Re: [Frameworks] color separation

From: Amanda Christie <>
Date: Sun, 3 Apr 2011 17:30:49 -0300

Hi there,

yes, that is my film. Funny, I almost missed this thread entirely as
I've been super busy lately... but the title "color separation" caught
my eye, and I thought... hmmm... I like colour separation... I'll
read this thread... and without even reading the name on the link, I
clicked on it, and was surprised to see "oh hey! that's my film."

so, I know how is was done (conveniently enough)... I had done a crazy
amount of research and reading on the history of technicolour and dye
transfer processes, and then I also did an insanely unnecessary amount
of testing... and I lived and breathed colour separation for about two
years... so i'm happy to tell you exactly what i did (in more detail
than you probably want to know... but here it is... it's taking up too
much space in my head anyway).

1. DANCE CHOREOGRAPHY - this was made specifically for the film,
with the colour separation process in mind. I choreographed three
separate solos: a red, green, and blue solo. I spent four months
choreographing and rehearsing with a metronome in the dance studio to
make sure that my movements would be as frame accurate as possible, so
that movements would sync when I wanted them to, and so that I could
also have more ease and freedom when it came time to manipulating
movement on the optical printer. Given that I knew I was going to be
using an optical printer to recombine the colours, I choreographed
accordingly: deciding that this section of the dance would be slowed
down, this would be in reverse, this would be freeze frame, with would
be sped up... etc. etc. So I decided long in advance where every
single cut and movement manipulation would be... i.e. the red dancer
might be moving forward in 1:1 ratio, while the green dancer went in
reverse at a 2:1 ratio, while the blue dancer was in freeze frame,
etc. So all of the editing was essentially done in the dance studio,
as I kept meticulous second by second notes and logs in a notebook.

2. FILM STOCK TESTS - as I neared the end of the rehearsal stage, I
started testing film stocks - both black and white and colour. I wish
I could give you specific details, because I found A LOT of useful
information... however this was years ago, and my notes are packed
away in some box in storage in another city because I move too much...
however... here is what I do remember: I shot the live footage on
Kodak 7222 (double X) BW film. It was not ideal, but it was the best
option from all of my tests. I optically printed onto Kodak Vision
200T (I think).... again, this was not an ideal but it was the best I
could get... I had spent hours on the phone with one of the Kodak
engineers on several occasions as I shot and analyzed tests and he was
very helpful... in the end we found that the best stock was a very
specific lab print stock (but I can't remember the name)... and I
wanted to use that one, but it was only available in 2400 foot
quantities which was fine... but it was also out of stock and would
have taken too long to come in... so I just went with the Vision 200T
(which was unfortunate, but sufficient)...

3. PUSHING AND PULLING: I spent 45 days straight doing continuous
testing and analyzing (I'm a bit of a perfectionist). I used an
analysis projector to project and analyze all of my tests frame by
frame. I found some very interesting results, especially relating to
the yellow/blue layer. Basically, this is the trickiest one to get...
in order for the yellow to show up at all (this is the blue
choreography filmed with the blue filter, but the dancer looks
yellow)... I had to increase the contrast. So for the blue / yellow
layer, I pushed the BW 7222... I can't remember how much... it was
either 2 or 5 stops... I remember that it reduced the ISO to about ISO
5 or 25 or something like that.... the Blue filter cuts out a lot of
light, and you have to compensate for that as well... I think I pushed
the blue film 2 stops (but again, my notes are packed away somewhere).

4. DOUBLE PERF FILM: because registration was going to be very
important for having everything line up, I special ordered double perf
16mm film and I used an Oxberry optical printer that took double perf

5. SHOOTING THE LIVE ACTION: I used an Arri SR2 and 3 magazines. We
loaded the double perf 7222 into the magazines and labelled each
magazine either Red, Green, or Blue. Then we would sandbag the tripod
to make sure that it didn't move and put on the red magazine and put
the red filter in front of the lens, and I would perform the red
choreography for that shot (I had predetermined all of the camera
angles and shots in the dance studio as well). Then I had someone
doing continuity who would take a black sharpie and mark on the floor,
my start and end points (If you look closely in the film you can see
some of these black sharpie marks). Then we would swap the "red"
magazine for the "green" magazine, swap the red filter for the green
filter, and I would go back to the start position for the green
choreography and we would film that... then we would do the same for
the blue. Once we were satisfied we would set up for the next shot
and do the same thing... There were a total of 18 shots, and 3 colour
layers per shot... so it took us about 2 days to shoot. We needed a
lot of light because of the blue layer, and we were in a big warehouse
studio with lots of windows, but it was a cloudy weekend so we pumped
in another 7k of light as well from the sides an the back just to get
the right exposure on the blue film.

