Re: how to tint 16mm b&w footage?

From: D. Mark Andrews (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Dec 23 2008 - 18:03:09 PST

Hey Marco,

Let me first make the distinction between tinting and toning since they are different processes. Tinting (like the color in early films per your reference) is the process of using dyes to dye the entire film a prescribed color. Toning is different in that only the silvered image becomes the prescribed color, clear areas on the film remain clear.

I've done some toning tests and my first film was entirely sepia toned. I used Berg's toner and like both the Sepia and Blue. According to my notes, I toned for approximately 10 minutes to get my desired effect, you will have to test short segments of film to achieve the result you are after. You can make toner from scratch and I have some recipes from the 50's if you desire, but it will be much more costly then buying a commercial toning kit like Berg's. Photographer's Formulary sells their own kits which may or may not be cheaper than Berg's, just compare the price. Any good traditional photography store will sell Sepia, Blue, and Copper retail.

Tinting interests me, but I haven't given it a try. I do have the formula however which I'll share below. I found the formula in a 50's film processing guide. I don't see why these would not be archival since we have tinted films from the 19th century, but I'm a novice and you should defer to others on this list who are more experienced.


1. Bleach film in Mordant Bleacher until all traces of black have disappeared
2. Tint in dye bath for approximately 5 minutes or until you achieve the desired effect
3. Wash film in cold water until highlights are clear again

Mordant Bleach:
Part A:
Copper sulfate 5gm
Potassium citrate 15gm
Glacial acetic acid 4ml
Distilled water 225ml

Part B:
Ammonium sulphocyanide 2.5gm
Distilled water 25ml

Add Part B to Part A a few drops at a time with vigorous stirring until mixed into solution.

Dye Bath:
Dye 1gm
Glacial acetic acid 2.5ml
Distilled water 250ml

Red - Safranine
Orange - Acridine orange
yellow - Auramine
Green - Malachite green
Blue-Green - Methylene green
Blue - Methylene blue
Violet - Methyl violet

I've never tried to find these dyes, but I'm a trauma nurse by day and most of these are found in our laboratory for microscopic staining so I don't think they should be too hard to find. According to the formula they are powered dyes.

I would love to hear how it goes. Don't be intimidated by the processing movie film. It is quite simple. Do some tests and keep good notes!


-----Original Message-----
From: marco poloni [mailto:email suppressed]
Sent: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 7:42 AM
To: email suppressed
Subject: how to tint 16mm b&w footage?

Hello all,

I just subscribed to frameworks. I am a visual artist and filmmaker based in Berlin, Germany. I heard of your list through a Chicago-based filmmaker friend of line, Peter MIller.

I have a tough one... I am looking for a laboaratory in or outside of the US that has film tinting capabilities, i.e. the tinting of b&w footage with color dyes. This was a process much practised in the early days of cinema, to add expressive quality to specific scenes, and also—to my knowledge—to discriminate original films from unauthorised copies.

This is a rather obsolete process. The only filmmakers I know of who used it are the Milan-based couple Ricci&Gianikian.

Would anyone have a tip here?

Thanks, all best,

Marco Poloni, Korsörer Strasse 1, D-10437 Berlin
gsm +41.78.6322028, skype marcopoloni

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.