The Man Who Wasn’t There B&W/Color Comparison


If you are a reader of my blog you may know that one of my favorite cinematographers is Roger Deakins. He has shot some of my all time favorite movies. One of the films he shot for the Coen Brothers was “The Man Who Wasn’t There”. It is a black and white film but it was actually shot in color and then converted to black and white in post production to retain more control over the process. Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon” was also shot in the same way.

Cinematographer Steven Poster explains the reasoning behind shooting on color stock vs. black and white:

“The few b&w movies that get made today are almost always shot on color film stock. Sadly there are few film laboratories that process b&w anymore. Another reason is that b&w film stocks have not been improved for over 30 years while color film stocks have been continuously improved. This allows for more versatile shooting if you use color films. Great improvements in sensitivity (film speed), texture (granularity) and dynamic range (number of steps of gray between the deepest shadow and the highest highlight) have been made. By shooting on color film and printing on several choices of b&w printing film stock, the cinematographer has more effective ways of creating different styles for b&w movies. Even European movies are done this way now. For example, Patrice Leconte’s exquisite “The Girl On The Bridge” was filmed this way.

I managed to get ahold of the original color version of the movie. So here is the original color print next to the final black and white print for your comparison enjoyment.


  • Έλλην

    Even in color the cinematography is superb. I don’t know how many cinematographers can nail that.

    April 24, 2013
  • […] are some additional color shots, with many more to be found here and […]

    December 4, 2013
  • […] Colour versions of classic cinema, like Keaton’s The General, have found their way to DVD, in some effort at attracting an audience-base that is averse to ‘old films’. Ted Turner’s attempts to re-release Citizen Kane in colour in the 80s is routinely referred to in conversations on this topic as a truly absurd proposition. The Coens’ The Man Who Wasn’t There was released in black-and-white yet shot on colour film stock, though the set and production design, filled with physical sepia tones, were crafted to ensure the right shades of black post-editing.2 A colour version exists (see below) and you can see a huge collection of stills, courtesy of Evan Richards, here. […]

    August 9, 2014
  • […] (The Man Who Wasn’t There stills via […]

    September 9, 2014

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