[ continued from: Silver Retention ]


The procedure of bleach bypass entails either the partial or complete skipping of the bleaching function during the processing of a film. Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC utilized this technique to stunning effect on 1984 — which was processed at Britain's Kays Laboratory — while Denis Lenoir, AFC incorporated bleach bypass on Désordre (1986) and Monsieur Hire (1989) at France's renown Eclair Labs (see Benjamin Bergery's coverage in AC March and May '93), which also applied the technique on the 1991 release of Delicatessen for Darius Khondji.

While the majority of laboratories in Hollywood are capable of offering bleach-bypassing to their clients, both Fotokem and CFI have introduced some custom modifications to the technique. Fotokem offers bleach-bypassing not only on prints, but also on original camera negative as well as intermediate films. CFI's bleach-bypassing system, dubbed Silver Tint, may also be utilized at a specific stage and is offered in two different levels: Standard Silver Tint and Enhanced Silver Tint.

CFI's Silver Tint

Richard Smith, technical director at CFI, explains, "Both CFI and Fotokem have what you would call an 'alternative ENR process.' Because of the constraints of our existing processing tank setup, we are unable to put a true ENR tank inline. We would do that if we had the tank availability, but [as it stands] we'd have to reconfigure the entire processor. In normal processing, the film travels through the prebath, color developer, stop, first fix, bleach, soundtrack application, wash, second fix, wash, stabilizer and then to the dry-box. In an ENR-type resilvering process, the black-and-white developer is introduced after the sound application [or after the bleach] and before the second fix.

"To differentiate the two, with the Enhanced process, we leave 100 percent of the silver in the print, resulting in an IR reading near 240. But with Standard Silver Tint, we can remove a portion of the silver, yielding an IR value between 165 and 175. Standard Silver Tint has higher contrast, blacker blacks and desaturated colors compared to a normal print, but not to the same degree as the Enhanced Silver Tint."

CFI first utilized Enhanced Silver Tint for the Robert Altman film Kansas City (see AC Sept. '96), which was shot by Oliver Stapleton. "This process produces a very harsh, high-contrast, hard look," Smith describes. "The contrast of the print film increases dramatically and it significantly desaturates colors. Robert Altman wanted a harsh look for Kansas City. He wanted bland, muted fleshtones and heightened contrast, so he elected to use the Enhanced Silver Tint on approximately 50 of the film's show prints."

The lab incorporated Standard Silver Tint on such films as She's So Lovely (photographed by Thierry Arbogast, AFC) and Joyride (Stephen Douglas Smith), as well as more recently on the Brazilian feature Un Embruyo (Marcello Durst). "For She's So Lovely, Thierry wanted CFI to emulate the NEC process done in France by LTC. For a period of time we tried experimenting with flashing and special developing on the interpositive to achieve similar results, but ultimately we released the film with Standard Silver Tint prints."

Fotokem's Skip-Bleach

"On any developing machine that has a bleach tank, the bleach can be bypassed," suggests Mark Van Horne, manager of production services at Fotokem. "However, bypassing the bleach has a different effect at each step that you do it. Fortunately, since bleach-bypass is basically incomplete processing, it is a reversible process. If you decide at a later date that you don't like the look of your bypassed negative, you could always go back and just put it through the bleach and the fixer to turn it back into a normal negative."

Van Horne cautions that if you intend to bypass the bleach of your original camera negative, you should perform exposure tests to safeguard the photography from the possibility that it might later be processed normally. "When bypassing the bleach on your negative, we recommend that you actually underexpose, which is a scary idea because in all other instances we would never recommend that," he explains. "But when you bypass the bleach and leave that silver on the negative, the added density basically acts like added exposure, and makes the whites much whiter. [Doing the skip-bleach processes on the print, as opposed to the negative or intermediates] obviously creates a very different look. ENR or skip-bleach on the print is a more subtle look that we tend to see more in features, while the individuals who skip the bleach on the negative tend to be working on music videos or commercials where they want to create a look that gets your attention. It's a much more pronounced effect." Additionally, he reveals that Fotokem will be offering a scalable black-and-white additive bath — like ENR or ACE — by the end of this year.

Van Horne also points out that due to the additional setup costs required to incorporate silver-retention processes, when utilizing special process on a film, it may be too expensive to perform the required testing, so Fotokem has therefore created a detailed photographic demonstration which they screen every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. "We currently show footage with skip-bleach on the negative, the interpositive, the internegative and the print, as well as skip bleach on the interpositive and internegative with flashing. We tried flashing — from 5 percent to 30 percent — to get the look of the skip-bleach print, but do it on the intermediate."

The advantage of utilizing the process at the interneg stage is dramatic in terms of expense. "Ordinarily, the lab reclaims the silver from the prints and sells it, [which offsets operating costs,]" Van Horne describes. "But when you leave the silver in the prints, the lab charges a few cents per foot of film for the lost silver reclamation. If you're making 2,000 10,000' prints, that's going to be a big expense for the distributor. If you can build that look into the interpositive/internegative, then you won't have to pay anything extra for all of those prints."

[ continued: Cross-Processing ]