23rd April 2017

The Wonderful world of 9.5mm

Of the cine films I copy about 90% are either Standard 8 or Super 8; the remaining 10% are either 16mm or 9.5mm.
Most people are familiar with the 8mm and 16mm options as these are inter-related, especially since Standard 8 was directly derived from 16mm film; the inconvenience of flipping over a reel of 16mm film midway through to create two 8mm wide strips of Standard 8 film was a driving factor in the introduction of the more convenient cassette based Super 8 (Kodak) and Single 8 (Fujifilm) formats in the mid 60s.
9.5mm film, on the other hand, is a format that appears entirely unique and it should come as no surprise that this originated in France, a country renowned for ploughing a lone furrow. Introduced in the early 1920s by Pathe, the format entirely revisited the sprocket hole position on the film; by locating the hole between the frames rather than on the sides of the film it became possible to have a film only slightly wider than 8mm but capable of holding an image only slightly smaller than that achievable with 16mm film.
The format had its heyday between the wars but I have copied films shot as recently as the 60s. The brilliance of the sprocket hole location, would ultimately become the format’s undoing. The sprocket hole location would only work if claw mechanisms in cameras and projectors operated with great precision as a claw missing the sprocket hole would produce a gouge line on the image. The cameras were mostly modest but lovely machines; the projectors, however, were generally much poorer made with a sizeable proportion being little more than optical toys.
The thing that really did for 9.5mm was the introduction of amateur sound filming. The brilliance of the large image using the entire film width meant there was nowhere for the magnetic sound stripe to go; the format represented a technical cul-de-sac for serious film makers. The common workaround would result in a square picture as the stripe covered one side of the image, which could be undone with the use on an anamorphic additional lens used by both the camera and projector – very cumbersome.
This all sounds like I’m not enamoured of 9.5mm but I have found the format very capable of terrific results. I also love the quirks – I’m a fan.
Vive la difference

26th November 2016

Screen grabbing

I had this on my old site too so I'll apologise if you've seen this before but I think it's quite handy and it uses a couple of features that come with most Windows computers.

If you had your film or video transferred onto DVD, there may be a time when you would like to 'grab' the image of a specific frame from the film and save this as a picture file.
Pop the DVD into your computer and play it using your normal media playing program. When you get to the part you would like to grab, pause the playback. Maximise the pane and wait for the mouse pointer and any playback graphics to disappear.
Press the 'PrtSc' (print screen) button on your keyboard – this key is just above the backspace button on my keyboard. You have effectively copied your entire display image.
Now open the program 'Paint' which is in the 'Windows Accessories' section of the apps in Windows 10.
Once the program 'Paint' has opened press the 'paste' command/icon. Your copied screen should now appear here as a picture.
Now you will want to cut out any superfluous borders. To do this press the dotted line box 'select' icon, then drag your cursor to highlight the part of the picture you wish to save.
Press the 'crop' icon, this will eliminate the image around your selection box. So finally...
Click File/Save As and save your image in your preferred format – jpeg, png, gif or other formats

Happy Grabbing

24th November 2016

Future-proof your footage by shooting at the best quality setting your gear will allow.

I often get video tapes to transfer and my heart sinks just a little if I see the footage was recorded in LP rather than Standard Play; for watching TV shows LP mode was frequently a very handy feature, alas when copying over your camcorder footage you are already starting with a video tape so the transfer feels almost like a second generation copy and those slight losses in image and audio quality end up lowering the overall final quality. Even apparently lossless digital formats such as miniDV suffer more from image 'artifacts' in LP mode.

Those of us shooting on modern gear with choices of bit-rate have decisions to make too - my mantra is - use the highest bit rate you possibly can. If you have a camera that can shoot 4K video but you only have a HD TV, still shoot in 4K because at some point in the future you will most likely have a TV that can view 4K (or better) footage, plus you have a higher quality source for screen grabs.
Against this you will have the added processing load of larger files, but many editing programs can let you work with 'proxy' lo-def files and then output as a full definition end product.
Another tip for pushing up the quality of footage of your videos (and stills) is using a tripod. Do tests with the image stabilising turned off as I.S. frequently clashes with tripod use.
Happy shooting.

22nd November 2016

Argh we have to write articles, this'll be interesting...