Project 4: Planning – Filming in black & white

The project brief requires the film to be shot in black-and-white, to give ‘the opportunity to emphasize what you’ve learnt about lighting in Part 2 Shot.’ Filming in black-and-white is something I am very keen to try. So I carried out some research into the approaches adopted by several cinematographers. The main issue identified by these cinematographers is the need for creating separation and depth in a black-and-white shot.

Conrad Hall, best known for his work on films such as Cool Hand Luke (1967), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), American Beauty (1999) and Road to Perdition (2002):

‘Black-and-white only concerns itself with the grey scale from white to black. And separation has to do with depth and using these values against one another creates depth. You have to understand that you want to create depth to get reality…You don’t want things to blend into one another. So you have to create separation and depth’ (Schaefer & Salvato, 2013:156).

Hungarian cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs, best known for his work on Easy Rider (1969), Paper Moon (1972), New York, New York (1977) and Ghostbusters (1984):

‘Black-and-white is difficult because you have the grey tonalities from black to white and you have to create an image which includes depth and separation. In color a brown head will separate from a beige wall naturally but in black-and-white they may run together. You must create a lot of simple compositional elements in black-and-white… The lighting creates everything: the tone, images, texture and mood. It is so important that those elements are harmoniously put together in order to serve the visual impact’ (Schaefer & Salvato, 2013:192).

Gordon Willis, best known for his work on Francis Ford Coppolla’s The Godfather series, many of Woody Allen’s early films including Annie Hall (1977), Manhattan (1977), A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982) Broadway Danny Rose (1984) and The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), and Alan Pakula’s All the President’s Men (1976):

‘When you’re shooting in black-and-white, all you’re dealing with is values so…you do have to separate an actor from a wall. Whereas if you’re in color and you have an actor and a colored wall, then you get automatic separation’ (Schaefer & Salvato, 2013:306).

What’s clear from this is the need to create a sense of depth that helps to separate the actor from the background. This can be achieved by creating ‘simple compositional elements’ within the frame that will work in black and white.

John Alton expands upon the idea to create depth and separation when shooting in black-and-white in his book Painting With Light (2013).

Logbook 3, pages 215-216

Logbook 3, pages 217-218

Alton’s definition of the perfect black and white picture as a combination of a foreground in which each surface has a different brightness and a background of a different tone is helpful.


Alton, J. (2013) Writing With Light. Berkeley: University of California.

Schaefer & Salvato (2013) Masters of Light: Conversations with Cinematographers. Berkeley: University of California.


Project 4: Planning – Camera settings

For this project I will using the Sony PXW-FS7 camera, which has the facility to shoot in SLog3. The primary benefits of shooting this project film in SLog3 are:

  1. SLog3 captures footage at the camera’s full 14 stop dynamic range.
  2. Capturing footage in SLog3 will allow me to convert the clips into black & white at the post-production stage using LUTs designed specifically for this process.

Logbook 3, pages 187-188

The camera settings noted above are fairly standard for shooting in SLog3. My rationale for selecting this base setting and format/codec combination is that it will help me to achieve the best possible image quality with the FS7 camera. Although it’s not something with which I am very familiar with, I like the idea of using SLog3 because it provides me with more options in post-production when it comes to colour grading. Particularly when it comes to editing the film, as I will be using a LUT to help me produce the black and white image.


Project 4: Planning – Story structure

I have been thinking about how to apply the idea of story structure to the script supplied with the project film brief. The script clearly breaks down into the three-act structure:

Act 1 – The protagonist is in the garden weeding plants. She straightens up. We hear bird song. On hearing the bird song, the she looks up, sees a bird perched on the chair and tries to follow it.

Act 2 – The protagonist arrives at the bottom of a hill. She starts walking up the hill. As she approaches the top of the hill, we see her view over the landscape below. She turns to look at the view and is ecstatic.

Act 3 – The protagonist is in the garden, her arms spread out like wings.

There is a clear beginning, middle and end, together with an inciting moment (the bird) and a climax (the protagonist ecstatic).

Logbook 3, pages 183-184

I am keen to shape the viewer’s experience of the film. In particular, to finding an effective way to draw the viewer into the film during the opening the scene. Bordwell & Thompson (2017) suggest this is achieved through the ‘manipulation of time, space and pictorial qualities’ (Film Art, p.217).

Logbook 3, pages 189-190



Reading: Elementary illumination



Key point for me

There are two basic steps to lighting for film:

  • finding the best angle – photographing the subject from an angle that puts most surfaces in view of the camera
  • lighting the object – the illusion of depth can be enhanced by separating foreground and background; each surface should have a different brightness; the background should be of a different tone


Alton, J. (2013) Writing With Light. Berkeley: University of California.

Project 4: Planning – Research on theme of ‘freedom’

I found several quotations related to the project film’s theme of ‘Freedom’.

Logbook 3, pages 173-174

I think Charlotte Bronte’s quote in particular touches the heart of the project film’s theme. The first part of this quote

‘I am no bird, and no net ensnares me’

provides an interesting metaphor which is particularly relevant to the film I shall be making for this project.