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Films and Info I Would Like to See


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#1 Marty Hamrick

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 12:18 AM

Small format films are all over youtube as well as videos of folks showing off their old cameras and projectors. There's videos of Fairchild Cinephonic 8 cameras,Bell and Howell projectors and plenty of people's home movies and test footage. I'm just curious as to what happened with some of the more "exotic" small format systems and films made with them.

Take for instance the Fairchild Cinephonic 8, a standard 8mm camera from the early 60's that shot single system sound on film, more than a decade before the Kodak Ektasound super 8 cartidge. I'm curious as to how many of those thing weres actually sold, who might have bought them and how much prestriped double 8mm film sold.As far as I know, there were two models, one was a more professional model with a 200 foot magazine and reflex zoom lens.Their heyday was around 1960-65. Then I would like to know how much film that was shot with those things ended up getting transferred somewhere. I ran a transfer business back in the 80's and never saw a reel of Fairchild 8mm sound film come through. It would've been a challenge to transfer as I would've had to look for one of the few suitable projectors to modify to telecine.

I'm also curious about Bell and Howell's pre Ektasound efforts. I remember when the film making bug bit me at age 12 back in 1972. I was watching a game show where a couple had won a vacation and a Bell and Howell Filmosound 8 super 8 system that included camera, projector and cassette tape recorde to preserve their vacation memories. I'm curious as to how many of those things were sold, to whom and how many people actually were able to keep all of that crap together. I imagine many cassette soundtracks got away from their films, but surely there had to be some organized hobbyist who kept their stuff together. I wonder how many transfer houses have gotten shoeboxes full of 50 foot reels and matching cassettes and if they were able to sync it up in the transfer.

Finally I wonder about what happened to many of the ambitious small format productions that I used to read about in Super 8 Filmaker magazine back in the 70's. They used to report about super 8 features, TV docs, educational and industrial films. Where are some of these folks now and where are their films? Dennis Dugan, who used to write a lot of technical articles for S8FM wrote about a feature he shot in 8mm with a Fairchild Cinephonic. I think the title was Endangered Species", what happened to that film and some of the others? I recently connected with Lenny Lipton on facebook, today he has no interest in super 8 and has not put any of his old films online and has no plans to. Kind of a shame since I remember reading all of his production articles on some of hisfilms and I would've liked to have seen them. Doesn't look very likely that I ever will.
I remember when I worked at a film lab in Jacksonville back in the 70's I worked on several student films that got some notoriety. One was titled "TV Dinner" by Tony Barbon from FSU I believe (16mm, black and white, 1978, aprox 16 minutes) that won a few awards and I've often been dissapointed that it and a few others never showed up on youtube or Vimeo. One went international, I recall, don't remember the title,but it was around 5 minutes, colour,16mm. It took place in an open field and you saw huge cutouts from popular ads being carried across the field. You couldn't see the people moving the cutouts, so it looked like the Marlboro Man was having a picnic with the Black Velvet woman.

There were also the many professional systems pioneered by Richard Leacock as well as Optasound , who also sold stylish accessories like the "Slinger", a belt that carried the cassette recorder. The ad featured a smoking hot model in tight hip hugger jeans sporting a super 8 camera and recorder. Super 8 Sound represented the epitome of super 8's efforts to grow up and they still exist today. I would be interested to know how many folks shelled out the major bucks for the high end systems and how many of the films made still survive. I'm sure many of these old systems were sold to schools and businesses as they were quite expensive.

How many childhood and adolescent memories have I stirred up for fellow small format film nerds?
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#2 Dom Jaeger

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 08:39 AM

Hi Marty,

Not sure if this addresses you're interest in exotic systems, but you sparked a response in me nonetheless.

I'm only a recent convert to small formats and their history. Professionally I service 35mm and 16mm cameras and lenses but in the last couple of years I've been collecting, servicing and filming with old Standard 8 cameras. I love their build quality and design variety, and I find that the small format accentuates the beautiful qualities of film - I'm constantly amazed by how a tiny rectangle of processed reversal can be projected 6 feet wide and still look so good.

