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    Taking HD footage and making it look like 50's black and white
    #1
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    Finished shooting a 50's Sci-Fi homage this past weekend. I made the choice to film it in color, checking scene by scene what it would look like in black and white, but switching to color for the actual shooting. Did this so that later on I'd have more flexibility in what I can do when it comes to the grading.

    Now I've come to running the dailies through and trying to get a sense of what to do for the grading process. Seems that there was a lot of high-contrast (which we lit for) as well as a good bit of diffusion from those old 50's films. Still, they were pretty sharp for their time.

    I've used Magic Bullet Looks a bit; however I'm still trying to pinpoint what I can do to make it look somewhat similar to the film of that era. Any suggestions would be great

    Thanks guys and gals!


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    Member Renee's Avatar
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    I guess the most obvious thing to do is pick a movie in specific you like and give it a good hard study.
    I would really narrow it down to one film you like, and start looking at scenes. Is it grain? Are the edges of the frame darkened, or lightened? Is there flicker?

    Older films have a myriad of elements that make us feel they are 'old', and it's not always visual. It's the sound, the story - the way it's put together.
    The editing style is all different, and that's the biggest element that strikes me. Shots are long, cuts are fewer. Reaction shots are key. Jokes are different.

    I would carefully consider these elements along with a visual treatment.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Sniper1154 View Post
    Finished shooting a 50's Sci-Fi homage this past weekend. I made the choice to film it in color, checking scene by scene what it would look like in black and white, but switching to color for the actual shooting. Did this so that later on I'd have more flexibility in what I can do when it comes to the grading.

    Now I've come to running the dailies through and trying to get a sense of what to do for the grading process. Seems that there was a lot of high-contrast (which we lit for) as well as a good bit of diffusion from those old 50's films. Still, they were pretty sharp for their time.

    I've used Magic Bullet Looks a bit; however I'm still trying to pinpoint what I can do to make it look somewhat similar to the film of that era. Any suggestions would be great

    Thanks guys and gals!
    In the 50's era film stock was around 32 or 64 ISO, and double X at about 100/120. As such these are somewhat 'contrasty' stocks. Higher speed stocks were too grainy, and by the time higherspeed B&W movie films were available... the industry had pretty much gone all color... (Well the porn industry made B&W 'stag' films long after the mainstream industry had moved to mostly color... but I digress...).

    My recommended method for creating B&W from footage shot in 'color' is to use the Channel Mixer feature of After Effects. That's because B&W is not just a simplistic 'desaturated + a little contrast boost' of color... but some people like the simplicity of desat+contrast. B&W films had different responses for different colors, and the channel mixer allows one to 'add/subtract' R, G, B, in different ratios. One can also use this to simulate different types of filters that were used in B&W photography to cut down on 'areal' haze or the like as well.

    I'd also recommend getting a Wratten 90 filter. This filter was used to 'monochromatize' a scene, so the photographer could sort of see what the B&W response would be, and be able to avoid colors that were 'distinct' for color vision, but were the same shade of grey when shot in B&W film. As a note, this will help for color shooting as well, since you would 'learn' to see lighting reduced down to its essence...

    I do recommend a contrast increase, but using curves give the adjustment an 's' shape, that will boost contrast in the mid tones, 'crush' a bit of the blacks, and roll off a bit of the whites...

    I tend to shoot with the GH-1 on the 'flatest' settings, that is, avoid most of the 'presets'.

    How other plugins may give a B&W look, I don't know since I don't use them... but what I do is doable in the standard AE package.
    Last edited by j1clark@ucsd.edu; 01-27-2012 at 10:25 AM.


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    Without getting too technical, what I would recommend doing is taking advantage of Red Giant's Magic Bullet Looks (even though you may not have a substantial amount of knowledge with the plugin). It's easier to play around with than you might initially think.I wouldn't recommend starting with a preset, given the fact that the look you are aiming for is so specific. Instead, I would suggest that you grade your footage on a step by step basis by adding the effects you see fit (dialing the grade in until your happy with the end result). For example, I would first completely desaturate my image (obviously) by adding the hue and saturation effect and setting the intensity to 0%. Personally, I would try several of the following effects within Magic Bullet Looks to acheive the 50's film look:1) Curves: I might even add more than one in different categories (ie adding the curves effect to post and subject while dialing the shadows down, as well as the midtones but just a tad, and the highlight up without blowing them out).2) Auto Shoulder: If you keep you color values within a reasonable range this effect should not affect your image at all. However, it's worth pointing out, that a lot of 50's film seem to blowout the highlight a bit so if this is what your going for don't hesitate to push your highlights beyond 1.0 on your histogram (slightly). The purpose of this particular effect is to ensure your values do not exceed 1.0. 3) Diffusion: IMO this effect goes far if added in the right dose. I try not to add more than 2-3% and then adjust the remaining controls accordingly. Hope this is enough to get you started, however, the Cosmo effect and pop effect might be something to consider as well. Goodluck with the look.-B
    Last edited by bgodoy; 01-28-2012 at 06:41 PM.


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    projectional shake/movement of the frame is key


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