Phil Parmet: Color Photography

From American Cinematographer, Still Lives, Distant Vistas by Andrew O. Thompson (Dec. 1998)

"There's something very compelling about the graphic quality of black-and-white photography. Color is very difficult to control and can be very distracting. Just look at great works of art that use color selectively. Accenting a huge canvas with a small piece of primary color-- like a red or blue-- against a field of pastels can exert an extraordinarily powerful pull on the eye. In cinema, you can control the palette with art direction, but there's no control over that in the real world for the documentarian and the still photographer. I have seen color photography that I love, but the idea of an image made up of silver on paper speaks more directly to me."

- Phil Parmet, Photographer

Joe Viskocil: Fire, Explosions & Miniatures

From American Cinematographer, Tearing up the Town by Ron Magid (December 1998)

"Originally, [ID4's visual effects supervisor] Volker Engle wanted to do teh Wall of Fire with a cloud tank effect coming toward camera, which looked good but not real. [Director] Roland Emmerich was adamant about having a tidal wave of fire going down the city blocks. I said, 'The only way that fire is going to do that is if we fudge the set.' Fire has only one way to go, and that's up. So we locked the camera onto the ceiling and just tipped the street set sideways so this fireball would come right at the camera."

- Joe Viskocil, Miniature Special Effects Supervisor on Godzilla

"If it's really flimsy, you're going to get a lot more information on film, because you can use a small charge-- small in the sense that it's not a really fast explosion. The slower the explosion, the more information you're going to get on film and the more detail you're going to see. You also have to keep it all in frame!"

- Joe Viskocil, Miniature Special Effects Supervisor on Godzilla


Roger Guyett: In-Camera vs. Post

From American Cinematographer, Blood on the Beach by Ron Magid (December 1998)

"I think Steven [Spielberg] had the right idea, which was basically to film everything in-camera if possible. But you can't shoot something that is potentially dangerous near your principal actors. That's where we can do things that add an extra level of drama or, to a certain extent, shock value."

- Roger Guyett, Visual Effects Supervisor on Saving Private Ryan

Alar Kivilo: Beveled Mirrors

From American Cinematographer, The Root of All Evil by Jay Holben (December 1998)

For moodier moments, Kivilo used hard light reflected into the sets using beveled mirrors.

"I'd pick a dead corner of the set and have Joey black it out so no light was there. I'd then aim Par cans or sometimes HMI Pars into the mirrors and splash light into random spots on the set. I'm always searching for the best kinds of slashes, which have an organic feel, and these beveled mirrors provided that. It was perhaps the only slightly stylized addition I made to our otherwise simplistic regime, in that there was no logical source for that kind of light; my thinking was that it was perhaps coming from a streetlight outside or something. Those scenes were about mood, and it was great to use the mirrors rather than backlight an actor. I'd just bounce a slash into the background and silhouette them against the set."

- Alar Kivilo, CSC

Alar Kivilo: Helium Balloons

From American Cinematographer, The Root of All Evil by Jay Holben (December 1998)

"We used a helium balloon light for the night exteriors on the roadside. It was logistically tricky location because we were on a small road with two snow fields on either side, so there was no place to drive in a crane or a Condor. The balloon seemed to be a perfect solution. We could fly it up so that it would hover just above the road, and then hide the black cable in the night sky. What I didn't expect was that it got really windy during the night we were shooting. I was operating the second camera, looking at the wide shot of the sheriff's truck approaching, and as the wind was gusting I kept seeing the balloon getting lower and lower in the frame. It never quite dropped into the picture area, but it made me very nervous. Then, at one point in the middle of the first take, the wind blew the balloon into a power line and it made a huge spark. Thank God no one was hurt and there was no damage, but we did lose quite a bit of time. We really hadn't factored the wind into the equation, and because of the white snow surrounding the area, we really couldn't attach extra lines. I thought the light that the balloon provided was perfect-- a nice ambient glow and a beautiful night softness-- but I was very uncomfortable with it after that first night. On the second night, when we returned to shoot the reverses, I went with a more traditional approach."

- Alar Kivilo, CSC

Alar Kivilo: Snow, Exposure & Contrast

From American Cinematographer, The Root of All Evil by Jay Holben (December 1998)

"I was letting the snow go about three stops over. I was usually exposing at about an f5.6 outside, but the snow would be reflecting back an f16 or more. By overexposing it that much, the snow gave us really blinding whites and we'd lose detail, which for most applications was great. However, there were a couple of scenes in the film in which footprints in the snow were an important element of the story. Because of the overcast conditions and the contrast created by the way I was exposing, we would occasionally have to paint in the footprints to make them readable. Someone from the art department would walk backward through the footprints with water-based spray-paint and darken in the shadow side of the prints so they would read better."

- Alar Kivilo, CSC

Alar Kivilo: Snow & Contrast

From American Cinematographer, The Root of All Evil by Jay Holben (December 1998)

"We wanted to avoid blue skies and sun, and we were lucky for the most part. On overcast days, I would simply employ some negative fill so that the light wouldn't bounce around as much from the white snow. We covered the ground with solids and brought in more solids on one side to give the light more direction. Then, for close-ups, we'd shape and refine the light slightly with a bit of bounce fill off a card. During the few days when the sun did come out, I wanted to bring in a big crane with a huge silk to take care of the situation, but again, budgetary factors didn't allow it."

- Alar Kivilo, CSC

Alar Kivilo: Shooting in the Snow

From American Cinematographer, The Root of All Evil by Jay Holben (December 1998)

"Of course, another difficulty of shooting in the snow is that every time you do a take, you have to get rid of the footprints. To do that, the 'snow unit' marched around armed with gasoline-powered blowers, rakes and whatnot to erase footprints and make the snow look virgin again."

- Alar Kivilo, CSC

Alar Kivilo: Photography Arc & Lens Selection

From American Cinematographer, The Root of All Evil by Jay Holben (December 1998)

"This whole project was kind of an exception to my normal style. I usually like the photography to have an arc of its own, where it starts off one way and you discreetly increase the drama. For example, as a character becomes more evil, I'll move to wider lenses or spookier lighting or something. However, the changes that the characters [in this film] go through are extreme, so I decided to keep the photography very neutral and never comment on what was going on in the scene. I approached the whole project in a very naturalistic way. I picked relatively neutral lenses, gravitating toward the middle range. As a rule, we kept away from the really long or wide lenses. Our real workhorse was the 40mm, which happens to be my favorite. It's great for moments of drama, and for doing close-ups. It's wide enough for master shots, but it doesn't distort even if you get close to the subject. It's the last lens going toward the wide end in which the lines of the architecture remain straight. Again, we were constantly trying to hew to that simplicity."

- Alar Kivilo, CSC

Willard Carroll: Film Dailies

From American Cinematographer, A Poignant Pas de Deux by Bob Fisher (December 1998)

"We looked at film every day, because I believe you need to see shots on a big screen to judge whether or not they work. There are a lot of long takes in the picture, so we probably spent 60 to 90 minutes a day looking at dailies. It made all the difference in the world."

- Willard Carroll, Director of Playing by Heart

Vilmos Zsigmond: Freedom on Set

From American Cinematographer, A Poignant Pas de Deux by Bob Fisher (December 1998)

"It's important to have the freedom to alter compositions and camera moves and take advantage of things that happen on the set. In order to do that, you need to plan for motivated light sources. Lamps, windows, open doors and mirrors are great because you can put them anyplace. This is especially important when you're working in the anamorphic format, because you can see more of the background behind people."

- Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC

Vilmos Zsigmond: Character Lighting

From American Cinematographer, A Poignant Pas de Deux by Bob Fisher (December 1998)

AC: Did the different characters have visual signatures in terms of the way you lit them?

Zsigmond: Hugh is kind of suspenseful in the beginning. You don't know who he is or where he's from, but he shows up in a bar and claims he's killed his wife and child. We shot that scene film-noir style, like an old black-and-white mystery. Other characters, like Meredith, are lit more romantically with lots of backlight. However, these were subtle differences, because we didn't want it to look like six different movies.

Vilmos Zsigmond: Classical Painters

From American Cinematographer, A Poignant Pas de Deux by Bob Fisher (December 1998)

"If you are doing a Frankenstein movie or Star Wars, it doesn't have to be realistic-- in fact, it should be more impressionistic or surrealistic. If you are telling a story about real people, the classical painters gave us a good model. They never lit anyone badly, and they never used soft light. They always had nice modeling light on the faces and darker backgrounds so the people would stand out."

- Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC


Soup de Jour: Custom Processes Defined

From American Cinematographer, Soup de Jour by Christopher Probst (November 1998)

{This article is quite possibly the BEST resource and introduction to these processes, which at the time of this article's publication were relatively new and widely used throughout the industry. The following is the entire article for my personal reference in the future.}

------------------------------------------------ Soup de Jour (Nov. 98)-----------------------------------------------

Given the number of images bombarding viewers daily via feature films, television shows, commercials and music videos, the desire to create a distinguishing visual style has become a paramount concern among today's cinematographers. Aiding in this quest for diversity, motion picture laboratories now offer a variety of custom processes to enhance and modify a director of photography's work. Cinematographers have myriad methods at their disposal, from silver-retention processes to more esoteric ideas, such as stripping the anti-halation backing off an original camera negative. Readers should also be aware that Eastman Kodak is now offering two new color print films — Vision 2383 and Vision Premier 2393 (formerly code-named "Clipper I and II") — which may be used as alternatives to some of the contrast-affecting processes explained in the following pages.

What follows is a comprehensive survey of the options currently available to directors of photography. Bear in mind that we've interviewed representatives of the companies that have developed these processes, and that divergent opinions about their relative merits do exist in Hollywood's technical community. The ultimate purpose of this article is to present an overview that will hopefully make the laboratory landscape a bit less mystifying.


A forerunner of the seemingly endless image-enhancement techniques offered today are the various silver-retention processes designed to affect the contrast, color saturation, grain, and level of black density in print images. The use of silver-retention processes has gained great popularity among filmmakers worldwide over the last five years. In fact, scores of labs in both the United States and Europe have developed several competing methods to achieve the subtle — or sometimes pronounced — effect of retaining silver in the print, or, in some cases, in the intermediates or camera negative itself. However, even though each lab-s methods may differ slightly, the end results of each technique are very similar.

Technicolor's ENR

One of the most popular of the silver-retention processes is ENR, which was named for its inventor, Ernesto Novelli Rimo, a former control department operator at Technicolor Rome who designed the technique for Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC to use on Warren Beatty's 1981 film Reds. The cameraman has utilized the process on all of his subsequent films, including Ladyhawke, Tucker, Dick Tracy, The Last Emperor, Little Buddha and Bulworth. Additionally, cinematographers such as Janusz Kaminski, ASC (Amistad and Saving Private Ryan), Darius Khondji, ASC, AFC (Evita), Jack Green, ASC (The Rookie, Bird), Harris Savides (The Game), Chris Menges, BSC (Michael Collins) and Newton Thomas Sigel (Fallen) have each embraced the technique as a way of enhancing their visual palettes.

ENR is a proprietary color-positive developing technique which utilizes an additional black-and-white developing bath inserted at an appropriate stage of a print's processing in order to retain silver. After the film has been bleached, but prior to the silver being fixed out of the film, this extra bath allows for a controlled amount of silver to be redeveloped, adding density in the areas with the most exposure — primarily the blacks. Frank Ricotta, senior vice president of worldwide technical and engineering operations at Technicolor Hollywood, elaborates, "By retaining silver density in the image, you will increase the contrast by making the blacks blacker, and, since you have increased contrast in the shadows, you can see more detail. The images will appear slightly sharper because of the increased contrast and, because there is silver in the film physically, it gives you a little bit of an edge-effect around the image. Finally, by virtue of having silver in the print, it will slightly desaturate the colors, depending upon the level of ENR used."

It is a common mistake to refer to all of the various silver-retention processes as bleach-bypassing. Although bypassing the bleaching step may yield a similar result to ENR, the two processes differ radically in their approach to silver retention. "Bleach-bypass will tend to create an effect similar to that achieved with ENR," Ricotta submits, "because when you develop the print stock, you haven-t developed a lot of silver in the highlight areas where you didn-t have a lot of exposure. But as you get into the shadows, where the majority of the exposure density is on the print, you start to develop a lot of silver and dye. So whether you do a bleach-bypass or ENR, when you leave silver in the film, it is retained with less silver in the highlights than in the shadows. The two processes are not too different in that regard.

"However, we feel that ENR is much more finite a process because we can infinitely adjust the intensity of the effect by simply varying the concentration of the chemistry. Bleach-bypass means that you either bypass most or all of the bleaching function, so it's inherently less finite. This is an important factor for those films that want just a touch of ENR to make the blacks blacker. Jade is a perfect example of a film where William Friedkin and director of photography Andrzej Bartkowiak [ASC] wanted just a little bit of ENR to make the blacks nice and firm and rich, without measurably desaturating the colors.

"Conversely," Ricotta expands, "on a film like Saving Private Ryan, Janusz Kaminski and Steven Spielberg were interested in a higher contrast and a very desaturated look, so we employed one of the highest levels of ENR used to date. That especially desaturated the faces, which was something that Janusz was very interested in doing."

Another frequent misconception that occurs in discussions about ENR is the assignment of "percentage" values as a way of labeling the nearly infinite doses of ENR available to filmmakers. In an effort to quantify — not to mention establish a method to control — the levels of ENR, Technicolor utilizes an infrared (IR) densitometer to measure the level of silver retained in a print. By targeting a specific IR reading for the filmmaker-s desired effect, the laboratory can then set out to produce as many prints as required by the distributor with the exact level of ENR applied to each print.

"Many times, people are interested in knowing what "percentage- of ENR was used on a film," Ricotta relates. "When we read a number off a densitometer — say "60 IR- [a .60 density at 1000nm] — people who are less familiar with this type of measurement may refer to that as "60 percent ENR."Well, we haven-t necessarily left 60 percent of the silver in the film. It is simply a reading of optical density in the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum. At Technicolor, when we show a customer an ENR print we say, "This is a 40, this a 60, or this is an 80." Then based on their reaction, we can determine whether they want a little more or a little less effect. We never really talk in terms of what "percentage- of silver is retained, because it is really immaterial to their decision. When we set an ENR value with the client, we then control to that densitometer value of .40, .60, .80 or whatever.

"It's like when people talk about a percentage of flashing," he elaborates. "A client may ask for a 10 percent flash. Well, what does that mean? In the lab, a 10 percent flash is the addition of a .10 density over a simple D-min [or clear reading] in each color. For instance, if you have a D-min reading of .06, .06, .12 [R-G-B], then a "10 percent flash- would result in subsequent readings of .16, .16, .22 respectively."

It should also be noted that since ENR is applied to the positive release print, the shortest increment of film that the process can be applied to is one lab reel. Although ENR is typically utilized on an entire picture, some films have employed the effect only on selected sequences to visually distinguish them from the rest of the movie.

Deluxe's CCE/ACE

Although mainstream audiences may not be consciously aware of the use of special processes when they watch a film in a theater, they certainly felt the effect while watching David Fincher's horrific thriller Seven (AC Oct. '95), which was photographed by Darius Khondji. A number of the film's release prints were treated with Deluxe's Color Contrast Enhancement (CCE) process to heighten the film's blacks and add a palpable texture and tonality.

Designed by vice president of technical services Beverly Wood and executive vice president of engineering Colin Mossman, CCE is one of three silver-retention processes offered at Deluxe. Shortly after the release of Seven, the laboratory introduced its Adjustable Contrast Enhancement (ACE) process, which shares many of the same features of CCE, but is also scalable, like its Technicolor cousin, ENR. "I can tell you that ENR and ACE are similar processes," Wood submits. "In fact, Alien: Resurrection [AC Nov. '97] had its dailies and answer print done by Technicolor, but the release prints were done by Deluxe because of a contractual situation with the studio. The director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, compared our ACE check-print with his ENR answer print and was quite happy with the result. And with the recent advancements in both our chemical and mechanical technology, we were able to meet the film's large print demand on time.

"CCE, however, is something very different from ACE," she notes. "CCE is a proprietary process that produces a much higher contrast and adds more grain. When you have more silver, you have a more grainy look and blacker blacks. However, your blacks can also plug up more. With a bleach-bypass, the tones are much duller and more muted, and you have a lot less detail in the shadows. The blacks are very black, but the nuances in the gray are diminished. We do get some clients who want that look, but most of the time people say, 'I want the blacks to be black, but I still want some shadow detail.' This is why they are usually more interested in [silver-retention] processes such as CCE, ACE or ENR.

"These tools are nothing in hands of those who are not sure of what they're doing," she adds. "I've had a lot of people come in and consider using silver retention as an afterthought. They'll say, 'Take my negative and give me a CCE print because I want the look of Seven.' We will do the print for them of course, but when they say, "It doesn't look the same!' it is because the look of a film is truly a collaborative effort between the director, the cinematographer, the gaffer, the production designer and the costumer. The choices that are made in the art direction, the colors and the lighting really do make a difference. Now, I am by no means an expert on all of the things that the true experts do in order to create a certain look, but I know from working with cinematographers that it's important to shoot tests and actually go through the IP, IN and release-print stages to be sure about the look that they want."

