Category: Film

Talking View-Master Electronic 3-D Viewer (1984 – late 1980s)

The Talking View-Master Electronic 3-D Viewer was a device for viewing stereoscopic film images with accompanying audio, and was introduced by View-Master International in 1984. It was a development of an earlier Talking View-Master which has been introduced in 1970 by GAF that used a small transparent phonograph disc attached to the View-Master reel.

The new version of the Talking View-Master used a cartridge containing (and protecting) a separate film reel and flexible black phonograph disc. The viewer provided better sound quality by using a sapphire stylus, linear tracking tone arm and microprocessor controlled motor for better speed control. The new version also had volume control, and headphones.

When a cartridge was inserted, a beep sounded until the reel was aligned to picture one, and then the record was started. A beep then sounded for the viewer to advance the reel, and at the end a message plays to remind the viewer to remove the cartridge.

As well as Disney and other cartoons, there were reels for contemporary live action TV programmes such as the A-Team, Fraggle Rock, Knight Rider and Sesame Street, and a Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ reel.

Although View-Master International indicated before launch that retailer response was strong, the new Talking View-Master didn’t appear to have lasted very long and less than 45 titles were released.

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Cabinet card (1863 – early 1920s)

A cabinet card consists of an albumen print (although later cards used matte collodion, gelatin or gelatin bromide paper) mounted on a standard sized card backing of 4¼  by 6½ inches. Like the earlier carte de visite, the card displayed details of the the photographic studio that took the photograph, either below the below the photograph, on the back of the card, or both.

They were introduced in 1863 by a British photographic studio, Windsor & Bridge, and became widely used for portrait photography (initially, they were intended for landscape photography), superseding the smaller carte de visite. Cabinet cards were placed in albums like the carte de visite, although it was a few years before albums specifically for the larger size of cabinet cards became available, or could be placed on stands or in frames for display (often in parlour cabinets, hence the name). They reached a peak in their popularity in the 1880s.

The introduction of the simple and inexpensive Brownie camera by Kodak in 1900, meant home photography became much more affordable and the studio portrait less necessary, but cabinet cards continued to be produced as late as the early 1920s.

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Carte de visite (1854 – 1900s)

A carte de visite consists of a small albumen print photograph on paper mounted on cards of around 2½ by 4 inches. The size of the format was patented by a Parisian photographer, André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri in 1854, and soon spread to the UK and the US. The standard size meant people could exchange portraits or even buy celebrity portraits and place them in special carte de visite albums. Cartes de visite could also be sent easily in the post unlike the previous daguerreotype and ambrotype photographs.

Carte de visite photographs were created in a camera that had multiple lenses, allowing several images on a single large glass photographic plate to reduce the cost. Since the negative was on a glass plate (using the wet collodian process) any number of further copies could be made.

In England, carte de visite were very popular, with sales running into hundreds of millions annually, and they also became popular during the American Civil War as soldiers and their families posed for photos. Most images were taken in the studio, though there were some of landscapes.

Sales of cartes de visite reached a peak during the 1860s, but they remained popular until the early 20th century despite the introduction of the larger cabinet card in the 1860s. Earlier examples usually use thinner card and the card had square corners. Rounded corners on the mount were introduced in the 1870s.

The introduction of the simple and inexpensive Brownie camera by Kodak in 1900, meant home photography became much more affordable and the studio portrait less necessary.

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Photo CD (1992 – 2004)

Photo CD was an optical disc system based on the Compact Disc that allowed the storage of up to 100 high quality images in a proprietary format. It was introduced by Kodak in 1992, and the format is defined in the Biege Book standard (one of the Rainbow Books covering Compact Disc standards). Kodak’s Photo CD system also included the scanners for photo processing labs that could take scans from film negatives or slides. Photographers could take exposed film to a Photo CD processing lab, where the film would be developed and scanned to a Photo CD, or they could have previously developed film scanned to Photo CD.

Photo CDs were designed to be played on a dedicated standalone Photo CD player connected to a domestic television, but they could also be played in a CD-i player. It was possible to play them on a computer with suitable software, but at the time CD-ROM drives were still uncommon.

The system was not popular with consumers, though it was more accepted by professional photographers.  Although there were around 140 Photo CD processing labs in the US alone by 2000, by this time domestic scanners enabled consumers to scan their own photographs. In 1999, Kodak had also introduced the more affordable Picture CD system, with images in JPEG format burned onto a recordable CD that also held the software required to the view and edit the images on a computer.

Kodak had completely abandoned the Photo CD business by 2004, but never released the image specifications. However, it has been reverse-engineered so it is possible to convert images to other formats.

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Ambrotype (early 1850s – 1880s)

ambrotypeAn ambrotype (also known as a collodian positive) was an image produced by a type of photographic process first used in the 1850s, succeeding the more expensive daguerreotype, with the image on glass (as opposed to film, paper or metal).

The resulting image is actually a negative, but when viewed against a dark backing (such as black velvet, or a layer of black varnish) or on dark reddish-coloured glass, appears as a positive. The collodian emulsion is usually protected by a layer of varnish and a glass cover (or sometimes put in the case emulsion-side down), and usually supplied in a presentation case, like the earlier daguerreotype. Ambrotype images were sometimes hand-tinted.

