[Tig] How does black and white film age?

Bojan Mastilovic chili.styles at gmail.com
Fri Apr 1 15:28:36 BST 2016


Dear Jim and Jeff,
thanks for your answers, they are really helpful. It is so good to have
knowledgeable people like you around!
All the best,
Bojan

On Fri, Apr 1, 2016 at 7:47 AM, Jim Houston <jim.houston at mindspring.com>
wrote:

>
> > On Mar 31, 2016, at 6:39 AM, Bojan Mastilovic via Tig <tig at colorist.org>
> wrote:
> > Or does it become more contrasty? We have looked at different copies of
> the same film and they are all different.
> > Any idea what to look for in the old copy to guess the black and white
> > levels as well as contrast.
>
> Original negatives change only if they were insufficiently washed
> of developer and they might therefore have a higher base density (base+fog)
> than when first used.  But in general, black and white is more stable than
> color film. Looking at old prints can be confusing because the ‘taste’
> for how much contrast and density is in the film was different for earlier
> audiences.
> Lighting was also often fairly ‘high-key’ expecting that the prints were
> going to
> have a limited brightness and contrast in the theaters.
>
> It is important to figure out where the source prints came from that you
> are looking at.
> Black and white film developing was *very* non-standard and almost
> a ‘black art’.  Also, It was normal to take BW through an interpositive and
> internegative for release, and these would both tend to build a little
> contrast.
> A normal internegative or interpolative would look grey with little
> contrast.
>
> If not done carefully enough, the resulting print could have lost some
> tonal
> details in the highlights or shadows or be overly contrasty.  B&W
> developing and printing was
> very sensitive to time and temperature in the bath so there was a fair
> amount of variation in prints.   Because of all of these interactions,
> black and white film never had a straight-line ‘gamma’ even though
> most of the literature plots films as if they did.   Most of the
> ‘rendering’
> of the film for audience viewing was accomplished in the print
> step, so scanning B&W film and looking at the result can be very
> misleading.  A 1DLUT can accomplish wonders to fix the image.
>
> Since audiences of the time were used to seeing less contrast in
> projection, by today’s taste, most black and white films have
> significant enhancements to contrast and blacks for digital projection.
> Also recall that the color temperature for projection back then was
> closer to 5000K  or if you go back to the 20’s and 30’s even 3800K.
> So some warming of the black is appropriate.
>
> You can likely ignore the ‘yellow’ print as that color is most likely
> coming from the film print base.
>
> The one with slightly grey and elevated blacks may be the best bet,
> but really it is going to be a matter of taste, as I don’t think you
> will be able to get back to the original intent.
>
> Hope this helps.
>
>
> Jim Houston
> Starwatcher Digital
> Pasadena, CA
>
>


-- 
Bojan Mastilovic
Producer
Restart Production
www.restart.si


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