This is my blog about my interests in photography and film-making, also my travels as well as other items that I feel may be of interest. I also run the Photography equipment website, Filmcam....................................... IF YOU WANT TO ENLARGE ANY IMAGE BELOW SIMPLY CLICK ON IT !

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bolex projector runs Bolex camera !

And here it is ! This is how I convert 16mm footage to more 16mm stuff in the camera, usually altering it a bit along the way.

That old Bolex S.321 projector has been with me for about 40 years now. At one time I used it for compiling sound tracks. The great thing about this classic machine is that it's very kind to the film and extremely steady. The film can be laced as a silent projector without going round the sound-drum etc. And the motor is strong enough to drive the camera and probably more as well. The Bolex H16 reflex camera is attached to the inching knob-shaft, which as you see is on the side of the Bolex projector, just to be different. The flexible shaft, an old speedo cable, drives the 1:1 shaft on the camera. The cable is supported both ends by sturdy brackets. You're maybe thinking this gadget looks like a set for the latest Wallace and Gromit epic. However, I can assure you it does all actually work !

With the S.321 projector you have the option of a 2 or 3 bladed shutter. I wanted more light so I simply snipped off one of the blades on the '2' shutter. The resulting flicker from a single blade doesn't get recorded. I still use the traditional bulb and condenser lenses, maybe not as bright as a more modern machine but it gives nice and even illumination which is the important thing. There is a variable speed control and I usually opt for something like a stately 14 fps. But the motor takes a short while to get to speed so you have to allow for this when lacing up. Everything is all locked in sync. If something horrible should happen like a film jam (it hasn't yet, touch wood) the drive at the camera is set to give way and fail, and if I'm dozing off that red light will flash. You may feel all this is unnecessary if it all sounds smooth. The screen can be a piece of card, or a decent quality back-projection screen via a front-silvered mirror as you see in this set-up.

Setting up a special-effects shot can be tricky. One way is to run an out-take loop of film prior to connecting the camera, until you're sure the image is as you want it. But I often use this alternative:
I wanted to project just one frame and work on the colour filtration etc in a more leisurely fashion, so I tried various things to achieve a cool gate for long periods. Finally I settled on shining another projector into the S.321's gate via a small mirror. This is planted behind a tiny opening that Bolex have thankfully provided. That Elf projector had seen better days, only the fan runs now, and I even sawed off Elf's front to make more room ! Using the standard f1.2 Elf lens I can get a reasonably bright image if it's kept small. The Bolex lens is the 50mm f1.3 Hi-fi, really crisp. I'd be interested to hear from readers who have tried less cumbersome methods for single-frame projection.
The camera can be put in any position near the projector and is connected when needed. I often make use of the Bolex matte box.

Although stop-frame is marvellous for many effects, running a camera and projector in real time or thereabouts does give some very natural-looking possibilities. It also means there is less time for your effects shot to go wrong !

Monday, March 1, 2010

Copying Movie Film to Film

For quite a few years now, I've been using simple home-made set-ups to copy my films onto other film. Why would anyone want to do this you may ask... Mostly, folks are busy transferring it all to digital.

Making the apparatus in its simplest form takes only a few hours and it's cheap. It means that the original film is copied in 100% sync with no flicker or density fluctuation. But what are the reasons for doing this ?

Firstly, if like me you still enjoy editing on film, it makes good sense to use a cutting copy which can be cut and recut and generally thrown around the place, secure in the knowledge that the original is not being harmed in any way. (Later you carefully cut the original to match.) Using out-of-date film you can easily make economical cutting copies.

Secondly, Special Effects. And there are countless possibilities here. For example, you can add a zoom or other movement to a shot, even make a static scene appear hand-held ! Add distortions, colours, foreground miniatures. Add moving silhouettes, bi-packing another strip of film in the projector. Place a shot into another live action shot so that the composite is seamless. The only effects you can't do are those that require altering the apparent speed, because the copying camera is anchored to the projector.

Every movie camera and every projector has its own one-to-one shaft. This system merely involves joining them together, so that they are locked in sync. You can do the job without the join, but there is likely to be sync-loss and other problems. Project onto a small card screen or a good translucent one. It's the same as copying onto video, and for more on this please click on "2008" and see "Telecine Without Tears".

Because all cine apparatus is basically made the same, you can copy ANY gauge of film onto ANY other. So you could copy a 28mm film to 9.5mm if you so wish ! And vice versa I suppose if you could find some 28mm film at Jessops. So film format doesn't matter, all you have to do is find an easy way to join up the 1:1 shafts. What does the 1:1 shaft look like ? If you take the side off a projector (not forgetting to remove the mains lead!) you'll most likely see a rod running its length, carrying the spinning shutter. Sometimes it culminates in an inching knob, and if so this is usually a good point to attach a flexible shaft, perhaps removing the knob first. I've been using old car speedo cables as flexible shafts, and they work well. Some sort of tough collar is needed to lock the shafts together securely with grub screws.

The camera 1:1 shaft is perhaps less easy to reach. Super-8 cameras usually seem to sprout a shaft near the front end. If you're worried about losing those screws and destroying a perfectly good camera trying to find it, why not experiment with a cheapo model ? All you need is a camera that produces reasonable images, perhaps with a close-up lens fitted, and it doesn't even need to have auto exposure. In fact, manual exposure is a must for copying. I'm always testing super-8 cameras, and I reckon that probably one in five of the ones that appear to work have defective auto-exposure... they usually end up in the 'as found' box or worse. But many of these sorry specimens still work on full aperture, so they could be used as copiers. As projector lenses are generally not as good optically as camera lenses, it makes sense to adjust the projector aperture by a stop or so, use the black card washer trick... see that Telecine article again.

So we end up with camera and projector (perhaps running the same film-size, perhaps not) connected by a flexible shaft. Maybe I should say they have to be connected so as to both run film in the same direction! Unless you want reverse effects. Some projector shafts will allow both ends to be utilized. It goes without saying you'll be cutting holes in your projector. The camera is run entirely by the projector-motor, in perfect sync. Turn the projector shaft by hand to check that the shutters are correctly phased, so that they both open simultaneously. One of the collars may need adjusting for this. Projectors normally sport two or three shutters but only one is used to hide the film transport. This is the one that corresponds with the camera-shutter. The others are superfluous for copying film and only absorb light, so could be snipped off if you don't mind a flickery picture (this flicker is not seen by the synchronised camera !) Because the camera is on a flexible shaft it can be set up almost anywhere as long as the shaft doesn't tie itself in knots. The projector can go at any speed and it's often best to keep it fairly slow.

Putting a shot into a new scene is possible by placing a screen or card somewhere within the frame and projecting on that, preferably at a normal speed. Have a go ! Next time I'll maybe show you my 16mm copying set-up.