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How to tell if 16mm movie film is duplicate or original?


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#1 Charles Watkins

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Posted 12 January 2011 - 04:20 PM

Greetings, I collect vintage 16mm home movies as a hobby, and sometimes I get reels that have so few mistakes in their composition and sequencing in shooting that I'm left wondering if it's a post edited duplicate. Does anyone know how to tell for sure?

I can date most films from through date codes printed on the edges of the film, but I've not been able to find out how to differentiate if something is a duplicate.

I notice in movies which were obviouse duplicates tend to have clear edging, as opposed to dark, I find on originals. They also usually have perfectly fitted frames for exactly what will be projected on the screen. As with most original films shot with older 16mm and 8mm movie camera...each model seemed to carry their own unique edge signature where the exposed frame often overlapped into the edges. Any information towards this would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time in reading. Regards-Charles

Edited by Charles Watkins, 12 January 2011 - 04:23 PM.

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#2 Charles MacDonald

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Posted 12 January 2011 - 07:58 PM

Greetings, I collect vintage 16mm home movies as a hobby, and sometimes I get reels that have so few mistakes in their composition and sequencing in shooting that I'm left wondering if it's a post edited duplicate.
I notice in movies which were obviouse duplicates tend to have clear edging, as opposed to dark, I find on originals. They also usually have perfectly fitted frames for exactly what will be projected on the screen. As with most original films shot with older 16mm and 8mm movie camera...each model seemed to carry their own unique edge signature where the exposed frame often overlapped into the edges.


Hard to answer your question without teaching a course in Lab work.

"Home" movies were normally done on reversal stock, so would have black edges except for one set of edge printing.

"commercial" (for lack of a better term ) would have often been printed from an edited negative and would have a clear edge except for one one set of edge printing.

Sometimes the negative would be printed with the printer set to pick up the editing numbers, and so they would show along with the Negative's edge printing.

Before the war and for years after, Colour was often often done with reversal film, so the prints would be on a reversal stock, (Black edges) and the edge printing from the original may or may not have printed through.

Prints would of course Normally end up with the emulsion on the opposite side of the film from Camera originals.

So in Summary - IT DEPENDS.
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#3 John Sprung

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Posted 12 January 2011 - 08:27 PM

Another thing to look for would be wet splices at edits, vs. the printed images of wet splices. As Charles says, it's complicated, there are lots of clues that may or may not exist on a given example.





-- J.S.
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#4 Will Montgomery

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Posted 13 January 2011 - 09:40 AM

Generally reversal stocks are also a little heavier and thicker than a print stock as well.

I've had prints made of some negative stock I've shot and really enjoy having all those splices in the negative (lots of 100' rolls) gone on one long print. Fun to project and easy on the projector. Printing 16mm must be extremely rare these days.

Home movies were generally not shot on negative stock since reversal was so easily available and saved the step of paying for a print.
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#5 Mark Dunn

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Posted 13 January 2011 - 12:12 PM

If there are no splices it's almost certainly an original. Given that 16mm. Kodachrome has always been expensive, editing in-camera must be quite common. Ditto for duping- a very pricey job for an amateur. The quality, versus a known original, might give it away as well.
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#6 John Sprung

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Posted 13 January 2011 - 06:22 PM

Kodachrome has always been expensive, editing in-camera must be quite common.


It depends on the camera. Home movie cameras (Kodak, Bolex, etc) are designed to start and stop quickly, on a frame, with the shutter closed. The more professional 16's (Arri, Mitchell, etc) take a few frames to ramp up and down, producing flash frames.





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#7 Richard Tuohy

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Posted 13 January 2011 - 06:48 PM

If the film is rewound with the sprockets on the correct side for projection (ie sprockets towards you as you hold the film ready to load it onto the projector and with the leader falling from the right hand side of the spool as in the figure '9') then if the emulsion side of the film (the dull side, sticky if made moist) is on the outside then it is camera original film, whereas if the emulsion is facing in, it is a print. Its that easy.

