Janusz Kaminski: ENR & Flashing Film

From American Cinematographer, Breaking Slavery's Chains by Stephen Pizzello (January 1998)

"This was the first movie on which I used ENR, and it was also the first where I flashed the film. On The Lost World, I did extensive tests with Deluxe's CCE process. It's an incredible process, but it was a little too harsh for that particular movie. I felt that Amistad would be the right movie to use a process on. If you don't prepare, though, you can really get yourself into problems with the darkness and the contrast. ENR can almost be so high-contrast that there are no mid-range tones; if you're not careful, everything becomes either black or white. You therefore have to test, and you have to use a certain lighting style. You don't necessarily have to flash, but you do have to start filling out the shadows a bit. I flashed this film because I did comparison tests for certain things-- with flashing and without it. I found that the ENR becomes very slick and elegant if you don't flash it. It's very beautiful, but if you flash 10 or 15 percent it becomes grittier, which was the look I wanted for the story. I learned a tremendous amount about ENR from the interview American Cinematographer did with Darius Khondji [AFC] on Evita. That's a good example of a film in which great lighting is augmented by ENR for a beautiful final result. Darius' explanation of his ENR work was very helpful to me; he basically said, 'Flash it, test it and see if you like it.'

For a typical scene, I would flash the wide shot about 10 percent, but if I wanted a bit more drama or contrast I would flash maybe 7 percent. We used standard white light in the flashing. The Panaflasher is a very interesting device; I'd tested it on seven or eight other occasions, but I'd never liked it, simply because I love to have contrast. But this time, in conjunction with the ENR, I really liked it. We flashed the negative, which introduced some light into the shadows and added some grain, and then applied the ENR, which kind of counterbalances the flashing by adding more contrast and getting rid of the grain. However, ENR also affects your color saturation; the colors become softer, and the highlights become a bit metallic. That was the kind of look I wanted. I was losing a bit of the grittiness by adding ENR, but the flashing made up for it."

- Janusz Kaminski

"The special processes really added something to the film, because all of a sudden the stocks didn't look so clean. I just did some commercials with stocks that have up to 9 or 10 stops of latitude, and as the emulsions go more in that clean direction, it becomes harder to give scenes a really emotional feeling. Nowadays you sometimes have to go through leaps and bounds with the lighting to make it interesting and give it a real signature. When you use special processes to alter the way the film records, you can create a look that doesn't look quite so stylized, because the lighting doesn't have to be so overt. If you control the look on several different levels-- as Janusz did on this film with ENR, flashing and smoke-- it's a bit more effective."

- David Devlin, Gaffer for Janusz on Amistad

"During my career, I've always put a barrier between myself and technology. But on this movie I was branching out more with the ENR and the flashing. I also started underexposing the negative which I had never done. And all of a sudden, a new door opened. I started going much further into darkness than I had before. I'd always felt that you could achieve the same type of look without underexposing the negative; you can, but you won't achieve the painterly quality that the grain gives you. In addition, the color saturation becomes different when you go two stops under-- I'm talking about reading T2 on the keylight and shooting at T4. Here and there you might have a hint of light somewhere, reflecting off some glass or something, but you don't want to go more than T2 because you'll start to mess things up."

- Janusz Kaminski

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