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Military film stocks


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#1 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 25 July 2009 - 11:54 AM

There is SO much conversation about how film is ALWAYS superior to video and/or electronic acquisition.

But I'm sitting here watching the Military Channel. A great program about the SR71 (great book called SKUNKWORKS also for anyone interested), but frankly, the footage from then looks like crap. It's "fuzzy" and soft and grainy. Even the worst NTSC video looks better, clearer, and has more color than this footage.

So does anyone know what film stocks and formats the Military used in the '60s? Film is clearly NOT always superior as so many traditionalists want to claim. Today's HD, even the little pro-sumer cameras, have better images than the film they shot then.
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#2 K Borowski

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Posted 25 July 2009 - 05:36 PM

They shot VNF-1 or the earlier ME-4 stuff.

The 400 versions of these films were probably grainier than NTSC. The slower 160 and 125T stocks were far, far better.

You are watching footage that is probably at least two generations removed from the original.


But hey, I am just a "film traditionalist" so I am clearly just trumpeting my cause, not speaking any statement of fact :P
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#3 Charles MacDonald

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Posted 25 July 2009 - 07:05 PM

You are watching footage that is probably at least two generations removed from the original.


And I would not be surprised if footage that is made public may not have been "filtered" to disguise the capabilities of the the systems used. You don't want your enemies whoever they happen to be to be able to draw any conclusions about your capabilities.

the filtering may just have been a multi-generational series of copies, before the folks making the documentary were able to get copies of what they wanted.
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#4 Richard Tuohy

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Posted 25 July 2009 - 07:50 PM

But I'm sitting here watching the Military Channel.

No offence intended, but America is a funny place!
cheers,
richard
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#5 Patrick Neary

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Posted 25 July 2009 - 07:51 PM

Or telecined on a film chain in 1967 and duped for years after that, come on...
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#6 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 25 July 2009 - 11:11 PM

No offence intended, but America is a funny place!
cheers,
richard



It does tend to be a funny place. ;) But in this case, why do you say that? :unsure: ("offense" is spelled with an "s" :P )
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#7 K Borowski

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Posted 26 July 2009 - 10:57 AM

("offense" is spelled with an "s" :P )


Not in the former commonwealth countries.

American spelling is the most anomalous, though there are differences in Canadian spellings too from the "proper" Queen's English.


I think he is speaking with regard to the Military Channel you refer to.

Richard, it is kind of a spin off of the History Channel here, I think, specifically concentrating on teh history of wars which, unfortunately, the U.S. has been involved in far too many.

Then again, as you are probably descended from a convict exiled to Australia, your country can be a funny place too. :P
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#8 Chris Keth

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Posted 26 July 2009 - 01:07 PM

Why would the military use different film stocks than what was available to civilians at the time? As far as I know, the military never manufactured film. They generally, for stills anyway, used kodak films.
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#9 Dominic Case

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Posted 26 July 2009 - 06:19 PM

Why would the military use different film stocks than what was available to civilians at the time? As far as I know, the military never manufactured film. They generally, for stills anyway, used kodak films.

Not so fast. For many years Kodak supplied Ektachrome (ME4, and, I think, the later VNF1-process emulsions) slit as 35mm, just to the military. This was not available for public or commercial use.

With regard to the original question: please stop and think what you are saying.

frankly, the footage from then looks like crap

You are looking at material that was shot 40 years ago, was probably transferred to video at the time or not much later, and may well have been duplicated through analogue video processes any number of times. Yet you compare it with original material from a modern digital camera. Is this reasonable?

Alternatively, if the transfer you are looking at is new, and the program makers have gone back to the original footage, then you are looking at film that was processed 40 years ago. Maybe it's faded in the intervening years: yet you don't question the military's archiving practices.

If you want to make a simplistic comparison between film and video in those terms, then I suggest you compare film shot in the 60's with video shot at the time. I don't think you will find much ENG-type material from the 60s, or indeed many video cameras that were capable of operating out in the field let alone in the air. That is one of the reasons they used film!

You might also compare film shot then with film shot now.

"offense" is spelled with an "s"

American spelling is the result of Noah Webster's rather confused scholarship and political idealism. Wanting to set the American colonies apart from what he regarded as the interfering aristocratic traditions of British spelling, he believed (correctly) that language should be under the control of the people (this was around the time of the French Revolution) but then sought to control spelling himself through his publications. The idea that spelling and phonology should match perfectly also seems like a quaint idea from the height of the Age of Reason - which in the "old world" was already getting a little out of date by the time Webster's spelling books came out.
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#10 Charles MacDonald

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Posted 26 July 2009 - 08:24 PM

Why would the military use different film stocks than what was available to civilians at the time? As far as I know, the military never manufactured film. They generally, for stills anyway, used kodak films.

The US Military is a rather large buyer, and they send out bids to all available manufacturers.

At one time there were possibly 4 outfits that could make film in the USA. Dupont, Ansco, 3M, and Kodak. (3M made most of theirs in Italy, but I think they did have some coating capability in the US)

If the military wants 500,000 ft of ASA 250 35mm BH1866 Colour reversal film, it is likely that one or more of those firms will offer to sell it to them, or come back with the suggestion that they might do as well with say 160, or 400!. Ansco droped out in the 1970's, Dupont in the 1950's 3M in the 1990's Fuji at one time would have been a "Foreign" supplier ineligible to bid.

Naturally the negotiations on one of these bids would be trying to get the specs relaxed to the point where something that already existed could be supplied.
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#11 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 03:18 PM

Not so fast. For many years Kodak supplied Ektachrome (ME4, and, I think, the later VNF1-process emulsions) slit as 35mm, just to the military. This was not available for public or commercial use.


After the US Government took over the Agfa-Ansco plant in NY state during WWII, the military had them come up with a 35mm Anscocolor reversal MP stock.

Agfa-Ansco was part of IG Farben and also had a German military intellegence section.

Also, Kodak had to keep manufacturing ME-4 Ektachrome and chemicals long after they had introduced te VNF Ektachromes because the it taks forever for the military to change over its labs from ME-4 to VNF and "The US Military is a rather large buyer".
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