Treasure Hunting

Film inspection means different things to different people. Generally they fall into two categories. What and who are in the images? What condition is the film in?And then there’s treasure hunting. What might be on the plastic that we didn’t expect? Here are a few of my favorites.

  • A filmmaker signed the film in a little bit of clear leader. That makes it another kind of artifact.
  • A film started out normal, and then it got weird. Segments of other films were spliced into it, apparently in random places. I wonder what’s the story behind that?
  • A film with an optical soundtrack had some splices in the middle, that’s pretty normal. But some of the segments were upside down, so the optical soundtrack was suddenly on the other edge. I’m guessing that film wasn’t heard from again, so to speak.
  • A film was clearly a compilation, that’s pretty normal. But each segment of this film was separated with a different color leader. What a clever way to find different sections of the film, assuming you had a table of contents listing the color of leader for each segment. We don’t have that table of contents but now that we have a color workprint video we can easily make one. Or just scrub the video and look for bright colors filling the screen.
  • Another film seems to be all of a piece except some segments seemed to go by too fast. Watching the video workprint we could see that they were multiple cameras used in this expedition but they weren’t all shot at the same speed. It’s not difficult to edit that video and make them all appear at the same speed in a video player. That’s much more difficult to do with a projector.

Treasure hunting is fun!

The Trim Tool

When you first see our trim tool you would probably call it a gate. It looks like a film gate. I guess it is a film gate. Except it’s not meant for that. It’s meant for trims. Some films are stored in an archival can along with one or many short segments of film that have been trimmed out of it. There can be many reasons for that.

  1. Maybe they are highlights.
  2. Maybe they are segments taken out for certain showings.
  3. Maybe they were censored.
  4. Maybe they were just in bad condition and got tangled up in the projector too often.

You could splice them back into the film. Assuming you know where they belong! Assuming you want to wind the film backwards and forwards enough times, spooling it out to make the splices over and over again. Or…

You could just inspect the film and make the video workprint and then run the trims through the trim tool. A foot of leader on each end, a couple of small film tape pieces, and pull them through.

You could append them all to the main films video workprint, or you could make a separate video workprint of just the trims.


Winding From an Original Metal Reel

Film archives have been inspecting films for so long, you would think it was routine. You would think there’s a right way to do everything. You would think there’s a standard way the set up a film inspection area. Oh no, film life is much more interesting.

We brought our first FI-16 and invited our friends to bring their own 16mm films to try it out. We assumed they would transport them in film cans on archival hubs and all but one of them did. That one film was on its original metal reel and its original metal can.

Why were we surprised? Isn’t that how nearly all films find their way into an archive? Isn’t one of the first things you do with a new film acquisition is inspect it?

FI-16’s motors and hubs are designed for archival hubs. They fit perfectly. We were very careful to make sure of that. And of course this film on its original reel did not fit at all.

We don’t expect to foresee every film inspection scenario and that’s why we expect the unexpected. A film on its original metal reel should not be a surprise, but something else will be!

This story has a happy ending. We designed the FI-16 with 3D printing in mind. So we simply printed a new attachment we call the steeple. Slide it on the motor hub and wind the film from its original metal reel onto an archival hub.

I suppose there are many other ways to do that including manual crank winders but my point is that we would like to see film inspection get everything done on whatever desk is available. Maybe with a little box of attachments in a drawer or under the desk.

With a Little help from our friends.

Skyping into Support

20 years ago I had bookshelves full of manuals. I used analog equipment in those days. Today my bookshelves are still full of valuable and interesting books but none of them are about equipment or how to use it.

Why? The digital age. But I’m still analog! And so are the people joining us in this journey to see and understand the films preserved in our archives.
Analog films persist in the digital age so we think it’s time to use digital tools to support the analog people we’re seeking to serve.
We have lots of written notes about our products but we don’t expect you to read them.
You probably have a video camera in your pocket right now. We do! That’s how we want to support you. Live and in person, as analog as we can get over digital transmissions to wherever you and your films are.
You can email us and we’ll assume you’d like an answer within a day. You can call us on the phone (347-442-7939) and we’ll answer if our hands are free. We’re a small company so none of us has a telephone headset on all day but we’ll call you back.

You know what we like best? A calendar invitation. That tells us when you’re available to talk and/or show us what you’re interested in. We can show you what we have and how we use it.

At Cinequal we use live online meetings every day. Ain’t the internet cool?