The term ‘ambrotype’ is a particular variant of the collodian positive process (patented by James Ambrose Cutting of Boston in 1854) where Canada balsam is used to seal the collodian plate to the cover glass, but the term is now used to describe all collodian positive photographs.

The ambrotype was popular only from around 1855-1865, and after that the process disappeared from high-street studios. It continued to be used by open-air photographers until the 1880s as the process took a short amount of time. It was superseded by the sturdier tintype process, and also by albumen prints on paper.

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Tintype (1850s – 1930s)

Tintype (front)The tintype (also known as a ferrotype) was a type of photographic process invented in the 1850s that involved using a thin sheet of iron (not tin as the name suggests) as the backing for the image (as opposed  to film, paper, or glass).

Tintypes became popular in the 1860s and 1870s, but were used into the 21st century despite growing competition from prints on paper, and are currently enjoying a revival in interest. Tintypes could be taken outdoors provided the equipment needed to prepare and develop them was at hand. The process was often used at carnivals and fairs for taking inexpensive novelty photographs in a short amount of time, and a photographer could prepare, expose, develop and varnish a tintype plate in a few minutes. The resulting photograph was sturdy and did not require mounting.

Tintype photographs succeeded the ambrotype, which had some similarities. Ambrotypes also used the wet collodion process, but on a piece of glass that was dark in colour or painted with a black backing. The iron used in tintypes was also coloured black, and the resulting image was actually a negative that appeared positive.

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Show’N Tell (1964 – 1980s)

The Show’N Tell was a combination record player and filmstrip viewer for children.

A 7-inch 33⅓rpm record was played on the record player that sat on top of the Show’N Tell player, while images from a strip of 16mm colour film in a rigid plastic holder were shown on the viewing screen at the front. There were 15 images in total on the filmstrip, and the programme lasted for around 4 minutes, with the images automatically advancing as the record played.

The record and filmstrip sets were called Picturesound programmes, and many different programmes were licensed for the Show’N Tell system. By 1965, 140 programmes were available.

General Electric manufactured the Show’N Tell from 1964 until the 1970s, and then CBS Toys manufactured it from the 1970s to the 1980s. The player was redesigned and CBS Toys sold it as the ‘Show ‘n Tell Phono-Viewer’. Picturesound programmes were released under the ‘Child Guidance’ and ‘Gabriel’ labels. The redesigned model could still play ordinary records, but only had two speeds (33⅓, or 45rpm) as opposed to the older version’s four speeds (16, 33⅓, 45, and 78rpm).

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Movie Viewer (1971 – 1985, 2014 – )

The Movie Viewer was a children’s toy for viewing Super 8 film clips. Originally introduced in 1971 by Disney, it was redesigned and rebranded as the Fisher Price Movie Viewer in 1973 but was also sold under various brand names over its lifetime including Action Films, Fisher Price, Corgi/Mettoy, Mothercare, World Wildlife Fund, Red Cross, Disney, Mupi and Bandai.

The cartridges contained a loop of colour Super 8 film (without sound) so no rewinding was necessary, and the Movie Viewer was hand-cranked allowing the user to rewind the film, or play it faster or slower. A small window in the side of the Movie Viewer let in light, and no batteries were required.

A large selection of cartridge titles were available, including clips from Disney, Warner Brothers, Peanuts, and Sesame Street.

In 1978, Fisher Price introduced a Theater Viewer with a backlit screen so the film could be seen by several people.

The Movie Viewer was a popular toy and continued to be made until 1985. It was relaunched in 2014 by Fisher Price with a choice of three films (old cartridges are still compatible).

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Single-8 (1965 – 2012)

Single-8 was an 8mm motion picture film format for amateur use, introduced by Fujifilm in 1965 as an alternative to Kodak Super 8.

Single-8 and Super 8 are not interchangeable in cameras, but as the sprocket holes and soundtrack are in the same position, it is interchangeable in projectors. The Single-8 cartridge is shaped differently due to the use of two separate spools rather than Super 8’s coaxial system, and this means Single-8 can be rewound in the camera for double exposure.

Unexposed film sits in the upper chamber, and passes over the camera’s metal film gate (Super 8 used a plastic pressure plate built into the cartridge instead) into the lower chamber. On the back of the cartridge is a circular slot, the length of which tells the camera the film’s speed (25, 50, 100, 200 or 400 ISO) by the use of pins in the camera.

Single-8 was most widely available in Japan, but was also available in the US and Europe where it never achieved the popularity of Super 8 despite being regarded as technically superior.

Fujifilm ceased manuafacture of all types of Single-8 in 2012, although is still available from some specialists.

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Stereoview (1850s – 1920s)

Stereoviews consist of two nearly-identical images, each taken a few inches to the side of the other. When viewed through two lenses set 2½-inches apart, approximately the space between the eyes, the result is the illusion of a three-dimensional image. They generally consist of two photographic images pasted onto a 3½-inch by 7-inch card, although earlier ones were sometimes images on glass.

They became popular first in Europe in the 1850s, followed by the US in the 1860s. Until the 1880s, most of the photographic images were created using wet plate negatives printed on albumen paper. From the 1890s, dry plate negatives printed on gelatin silver paper were produced by large companies, such as Underwood & Underwood in the US, or the London Stereoscope Company in the UK.

They faded in popularity in the 1920s, but the idea behind them was used in later formats like View-Master and Vistascreen.

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