Posted on April 15 2021
With all the attention the new Mank film is receiving (10 Nominations for an Oscar to be exact), the quest for B&W moving images has never been stronger. Although Mank is a digital project it outlines the need for creative space in the B&W area.
Up until now the domain force in Super 8 B&W creativity has been TRIX. A 200 ASA B&W reversal film typically supported with B&W reversal processing. It’s a gorgeous film when exposed and processed correctly.
B&W TRIX used in Pro8mm New FILM OUT system
One new creative option when choosing black and white, is too process DIY style as a negative. Negative processing is much simpler than reversal as it is a 2-step chemical process. It can be done relatively easily in a home system, or dip and dunk style with just a Develop and Fixer. Some experiments have been made popular using everything from beer to caffenol to create unique developers and looks.
If your scanning, B&W negative is an option but there is no real advantage to the look just to the simplicity of home processing. If you process as a negative and are interested in Projection, you have to go to a separate print processing to create something to project with. The more flexible process is to process REVERASAL so that a positive image results. This process is more complex requiring many chemical stagers and re-exposure but results in film that can not only be scanned but physically projected.
An urban film legend some people have promoted is that processing Trix as a negative would somehow increase the scan potential, but as you can see in this side by side experiment that is simple not true.
On the left Trix processed as Reversal on the Right as a negative.
Pro8mm is opening up new options for B&W film creativity. These are some of the exciting new ways to work in B&W in Super 8.
We will be introducing a new B&W film stock for Super 8, Pro8/22. Pro8/22 come from 5222 35mm B&W negative stock that perf and slit at Pro8mm and loaded into the easy-to-use Super 8 cartridge.
This new stock is a negative film so it has the kind of exposure latitude you find in typical modern color negative film stocks. The latitude it is much easier to get a good exposure when using negative. We will be offer this stock with the option to process either as a negative or as a positive. It will be a much more flexible B&W stock for shooting and scanning than the Tri-X 66 stock.
The 22 will also be available in 16mm and has traditionally been done as a negative. Pro8mm will offer the option to process 22 as a Reversal image in 16mm to create projectable images from this stock.
From a lab standpoint, one new resource that has allow us to make such progress in B&W film has been the creation of New Control strips. Many years ago the B&W control strips from Kodak were discontinued. This made innovation in B&W very difficult. In fact just processing B&W consistently without this reference material has been extremely difficult and in all honesty it has not always come out as good as we would have liked. With the investment in our own machine to create test materials we can now experiment with full control over the process to not only research but to create stability for established processes. The process strips have 21 different density pre-exposed into a one foot strip of 16mm film. When read on a machine called a Densitometer, a Lab technician can determine if the process is optimal for film development.
Some first sample test Pro8mm 16mm B&W negative film Processing
Shooting Tip for Super 8 & B&W!
A traditional Super 8 camera was designed around the idea of shooting outside in full sun using Kodachrome 40 ASA film. It was also a tungsten balanced film so you use an 85 Filter outside. So the effective exposure was 25 ASA. When your using TRIX in full sun you are 3 stops over where the system was traditionally designed to perform optimally in full sun. This often results in overexposed footage when shooting with B&W and full sun.
An easy fix to get the system back to its optimal state is to use a Neutral Density filter . The most common size is a 2 Stop filter or ND.06. This is probably one of the best camera accessories you can own in Super 8 because modern Super 8 uses many more high ASA film now going up to 500 ASA. This is great for expanding Super 8 capacity in Lower Light but in Full sun you need to give your system some help in the form of Neutral Density. Neutral Density has always been an effective tool in professional photography to get the exposure you want in the optimal range.
Another tool for B&W reversal film is to Push the processing. In this procedure, the film is left in the developer longer to expand the gamma curve or middle density in the film. If your film was underexposed in filming, a better look can be achieved if the processing is PUSH. This is much more critical for film that is being projected as there is no other way of correcting underexposed film. B&W can also be Pulled in the process to correct for Overexposed film. Pushing and Pulling will also effect the grain structure of the images so it has been used as a technique to achieve things like a grainier looking image. By purposefully underexposing film and then pushing either in the Scan or in the Processing a much grainier images are created.
Look for the new Pro8/22 stock coming soon!
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