I mentioned we might be seeing a comeback for real black and white, and it looks like we've got one of our first examples on a big scale. We knew David Fincher was working with RED's new black and white camera the EPIC Monochrome, but it wasn't clear exactly what that production was. His new Netflix series House of Cards was shot on regular RED EPICs, but now it's been confirmed on REDUser that Justin Timberlake's new music video for Suit & Tie featuring Jay-Z was shot with the Monochrome. Click through to check it out.
The video was shot by frequent Darren Aronofsky collaborator Matthew Libatique, on 5 RED EPIC Monochromes at an ISO of 3200. Yes, 3200 ISO! That's one of the huge benefits of the monochrome camera. Many were still unclear about why anyone would want to shoot black and white when they could just convert the footage in post even after my explanation. It's probably worth stating again, however, that the color filters over every sensor are what give us colors, and the information is incomplete with Bayer pattern single sensor designs, and must be debayered in post-production to recreate what the camera would have seen had there been a color for every pixel.
With EPIC Monochrome, that color filter is removed and every pixel is now accounted for, giving you perfect resolution (up to 5K with the current EPIC), and better sensitivity. In this case, RED claims the sensor can now be rated at 2000 ISO as compared to around 800 normally. On this video, however, the team decided to push the camera almost another stop to 3200. That is another advantage of capturing in black and white with this camera: noise is finer and less noticeable.
What I've noticed with this camera is that highlights roll off in such a beautiful and organic way. It's the kind of effect that you get with real black and white film (not to mention film in general), and it's just another reason why I think this camera is so special.
It's certainly not useful for every shoot, but the gradations from light to dark and the noise/sensitivity benefits deliver a spectacular image.