Just as Technicolor controls their ENR process, Deluxe monitors the levels of silver retained by CCE and ACE at 1000nm. Wood notes that when Deluxe monitors the D-max reading on a normally processed 21-step wedge, the print yields an IR number between 58 and 60. "When you skip the bleach completely on a piece of print film and retain 100 percent of the silver in the film," she distinguishes, "that IR number goes up to 240 — effectively four times as much silver in the film than there should be.

"When you keep 100 percent of the silver in, the blacks look great in the dark parts of the room, but the faces now also have a lot of silver in them as well, so their contrast is all messed up. The fleshtones may look old and hard; therefore, you may say, "Can I back off on the amount silver in my print and still keep some of the normal nuances of the curve?' What this basically means is that you should try to make only the top part of the curve increase, while you keep the toe area the same. To do that, we back off from skip bleach and go to CCE. When we set up our proprietary set of events in terms of printing and processing, we end up with a D-max IR reading of 180 to 190. We now have about 75 percent silver in the print. What you will then see on the screen is that you now have some nice desaturation in the color; there's still a little bit of grittiness and grain to it, but you'll have more detail in the blacks than if you just skipped the bleach. For a movie like Seven, where the lighting was predominately on the upper part of the curve because the whole movie was so dark, going with CCE was one of the reasons that film looked so good.

"[Director] John Frankenheimer fell in love with the CCE process with the few prints we did for him on George Wallace," she adds. "Now, he just released Ronin with a select number of CCE show prints, while the majority of the release had normal prints. But since Robert Fraisse [AFC] did a fantastic job on the photography, providing a solid, rich negative, you may not notice the difference unless you distinctly know the look of CCE and compare the two types of prints side by side."

Finally, in the hierarchy of silver-retention techniques available at Deluxe, the lab offers its ACE process. "When we're presented with films like Alien: Resurrection or The X-Files — where the filmmakers want deep blacks, but still want the colors to look true and have a good level of chroma and texture in the mid-scale regions — we'll back off from CCE and give them ACE," Wood explains. "With ACE, we can give them 30, 40 or 60 percent, or whatever level they want. We can make those specific nuances by making chemical changes in the process. We did about 3,000 prints for both Alien: Resurrection and The X-Files, and both were released with about a 50 percent level of ACE."


On the opposite side of the Atlantic, Paris-based LTC Laboratories offers a unique twist to the black-and-white additive system of silver retention. Their process, which is called NEC — noir en couleur, the French phrase for "black in color" — allows filmmakers to perform the silver-retention function on the interpositive and have the effect match the look of a print that was processed directly. This somewhat baffling feat is, of course, of utmost interest to distributors — who would like to avoid the additional costs incurred while performing a special process on each release print — and cinematographers, who desire consistency in the presentation of their work regardless of the region or country the film is distributed.

Designed by Jean-Pierre Poggi with the aid of color-timing consultants Yvan Lucas and Georges Roch, NEC was created for Darius Khondji to use on the 1995 film The City of Lost Children. Since the highly-regarded release of that film, the Parisian laboratory has utilized its proprietary technique on such films as Mathieu Kassovitz's Assassins, Un Frére (directed by Sylvie Verheyde and photographed by Antoine Roch) and K (directed by Alexandre Arcady and photographed by Gerry Fisher, BSC).

"We do the NEC treatment on the interpositive, and yet the results will be identical as if we do the treatment directly on the positive [print]," Poggi attests. "We will have a higher density on the interpositive, but since we're using normal processing on the print, the density will be the same [D-max] that the film is capable of. However, we have already created the look on the interpositive, so we don't need a special treatment for the print. The NEC process is less about blacker blacks [than about] affecting the contrast and [tonal reproduction] in the image."


The procedure of bleach bypass entails either the partial or complete skipping of the bleaching function during the processing of a film. Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC utilized this technique to stunning effect on 1984 — which was processed at Britain's Kays Laboratory — while Denis Lenoir, AFC incorporated bleach bypass on Désordre (1986) and Monsieur Hire (1989) at France's renown Eclair Labs (see Benjamin Bergery's coverage in AC March and May '93), which also applied the technique on the 1991 release of Delicatessen for Darius Khondji.

While the majority of laboratories in Hollywood are capable of offering bleach-bypassing to their clients, both Fotokem and CFI have introduced some custom modifications to the technique. Fotokem offers bleach-bypassing not only on prints, but also on original camera negative as well as intermediate films. CFI's bleach-bypassing system, dubbed Silver Tint, may also be utilized at a specific stage and is offered in two different levels: Standard Silver Tint and Enhanced Silver Tint.

CFI's Silver Tint

Richard Smith, technical director at CFI, explains, "Both CFI and Fotokem have what you would call an 'alternative ENR process.' Because of the constraints of our existing processing tank setup, we are unable to put a true ENR tank inline. We would do that if we had the tank availability, but [as it stands] we'd have to reconfigure the entire processor. In normal processing, the film travels through the prebath, color developer, stop, first fix, bleach, soundtrack application, wash, second fix, wash, stabilizer and then to the dry-box. In an ENR-type resilvering process, the black-and-white developer is introduced after the sound application [or after the bleach] and before the second fix.

"To differentiate the two, with the Enhanced process, we leave 100 percent of the silver in the print, resulting in an IR reading near 240. But with Standard Silver Tint, we can remove a portion of the silver, yielding an IR value between 165 and 175. Standard Silver Tint has higher contrast, blacker blacks and desaturated colors compared to a normal print, but not to the same degree as the Enhanced Silver Tint."

CFI first utilized Enhanced Silver Tint for the Robert Altman film Kansas City (see AC Sept. '96), which was shot by Oliver Stapleton. "This process produces a very harsh, high-contrast, hard look," Smith describes. "The contrast of the print film increases dramatically and it significantly desaturates colors. Robert Altman wanted a harsh look for Kansas City. He wanted bland, muted fleshtones and heightened contrast, so he elected to use the Enhanced Silver Tint on approximately 50 of the film's show prints."

The lab incorporated Standard Silver Tint on such films as She's So Lovely (photographed by Thierry Arbogast, AFC) and Joyride (Stephen Douglas Smith), as well as more recently on the Brazilian feature Un Embruyo (Marcello Durst). "For She's So Lovely, Thierry wanted CFI to emulate the NEC process done in France by LTC. For a period of time we tried experimenting with flashing and special developing on the interpositive to achieve similar results, but ultimately we released the film with Standard Silver Tint prints."

Fotokem's Skip-Bleach

"On any developing machine that has a bleach tank, the bleach can be bypassed," suggests Mark Van Horne, manager of production services at Fotokem. "However, bypassing the bleach has a different effect at each step that you do it. Fortunately, since bleach-bypass is basically incomplete processing, it is a reversible process. If you decide at a later date that you don't like the look of your bypassed negative, you could always go back and just put it through the bleach and the fixer to turn it back into a normal negative."

Van Horne cautions that if you intend to bypass the bleach of your original camera negative, you should perform exposure tests to safeguard the photography from the possibility that it might later be processed normally. "When bypassing the bleach on your negative, we recommend that you actually underexpose, which is a scary idea because in all other instances we would never recommend that," he explains. "But when you bypass the bleach and leave that silver on the negative, the added density basically acts like added exposure, and makes the whites much whiter. [Doing the skip-bleach processes on the print, as opposed to the negative or intermediates] obviously creates a very different look. ENR or skip-bleach on the print is a more subtle look that we tend to see more in features, while the individuals who skip the bleach on the negative tend to be working on music videos or commercials where they want to create a look that gets your attention. It's a much more pronounced effect." Additionally, he reveals that Fotokem will be offering a scalable black-and-white additive bath — like ENR or ACE — by the end of this year.

Van Horne also points out that due to the additional setup costs required to incorporate silver-retention processes, when utilizing special process on a film, it may be too expensive to perform the required testing, so Fotokem has therefore created a detailed photographic demonstration which they screen every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. "We currently show footage with skip-bleach on the negative, the interpositive, the internegative and the print, as well as skip bleach on the interpositive and internegative with flashing. We tried flashing — from 5 percent to 30 percent — to get the look of the skip-bleach print, but do it on the intermediate."

The advantage of utilizing the process at the interneg stage is dramatic in terms of expense. "Ordinarily, the lab reclaims the silver from the prints and sells it, [which offsets operating costs,]" Van Horne describes. "But when you leave the silver in the prints, the lab charges a few cents per foot of film for the lost silver reclamation. If you're making 2,000 10,000' prints, that's going to be a big expense for the distributor. If you can build that look into the interpositive/internegative, then you won't have to pay anything extra for all of those prints."


