Emmanuel Lubezki: The CCE Process

From American Cinematographer, Galloping Ghost, by Stephen Pizzello (December 1999)

The cinematographer opted to record the entire movie on one film stock: Kodak's Vision 200T 5274. He explains that this decision was based on the filmmakers' desire to enhance the look of the picture with Deluxe Laboratory's Color Contrast Enhancement (CCE) process.

"With the CCE process, you add a lot of grain, and I though the Vision 500T [5279] was just too grainy. I love the texture of grain, though, and I think the grain [that CCE added] works well, because the images have the quality of an old illustration. I don't like it when the grain starts to become obtrusive, and the audience begins to feel it. If someone who doesn't know much about photography mentions grain, it means they're perceiving it too much."

- Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC

Developed by Deluxe's vice president of technical services, Beverly Wood, and executive vice president of engineering Colin Mossman, CCE is one of three silver retention processes offered by the lab. According to Wood,

"CCE is a proprietary process that produces a much higher contrast and adds more grain. When you have more silver [in the print,] you get a grainier look and blacker blacks. However, your black [values] can also plug up more. The matter of getting the color, the balance and the contrast right comes from the standpoint of density. CCE is different that the ACE process, which is adjustable; with CCE, the distinguishing factor in the answer-print process is that you can't really adjust the blacks or the amount of desaturation. Our job at Deluxe is to get the look that Tim and Chivo want at the answer-print stage, and then maintain that same look when we make the dupe."

- Beverly Wood

"From the beginning, Tim said, 'If the studio would let me, I'd shoot this movie in black-and-white.' But then we talked about it and he said, 'You know, maybe not-- maybe it's better just to do it in color and keep everything very monochromatic, but still keep all of these shades of grey, dark blue, very dark brown and green. He asked me if there was anything I could do in the photography to get that look, so we began talking with Beverly about different processes that would enhance the film's contrast and desaturate the colors. We did a bunch of tests, like flashing and not flashing the film, and we decided to go with CCE, which was the process that would add the most contrast and desaturate the colors the most. Tim was always there when we did the process tests. It was a lot of fun to have him there, and we like the same things, so we went with the CCE process.

Once we decided on the look, we had a meeting with all of teh departments, because CCE really affects the contrast and blacks in the images. Ian Robinson was our contact at Deluxe London, and we consulted very closely with him. The costume designer, Colleen Atwood, was doing a lot of stuff in black, but after the tests she began adding bits of silver and other enhancements to the texture of the clothes so we wouldn't lose the details completely. With Rick Heinrichs, we would paint 8' by 4's with the colors he was planning to use for each set, and then shoot them, project the footage, discuss it and revise the colors. The color red was particularly affected by the process-- it became really dark, sometimes so dark that it was almost black. We had to be really careful in the way we lit things. If you went into one of our sets while we were shooting, you'd have though we were doing a soap opera, because everything looked really overlit. When we saw the dailies, though, everyone would say, 'Wow, this is really dark and moody.' You always have the factor in the effect that the process will have on the images. The first week of the show was miserable for me, and many many times I wanted to kill myself for deciding to work with the CCE process, but when you see the movie from start to finish, it looks really good.

... The thing that's really difficult about the process, which almost made me chicken out, is what it does to the actors' skin tones. Because there's so much contrast and the gamma curve is so steep, the skin tones can look blemished if you're not careful. I don't like to use much diffusion, and I usually don't mind when you can see some imperfections in the actors' faces-- as long as those imperfections don't take you out of the movie. On this picture, though, I wish I had used just a little more diffusion."

- Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC

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