THE GREAT BLEACH BY-PASS FIASCO
Or is it Skip-bleach? ENR? Leave-out-the-bleach? What is it?
I've become increasingly frustrated with the way this process is such a drama to get done on any film. It is one of the few genuinely “different” tools that the Cinematographer has at his/her disposal. The problem is that the Labs have no "spec" on the process as each lab has a completely different attitude towards it. One thing they have in common is that they all don't want to do it.
Why is this? Because it means stopping the printing machine and taking the film path out of the bleach or something. The reason I say, or something, is that different labs all over the world become more or less cagey when you ask them: What EXACTLY do you do in your skip-bleach” process. Technicolour “invented” the process they call ENR in Rome with Vittorio S, and all the other labs live in fear and trembling of infringing their patent. Or something. Technicolour over the years have more or less not told me exactly what they do. Of course they say what they do is "better" than what “the others” do.
The "others" say what they do is just as good as Technicolour but is different.
I've now done 3 films in this process. The Grifters (1989), Kansas City (1995) at CFI labs in LA, and Shipping News (2001) at De Luxe Toronto. I am presently processing (well, not personally) Ned Kelly at Cinevex in Melbourne, which will also be realeased with prints made with the Bleach By-Pass process. All these processes look completely different from each other.
I actually like the fact that the processes are different in each lab, as it helps achieve a difference in look. But that became a big problem when we took Shipping News from De Luxe, Toronto to De Luxe, Los Angeles and they were unable to match the look despite protesting endlessly that it would be "identicle". We had to ship the interpos back to Toronto in the end to have the print run made. I never got a reason why it wouldn't match in LA. I'm not sure that they themselves could figure it out. Canadian Spring Water?
So if any Lab guys out there could drop me a line (os "at" uk2.net) both about the history and difficulties of "standardising" this process I would appreciate it. ( Still waiting - 2009!) Cinematographers struggle to find different tools to create a look for each picture, and this is an especially important one. (Note (2009): This process is now more or less redundant. Despite the fact that the Electronic simulation of this (achieved in the DI) is not as good, it is now too costly and problematic to have this done on the print run: except if the Director has a lot of power over the Studio.)
The other issue, apart from the chemistry, is the politics and cost. Most of us deal with the "you're not doing anything to the negative" syndrome one way or another. But the increased cost charged by the labs for the bleach-bypass service is a real pain. I can understand that the lab needs to charge more for the dailies, due to the work-flow interruption (though one Lab let slip they need downtime anyway to service the baths), but how do they justify such a large charge for the final print run? If a movie is being released in several hundred prints, surely the "once only" nature of changing the print path does not justify an extra charge that can add up to over $50K for the distributor? The result of this is that any Cinemotographer wanting his film printed in this way has enormous problems convincing the “studio”, and then all the various distributors in the various territories.
When I arrived in Australia, I asked the Aussie Designer (of Ned Kelly) what he thought of Shipping News. OK, he said. What did you think of the bleach by-pass? What bleach bypass? The Australian Distributor didn't want to pay the extra so it was printed normally. Fortunately I never saw it.
So I guess this is an appeal to Labs to bring down the cost of final printing in Bleach by pass. That way we can use this great tool when we need it, without having movies looking different in each country they are shown. I'd even go so far as to say that any Lab that will process my work with no extra charge for Bleach By Pass, or ENR, or whatever, gets a STRONG recommendation from me!
Yes I've tried Premier stock, Yes I've tried it on the Interpos - none of it looks as good as it does on the print.
Oliver Stapleton Melbourne, April 2001.
I'm a film student at CU Boulder and I'm working on my final
project for my intermediate class. I have had a processing lab called
to my attention in LA called Fotokem. I was researching on their website
and noticed they have a "skip bleach" process that makes blacks blacker
and the colors more muted. Is this a wise route to go or is it just a gimmick?
Do you know any examples of films that have used this process? The
website claims it makes the film "rougher," do you suggest skipping "skip
bleach" on a student film that is going to be rough anyway? As such, is "skip
bleach" a service that is only offered by this particular lab, or could others
do it by simply skipping the bleach during processing? * --Christopher
This process has been around a long time and as far as I know was first used by Vittorio Storraro and developed at Technicolour, Rome by a technician whose initials must have been ENR because that is what Technicolour call their version of the process. It is one of the few really strong ways of affecting the final image, and each lab does a slightly different version of the process depending on what exactly they do. Unfortunately the process is shrouded in secrecy, but is actually very simple in principal: the print film does not go through the bleach bath. Examples of my own films that have used this process would be The Grifters (1989), Kansas City (1995) and Shipping News (2001). Other films are many of Vittorio Storraro's, and "Seven" (Darius Konji).