Another technique that filmmakers have occasionally asked the lab to perform in order to radically alter the look of a picture is cross-processing reversal film. This method has recently been utilized by such cinematographers as Robert Richardson, ASC (on Oliver Stone's U-Turn, see AC Oct. '97), Elliot Davis (on Steven Soderbergh's The Underneath, and for portions of Spike Lee's Get on the Bus, see AC Nov. '96), Malik Sayeed (also for Lee on Clockers, see AC Sept. '95), and Newton Thomas Sigel (for the "Demon-Vision" sequences in Fallen).

The use of cross-processed film has become something of a taboo subject matter for laboratories, film manufacturers and distributors. In fact, very few labs even offer the service due to the inherent conflict of interest the technique represents. Duart in New York is one of the few labs currently servicing cross-processing clients, and dailies manager Al Pierce states, "Cross-processing in the motion picture lab is when an exposed image shot on Ektachrome reversal film is developed through a color negative process. While Ektachrome was not manufactured to be processed as a negative film, this technique will allow you to obtain a negative image on a clear-based original reversal film. The effect on the screen, either by a workprint or video transfer, is usually a higher-contrast and increased-grain image. We've found that a normal to slightly underexposed image gives the best results for lab timing and printing equipment; too much exposure will not allow for the use of an orange-based filter in the timing and printing of the negative. Use of this filter will help match the cross-processed film with the color negative film, and thus enable the lab to better time and correct the images."

The effect of cross-processing on the image varies greatly, with even the most minute changes of the nearly infinite factors affecting the exposure, handling, processing and storage of the film. "A serious problem associated with such cross-processing is the need to use formaldehyde, or a formaldehyde derivative, to stabilize the film's magenta dye," states Frank Ricotta of Technicolor. He adds that "such chemicals carry with them significant ecological and health concerns that may preclude their use. If you don't stabilize the film and just protect the image with an interpositive, the magenta dye in the camera original is going to fade fairly quickly. Since Technicolor will not use the noted stabilizers, the lab's policy is not to accept film for cross-processing since it will not have a stable image. However, if someone chooses to use cross-processing for a commercial or a music video, they're probably going take that negative and go straight to transfer, so maybe the long-term stability of the negative is not a concern for them."

Some labs have concerns about the chemicals that could be released into their processors' tanks by cross-processing reversal stocks, but this has not been a problem at Duart. "We have not had any problems in processing Ektachrome in our color negative bath while using the existing chemistry," Pierce submits. "However, there are important environmental concerns connected with some chemicals used in the stabilizing process of Ektachrome film. We have found a suitable substitute which has been shown to considerably slow down the fading problem associated with this film when cross-processed. However, there still is no total guarantee for the long-term stability of this product after it is cross-processed. Also, it is my understanding that Kodak will not guarantee the stability of Ektachrome when used in this processing procedure."

Despite all of these logistical headaches, the resulting imagery can be stunning. Depending on all of the aforementioned variables, the effect on the footage can range from a subtle increase in contrast and grain, to a truly bizarre skewing of tonality throughout the picture, particularly in the highlights and shadows, which can radically shift to magenta and cyan respectively.

Given the associated risks of cross-processing, French cinematographer Denis Lenoir, AFC has utilized a lesser-known laboratory printing technique to achieve similar results. Developed by fellow countryman Ƀric Gautier, AFC (Personne ne m'aime and Love, ect.), the technique entails printing a normally-shot camera negative onto standard print film as an interpositive. Print film is a much higher-contrast stock, and Lenoir notes that when this IP is subsequently printed onto a 5244 internegative, the resulting imagery will be much more contrasty, with amplified grain and skewed colors.

"We know effects in grain and deepened blacks can be achieved by other processes like bleach-bypass and ENR," says Lenoir, "but those techniques mute colors. This technique yields colors that are quite strong and shifted in the highlights and shadows."


An even more exotic lab technique, which is nonetheless noteworthy, is one in which the anti-halation backing is stripped off an original camera negative prior to photography. This method has only been used once in recent history on a major motion picture, for a small flashback sequence in the film Virtuosity, which was photographed by Gale Tattersall (see AC Oct. '95). Tattersall had Vancouver-based Gastown Labs remove the anti-halation backing by running the his raw stock through their processor's first bath, bypassing the rest of the developing steps, and going directly into a completely blacked-out drying box. The unexposed negative was then recanned and shipped back to the production for photography.

The removal of the anti-halation backing allows light passing through the negative during photography to bounce off the rear pressure plate — which Tattersall replaced in his camera with a custom mirror-surfaced plate — and cause halation on the film around the highlights. Tattersall likened the effect to the look of old turn-of-the-century photographs. Interestingly, David Watkin, BSC wanted to use this process on the period film Yentl, but it was deemed too risky.


Another potentially exciting development in printing technology is the attempted resurrection of Technicolor's dye-transfer printing technique. First utilized with three-strip black-and-white camera negatives, and later adopted for single-strip color negative films, the process hasn't been used in Hollywood since the 1974 release of The Godfather Part II.

With all of the recent advancements in film technology, Technicolor's new focus on the dye-transfer process is intended to improve the revered old system. Some industry experts have adopted a "wait-and-see" attitude toward the firm's goal, but Technicolor's experts remain optimistic. "What we point out to our customers is that dye transfer will give you blacker blacks than standard color positive print film, with more detail and higher color saturation," explains Frank Ricotta. "Additionally, one of the major advantages of dye-transfer printing is that we can alter the contrast of the printing elements that we make. From the original negative, we manufacture printing elements called matrices, which are the complimentary [Y-C-M] records of the blue, red and green imagery recorded on the original negative. If you have an original negative that was shot normally, but want a bit more or less contrast, you can now adjust those levels in the print by utilizing dye-transfer printing."

One boon to Technicolor's efforts is the staggering progress made by Kodak in emulsion technology. "Kodak has essentially made four new stocks for us," Ricotta says. "There are the three different black-and-white matrix stocks for the red, green and blue separations, and then what we call a receiver stock. In the dye-transfer process, we start with the original color negative and then, on an optical printer, separate the red, green and blue information onto these first three stocks, which make up your complimentary color matrices. Then, by virtue of the way you print and develop these matrices, in addition to having a silver image, they have a relief image on them.

"Dye transfer is very much like an offset printing process that has a drum with raised and lowered lettering on it," he continues. "In offset printing, you flood that drum with ink and then print that ink onto a piece of paper. By doing four passes — with cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink — you create a color image. Dye-transfer printing isn't all that different. When the matrices come off the developing machine, they also have a relief image like a printing plate. When these matrices are then loaded on the dye-transfer machine, the three separate records are, in turn, saturated with the appropriate dyes and then sequentially put into contact with a receiver film, onto which the dyes are transferred. Of course, the three dye images must be transferred in perfect registration with one another to avoid color fringing in the print."

An added benefit from printing each color layer separately is the ability to individually select the quality of each dye used. "The dyes in a standard color print film are actually manufactured in the positive film as a result of chemical reactions," Ricotta details. "Those dyes are very good, but they restrict your freedom in terms of what dyes you are going to use because they are formed by the chemicals that are already in the film. With the dye-transfer process, you select the dyes that you want based on their actual color rendition.

"Color positive prints will never look exactly like dye-transfer prints," notes Ricotta. "While we believe the overall quality of dye-transfer prints to be superior, we recognize that the "dye-transfer look' may not be proper for every picture. In that regard, it may considered yet another option in the arsenal of the creative community."


All of the special processes detailed here also come with additional charges to the filmmakers, so it should be noted that there still are some inexpensive alternatives, several of which can be performed in-camera.

A less extreme way to manipulate contrast may be achieved not only through lighting and exposure, but also by means of pushing and pulling the film (usually up to two stops with no deleterious effects on grain), which can subtly change the film's contrast response and color saturation. Pulling the film — overexposing (by underrating the film's ASA) and then underdeveloping the negative — will slightly decrease the contrast and color saturation. Pushing the film — underexposing (rating the film faster) and then increasing the developing time — produces the opposite effect, yielding a slightly more contrasty image with a subtle increase in color saturation.

The process of flashing the camera negative — through the use of devices like the Panaflasher or Varicon (see AC July '90), or by flashing in the lab — can be used to both decrease contrast and desaturate colors. However, it should also be noted that both pulling and flashing are often used in tandem with the utilization of a silver-retention process to further control the behavior of the effect; usually to soften the contrast of the mid-scale fleshtones.

And finally, there is also the long-used color desaturation technique which involves striking both color and black-and-white interpositives of the color footage. These are then A/B-printed onto the same print in varying degrees to mute the colors.

Gary Ross: Color Manipulation & Meaning

From American Cinematographer, Black-and-White in Color by Bob Fisher (November 1998)

Ross believes the possibilities offered by color manipulation are virtually limitless. For example, early in Pleasantville, one of the characters wears an electric blue dress that draws the eyes of the audience like a magnet. That wasn't the result he wanted, so he toned down the blue. Technically, he says, there is no reason why the dress couldn't be red in China where that color has a different symbolic meaning than it does in Western countries.

