Digital C-Prints from slide film

Discussion in 'Wet Process Machine & Traditional Prints' started by Michel Hardy-Vallée, Mar 10, 2008.

  1. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Saturday I went to see a documentary about Andres Serrano at the Montreal festival of film about art, and they followed him during a photo shoot for the Comdie Franaise.

    This was a great insight into an artist's way of working, and if you paid close enough attention, you could figure out his entire toolchain, which is very simple, but very well used. Serrano was shooting 6x7 Provia 100 and having it printed as giant C-prints, face-mounted. I assume there was a digital intermediate, given that RA-4 is a negative process. His usual printing habits were instead Ilfochrome prints from slides.

    So my technical question is: Why would you print from slides onto digital RA-4 instead of Ilfochrome, digital or not? I'm sure you can cut costs significantly, but is that the only reason? Wouldn't negative film be a better match for a digital C-print?

    In the analog world, people print slide on Ilfochrome, and negs on RA-4, unless they are really good at doing internegatives/positives, but does the digital intermediate changes the rule of the game?

    Oh, and before you ask: No, they did not go into any details in the movie to explain the rationale!
     
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  2. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Slide to RA4 would be for cost and to minimize headaches. Once the output material is profiled what the source was makes no difference -- Pos. printed to Ra4 or Neg printed to Ilfochrome. Ilfocrome is not only more expensive, but -- from what I'm hearing -- becoming harder get. Bob Carnie may be able to elaborate. From all I know digital output should have been the savior of ilfochromes, but it doesn't appear to be the case.
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    If you're printing with LightJet/Lambda/Chromira, the original can be slide, neg, or digital, and the output can be C-print, Ilfochrome, or Ilford's gelatin-silver B&W paper for digital. There are more Lambda/LightJet/Chromira labs set up for C-prints, usually on Fuji Crystal Archive, so that's what most people who use this method print to. Since film originals are scanned, it doesn't matter whether it starts as a positive or negative.
     
  4. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Hi There

    You are right , the digital stage has made it quite possible to work on ciba and RA4 from either transparency or negative.

    Some workers prefer neg and some prefer pos original materials.
    For us printers the original capture is not as important now as in the days of enlarger printing only.
    we are seeing colour neg, trans, digital capture and flatbed scans of original prints as sources to print from and they all are well handled in CS3.

    FWIW I personally capture all my work with a rangefinder camera , and use HPF for black & white , and Fuji or Kodak 160NC colour neg for colour work.
    I only enlarger print my Black and White negatives, as I have many ways to control the look of a print and I love the process.
    But my busness partner chooses HP5 and scans all his negs and we print on Harmons Silver Paper and finish off the work like any regular enlarger print.
    My wife shoots only infared and for her we do a mixture of traditional enlarger prints and digital fibre prints.

    For colour work all negs chosen for printing are scanned at high rez and I work in PS to create the image I like and then print 400ppi on the Lambda to either cibachrome or RA4 depending upon the project, As well I will print onto rag print through one of the inkjet processes some of my colour work.

    I have chosen colour neg as my source over transparancey for a couple of reasons.
    1. I can process all my C41 myself which is very convienent.
    2. I bracket all my images and with static images, am able to scan for highlight , midtone ,and shadow,, much like the HDR concept, and as long as my tripod is good all will register back well.
    3. I happen to like the look of colour neg to final print.
    4. I am not too sure of how long there will be good E6 shops that can produce excellent quality transparanceys.
    5. I do not use a lightmeter in the field and I am very confident in my exposures onto 160 ISO colour neg film.

    Today
    I will make enlarger colour prints for those wishing to print a show, but I really need some convincing... The control in CS3 is too great to ignore.
     
  5. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    We are seeing more desire for cibachrome work today because of the digital element.
    If the manufacturer can get on board with marketing and supply . I think this product will start making a major bounce back in the coming years.
    There are those of us who do appreciate it remarkable contrast and saturation and with PS the control of this is tremendously easier than complicated contrast masks that we had to use to make the image sing,that in the last ten years nobody has been willing to pay for.

     
  6. OP
    OP
    Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Bob, John, and David, thanks for the clarifications. So with the digital intermediate it means that someone chooses film for its inherent characteristics (palette, grain, whatnot), and also chooses a print media for its inherent characteristics (durability, look, dyes, availability, cost, etc), then bridges between the two using controls in Photoshop.

    As John said, it's indeed surprising that digital did not save Ilfochrome. My wager is that the established photo labs doing prints were producing mostly RA4 during the all-analog years, so the conversion to digital did not require to change the output media as well.

    So, in a battle royale between hybrid workflows:

    C-41 on RA-4
    C-41 on Ilfochrome
    E-6 on RA-4
    E-6 on Ilfochrome

    Who is your contender? :wink:
     
  7. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Yes this is true.
    The word out on Ilfochrome is that it is not dead yet.
    Battle royal,
    colour neg onto digital cibachrome gets my vote.

     
  8. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I did some business with a company that so loved Ciba's and so hated to build contrast masks that they went out and bought a Rhino LVT (higher end neg burner), and a horizontal 10x10 enlarger to produce prrintable negs onto huge sheets of ciba material. I suspect they've graduated to lightjet or lambda by now.
     
  9. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Back in the Day ,, the best Ciba labs that I knew of did something similar.
    Basically 8x10 dupe trans were composed with complicated masking and colour masks and curve shapes were applied to the original trans.
    the 8x10 dupe was then considered the new original and beautiful prints were made for these second generation dupes.
    As John points out the next generation were indeed using the LVT's and I would not be suprised if Jeff Wall does his work that way.
    Now Lambda is the exposing unit of choice for Elevator, Led does not work so it must come from the stronger Laser devices like the Lambda and Light jet.
    I do not even consider enlarger printing onto cibachrome as it is pointless considering the control of CS3 and the lambda unit... light years ahead of putting a trans in the enlarger and trying to compromise contrast and colour saturation with each and every other trans.
    Those who poo poo this have never tried both ways.
    FWIW I was one of those who in the 80's made those complicated dupes, basically it was an all day task, just to make the masks and apply them to the original. We worked under incredibly controlled conditions and tolerences and by the 90's with digital and Iris prints , client would not pay big bucks for this complicated wizardry and ciba started its downfall due to a comprimize in quality and a major lack in Marketing by the Europeans who manufactured the material.
    With the advant of Lambdas and sophisticated PS workflow the ability to print directly onto the material became apparent.. Unfortunately most commercial labs dumped there Ciba lines and switched to inkjet.
    There were those like myself who kept the process alive as long as we could with enlarger printing,continually seeing a demise.
    In 2002 I decided to basically put my balls on the line and those of my partner and Elevator took the big jump in investing in a Lambda unit.
    Now we can print easily onto this material with great control, the material is very expensive and the demand is slowly growing back so we only print in spurts , maximise the chemicals and paper to the amount of work demanded. Once all the prints are done the chems are dumped and the tanks are cleaned and await the next printing spurt.
    Last year we did two printing spurts... this year I envision 4 - 6 as the demand will dictate.


     
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