In the photo, Robert Downey Jr (on the left) portrays Lewis Strauss, while Cillian Murphy portrays J. Robert Oppenheimer. | Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures
As “Barbenheimer” breaks box office records this weekend, Kodak has unveiled that it created a distinct black and white film stock for usage in “Oppenheimer.”
The Eastman Double-X Black and White film in 65mm was specifically developed for utilization with IMAX and Panavision System 65mm film cameras.
“Oppenheimer” narrates the journey of theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, renowned as the architect of the atomic bomb. The film employs a non-linear storytelling approach, with director Christopher Nolan and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema using black and white visuals to differentiate between two distinct time periods.
“It was a daring decision. One of my initial phone calls was to Kodak, asking if they had any 65mm large-format black and white film stock,” van Hoytema shared with the Kodak website.
“However, they had never produced such a film before, and at the beginning, it was uncertain whether they could create it in time for this project. Yet, they rose to the occasion and provided a newly crafted prototype of the Double-X 5222 65mm film stock. It was delivered in cans with handwritten labels on the exterior,” he added.
Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema operating the IMAX camera, along with director Christopher Nolan. | Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures
Despite Kodak producing the functional prototype, the film stock had never been used in an IMAX camera previously, necessitating adjustments to the laboratory film processor.
“It turned into a rather intricate engineering endeavor, involving aspects such as the thickness of the backing for the film emulsion. We also had to create new gates and pressure plates in the cameras to prevent scratches,” van Hoytema explained.
“But my goodness, was it worth it!? When Chris and I witnessed the initial projected tests, featuring portraits of Cillian Murphy and Robert Downey Jr., we were utterly amazed. We reacted like young children, with wide smiles. We had never witnessed anything quite like it—exceptionally unique and incredibly beautiful,” van Hoytema exclaimed.
“Despite working extensively with digital cameras for commercials, I am of the opinion that film is more captivating to observe and offers a much closer resemblance to the human visual encounter,” he stated.
“There is still nothing that surpasses the resolution, depth, color, and three-dimensionality of the analog image, nor the overall sensation that film conveys. When you watch an analog print, particularly in an IMAX theater, the degree of impact is incredibly inspiring,” he emphasized.
Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures.
Van Hoytema affirms that although there are numerous methods to produce black-and-white images, nothing can rival the authenticity of the real thing.
“Shooting in black and white also transported me back to my student years at the Polish National Film, Television & Theatre School in Łódź. There, comprehending the greyscale, working with spot and incident light meters, and exercising personal judgment were all crucial in achieving the end result,” he further explains.