John Lindley: Shooting Color and B&W

From American Cinematographer, Black-and-White in Color by Bob Fisher (November 1998)

Lindley made several accommodations to shooting color film for conversion to black-and-white. He used hard light to get crisp separations in scenes with monochrome characters. He also used a dimmer control board for lighting transitions when a black-and-white person left an area and a color character moved in.

"The black-and-white characters would be hard-lit, even though they were occupying the same space where we had soft light on a color character. Almost every light was wired to a dimmer board. The operator watched a monitor with a live video feed from the tap on the camera. We did a lot of cues on the fly as people moved around sets.

Your eye naturally goes to color in a black-and-white world. If you pick up a newspaper that has one color photograph and a bunch of other black-and-white ones, everybody looks at the color one first. It's human nature."

- John Lindley, ASC

He further explains that the same dynamic applies when there are color and black-and-white characters in the same shot.

"That was great if [the black-and-white person] was the character Gary wanted to highlight. But if it was a two-shot and he wanted to feature both characters, I sometimes adjusted the composition to give the black-and-white person a little more prominence."

- John Lindley, ASC

Eduardo Serra: Softlight & Contrast

From American Cinematographer, Dream Weavers by Ron Magid (November 1998)

"I do want modeling and contrast in the image, so my main goal is always to reconcile these two things that people might think are contradictory: softlight and contrast. That's my obsession."

- Eduardo Serra, AFC

Eduardo Serra: Exposure Approach

From American Cinematographer, Dream Weavers by Ron Magid (November 1998)

"Eduardo is very methodical and particular about light. He can create what I call 'exotic experiences,' particularly in smaller environments. He paints in tones photographically, so he'll underexpose a background element in a very measured way — by two or three stops — but he's very conscious that that element is an important part of the shot, which creates this very layered, European effect. He uses a scale of grays to measure each part of the frame. And even though some elements are underexposed, they're all part of the painting, so to speak. Sometimes the objects that are two stops under are actually the most important aspects of the shot. That [technique] creates a kind of unity of emphasis."

- Vincent Ward, Director of What Dreams May Come

Maryse Alberti: Technique & Instinct

From American Cinematographer, Glitter Gulch by Chris Pizzello (November 1998)

"... Why these colors? They just felt right. I once went to see a talk by Vittorio Storaro [ASC, AIC] where a group of young-by-experience cinematographers were all trying to ask him, 'Which gel, which filter?' And Vittorio just started talking about the moon, the sun, the conscious, and the unconscious! The message I got from that was to learn your technique but don't let it be the driving force. Instead, trust your intuition and instincts."

- Maryse Alberti

Todd Haynes: Zooms

From American Cinematographer, Glitter Gulch by Chris Pizzello (November 1998)

Particulary inspiring to Haynes was the jarring use of zoom lenses in Performance and other films of the period, a technique now generally considered to be dated and passé.

"Today, you have the constant movement in and penetration of the camera into physical space, with swooping tracks and pyrotechnics of all kinds. The camera of the late Sixties and early Seventies seemed to really hold back — it didn't physically enter space, it would instead zoom, pan, or swish through space. It would rack-focus suddenly, identifying one part of the frame to the other. The difference is that you really got a sense of surface, this beautiful, almost caressing of the surface of the screen. In Performance or early Robert Altman films, like McCabe and Mrs. Miller, the camera searches for and finds the subject in a fog of blurry haze and grain, then finds focus on one thing and follows it somewhere else. It's a more voyeuristic way of seeing, because you're not physically entering the space — you're staying outside and using the technology to scan the surface and isolate certain parts of the screen."

- Todd Haynes, Director of Velvet Goldmine

John Mathieson: Film Destruction Techniques

From American Cinematographer, Brush With the Gutter by Holly Willis (Sept. 1998)

Mathieson tried to toy with his equipment and lights in order to alter or distort the images he was getting much in the manner that Bacon warped and stretched his own imagery. His description of techniques is a tour through the don’ts of filmmaking, and yet the results are extraordinary.

Mathieson shot some scenes using a 5x4 Sinar plate camera, which he would place in front of the Arri without its plate. Where the plate would normally go, he positioned a piece of tracing paper. "The image would be soft, sort of blurred," he attests, and this effect not only framed the subject like a still camera would, but made images that approximated the blurriness of many of Bacon’s paintings. Another technique involved removing the shutter from the Arri 435.

"We disconnected the shutter, keeping it open. Then we’d use a domestic drill with a handmade shutter in front of the camera. It would run asynchronously, and we’d rev it at different speeds to make the image flutter. If you moved it away from the camera, you’d get these great flash-frames that would stretch and tear from top to bottom, creating images that jumped at you. We did our own fogging in the camera as well, using the Arri VariCon, which enables one to fog the film using different colors. We also tried putting red gel on the side of the camera, then opening up while we were shooting to make a more ’brutal’ fogging effect."

- John Mathieson, BSC

Mathieson also did a lot of double exposures in the camera. One of the film’s final scenes shows Bacon in a bathroom, where Dyer appears as a ghostlike presence. Similar images abound throughout the film, and while budget may have been one of the reasons for doing this and many of the other effects in the camera, Mathieson and Maybury felt that the old-fashioned technique lent the film a certain ambiance.

"When you double-expose [a shot], there’s something about the way it sits on the negative, with the light passing through and hitting the emulsion it just sits better than if you mix it or do CGI to it. It’s also a lot more fun, and you can relight things for different exposures or use different colors. Anyway, John would get so excited about the rushes you’d see the shot right away."

- John Mathieson, BSC

Yet another approach utilized to distort images was to shoot through large chunks of glass. "I’ve been dragging bits of glass around for years," concedes the cameraman. "Alan [Macdonald] would find these lovely pieces of glass to shoot through." Some of the glass pieces were old, heavy ashtrays, but all were simply held in front of the camera for the shot. Mathieson also used an assortment of old lenses.

"We had this odd collection. We had an old Angenieux, for example, which we did terrible things to with Vaseline. We also took the elements out of some of the lenses, and we also used a Frazier lens once. With the Frazier you have to use the Panavision camera, but the lens system has its own peculiar kind of optics. It does extreme close-ups."

- John Mathieson, BSC

Mathieson also used a boroscope lens for close-ups.

"The optical quality of a boroscope is terrible, really. But what you can do with them is amazing. They are very good for doing close-ups of things like white mice building nests they’re used by natural history people for studying nature. But we used them for snooping around and looking at bad skin or stained fingers."

- John Mathieson, BSC

The boroscope is unusual in that it can both do close-ups and wide-angle shots; the image is distorted at either setting, and Mathieson used this warping effect to lend a repulsive quality to the faces of the people who hung around Bacon, making them appear as they would have had they been rendered by the artist on canvas.

The cinematographer also employed an array of gels to augment his subjects’ more hideous qualities.

"We got that Bacon dead-flesh look using old gels. They were strange correction gels for lamps that people don’t use anymore. They have very weird colors, and most have been discontinued. We also used a lot of cosmetic gels, but in a very uncosmetic way. There’s an LCT Yellow, for example, which is a weird, horrible color that makes everyone look ill or dead. Usually when you put a gel in front of a light, it looks very intense and strong, and we didn’t want that. We wanted something more subtle, something dirty, and we found that these old gels really gave us the desired waxy, dead-meat look."

- John Mathieson, BSC

Conrad Hall: Preston Light Ranger

From American Cinematographer, Speed and Sharpness by David E. Williams (Sept. 1998)

... While not a replacement for a good first A.C., Preston Cinema Systems' unique Light Ranger follow-focus device has proven itself invaluable under certain conditions. This tool can automatically focus the lens through the use of an operator-controlled infrared laser and a geometric triangulation system, which determines the distance between a subject and the camera focal plane and drives a focus motor. The unit is normally mounted on its own tripod, separated from the camera by a convenient distance. An encoder head provides pan and tilt angle data so that parallax effects may be canceled out. In cases where parallax effects aren't significant, the unit may be mounted on a conventional head.

"I'd never heard of the Light Ranger before making this film. But everybody started talking about it once we began doing some tests."

- Conrad Hall, ASC on Without Limits

Both cinematographer and director Robert Towne decided to utilize extremely long lenses and high frame rates to shoot key portions of the film's many running sequences. This would allow them to compress the space between central character Steve Prefontaine and his competitors, and also separate individual athletes from the field while analyzing their movements and expressions in slow motion.

"There are shots done with 800mm lenses where you can see an entire 220-yard or longer run as Pre comes directly toward the camera, perfectly in focus as we tilt from his face to his shoes and back. Without this device, it would have been a nightmare for us to get those shots the traditional way, with follow focus marks. Also, there are only so many times that performers can repeat action like that, so doing fewer takes was a benefit."

