[Tig] How does black and white film age?

Jeff Kreines jeff at kinetta.com
Thu Mar 31 21:00:13 BST 2016

Unless the print was tinted or toned (unlikely in the 1950s) the print should not have any color to it except the “color” or the projection lamp — arc, xenon, or incandescent — but the eye adjusts to that quickly.  Sometimes labs print B&W films on color positive stock (it’s cheaper) but there is a special ring of hell reserved for those labs.

It’s contrast/gamma and blacks that you have to get right.  Remember, B&W printers had a scale of just 21 printing lights — and the labs usually processed prints to the same gamma (which might vary at different labs, but not by much).

Unless there are effects like day-for-night, or an attempt at an extremely contrasty look (that is, intentionally, rather than because of bad lab work or too many generations of duping), films of that era usually would have a good tonal scale, with no crushed blacks or blown-out whites.  No color at all.

If you want to accurately mirror the look of a good vintage print, you probably should avoid windows and tricks — but of course sometimes it’s hard to avoid.

Good luck.  Great B&W is amazing.


Jeff Kreines

> On Mar 31, 2016, at 11:48 AM, chili.styles--- via Tig <tig at colorist.org> wrote:
> Sohonet www.sohonet.co.uk sponsors the TIG.
> =====
> Thanks Jorge.
> But the question was how to know how the bw colors looked like on film when is released. We are working on a restoration project for a film from 1956. We projected 4 copies, all looked different. One was slightly yellow,  other was grey without contrast, one was really contrasty and one is slightly gray with elevated blacks. The dvd copy is made in 1990s from the festival copy and probably has some grading on it too. How can we judge from this materials how this film supposed to look ?
> All the best, 
> Bojan
> Sent directly from my brain via nanotechnology.
>> On 31. mar. 2016, at 17:53, Jorge Lopes <jorlopes at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Bojan
>> I have found some answers to your questions that could be useful.
>> Good luck
>> Jorge
>> https://www.rocketstock.com/blog/how-to-color-grade-black-and-white-projects-the-right-way/
>> 2016-03-31 14:39 GMT+01:00 Bojan Mastilovic via Tig <tig at colorist.org>:
>>> Sohonet www.sohonet.co.uk sponsors the TIG.
>>> =====
>>> Hello,
>>> does someone have experience how BW film copy ages.
>>> I know what to look at and compensate if I see color film copy - it usually
>>> turns pink/red.
>>> How does age affect BW film copy. It looks like it fades, and at the same
>>> time looses contrast?
>>> 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.
>>> All the best,
>>> Bojan
>>> --
>>> Bojan Mastilovic
>>> Restart Production
>>> www.restart.si
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> http://colorist.org
>>> To change subscription options, see http://tig.colorist.org/mailman/listinfo/tig
> _______________________________________________
> http://colorist.org
> To change subscription options, see http://tig.colorist.org/mailman/listinfo/tig

Jeff Kreines
jeff at kinetta.com

More information about the Tig mailing list