Category: Film

Polaroid i-Zone (1999 – 2006)

The i-Zone was a camera and instant film system launched by Polaroid in 1999.

The cameras were compact and fairly basic with fixed-focus lenses, a manually selectable aperture for three different light conditions, and a built-in flash. They were marketed to the younger market, so the cameras were often colourful and special editions were produced such as Barbie and Hello Kitty! Britney Spears was also used to market them.

The film produced small images of about 24x36mm (roughly the size of a 35mm negative) and needed to be manually pulled from the camera. It was an integral instant film (like SX-70 or 600 film) so didn’t need to be peeled apart, but unlike SX-70 or 600 film, there was no need for a battery to be contained in the film pack.

The image came out on a long tab of decorated paper, and in one version of the film the images were sticky-backed so they could be used as sticker. The film tabs were hand folded in a factory in Mexico.

The i-Zone system was briefly popular, but it was discontinued in 2006. Unlike some other types of Polaroid film, i-Zone film is not being produced by Polaroid Originals (previously known as Impossible Project).

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Polaroid Polavision (1977 – 1979)

Polavision was a home movie film system launched by Polaroid in 1977. What set it apart from other home movie formats like Super 8 was that Polavision offered quick developing at home in just a few minutes.

The film was contained in a cartridge for easy loading in the handheld camera, and this had two reels for the film as well as a small lens and prism for projection as the film remained in the cartridge when projected. Unfortunately, the cartridge only held enough film for around two and a half minutes of recording.

The film was in colour (using the additive process), but there was no sound, and the images were criticised for being murky. The film was not very sensitive, and required a lot of light to film successfully.

Developing and projecting the film required the Polavision tabletop projector that projected the images onto a translucent screen. Developed film however can be extracted from the cartridge for use on a Super 8 projector.

The Polavision system was a commercial failure and lost Polaroid a considerable amount of money. As well as having to compete with Super 8, Betamax and VHS home video cameras were becoming available (though at this stage still very expensive and requiring a separate portable recorder).

It was withdrawn in 1979.

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Polaroid SX-70 film (1972 – early 1980s)

The Polaroid SX-70 film pack was not the first instant film produced by Polaroid, but it was the first where the print ejected automatically and didn’t need to be peeled apart. The SX-70 film pack offered 10 exposures, and incorporated a flat ‘PolaPulse’ power pack (with exposed contacts on the rear of the film pack) so the camera itself didn’t need a battery. SX-70 film produces square images, but there is a longer border at the bottom edge that contains the chemical ‘pod’ on the rear.

SX-70 film was introduced for the new SX-70 camera series that was introduced in 1972, and despite most models being SLR cameras, they could be folded up for ease of storage. Focusing was initially manual, but the Sonar OneStep version introduced in 1978 offered a sonar autofocus system.

Polaroid also produced a number of non-folding instant cameras that used a lot of the technology of the SX-70 series, such as the Model 1000 OneStep, Presto and The Button.

SX-70 film was developed into the SX-70 Time-Zero Supercolor film in 1980, and this allowed an even shorter development time, and offered brighter colours.

Although SX-70 film was produced by Polaroid until 2005, the SX-70 camera series that used the film had been discontinued in the early 1980s, and later models in the SX-70 series such as the 680 and 690 used the later 600 film packs.

SX-70 film used a gelatin-based emulsion that stays soft for several days as water vapour cannot pass through the Mylar covering. This allowed the image to be manipulated, and is the effect used, for instance, on the cover of Peter Gabriel’s 1980 album that is sometimes referred to as ‘Melt’ due to the cover image. Later Polaroid films such as 600 and Spectra can’t be manipulated in this way.

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35mm film (1892 – )

35mm film was the most common film gauge for cinematography, and was also used in still photography (in the form of 135 film).

The name derives from the width of the film strip. When used for motion pictures, the image is across the film and each frame usually has four perforations giving 16 frames per foot, whereas when used for photography the image is lengthways along the film and each frame uses eight perforations. In conventional motion picture film, the image is 22 x 16mm (known as the ‘Academy ratio’). The shape and frequency of the perforations differed in the early years.

The 35mm format was introduced in 1892, soon after the introduction of transparent flexible film in 1889,  at a time when a large range of different film gauges were in use. By 1909 it became accepted as the international standard gauge and remained so until largely replaced by digital cinematography. Although other gauges have been used for cinematography, 35mm remained the most popular with professional film makers as it provided a good trade-off between cost and image quality.

Until the 1950s, 35mm film was made of cellulose nitrate which was highly inflammable and difficult to extinguish once alight. It was replaced with ‘safety film’ (cellulose triacetate). From the 1990s, film stock was made with a synthetic polyester safety base.

Sound was introduced around 1926, with Warner Bros. using synchronised phonograph discs. Later sound-on-film systems include optical analogue, optical digital, and magnetic strips. DTS soundtracks use a timecode printed on the film to synchronise with Compact Discs.

Between 2005 and 2015, most cinemas rapidly converted to digital projection, and in 2014 Paramount Pictures announced that it would no longer supply 35mm prints of movies in the US. Whilst 35mm film is still in use for both shooting and showing movies, it is rapidly becoming a niche format.

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Cigarette card (1875 – early 2000s)

Cigarette cards were a particular form of trade card, initially popularised by tobacco companies as a way of selling their products, and after World War II were also used by some other manufacturers such as tea companies.

Card was used as a stiffener in paper packs of cigarettes, and beginning in 1875 in the US, these cards began to carry images, for example of actresses, sportsmen or Native American chiefs. In 1878 they also began to include information about the image on the back of the card.

In 1887, W.D. & H.O. Wills began to issue cigarette cards in the UK.

The range of images expanded over time and began to be issued in colour, and the cards became popular as a way of viewing and collecting exotic images from around the world. They also began to be issued in sets, and around 1900 albums began to be produced to enable people to collect and store the cards together.

In 1939, cigarette card production virtually ceased in the UK as paper was in short supply during the war. After the war, ‘cigarette’ cards were issued by tea companies such as Brooke Bond in the UK, who issued cards until 1999. There have been some cigarette cards issued since, such as by the US tobacco company R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company who issued several series through a couple of its brand in the early 2000s.

Not all types of cigarette cards are the same size, but the standard size was around 67 x 36mm.

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View-Master Virtual Reality Experience Pack (2015 – )

The View-Master Virtual Reality Experience Pack is designed to be used with the View-Master Virtual Reality Viewer introduced by Mattel in 2015 – a headset that holds a smartphone and allows the viewing of 3D virtual and augmented reality images via an app.

There are a number of Experience Packs available as of 2017, including educational titles such as ‘Destinations’, ‘Wildlife’, ‘Dinosaurs’ and ‘Space’, as well as some entertainment titles such as ‘Batman’ and ‘Masters of the Universe’. Each pack contains a Pass Card to activate the app, and three ‘reels’. The Virtual Reality Viewer also comes with a preview reel.

The reels, which are made to look a bit like the original View-Master reels, do not contain any information but trigger the app to display an augmented reality icon above the reel when viewed through the Virtual Reality Viewer, and the user can then select the reel to view virtual reality content. Unlike previous versions of the View-Master, the reels are never inserted into the device and it’s possible to access the Experience Pack contents without the reels, which merely act as a menu system.

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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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