- Conrad Hall, ASC

The Light Ranger offers four modes of operation:

- Manual: In which the focus is controlled by a manual-control knob and the focus setting is displayed on a digital readout.
- Automatic: Where the lens is automatically adjusted to the measured subject distance in the readout.
- Offset: In which the focus is still automatically adjusted but offset by a distance manually set in the readout.
- Split: Which allows focus 'pulls' to be manually controlled by the operator.

Despite the Light Ranger's capabilities, Hall notes that the device can have operational problems under specific shooting situations, such as while trying to follow focus on someone driving a car ( a situation in which the windshield or other glass surfaces may deflect the distance-measuring laser and create false readings). Also, having the camera and Light Ranger at differing elevations can affect accuracy unless such variations are accounted for.

Conrad Hall: Tech. Names & Approach to Set Lighting

From American Cinematographer, Leader of the Pack interview by Caleb Deschanel, ASC & edited by David E. Williams (September 1998)

Deschanel: Having watched you work a number of times, I know you have a tendency to ignore certain technical aspects of the craft. I’ve heard you say, ’Oh, bring me a light that’s about this big.’ [Both laugh.] Now, I know you’re talking about a 10K, but do you deliberately just want to free your mind of all of those details?

Hall: Should I know all the names of all the lights? There’s just so much new equipment coming out all the time. In terms of lights, I basically work with big lights and tiny lights. I simplify. I’m loathe to take walls out to shoot a scene. A production designer I recently worked with said to me, ’Conrad, when you shoot, you have a circle around your subject and you work within that circle. When Piotr Sobocinski shoots, he peels the circle back, leaving just a wall here behind his subject. When Emmanuel Lubezki [ASC, AMC] shoots, he does the same thing, but then he kicks a hole in the wall to make space for a backlight.’ Well, I like the reality of shooting in a room with set dimensions. I’m not used to tearing out a wall and pushing back 40 feet so I can use long lenses. I’ve just never thought about working that way. I like to live in this kind of formal reality, in the same way that a painter lives with a canvas of a certain size. That sets up certain rules and suggests an approach without creating the possibility of the viewer being somewhere he or she cannot be.

Conrad Hall: Lighting to Draw Attention

From American Cinematographer, Leader of the Pack interview by Caleb Deschanel and edited by David E. Williams (September 1998)

Deschanel: Your lighting always feels real, but in many shots, there’s often light in a particular place that draws the eye to the key element in the story. It’s as if you’re using light to make the audience understand where to look in the frame.

Hall: Again, it’s like working on a canvas. I look through the ground glass and when I’m putting things together, I’m filling in the important aspects of the story which have to be told in that shot. Whether that means keeping the characters dark and lighting the background, or whatever else, the story is telling me to hide or illuminate something.

Conrad Hall: Reality vs. Fiction

From American Cinematographer, Leader of the Pack interview by Caleb Deschanel and edited by David E. Williams (September 1998)

"Here we are making a movie, translating a real story into dramatic terms. We’re not thinking about where it actually took place. Did a particular conversation between Pre and his coach happen 25 yards over there, or here where the light is better? We had some struggles with that sort of thing, because Robert was very devoted to the people who really knew Pre those who ran with him, coached him, and were friends with him. Robert relied on them for veracity, because he wanted to be true to Pre’s story. But being true to any story does not necessarily mean filming it exactly the way it happened. You have to interpret it, using long or short lenses, composition, backlight, frontlight, overexposure, darkness whatever it takes in order to create the story. Robert and I had less-than-perfect relationship in this regard, because he was trying to be very true to reality. I’ve generally found that reality should not be involved in the creative process. You should know the reality, but then go ahead and use whatever dramatic storytelling is necessary to best represent it. "

- Conrad Hall, ASC

Matt Faw: Creative Use of Eyelight

From American Cinematographer, Cleopatra's Cinema of Submission by David E. Williams (September 1998)

In the film, Robert slowly poisons Zack and later seals his weakened foe in a metal-sheathed, coffin-like box hidden beneath the house. A closed-circuit TV system allows the two men to converse.

"Zack is in the box for virtually the last third of the film. To keep that visually interesting, we really worked to create a variety of camera angles, but our lighting had to remain constant."

- Matt Faw

It was determined that the lighting had to be incorporated into the box's structure, so recessed panels were built into the side walls, covered with translucent Plexiglas, and lit from behind with small tungsten fixtures. From the front, Faw utilized a small lamp with a gobo featuring a ring of small holes. This created a circular highlight in actor Boyd Kestner's eyes. As the character weakened, Faw progressively covered successive holes in the gobo pattern, slowly diminishing the reflection and suggesting the character's fate.

Nancy Schreiber: Countering Super35 Optical Loss

From American Cinematographer, In the Company of Men and Women by Eric Rudolph (September 1998)

Schreiber's ability to dramatically light this key location was facilitated by the use of Kodak's Vision 500T 5279. Before committing to the stock, she tested the emulsion all the way through to the Super 35 IN/IP {Internegative/Interpositive} stages; she underrated the film at 400ASA to obtain a thick negative that would hold up to the optical step process required for Super 35 formattting, ensuring that she would retain deep blacks.

Hiro Narita: Zooms

From American Cinematographer, A Computerized Conceiving Ada by Mark Dillon (September 1998)

"If you're shooting 35mm and want to move the camera, that alone will take 10 or 15 minutes. With a zoom lens, you can reframe in a matter of seconds. I was not thinking about [the quality of] prime lenses versus zooms at that point. I was more concerned about how quickly I could get certain shots done."

- Hiro Narita, ASC

The cameraman found that the location conditions partially dictated what focal lengths could be used during the eight-day shoot.

"We couldn't go too wide because there was no set. We were using someone's apartment. To give a little visual impact, I tried to avoid the middle range-- a lot of scenes were shot between 24mm and 40mm, with close-ups at 75mm."

- Hiro Narita, ASC

Antonio Calvache: Swing-Tilt Lenses

From American Cinematographer, Industry Town Embraces the Indies by Holly Willis (July 1998)

"To be more straightforward in the sense of not feeling that the camera suddenly becomes dizzy and high with the characters. We wanted to show the characters from a realistic point of view, but at the same time communicate some of what they were going through. I used Otto Nemenz's Swing-and-Tilt lenses, some dutch angles and time-lapse photography, being careful not to let the overall approach become excessive. The lens is mounted on bellows, so it's like a large-format view camera used in still photography in which you can control the depth of field by tilting and/or swinging the lens. I used it inside the ambulance when I wanted to isolate one character from his environment. The challenge in working with such narrow depth of field is doubled when using Swing-and-Tilt lenses, since the focus is not only affected by the distance from the subject to the camera, but also by its position in the frame. Even if the subject doesn't move, you have to pull focus as you pan or tilt the camera. You can imagine how helpless the first A.C. feels. When shooting for the large screen, it's also scary to have the whole image out of focus except for one piece of a face an eye or a mouth so I tried to be extremely careful. As it turned out, I was very happy with the results."

- Antonio Calvache

Antonio Calvache: 'Negative Diffusion' & Flashbacks

From American Cinematographer, Industry Town Embraces the Indies by Holly Willis (July 1998)

The flashbacks were originally slated to be shot in Pennsylvania (the location of Tom's hometown), but the film's budget prohibited the production from moving to the East Coast.

"Because there is nothing nearby L.A. that looks like Pennsylvania, we had to forget the realistic approach and substitute the lack of information in the landscape with the increasing emotional effect of the scene, achieved by a visual approach unique to these flashback scenes. I had experimented in still photography with a technique I term 'negative diffusion', which is using diffusion in the printing process from negative to positive, as opposed to diffusion used in the camera during exposure of the negative. I had used it for music videos during telecine, but it gets more complicated with film. We had to use an optical printer, and place a diffusion filter in front of its lens for that same footage. We increased the contrast by using a mix of interpositive and release stocks in the duplicate process."

Antonio Calvache

The resulting effect is a series of images that seem simultaneously brilliant and washed-out, like an overwhelming memory that is being painstakingly repressed.

Antonio Calvache: 'Negative Diffusion' & Flashbacks

From American Cinematographer, Industry Town Embraces the Indies by Holly Willis (July 1998)

The flashbacks were originally slated to be shot in Pennsylvania (the location of Tom's hometown), but the film's budget prohibited the production from moving to the East Coast.

