Reasons for filming in black and white

Reasons for filming in black and white

There are many reasons to consider black and white, but just as many not to do it. I’ll get into that some other time.
I wanted to practise my black and white filming skills and had a great subject for it. This is the film that
came from it:

COL DU BINCKHORST from 25/7 MEDIA on Vimeo.

My brother had asked me to film him cycling up and down a parking garage for some contest thing, which
was quite a ridiculous idea in itself, but the setting got me thinking. The first two reasons that led me to filming black and white where as followed:

1) It was a place where I could take my time of repositioning.
Shooting black and white means I need strong framing and interesting contrasts. Otherwise people will wonder if I just made
the film black and white because I had no budget or just wanted a cheap effect. Nowadays one really has to work to make people
understand black and white is the right choice, especially if there’s budget involved. Many people get scared from seeing black and white, in
fact, some people even refuse to watch it. But I like to prove them wrong, as long as I put thought into my shots. And if it’s unscripted,
I need to be able to take my time of choosing the shots.

2) I had to make a dull place look interesting
In this case, it was a parking garage. That means there’s not a lot of color to work with, apart from the cyclists. Sure, color would give
me some nice contrast between the people and the scene, but because it was hard for me to get really close once they started, I couldn’t get
great contrast between foreground and background in terms of colour. I could play with light and dark however, and that’s one thing that filming
black and white is great for. It’s a pure game of light and dark, which is the contrast we would be looking for.

Okay, so I had my reasons to shoot black and white. But now the execution of the plan. Where would I stand? What type of shots would I make?
These are, in my opinion, the factors to consider once taking your shots:

1) I only move my camera if the shot calls for it
I only move the camera if I have something centered or positioned in the foreground that people can relate to.
Black and white gives less sense of a three dimensional space, so I make sure I try to bring out as much depth as I can with each shot.
This is a necessity for B&W but it actually trains me for making great shots in colour. Because even though colour gives more
sense of space, looking at a scene as if you are filming in black and white brings out the best three dimensional image.

2) I look for unusual angles
This is not inherent to black and white, but it helps when I’m looking to increase the contrast in my shots. Contrast is nice for
colour, it is absolutely necessary for black and white. Another thing that’s great training for when you’re actually shooting colour.

3) Look for light, then for dark.
If my image is just black, you won’t see anything, so I always look for places that bring out the light in my picture. But if it’s just light,
it’s not interesting, so I look for the object that brings out the dark in the light. This sounds really basic, and it sort of is. I’m just
free of any distractions in colour. I try to look at everything in a percentage of light (100%) or dark (0%) and then look for the greatest contrast.
The trick is not to be distracted by interesting colours which is what I’m usually looking for in shots. It’s a different approach to filming,
which I feel is just lovely once in a while.

And then there’s post production of course, where black and white makes things easy. Matching colours between shots is no issue, for example.
But looking back, after this project, the main reason for me to shoot black and white would be because it prepares me so much for shooting great stuff in colour.
I feel it really makes me concentrate on things that I could easily forget when I’m shooting in colour, so once in a while I will just shoot black and white to get my
basics back into shape. I’d encourage everyone to do the same. If you don’t have a suitable project, just shoot some stuff on the way to the grocery store.

The duller the picture, the better the practise!

© 30/10/’14 by Anduo Lucia Kaatee.
This film makers blog is about everything I come across in my field of work. Things I’d like to share
with fellow film makers or questions I have myself, basically all that I think is relevant
for you to read, and also for a bit of fun really.

Thank you for reading!

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