Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Choosing The Right Stock


4th February 2005

Hi, my name is Thiago, I'm on the sixth semester of film school (FAAP - So Paulo, Brazil) and I'm about to be the director of photography of a 35mm short film.

I was the cinematographer on a digital movie we've made on the fourth semester of college, but now I'm really into making something really controlled and professional, so I'm researching issues of "American Cinematographer", sites, books and the likes.

I'm shooting outdoors only, at the moment.

Two locations: a small city (Atibaia), lots of houses, few buildings, small streets few traffic. And fields. One place with a huge tree, one with a beautiful lake, another that looks like a tree cemetery and a giant rock, a tourist attraction of the city.

But the thing is, on the CITY locations, I want the image washed out, a little greenish, just like "Phone Booth" (mainly) or "The Matrix". High contrast, but little color saturation.

Any ideas for a film or developing process that will result in little saturation and high contrasts? Black should be black and white should be white, but it has to look a little washed out.

And on the FIELD, I would like bright, living colors and few contrasts. Something like "Big Fish", when he is all surrounded by yellow flowers. Something that looks like paradise, because it's a place where the main character awakes after he dies.

How much should I overexpose, underexpose, overdevelop or underdevelop on which kind of stock to get these results. Any ideas?
I'm afraid of using 50D instead of 250D because I don't know how much light will I have.
By the way, we have a very tight budget.

Thank you very much for the attention.

Thiago Fogaça


I doubt you have the budget for 5285, which would also be a choice. You could slightly overexpose it for a washed out look, or cross process (and very carefully, because overexposing reversal can be a death sentence) So maybe that's not the road to take. But last night I projecting some 7285 I shot(projecting the actual camera stock since it is after all reversal)to evaluate subtle over/underexposure and latitude. It's beautiful, and stands out, of course.

If you have a chance, try 5212 or 17(w/85 filter) if you want new stocks that are slower than 5246 (There is a new 250D coming out, I'm trying it this week) Could you use filters? What camera package are you using by the way? Of course you can always use a faster stock and change the shutter angle- perhaps that's the look you want. If you saw the film "O Auto da Compadecida" you may have noticed very narrow shutter angles for a drama/feature, (and not usually done) and there were some great in camera looks.

What if you used tobacco or chocolate filters? Try them if you get a chance, it could be what you're after.

Have a great shoot whatever your decision and perhaps post your results.

E se você quizer trocar mais idéias em português, me mande um e-mail. Boa sorte,

John F. Babl

For your city scenario I would suggest testing bleach by-pass on your negative (if your lab will do this). Do a test! You must under expose 2/3 to a full stop. You will get very high contrast and pretty extreme desaturation. The colour cast could be achieved through filtration and timing.

For the field I would shoot 5245 with a polarizer and get some grad filters. Blue/blue greens, straws, etc. yes, you will be limited by how much light you will need but these two different approaches will give you distinct looks.

Dylan Macleod, csc

First, I would like to thank Dylan, Dom and John for helping me out with this.

I talked to some of my teachers and cinematographers and they all suggested this:

Dylan's suggestion to underexpose from 2/3 to a full stop and use the bleach bypass technique on the city location is ideal to get a result close to that Dave Matthew's video clip (which I loved, by the way, Dom).

I'm thinking about using a 200T with NO help from a 80A filter, so I can have prioritise cold colors.

I will also shoot inside a movie theatre, on one of the scenes. They suggested me the 500T, 5279. Any thoughts about how to shoot inside a movie theatre DURING the projection of a movie, with little or almost no light?

For the field, my teacher said that the EXR100T with a 85B filter and the polarizer filter would be ideal for lively colors. Any suggestions on how should I expose or develop the film to achieve better results getting really lively and bright colors? I'm also thinking about using the White ProMist filter, to get a blurish dreamy look. Is that correct?

Thank you guys SO much for the help.

Thiago Fogaça


Just wanted to know why under expose by 2/3 to a full stop?

Is that to compensate in a way for the high contrast after bleach bypass, or for some other reason?

Saurabh Goswami


Bleach bypassed negatives are very dense, as they have a silver image as well as the colour dye image. Underexposing brings the density of mid-greys back closer to normal.

Most people use bleach bypass for the extra contrast and deep rich blacks and blocked shadows (as well as the colour desaturation).

However, if you want a very burnt-out look, with highlights completely burnt white, and normal detail in the shadow tones, you may find a normal exposure works for you.

The important thing is to TEST for the look that you want.

Dominic Case
Atlab Australia

Dominic, how far down can you print without having to modify the printer? One stop? Two?

I've read that Jack Green always exposes his darker scenes normally and has them printed down in the lab up to two stops. Seems like a pretty good way to do things.

Art Adams, DP [film|hidef|video]
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley"

>Dominic, how far down can you print without having to modify the >printer?

We're talking about normal process here, not bleach bypass?

Most labs' normal lights are around 25-25-25 to 30-30-30 - for negative exposed according to the manufacturer's EI rating.

A stop of exposure translates to 7 printer points. Top light is 50-50-50. So you can go up to about 3 stops over, although that leaves you with very little ability to balance the colour.

Beyond that it's sometimes possible to modify the printer or even slow it down - but you are probably working beyond the latitude of the negative, so you'd expect burnt-out grey-ish whites and highlights as well as loss of resolution due to flare and image spread.

Dominic Case
Atlab Australia

Regarding underexposing when you skip bleach the neg...

This is based on having done tests (and seeing dailies in 16mm print). It is all about latitude...when you skip bleach the neg...the highlights disappear pretty the point of having nothing to print down.

It is always ideal to have the information on the neg to manipulate later. With skip bleaching your highlights tend to be the first thing to disappear...ideal if you want burnt out highlights...not ideal if those highlights tones that you've overexposed for "hot" highlights that then disappear beyond retrieval.

Do tests! Find the latitude of the process you are using then wield your power as cinematographer to define your look.

P.S. I'd still opt for 5245 with a polarizer, instead of 48 with an less piece of glass and a sharper more contrasty stock.

Dylan Macleod, csc
Toronto, Canada

>Wanted to know if the burnt out highlights on skip bleaching are due to >the silver retention on the negative?


Retaining a silver image as well as the normal dye image means that the negative has twice as much contrast as it should have. That's more density range than a print stock or telecine can handle: the result is either burnt-out highlights or (if you underexpose by a couple of stops) blocked in shadows.

Dominic Case
Atlab Australia

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