"Because there is nothing nearby L.A. that looks like Pennsylvania, we had to forget the realistic approach and substitute the lack of information in the landscape with the increasing emotional effect of the scene, achieved by a visual approach unique to these flashback scenes. I had experimented in still photography with a technique I term 'negative diffusion', which is using diffusion in the printing process from negative to positive, as opposed to diffusion used in the camera during exposure of the negative. I had used it for music videos during telecine, but it gets more complicated with film. We had to use an optical printer, and place a diffusion filter in front of its lens for that same footage. We increased the contrast by using a mix of interpositive and release stocks in the duplicate process."

Antonio Calvache

The resulting effect is a series of images that seem simultaneously brilliant and washed-out, like an overwhelming memory that is being painstakingly repressed.

Ward Russell: Directors & Blocking

From American Cinematographer, Elusive Truth by Christopher Probst (July 1998)

"I'm used to working with directors who are very visually oriented, so I was quite happy to discover that Rob has a very strong visual sense. I find that my work gets that much better when I have a director who has an idea of what he wants and understands what my contribution is. Before going onto each set, we had a lot of discussions concerning the lighting. He's very conscious of light and understands how its direction and mood works; when we went into a scene, we were able to talk about the light source, and we almost always agreed on the best angles from which to show the set. Some directors don't even think about the set; all they consider is the actors, the words and how they go together. That method is the most difficult way to work in terms of lighting because once the director has staged the scene, you then have to figure out how to light the given set to the way he's staged the action. It's much easier — and usually more visually interesting — if the director understands the set and the angles that will be the most visual, and then encourages the actors to work within that environment."

- Ward Russell

"The fundamental language I refer to in staging is: where are the triangles in the shot, and where are the three planes of depth the foreground, middleground and background? Then I have to consider the look I want to achieve, the time I have, and the actors' blocking in relation to those [other] factors. I look for where my light source is coming from which I may want to be cross- or backlight and ask, 'How can I say something about the character or scene with simple staging and the right camera move without that becoming the star of the scene?' I've done projects in the past where an image we've created becomes more about how it looks than what's happening on a story or character level. Ultimately, in those cases, you fall short in a narrative sense, because you've aimed for the wrong goal."

- Rob Bowman, Director The X-Files Movie

"[Blocking a scene for the best visual angles] really is the best way of working. Once we get to a set, give it to me for an hour so that I can rough in some source lighting and then bring the actors in and stage the scene. If they don't naturally gravitate toward the light we want, then the director can encourage them to do that. That way, you don't have to fight to create a good look. Every set usually has its own look to start with, so if you utilize what you already have, it's then just a matter of adding a few final touches before you're ready to shoot. I've found that if you're shooting a certain scene and nothing is working right, it's usually because the camera is in the wrong spot. If you get the camera in the right spot in relation to the actors and the set, it all just falls into place."

- Ward Russell

Chris Carter: Film vs. Television Composition

From American Cinematographer, Elusive Truth by Christopher Probst (July 1998)

"It's interesting what a 2.35:1 composition does to dramatic weight. Things that you're used to having to force on television — like a two- or three-shot — are standard on the feature screen, which carries a much broader dramatic image. Then when you get into a close-up, it has a totally different impact although I did feel that some scenes played better close than they did in the distance, because close shots put us more into the character's stories. Rob and Ward both have such a good sense of composition that I was actually quite amazed at the fluidity and lack of on-set discussion about composition and lens sizes."

-Chris Carter, Creator of The X-Files


John Schwartzman: Simulating a Rocket Launch

From American Cinematographer, When Worlds Collide by David E. Williams (July 1998)

The "firing room" a control center featuring a set of massive 25'-tall windows looking out onto launch pad 39B was one area at NASA where Schwartzman did do extensive lighting. The extra illumination was very necessary, given that he was replicating the awesome blast created by a shuttle liftoff.

"The firing room is the closest spot to the pad during a real launch. Of course, I couldn't get cameras in there when we shot our night launch. But they gave me clearance to work there even though [the Endeavor] was really on the pad and ready to go up a few days later. We could shoot in there from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. just two hours."

- John Schwartzman, ASC

Schwartzman began his lighting earlier that day by replacing NASA's warm-white fluorescents with Kino Flo 3200°K tubes. Outside, 10 Dinos were mounted on 86' Condors and positioned near the main window, along with ten 70,000-watt Lightning Strikes units.

"The firing room is located on the fourth floor of the building, so the top of this window is about 80 feet in the air. To create a moonlight effect, I also ripped in a couple of 18Ks to add some nice modeling on the interior walls. Then, as the guys went through the countdown and got to T minus four seconds, we throttled up eight Dinos on dimmers to simulate the shuttle's engines, which are very warm when compared to the solid rocket boosters. During an actual launch, the shuttle's engines burn for a few seconds, coming up to 100 percent of their capacity. But they're not enough to lift the shuttle; when the boosters kick in, the orbiter instantly shoots upwards for 88 seconds until they burn out. The boosters are so bright that at night they light up half the state of Florida. To create that effect, we instantly brought up the rest of our Dinos and set off all of the Lightning Strikes units. What was great was that we didn't use actors for that scene; the real NASA launch team came in on their own time to do it. They later told me that our launch lighting was very similar to the real thing, but maybe a bit brighter and more dramatic. That was neat."

- John Schwartzman, ASC

John Schwartzman: Anamorphic Lens Flares

From American Cinematographer, When Worlds Collide by David E. Williams (July 1998)

Interestingly, anamorphic's inherent lens-flare effect which some argue is a prime reason not to use the format actually became an encouraged style element on Armageddon.

"Some people hate flares and some people love them. I tend to fall into the Jan De Bont [ASC] school: I find them interesting and beautiful depending on the source of light giving you the flare. A fluorescent light burn obviously isn't as interesting as a very small, hot specular kick, but I like to use flares to transition in or out of a scene, or to heighten the sense of energy in a shot. It's something to be used as a tool, and either added or taken away depending on your needs."

- John Schwartzman, ASC

"Flares are so cool that we even imitated them in some of our visual effects sequences, like when the shuttles fly past the camera on their way to the asteroid. There are lights flaring out all over the place in those shots."

- Micheal Bay

John Schwartzman: Custom Anamorphic Lenses

From American Cinematographer, When Worlds Collide by David E. Williams (July 1998)

Optics engineer Dan Sasaki, who works at Panavision's corporate headquarters located in Woodland Hills, California, modified Schwartzman's E- and C-series anamorphic lenses to focus much closer than they normally would.

"Many American Cinematographer readers probably don't realize that you can't just put any lens on any camera and expect it to work flawlessly at all focus distances and f-stops. Each one has its own sweet spot, and you not only have to know where that spot is, but that you can move it around; it's not set in stone. Richard Mosier, my first A.C., spent three weeks with Dan working on the astigmatizers and the front anamorphasizers on these lenses, optimizing each and every lens for our use. For example, we thought we'd be generally using our 135mm E-series lens at about 8 feet, so why not maximize the performance of the lens at that distance with a stop of T4.5? Dan is a genius with lenses, and he kept us up and running throughout the shoot."

- John Schwartzman, ASC

David Mullen: Anamorphic & Resolving Latitude

A Written Response to a Question Regarding A Quote by John Schwartzman, ASC on Anamorphic Negative Size and Shadow Detail Latitude (May 2009)

The Question (written by Ryan Patrick O'Hara):

Hello, David Mullen.

We've met briefly on a few occasions, such as the ASC open house and etc. I always try to save my questions for the good ones, and today I think I've found a good one for ya.

I was recently reading the July 1998 issue of American Cinematographer, and I came upon the article for the best film ever, Armageddon... haha! Despite the film, the article by David E. Williams was quite good and a wonderful read! In the article, Micheal Bay and DP John Schwartzman, ASC discussed using Super 35 on The Rock, and how they were not happy with the process, liking true anamorphic widescreen better. This made me very happy as I am in love with true anamorphic origination.

However, in their brief dissertation on the anamorphic medium, Schwartzman made a comment regarding an advantage of anamorphic which I was unaware. According to Schwartzman, the larger negative improves latitude in the shadow detail. I am a very young cinematographer, so I apologize if this is a well known fact, but for me, I was completely unaware, and confused on how this happens.

Besides the differences in lens characteristics, I thought shooting the same cut of film stock whether it be in 8mm, 16mm or 35mm had the same characteristics such as latitude, speed ASA/ISO, color rendition, grain structure, etc. The only major difference being, when projected

the resolution and apparent size of the grain structure is obviously lacking, the smaller the negative.

To make a long winded thought process come to an end, does a larger negative size increase latitude of a film stock? The only thing I can think of is that Anamorphic is known to have monster flares... perhaps it is the bouncing and refracting of light inside anamorphic lenses which cause a slight "flash" effect (around 10%?), raising the latitude in shadow detail?

Here is the quote:
From American Cinematographer, When Worlds Collide by David E. Williams (July 1998)

Though Schwartzman and Bay expressed enthusiasm for the Super 35 process while shooting The Rock, the theatrical prints were a bit of a letdown for both men.

