Black and white

 Filming in black and white

There’s something eternally beautiful about black and white film and photography. Having long been a versatile style for filmmakers looking to create differing moods, from minimalist art films - to capturing feelings of nostalgia. Some of the most legendary and lauded filmmakers such as Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock shot their cinematic masterpieces in black and white, which enhanced the overall feel they were looking to create. Imagine if Hitchcock had shot his intense 1960 psychological horror ‘Psycho’ in colour, would it have had the same effect on the audience? We doubt it.

In this post, Perspective Pictures explores two ways in which to make your black and white film look its most stunning. Filming directly in black and white, to working some magic in Premiere Pro.

Shooting in Black and White

Ideal if you want to film something with a bit of vintage flare or a stripped back affair. These days, however, it’s tough to film in black and white, as most cameras, from the most simple to the most expensive allow little room for it. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, although it is very important you do your homework prior to shooting, as you’ll need to know what colours will work and what won’t.

By simply taking two shots of your scenery and actors, one in colour and one in black and white - you’ll be able to see clearly which colours create the desired effect once they’ve been turned into shade. As Daniel Bruns explains in Video Maker:

“In order to “turn off” your color vision and start seeing the world in black and white, it can be helpful to look at color photos or videos side-by-side with photos or videos that are in black and white. This way you can see how the light intensity, color saturation, shapes and texture affect your footage once it’s converted to black and white. What you’re likely to find is that the hue of a color (or a pure color without tint or shade) doesn’t really have an impact on your footage. Instead, the brightness of the color (or how dark or light a color is) is what makes the real difference. For example, if your subject is wearing a dark red lipstick, it’s likely to show up as a very dark shade of gray when converted to black and white. Also, green leaves often show up gray and navy blue shades show up as almost black.”

Turning Footage into Black and White Using Adobe Premiere Pro

Although a little more time consuming, using Adobe Premiere Pro to turn your film from colour to black and white is an ideal and much used method. The process is fairly simple and goes like this -

  • Drag your video into a sequence.

  • In the Effects tab (located in bottom left corner), open the Video Effects folder.

  • Open the Image Control folder.

  • Under Image Control, select and drag the Black and White function onto the video clip. The video should turn to black and white in your preview box, if your cursor is over the video clip.

  • If you want to use a more advanced Black & White function, drag the Channel Mixer (Effects + Video Effects + Colour Correction) onto the video and customise the options of the function in Effect Controls. A medium to high skill level is required to do this.

The beauty of Premiere Pro is that you can really enhance the mood and quality of the black and white style.

By applying these methods, you’ll definitely achieve the results you’re looking for.