive, and I’ve heard varying reports about the quality control (not Kodak’s, but Cinestill), but it might suit.

Yes I was considering Portra 800. I admit Ive never shot this particular film stock before but based on reviews, it seems to be just what Ive been looking for. And yea Ive heard about Cinestill 800 and that it's been modified from 500T. I admit it seems odd that it's being marketed as an 800asa film, encouraging people to underexpose it whereas of course most people overexpose it in movie cameras. I am tempted to go with Portra because of it's truer higher speed which should come in handy for low light situations. Though of course 'pushing' is an option.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Mark Dunn said:

This is a cinematography forum and you appear to be unaware of the filtration standards.

"Unaware" is not the same as "forgotten." It's not that I am unaware. It's because Ive forgotten - it has been a long time (a number of years) since Ive dealt with colour correction filters and their specific coding. However, I have remembered their respective colours (orange and blue in this context) so I have retained knowledge of the basic principles with regards to their usage in specific lighting environments. 

2 hours ago, Mark Dunn said:

Tungsten-balanced stills film was discontinued some time ago

I was only familiar with tungsten balanced slide films though I never tried any out.

2 hours ago, Mark Dunn said:

 

By the book you should use an 80A filter under tungsten lighting. The factor is 2 stops.

Assuming I'm using a daylight balanced film. Even so, it's not really practical when doing hand held stills photography in a dimly interior. Without a filter, I may be using 1/125th with the aperture wide open. With an 80A filter in place, my shutter speed would effectively be 1/30th - too slow to hand hold for most people, resulting in blurred images. 

 

2 hours ago, Mark Dunn said:

Filtering when you scan won't produce the same results- the blue layer in the film will be severely underexposed. A test would be a good idea.

Ah this was an idea I got from another forum. Yes a test wouldn't hurt.

Edited by Patrick Cooper

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2 hours ago, Patrick Cooper said:

Without a filter, I may be using 1/125th with the aperture wide open. With an 80A filter in place, my shutter speed would effectively be 1/30th - too slow to hand hold for most people, resulting in blurred images. 

You could try an 82A filter on the camera. It’s not a full correction, but it would help to ‘cool down’ the tungsten lamps, and it only requires a 1/3 stop compensation.

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45 minutes ago, Stuart Brereton said:

You could try an 82A filter on the camera. It’s not a full correction, but it would help to ‘cool down’ the tungsten lamps, and it only requires a 1/3 stop compensation.

Excellent suggestion. I'm checking out prices right now from various stores.

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If I were shooting daylight film under tungsten light I would use the blue filter over the lens.  Yes, I understand that you won't have enough light for this approach.

But you also will not have enough light to color correct your images back to neutral if you shoot without the filter as you will be severely underexposing the blue sensitive layer of the film.  IOW, there will not be enough blue light information to make the full correction.

Without a filter, you should shoot tests at ISO 800, and ISO 400 and maybe ISO 200 to see which exposure gives you the ability to color correct your images to the point you find acceptable.

I would also strongly suggest using a dedicated film scanner to "scan" the film rather than a bayer sensor digital camera. These sensors are a poor match to the dyes used in color negative film.

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Personally, I would shoot digital and be done with it.  Why go through so much trouble for a poor result?  Or if you are die hard for film, shoot b&w 🙂

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, Bruce Greene said:

But you also will not have enough light to color correct your images back to neutral if you shoot without the filter as you will be severely underexposing the blue sensitive layer of the film.  IOW, there will not be enough blue light information to make the full correction.

I can see the dilemma. Would using an 82A filter help a little bit in this instance?

13 hours ago, Bruce Greene said:

I would also strongly suggest using a dedicated film scanner to "scan" the film rather than a bayer sensor digital camera. These sensors are a poor match to the dyes used in color negative film.

I have heard of a number of people buying and using various dedicated film scanners and being disappointed with the results. They then ended up using a digital camera in conjunction with a backlit source source and got better results that way. I'm sure there are high end scanners like drum scanners etc that will produce very impressive results but I can't really afford that. I have seen a youtube video where someone got surprisingly good looking results using the digital camera method with colour neg film (at least to my eyes.) So far, Ive only digitised b&w negatives this way. I guess it wouldn't hurt to try the same method with colour neg film and see what the results are like.

13 hours ago, Bruce Greene said:

Personally, I would shoot digital and be done with it.  Why go through so much trouble for a poor result?  Or if you are die hard for film, shoot b&w 🙂

That was actually the original plan - to shoot digital. The subject matter being bands playing at various venues - mostly small venues with local bands. Then the plan changed to shooting a mix of film and digital. And it will mostly be digital anyway with film being used for the occasional image. 

I want some wide angle images among the shots and there's a recent thread where I mentioned that my Samyang 12mm f2 (which I use on my M4/3 cameras) is extremely prone to flaring. It has a major flare problem. Ive had some images ruined by this issue and I'm worried about lights in the venue shining into the lens wreaking havoc with it. To solve that issue, I could use my Canon FD 24mm f2.8 instead on one of my Canon 35mm SLRs. That was the initial reason for considering film - to prevent the ugly flare issue with the Samyang.

Though since then, Ive looked online and seen some beautiful looking images of stage performances shot on colour negative film in recent years. Some in particular looked very moody, very atmospheric. And that has increased my motivation even more for using film in such environments. Though interestingly, there was one set of photos of a band that were shot on Portra 800 daylight balanced film and the colours don't appear particularly warm, at least to my eyes. I actually like the colour rendition. I don't know if the photographer used any filtration but that seems doubtful considering the light levels looked pretty low. These are the images here mixed in with other random subjects:

 

And oh yea b&w is a viable option. That can look really nice and moody too. Though at the moment, Ive developed a hunger for colour neg film. 

Edited by Patrick Cooper

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Regarding the scanning method.

I have a friend who has built his own movie film scanners.  He is an expert.

He also "scans" his personal still b&w negatives using a digital camera and light table with very good results.  But he warned and explained to me why it doesn't work well with color negatives and that a true RGB light source, matched to the sensor,  is important for scanning color neg.  I wish I could repeat the explanation, but I can't remember all the details... 😞

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I find that with the camera method it's difficult to balance mixed light sources or some old or thin negs that may have deteriorated a bit (early to mid 80s) but for most well-exposed negs I just use the eyedropper on the "basic" tab in Lightroom on a neutral midtone. Curves sometimes need some toe and shoulder adjustment, but nothing like the complex treatment you sometimes read about that's supposed to be necessary to deal with the tone correction mask. I've never had a problem with that.

Fresh film, not underexposed, should be fine.

 

 

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