"The drag about Super 35 is the grain and its 'optical' feeling. We did about 30 ENR-treated prints on The Rock to keep some of the contrast. Those were shown in major cities, but the other prints lost a lot of snap. The film looked good for Super 35, but we were still working with this tiny negative."

- Micheal Bay

"What became very apparent to me was that Super 35 is not just an optical process that makes the grain more apparent; the grain is also bigger because it's enlarged so much during projection. You're getting boned on both ends. The beauty of anamorphic is that there is no intermediate optical process. If you like your dailies, you're going to love your release print. The larger negative also gives you greater shadow detail and greater latitude, so even though I was shooting deeper stops in 'Scope, I felt I was using [relatively] less light to get more image.

On Conspiracy Theory, I was doing very large night exteriors in New York City, and I needed to be working at least a T4 or 4.5 for them to look good. But that didn't mean I had to light everything to that exposure. If I could get the lenses to that range, I found that the level of shadow detail I could get in the darker areas was quite extraordinary. One of the things I explained to Michael on Armageddon was that for shuttle interior scenes, I was going to be shooting at a T4.5. I might only have a T2.8 on the actors' faces, but he'd be able to read them beautifully even though they would be underexposed by a stop-and-a-half. The faces wouldn't be muddy, just dark. I was able to do that simply because of the resolving power you get with anamorphic's big negative."

- John Schwartzman, ASC
So can shooting 5219 on anamorphic yield greater shadow latitude then shooting the same scene with the same stats (shutter, lighting, T-stop, etc) on Spherical lenses? Does shooting 5219 yield greater shadow latitude then shooting 7219?

Thanks for your time!

- Ryan

The Answer by David Mullen, ASC:

"Depends on how you define "latitude" -- larger negatives capture more fine detail with less grain, so you have more flexibility in making corrections before grain kicks in, and in softer muddier light, the larger negative still resolves detail. Plus a larger negative will differentiate between an area made up of tiny bits of color, like a field of flowers or even fleshtones -- smaller negatives, because they capture less information, tend to reduce fine gradations of color into a single color. I remember seeing a 70mm print of "Far and Away" (shot in 65mm) and there were subtle shades of pinks and golds in warm colors, colors I hadn't quite seen before in 35mm.

But in terms of actual dynamic range and contrast, technically the size of the negative doesn't matter, but again, by dint of capturing more fine detail and subtle variations, you preserve information with a larger negative that may drop away or blur in a smaller negative, giving the impression of more depth to the shadows. Plus if you shot in Super-16 or Super-35 and did the conversion to a 35mm sound format using an optical printer, as was done until recently, you did have contrast build-up from duping, which did lose dynamic range.

So it's sort of a yes and no answer -- if your recording format has more resolution, it picks up more texture and variation in detail, contrast, and color, then dark and bright areas near going black or white will appear to have more "life" to them and thus give the impression of containing more dynamic range.

Plus you have to factor in that both film and digital pick up shadow information in the bottom end, the noise floor or murky grainy level, and if that noise/grain is reduced because you used a larger negative (or a sensor with less noise) then more of that low-end information is usable in the final color-correction. So less noise/grain can give the impression of creating more dynamic range because more of the range is actually usable."

- David Mullen, ASC

John Schwartzman: Anamorphic & Resolving Latitude?

From American Cinematographer, When Worlds Collide by David E. Williams (July 1998)

Though Schwartzman and Bay expressed enthusiasm for the Super 35 process while shooting
The Rock, the theatrical prints were a bit of a letdown for both men.

"The drag about Super 35 is the grain and its 'optical' feeling. We did about 30 ENR-treated prints on The Rock to keep some of the contrast. Those were shown in major cities, but the other prints lost a lot of snap. The film looked good for Super 35, but we were still working with this tiny negative."

- Micheal Bay

"What became very apparent to me was that Super 35 is not just an optical process that makes the grain more apparent; the grain is also bigger because it's enlarged so much during projection. You're getting boned on both ends. The beauty of anamorphic is that there is no intermediate optical process. If you like your dailies, you're going to love your release print. The larger negative also gives you greater shadow detail and greater latitude, so even though I was shooting deeper stops in 'Scope, I felt I was using [relatively] less light to get more image.

Conspiracy Theory, I was doing very large night exteriors in New York City, and I needed to be working at least a T4 or 4.5 for them to look good. But that didn't mean I had to light everything to that exposure. If I could get the lenses to that range, I found that the level of shadow detail I could get in the darker areas was quite extraordinary. One of the things I explained to Michael on Armageddon was that for shuttle interior scenes, I was going to be shooting at a T4.5. I might only have a T2.8 on the actors' faces, but he'd be able to read them beautifully even though they would be underexposed by a stop-and-a-half. The faces wouldn't be muddy, just dark. I was able to do that simply because of the resolving power you get with anamorphic's big negative."

- John Schwartzman, ASC

"You just have so much more resolution in anamorphic, and the dupes look great. That's why I wanted to use it even though I had to give something up in the lenses. I like the depth and close-focus effects you can get with spherical lenses, but the sacrifice was well worth it."

- Micheal Bay

Schwartzman points out, however, that Bay's definition of "close-focus" is an extreme one:

"What he means is that he can't take a 75mm anamorphic lens and focus it down to 11 inches. He considers the 17.5mm close-focus Primo to be a 'normal' lens. On The Rock, when Ed Harris was giving his speeches, the camera was literally 11 inches from his face. Most cinematographers would consider the 180mm anamorphic lens at seven feet to be close we were routinely working where there were no more measurement markings, at about 41/2 to 5 feet. And that is where camera assistants do not want to live."

- John Schwartzman, ASC

Lance Acord: Danger of Using Rare/Old Stocks

From American Cinematographer, Playing a Risky Stock on Buffalo 66, by Jean Oppenheimer (July 1998)

The problem of processing the 5239 {160 Ektachrome} still lurked, however. Bono Film and Video's idea of modifying a 16mm reversal machine sounded great in theory, but the reality of completing such a task proved to be complicated. Reversal stock has a thick anti-halation backing that sloughs off during processing, clogging filters and preventing the chemistry tanks from agitating properly. To solve this problem, bigger filters and pumps were installed to compensate for the 35mm stock's additional waste.

"We found that if we had to pull the film at all-- which involves running it through the chemicals more quickly-- the drying cabinets were no longer sufficient in size or blower power to dry the film."

- Lance Acord, ASC

Furthermore, when film is wet, it gets very heavy, increasing the amount of tension it takes to pull it through the processing machine; the 35mm stock demanded more constant torque than the converted 16mm processor could initially handle.

"At one point we stretched some perfs on a roll. In fact, in terms of damaging the film, that was one of the bigger [dangers]. The Bonos caught it really quickly; only about 100 feet was affected. But at that point they had to stop the run, go back in, pull the rollers, readjust the tension and start all over again. We weren't able to run film for another two days."

- Lance Acord, ASC

(While 5239 had recently been used extensively on such films as Clockers and U-Turn, those pictures' respective directors of photography, Malik Sayeed and Robert Richardson, ASC, had elected to cross-process their footage in negative chemistry, thus eliminating the need for reversal processing machines.)

Lance Acord: 3D Simulation

From American Cinematographer, Playing a Risky Stock on Buffalo 66, by Jean Oppenheimer (July 1998)

Acord remembered a technique utilized by French commercial director Michel Gondry, which employed a circular still-camera array that was simultaneously triggered-- "freezing" the subject from multiple angles. The resulting frames were then sequentially morphed and animated to create a virtual pan and 3-D effect. Acord thought he could add to the shock of his murder sequence by similarly "freezing" his actors, but he used a different method.

"I discovered it by mistake. I had previously worked on a project that was to be composed of a series of stills, with the exception of a few scenes that we would shoot with a movie camera. However, we used the movie camera as a stills unit and just shifted the angle slightly while all of the actors froze in place. By moving the camera around the completely motionless actors, we got that same kind of unnerving 3-D effect that Gondry had achieved [with the still-camera array]. A person can only hold so still, however. The thing that made it possible was ramping from a regular camera speed to a high speed. The actor would freeze mid-scene, at which point we would ramp up to 80 or 90 frames per second, sometimes as high as 120fps, and then quickly shift the camera from one side of the actor to the other."

- Lance Acord, ASC

Ramping the frame rate would ensure that whatever small movement the actors made would be imperceptible. To enhance the 3-D effect, and create the impression that a split-second in time had in fact been captured makeup artist Goochie Westman found some blown-glass pieces, resembling splashing red liquid, which had been used for a cranberry juice commercial. When these were attached to the back of Gallo's head, it looked as if a bullet were passing through his skull, with the blood effectively "frozen" in the moment of death.