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When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions


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#1 K Borowski

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Posted 08 June 2008 - 10:46 PM

Just saw the first installment of "When We Left The Earth" on the Discovery Channel, in HD.

I have to say that I was quite surprised how well the 16mm footage held up at 1080i, better than the interview footage with the slow reversal stocks of more than 40 years ago, and despite cropping (as I'll get into below). This makes me lament the total lack of stocks currently available in reversal, with the exception of the recut Vivid Saturated Ektachrome slide film. Being able to see footage over four decades old stand up in modern high definition (with the exception of the very grainy high-speed stuff) was quite an eye opener.

Despite the beautiful footage and very interesting take on the U.S. Space Program, I was horrified to see that they "jilt-and-tilted" the ENTIRE collection of footage. Wasn't widescreen TV supposed to ELIMINATE distortion and cropping, not vice versa? I cannot believe Discovery Channel has cropped all of this priceless historic footage, instead of pillar-boxing it. Sometimes it doesn't even look as if there was any attempt made to center the shots to pick up the center of interest. There's a classic shot of I think Ed White making the first space-walk, and he's cropped out at the end of the shot because no one bothered to pan up. What a disappointment.

I guess I have the small consolation that, even cropped, a fair portion of the Reg 16mm footage looks BETTER than the interview footage. Looking forward to others' takes on this.

Regards.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 June 2008 - 10:50 PM

I believe NASA also shot some 35mm, the question is what 16mm and 35mm stocks. The colors on some stuff look so well preserved that it must have been shot on Kodachrome, but perhaps there was some 16mm Ektachrome or 35mm color negative or reversal that was well stored.
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#3 K Borowski

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Posted 09 June 2008 - 09:22 AM

I believe NASA also shot some 35mm, the question is what 16mm and 35mm stocks. The colors on some stuff look so well preserved that it must have been shot on Kodachrome, but perhaps there was some 16mm Ektachrome or 35mm color negative or reversal that was well stored.


Hey David. Thanks for the reply; I didn't know they shot 35 for news in the '60s.

I know NASA has a temperature-controlled vault that they store all of their negatives in, which was at freezing in the '60s, but then lowered down even further (0F?) after they discovered their film was still fading. At first I thought the fading was all eliminated through some sort of digital color correction, but then I saw some footage with telltales signs that made me think otherwise (a lot of the footage of people watching the rocket launches was turning pink). Also, I'd assume that most of the footage was from independent news bureaus, so a lot of it looks surprisingly good. Pretty sure it was all the precursor to VNF, as Kodachrome was exclusively an amateur stock by the '60s.
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#4 John Holland

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Posted 09 June 2008 - 11:41 AM

Karl pretty sure didnt shoot 35mm for news over there ,could be special stuff shot for NASA like a PR thing . Trying to remember what was before VNF ,it was E4 early stuff was a thing called MS Ektachrome 64 asa i think then when i started shooting Pro. it was end of MS then Ekta. 7242 125 asa tungsten and 7241 a daylight version 160asa. Then of course Ekta. Commercial 7255/7252 25asa a lower contrast stock for printing on to a Kodachrome print stock all reversal unless went through an interneg and then could produce Eastman color prints .
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#5 Mitch Gross

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Posted 09 June 2008 - 11:42 AM

Much of the footage came from NASA directly, and it was a major task getting access. NASA shot 16, 35 and even 65.
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#6 K Borowski

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Posted 09 June 2008 - 12:17 PM

Some of the stuff could have definitely been 35mm, but certainly everything they had on the Mercury Rockets had to have been 16mm, just from a size and weight standpoint.

And I doubt any of it would have been widescreen at that time. What's everyone else's takes on this? Why on Earth would they crop their footage to 16x9. Even the standard definition version did this!

Yes John, I think I was probably impressed by the 16mm 64T stuff or maybe the '42 or '41. I think ME-4 is what you're thinking of. It was the direct predecessor to VNF-1. I was impressed by the 125 and 160 stocks' fine grain. The 400 stuff (mission control footage) was grainy, but understandably so since it was old old old reversal film technology, maybe pushed a stop or two.

