Cinematography : Black and White by Nathanial House

Nathanial House

Black and White

In your professional opinions, what gear do you all use (camera & lighting) for filming in black and white? Furthermore, what are some good techniques for this area of filming? For example, is it better to film in color then convert it to black and white in post, or film straight up in black and white? Any and all advice would be very much appreciated.

John O'Hara

With cameras being digital it is best to do all grading in post including B&W. It is also best to use a 4:4:4 camera for best gradients. Many cameras can easily shoot 800+ ISO with minimal noise. But B&W film making is more about higher contrast lighting so cameras with HDR (high dynamic range) become very important for great shadow detail without blowing out highlights.

Nathanial House

Thanks for the help, John! I appreciate it.

Royce Allen Dudley

I shot the retro horror feature HOUSE OF THE WOLF MAN in color and the intention was to do a black and white grade from the color image- you will have more control over tonality this way but overall black depth is not as good as a monochrome camera ( monochrome cameras are rare and pricey ). However the film was finished with no grade- the images are un-altered from camera... I shot it to emulate the look of a 1940's Universal horror film, so the muddy contrast in blacks is not entirely youtube's fault but my intention ( not my film, I was just the DP... no idea whose youtube channel this is and I do not think is is an offical trailer ) The trailer is here

Nathanial House

Thanks for the advice, Royce!

Andrew Sobkovich

Lighting for B&W needs to be based upon creating depth. I tend toward harder light for B&W to build and shape contrast but that has to do with personal taste in story telling. The lights rarely get gels to modify colours as that will be done as part of the post process. Backlight or big differences in brightness are a couple of ways to separate the background from the foreground which is always a consideration. Choose any film you wish. B&W film is fun and the little surprises you find are always entertaining. Colour film allows you to make some tweaks in the image in post. If you shot in colour, then final colour correction can replace all of the B&W camera filters that would normally be used. Watching the picture in B&W with a colour monitor as well, the idea is to change the mix of the colours that are then converted to B&W. Shifting the amount of each colour has a really big affect upon the image. The B&W control in Photoshop that allows this same blending of colours when converting stills to B&W. If you shoot B&W film, then you can control brightness, contrast and gamma but little else.

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