Tagged: film

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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135 film (1934 – )

135 is a photographic film format, using a single-use cartridges of 35mm film. The designation was introduced by Kodak in 1934 for use in its Kodak Retina camera, and quickly grew in popularity, surpassing formats like 120, 126110 and APS and remains popular today despite digital photography. 35mm film was used in still photography before this time, but had to be loaded by the photographer into reusable cassettes in a darkroom.

135 cameras can be loaded in daylight as the film is contained in a light-tight metal cartridge. In most cameras, the film is wound onto a spool as the film is used and rewound into the cartridge once fully exposed, but in some cameras (particularly disposable models) the film is unwound fully to begin with and exposed in reverse order so there is no need to rewind at the end.

Negative size is 36mm x 24mm, and this size is still used by digital camera image sensors. The half-frame format (18mm x 24mm) had some success in the 1960s, and some cameras have used different negative sizes.

Colour and monochrome films, negative and positive have been produced, as well as specialist films such as those sensitive to infrared radiation. Generally, the number of exposures on a 135 film are 12, 24 or 36, although until about 1980, 20 exposure films were the only films generally available with less than 36 exposures. It is often possible to get a few more exposures on a film. Since the 1980s film cassettes have been marked with a DX encoding pattern so cameras can detect the film speed. (ISO).

By the 1970s, SLR and smaller compact 135 cameras proliferated, and automated processing and printing machines made developing easier and less expensive, so quality colour prints became available from supermarkets and chemists as well as camera shops, often in less than an hour.

Despite the popularity of digital photography, 135 SLRs, compact point-and-shoot cameras, and single-use cameras continue to be built and sold, and 135 film is still readily available.

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16mm film (1923 – )

16mm film is a format for cinematography, introduced by Kodak in 1923 as a less expensive amateur alternative to 35mm film. An original selling point was the availability of films to buy or rent from the Kodascope library. 16mm film stock has always been on acetate safety film.

Sound was added by RCA in 1930 (film for sound use was perforated on one side only to make room for an optical or magnetic soundtrack), and colour in 1935 with the introduction of Kodachrome.

By the 1930s, 16mm film began to make inroads into the educational film market, and in the post-WWII years there was a huge expansion of professional filmaking for government and industry. Television production also made use of 16mm film, especially for new-gathering and exterior filming (in the UK, most exterior television footage was shot on 16 mm film from the 1960s until the 1990s). The BBC played a large part in the development of the format, working with Kodak in the 1950s and 1960s to bring 16 mm to a professional level.

Home cinematographers moved to the smaller 8mm and Super 8mm formats.

Super 16 was developed in 1969 and has a larger picture area and wider aspect ratio, but this is at the expense of the space for the soundtrack so the film is optically or digitally enlarged onto 35mm film for projection.

16mm and Super 16 film is still used in television, and sometimes in film making.

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Preservation / Migration

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