Edited by Richard Tuohy, 13 January 2011 - 06:52 PM.

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#8 Richard Tuohy

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Posted 13 January 2011 - 07:06 PM

If the film is rewound with the sprockets on the correct side for projection (ie sprockets towards you as you hold the film ready to load it onto the projector and with the leader falling from the right hand side of the spool as in the figure '9') then if the emulsion side of the film (the dull side, sticky if made moist) is on the outside then it is camera original film, whereas if the emulsion is facing in, it is a print. Its that easy.

Hang on, I typed too soon!
There are some exceptions to what I wrote above that stuff up the simplicity I depicted.
Deviating from what I wrote would be a duplicate made from camera original reversal onto interneg then a print from that interneg. That would have the same emulsion side on the print as on the original reversal. I believe it would have been more typical to make a reversal copy of a reversal original however, rather than an interneg then a print.
Second exception is a print made from a reversal copy of a camera negative. I believe in the past this was in fact a relatively common proceedure called a 'CRI' - a 'combined (or composite?) reversal intermediate' (but I am not from this 'past' so that is a bit of 'book lernin'). A print made from a CRI copy of an original camera negative would yield the same emulsion side as the original camera negative and thus be on the same side as camera original reversal film would be.

What I originally wrote about emulsion side primarily works for distinguishing a reversal original from a positive print made from a negative original, and for distinguishing a reversal original from a reversal copy of a reversal original.
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#9 John Sprung

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Posted 13 January 2011 - 08:06 PM

CRI was Color Reversal Intermediate. Not a quality product to begin with, and they've faded faster than most other color films from that era (1970's - 80's). The late Dick Stumpf of Universal was so adamantly opposed to the use of CRI that the company was know then as "Unreversal Pictures". He was a good guy, and definitely right on that one....




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#10 Charles MacDonald

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Posted 13 January 2011 - 08:13 PM

CRI was Color Reversal Intermediate. Not a quality product to begin with, and they've faded faster than most other color films from that era (1970's - 80's).


of course, the final print would have been on a more typical print stock so the fate of the "lab Copy" on CRI is not so important when looking at the final print.

An Optical printing stage, would of course allow for the Side of the final film having the emuslion to vary.

I guess the other think we could say is if you have a Colour Negative with a lot of splices, it is very likely to be an original.
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#11 Michael Cleveland

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 02:13 AM

Greetings, I collect vintage 16mm home movies as a hobby, and sometimes I get reels that have so few mistakes in their composition and sequencing in shooting that I'm left wondering if it's a post edited duplicate. Does anyone know how to tell for sure?

I can date most films from through date codes printed on the edges of the film, but I've not been able to find out how to differentiate if something is a duplicate.

I notice in movies which were obviouse duplicates tend to have clear edging, as opposed to dark, I find on originals. They also usually have perfectly fitted frames for exactly what will be projected on the screen. As with most original films shot with older 16mm and 8mm movie camera...each model seemed to carry their own unique edge signature where the exposed frame often overlapped into the edges. Any information towards this would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time in reading. Regards-Charles


There is another form of identification that I think no one has mentioned. Within months after the 16mm format was introduced, the cameras included a camera identification code in the form of some geometric shape cut out of the aperture plate. This opening exposed that shape onto the edge of each frame between the sprockets. It was present on all but the cheapest cameras, and continued on some as late as the 1950's, though I'm not sure how long the practice endured universally. However, on early films, from 1920's and 30's, and probably even later, the code will be visible on camera originals, but will not appear on duplicate imagery. It's a narrower application than some other methods, but if you know the age of the film, it's a good indicator. When I see a 1920's home movie offered, it's the first thing I want to know about it before buying, since for my purposes, only camera originals are acceptable.

Edited by Michael Cleveland, 18 February 2011 - 02:14 AM.

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