Shooting for B&W with the 5D Mark II at
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Old December 6th, 2011, 03:02 PM   #1
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Brooklyn, NY
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Shooting for B&W with the 5D Mark II

In the latest episode of the web-series Crossing Dumbo, I focus on Pinhole photographer Stefan Killen. Stefan's photography is prominently B&W, and I wanted to compliment this with shooting the entire piece in B&W with the 5D Mark II. After searching the web, looking for tech advice to yield the best B&W image from the camera, I found nothing. I went forward with shooting the piece, based on getting the cleanest image with a good base exposure. I'm satisfied with the results, but still feel I could get more out of the camera in B&W.

This is how I went about it - I felt the monochrome picture style in the camera crushed the blacks to much, so I went with Technicolor's cinestyle to get a baseline flat image. I chose an overcast day to shoot to ensure a low contrast image. I shot in either ISO 160 or 320 to get the least noise with a 24mm L1.4 & 50mm L1.2.

FCP 7 was used to cut the piece.

Color correction was done with FCP 3-way color;

The image was desaturated;

I brought down the blacks to IRE 0;

I used a 18% grey card on the monitor as a guide to give me my mids;

The whites were boosted & kept between 90 & 100 IRE;

Magic Bullet Denoiser was used.

Here is the result

The series Crossing Dumbo

If any of you have any advice or a different technique that delivers a B&W image I would love to hear it from you.

David H Castillo
Director of Photography
Blue Barn Pictures, Inc.
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Old December 6th, 2011, 09:50 PM   #2
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Vancouver Island, Canada
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Re: Shooting for B&W with the 5D Mark II

Hey David,

I don't know if you've come across this piece by Steven Dempsey. It's a B&W piece shot with a 5d. Steven is a color tweaker who used to post on here alot. I still have his Panalook preset for my H1. He also had a couple of B&W presets for the H1. Interesting that he says here that next time he would just shoot color and convert after.

C100, 5DMk2, FCPX
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Old December 9th, 2011, 02:30 PM   #3
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Re: Shooting for B&W with the 5D Mark II

You'll get better control over the tonality of the final image using either the channel mixer filter or RGB balance followed by a cc filter set to desaturate. Either of these let you control the individual color channel mix before the conversion to B&W, and will get you results closer to the traditional method of using colored lens filters with B&W film.
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Old December 9th, 2011, 09:23 PM   #4
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: Camas, WA, USA
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Re: Shooting for B&W with the 5D Mark II

Note that you can apply a red filter (or other filters) electronically in the Monochrome picture style. My son did some tests when filming a shadow puppet thing and found that Monochrome gave cleaner results. It might be that by killing the color info, the codec is more efficient.

The downside is that you can't get as low a contrast as you can with Cinestyle and some other options. In my son's case, he wanted high contrast, so that wasn't a problem. I assume that one can create a modified tone scale to the Monochrome Picture Style to create a custom version, but I haven't tried it personally.

It would be interesting to test the electronic red filter compared to a physical filter. While it might be more flexible to do it in post, I've found that selecting red is all the control I need. Red keeps faces bright while dimming the blue sky. It generally does the trick.

And don't forget that the camera shoots 4:0:0. When using a red filter in post, you have to combine the high res Y channel with the low res R-Y channel for the final result. When shooting Monochrome, you apply the filter (physically or electronically) upstream and the final result is full res.
Jon Fairhurst
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