Tagged: 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 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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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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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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Americom 8mm Home Movies (1965 – late-1960s)

Americom 8mm Home Movies were first released in 1965 and consisted of a 200 or 400 foot reel of standard 8mm film and an accompanying soundtrack on an 8-inch flexi disc.

The idea was that this enabled viewers with silent 8mm film projectors to play the accompanying soundtrack on a record player. Synchronising the film and soundtrack was tricky, and the instructions explained how to do this which involved threading the film until a frame with black dots appeared, starting the record and waiting for the instruction to ‘start projector on tone’.

If the projector or record player were not running at the correct speed (18 frames per second for the projector, 33⅓ rpm for the record player) then they would gradually become out of sync.

Titles included various Popeye cartoons, and excerpts from Laurel and Hardy films, as well as excerpts from films such as Horror Of Dracula and Curse Of Frankenstein.

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Technicolor Sound Movie Cartridge (1968 – 1970s)

The Technicolor Sound Movie Cartridge (also known as the TK Cassette) was an endless loop cartridge system for Super 8 film, introduced by Technicolor in 1968 to be played in the new 1000-A projector system that contained its own built in speaker. Being cartridge-based meant no threading of film, and was similar in concept to audio tape cartridge systems like 8-Track. At the end of the film, a notch indicated to the projector to switch off.

The Technicolor Sound Movie Cartridge is a larger (but incompatible) version of Technicolor’s earlier Magi-Cartridge.

The Sound Movie Cartridge could hold up to 30 minutes of colour sound film (600 foot in length) in the largest size cartridge, and some full-length movies were available on the format, split across up to four cartridges. The system also saw use in education and training, such as distributing information about new car models to dealers.

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Talking View-Master (1970 – 1981)

The Talking View-Master was a variant of the standard View-Master that as well as containing stereoscopic images, also contained accompanying sound for each frame.

Three different types of Talking View-Masters were produced, the first being introduced in 1970 by the GAF company, and this used a small transparent phonograph disc attached to the back of the View-Master reel. As the reel was advanced for viewing, the user pressed the ‘sound bar’ which engaged a needle on the record and amplified the sound through a speaker cone (the batteries were only used to spin the record). Sound quality was poor and on the basic model there was no way to control the volume. Additionally, although the phonograph disc was transparent, it did still reduce the quality of the images to some extent.

As well as cartoons, scenic and educational sets of Talking View-Master reels were produced.

The original version of the Talking View-Master was discontinued in 1981, and a new version released in 1984 (the Talking View-Master Electronic 3-D Viewer) which attempted to increase sound quality, and had the reel and phonograph disc separate.

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