wearing black against a white background, so the red layer looks cyan,
the green looks magenta, and the blue looks yellow. If I had worn
white against a black background, red would be red, green would be
green, and blue would be blue... but I found the true red, green, and
blue to be too garish (the green is very frankensteinish)... you can
see the true red green and blue in the wider shots when I pass off of
the white wall and move in front of the darker backgrounds so you can
get a sense of how garish that green is.

the BW footage back.. that BW print became my original, so I was very
gentle with it. I used an analysis projector (Red Lake with digital
counter and dimmer style speed control) that I borrowed from Christoph
Runne to log my footage. I used the closing of the slate as my "0"
and then marked down the frame number for every single significant
movement. i.e. I was at the height of my jump at frame 263, foot
touches the ground at 301, bottom of the descent at 348, head turns at
409, etc. etc. So I wound up with pages and pages of detailed logs
of the frame number of every single movement for each layer.

8. FINAL PLANNING, RATIOS, ETC: because I was planning to edit the
entire thing in camera in the optical printer (i don't know why, but I
always had a fear of neg cuts so all of my films until the one I'm
finishing now, were edited completely in camera on an optical
printer)... so I spent a few days with these notes and planned out the
film. I made an excel sheet (12 point fontsize) with columns to put
in the following info: shot, description, Colour Filter, Red ND
filter, Green ND filter, Blue ND filter, Special Instructions
(Forward, Reverse, Still), Speed Ratio, Source Frame Start, Source
Frame End, Camera Frame Start, Camera Frame End Notes. So I planned
out frame by frame when each cut would happen, when the motion would
change speed, and direction etc. I also colour coded my notes and
used pink highlighter for anything that was in reverse (so I wouldn't
miss it), and yellow highlighter for any freeze frames... if it wasn't
highlighted it was going forward.

9. ND FILTRATION: once I had all of that planned out, I did further
testing on each shot to see how much ND was needed on each colour
layer. Basically, I had this idea that I needed to be able to achieve
my own skin tone, a white wall, a black dress, and a 20% grey floor on
my own in the optical printer... and that if the lab needed to do any
colour timing that I had failed. so I always told the lab... NO
COLOUR CORRECTION. And while most shots were mostly the same, some
had variations, so I'm glad I did this. I then wrote down those ND
filtrations for each of the shots.

10. THE ROOM AND THE SET UP: I posted these notes and charts on the
walls of the room... I covered two walls from floor to ceiling... it
was kind of crazy. When a friend walked in to visit me one day, he
said "oh my God, this is makes me tense just being in here, I have to
leave".... and it was a bit crazy.

colour film into the oxberry camera of the optical printer, and I
would load the black and white original (which I will from now on
refer to as the record... there was a red record, a green record, and
a blue record) into the projector, and I used the same filter on the
optical printer that I used when shooting the original. I lined up
the record on the projector to the closing of the slate, and set the
projector counter to "0" and advanced to where I was going to start...
and away I went... once the red record was filmed onto the colour
film, then I would rewind the camera the appropriate number of frames,
then load the green record... do what I needed to do... then rewind
the camera and load the blue record and do what I needed to do... then
I was ready for the next shot... and on I went for all 18 shots... all
done in camera. The actual shooting of the final film on the
optical printer in this way, I think only took about 7 days of working
10-15 hours per day.

since I was doing colour separation and editing in camera, I really
wanted to do a few things that would not have been possible
otherwise... in order to really maximize this process and technique.
So there are a few of shots where I cut the colours in canon - the red
cuts to the next shot, then the green, then the blue... this cuts up
the space and plays with rhythm. I tried to play with the order a bit
too... Red, Green, Blue... Blue, Green, Red... etc.... and I also
tried not to do it too much -- I didn't want overkill.

13. ERRORS: so I dropped the film off at the lab and when I got it
back there were 4 mistakes. Perfectionist that I am, I was horrified
and decided that I would never finish the film or show it to anyone...
I won't lay them out here for everyone to see... suffice it to say
that there is one section of the choreography that was supposed to be
printed in reverse (it looked BEAUTIFUL in reverse on the analysis
projector)... but one night when I was printing at 2am... I didn't
notice the pink highlighter on my notes and I printed it forward... to
me... I cringe whenever I see that section... it just looks so bland
and terrible! it's just one section of one colour... so I'm sure no
one ever notices... the other 3 errors were colour correction
related... one image was too magenta, and I forget what the other
errors two were.