~KB
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#7 John Holland

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Posted 09 June 2008 - 12:30 PM

Yes Karl ME-4 is the one long time ago i havent seen any of this so dont really feel i comment to much just know it was wonderful when i didnt have shoot 16mm reversal anymore andcould shoot with neg . Weird now to go back and light HD just like reversal. !!! Progress !!! gives a break .
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#8 K Borowski

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Posted 09 June 2008 - 02:13 PM

Yes Karl ME-4 is the one long time ago i havent seen any of this so dont really feel i comment to much just know it was wonderful when i didnt have shoot 16mm reversal anymore andcould shoot with neg . Weird now to go back and light HD just like reversal. !!! Progress !!! gives a break .


Well, in the still photography world I inhabit, there are definite advantages to reversal in circumstances where exposure is easy to meter or lighting is controllable. It also has a myriad of advantages when the end result is digital. The negative to digital workflow is mindnumbing sometimes, especially when it requires troubleshooting of any sort.

All of the color stills from the moon were shot on sub-100 ASA reversal film by astronauts, not professional photographers, and they managed to do so quite nicely. Of course I guess the advantage of working on a lunar surface that doesn't have an atmosphere or clouds is that you only have one exposure.

Seriously though, with a spot meter or constant lighting, reversal isn't all that bad.
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#9 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 09 June 2008 - 03:46 PM

Yes John, I think I was probably impressed by the 16mm 64T stuff or maybe the '42 or '41. I think ME-4 is what you're thinking of. It was the direct predecessor to VNF-1. I was impressed by the 125 and 160 stocks' fine grain. The 400 stuff (mission control footage) was grainy, but understandably so since it was old old old reversal film technology, maybe pushed a stop or two.


I recall from an AC article that the mission control footage was usually 7241 160D pushed at least two stops and printed up some. They were shooting with zooms and fluorescent corretion filters.

The 64T is 7256 AKA Ektachrome MS.

NASA footage is kept in a vault in Houston. By Act of Congress the original footage may not be removed from the vault. For the movie 'For All Mankind', Al Reinart set up an optical printer in the Vault & copied the required footage. Thus it has had the best quality NASA FOOTAGE AVAILIABLE.

The film is a composite lunar expedition using footage from all of the Apollo missions and some Gemini missions. With an Eno score.
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#10 Glen Alexander

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Posted 09 June 2008 - 08:17 PM

Didn't NASA loose a bunch of original TV footage about a year ago? Finally turned up in Australia somewhere??

Edited by Glen Alexander, 09 June 2008 - 08:18 PM.

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#11 K Borowski

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Posted 09 June 2008 - 08:47 PM

Didn't NASA loose a bunch of original TV footage about a year ago? Finally turned up in Australia somewhere??


That was the live version of the moon broadcast landing, which were supposedly much higher quality (somewhere in-between SD and HD if I recall correctly). The reason the broadcast itself was so degraded was that they had to rephotograph the video feed off of a TV screen because it wasn't in a common video format that TV stations could handle.
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#12 Tom Lowe

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Posted 10 June 2008 - 01:17 AM

Does it really surprise anyone that cable channels would butcher a format to fit their low-brow audience's viewing format needs? They constantly butcher widescreen movies on nearly every cable channel, because idiots phone in complaining about "I can't get these black bars off my screen." 85% of the public are dumb sheep who know nothing of art, and don't care. It's a given that they would do this!
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#13 K Borowski

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 12:50 AM

Does it really surprise anyone that cable channels would butcher a format to fit their low-brow audience's viewing format needs? They constantly butcher widescreen movies on nearly every cable channel, because idiots phone in complaining about "I can't get these black bars off my screen." 85% of the public are dumb sheep who know nothing of art, and don't care. It's a given that they would do this!


It surprises me. The Discovery Chanel shouldn't cater to your 85% of people that are ignorant sheep and should instead cater to the 15% that aren't.
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