14. FINISHING IT UP: so a year later, my friend Chris Brabant was
finishing a film, and he's a whiz at optical printing and asked me how
the RGB dance film went, and I said. "It's a failure I'm not
finishing it." and he replied... well, I'm premiering my new film at
the Pacific Cinematheque, and I want yours to premiere with it too...
It's all booked and the publicity's done... you've got 'till Nov. 28
to finish the sound!" I panicked... but it was a good thing. I am so
grateful to Chris! Had he not done that I would not have finished
it. sooo... here are the last steps:

15. CREDITS: I shot the title and credits separately (edited in
camera) and I used a neg cutter for the first time just to cut the
title on the front and the tail credits on the end.

16. COLOUR TIMING: in the end I did use a colour timer... at the
Technicolour Lab in Vancouver... they were so so super helpful! I
went in after hours between midnight and 6am and I basically job
shadowed the guy as he worked on other projects and when he was in
between other jobs we worked on my film together. It was super
educational for me too as I watched him colour timing other films
(Alien vs. Predator, Fantastic Four, and a Neutrogena commercial) were
the three other jobs being done that night.

17. SOUND: we filmed this film in sync sound. From the very
beginning my plan was to create the music sourced from the movements
of my body... skin on skin, breathe, feet on the floor, hand in hair,
etc... At the 11th hour at the last minute... I wound up hiring a
professional sound designer to help me get it done on time, and we
worked together on that. I then added the musical bits by watching
the red version and humming with it (improv), watching the green
version and humming with it (improv), and doing the same with the
blue... so the humming tracks were all done independently improv
style... it took about 4 takes to get something I liked... a nice play
of both harmony and dissonance. And all of those electronic sounds
you hear are actually processed from the raw sync sounds of my body in
the space at the time of filming.

18. WHAT ELSE? - there are 18 shots in the film, so I feel like I
should have 18 points about process... but I feel at a loss... OH! I
KNOW! yes... it's called "3part Harmony: Composition in RGB #1"
because my original plan was to do others... composition in RGB #2,
#3, #4, etc... but this was so consuming and exhausting that I swore I
would never do one again... and also, I was relatively unhappy with
the end product... ironic since it seems to do quite well in terms of
screenings and feedback... it's actually one of my least favourite
films... however... recently... I've started playing with the idea of
doing #2... in a much more relaxed and improvisational way... less
anal retentive... now that I've got the research and testing out of
the way... I want to sink into it more comfortably (maybe that's what
I don't like about this film... maybe it feels too much like a mere
technical study or a sketch from something more interesting and
finished... and yet, that's the part that I like about it too).

  So there you have it.

All you ever wanted to know about the technical process behind 3part
Harmony and more.

I still have the original 16mm film footage of all of my tests and an
analysis projector, so if any of you ever want to invite me to give a
talk to a class or something about colour theory, I have more than
enough visual teaching material (power points too that I showed my
crew in advance with charts and graphs on the panoptic curve and ways
that the human eye responds to colour)... so yeah... I could probably
go for about 2-4 hours on colour theory and optics if anyone ever
wanted me to. I was quite sick of it for a while... but the knowledge
is there, taking up space in my head... valuable mental real
estate.... sigh.

Thanks for your interest in my film, and I hope this info is useful to
some of the people on this list (and that the others just skipped the
message without reading it all and getting annoyed).

Amanda Dawn Christie

On 2-Apr-11, at 1:18 PM, Todd Eacrett wrote:

> Have you tried contacting the filmmaker? Amanda is on Frameworks, so
> I'm sure she will see this and respond.
> As I understand, it was indeed 3x B&W with filters, optically
> printed one at a time on colour stock, similar to the technicolor
> process.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Daniela Zahlner <>
> Date: Saturday, April 2, 2011 7:25 am
> Subject: [Frameworks] color separation
>> hello,
>> does anyone know how to exactly make a color separation?
>> i want to have a similar effect as in this film:
>> rgb-1.html
>> as far as i understood you shoot b/w film three times, each time
>> with another filter (or two?).
>> i found these numbers:
>> Wratten color separation filters
>> Filter no. 47 blue
>> 58 green
>> 25A red
>> and then just print to color print stock?
>> and what if i shoot reversal?
>> does anyone have experience? any lead would be helpful!
>> daniela
>> --
>> GMX DSL Doppel-Flat ab 19,99 Euro/mtl.! Jetzt mit
>> gratis Handy-Flat!
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Received on Sun Apr 03 2011 - 13:31:00 CDT