I think there's a wealth of cultural history contained in the home movies of past generations. I recently bought a Bolex D8L Standard 8 camera from an old couple who insisted I also take the boxes of films and sound tape that the owner, 10 years deceased, had left in their care. I've been going through them slowly, and amidst the family outings and neighbour's new baby there are some wonderful records of my city of Melbourne in the 60's and some beautifully idiosynchratic stop motion "fillers" designed (I imagine) to keep the audience from getting bored. Unfortunately I don't have the equipment to play the magnetic tape sound recordings that accompanied the visuals. There was a Bolex Synchroniser amidst the stuff the old couple gave me, but I haven't worked out what sound system or projector might utilise it.

But it strikes me how much time and effort went into some of these home movies. Titles, fade-ins, double exposures, stop-motion - all done in-camera.
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#3 Marty Hamrick

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 11:38 AM

Hi Marty,

Not sure if this addresses you're interest in exotic systems, but you sparked a response in me nonetheless.

I'm only a recent convert to small formats and their history. Professionally I service 35mm and 16mm cameras and lenses but in the last couple of years I've been collecting, servicing and filming with old Standard 8 cameras. I love their build quality and design variety, and I find that the small format accentuates the beautiful qualities of film - I'm constantly amazed by how a tiny rectangle of processed reversal can be projected 6 feet wide and still look so good.

I think there's a wealth of cultural history contained in the home movies of past generations. I recently bought a Bolex D8L Standard 8 camera from an old couple who insisted I also take the boxes of films and sound tape that the owner, 10 years deceased, had left in their care. I've been going through them slowly, and amidst the family outings and neighbour's new baby there are some wonderful records of my city of Melbourne in the 60's and some beautifully idiosynchratic stop motion "fillers" designed (I imagine) to keep the audience from getting bored. Unfortunately I don't have the equipment to play the magnetic tape sound recordings that accompanied the visuals. There was a Bolex Synchroniser amidst the stuff the old couple gave me, but I haven't worked out what sound system or projector might utilise it.

But it strikes me how much time and effort went into some of these home movies. Titles, fade-ins, double exposures, stop-motion - all done in-camera.

That's another thing I wonder about, is how many people who bought home movie gear back in the day, put the time and effort into their stuff that you describe. I never saw anything that good when I was transferring film to VHS back in the 80's. The closest I came to anything that creative was a 400 foot reel of 16mm Kodachrome silent film that was a very ambitious high school production of life in ancient Rome. The film was made some time in the 40's and shot in the school's rather opulant looking courtyard which was pretty authentic looking as were the costumes.
There's much more than just movie nerd interest here, there's much that is culurally reflected by what people felt was worth recording back then.
Since 8mm film came out in 1932, at the hiegth of the Great Depression, I imagine not too many folks bought home movie gear, or for that matter were too interested in immortalizing their misery. I would imagine that the format and hobby didn't come into it's own until after WW2 during the baby boom, I'm sure some of the money from all of those GI loans for new houses went to home movies to record the new family memories. I remember transferring quite a bit of 8mm Kodachrome shots of new subdivisions and shopping centres being constructed. I've probably transferred several thousand feet of construction film. 8mm is definitely a cultural icon, even porn from the 70's is considered histroically and culturally important as the era is considered by sociologists to mark a paradign shift in social norms of entertainment. I've been contacted by several well known sociology professors to comment on the work I did back then on loop peepshow films.

I never got any of the exotic formats or early sync sound efforts, in fact I got very little sound film at all which was surprising. 85% of the stuff I got was standard 8mm shot between around 1948 to around 1971.I did get one small reel of 35mm nitrate film as well as some very brittle 9.5mm. I farmed both projects out as I hadn't the facilities to properly handle such. This leads me to believe that the 50's and early 60's time frame to be the peak selling era for all 8mm formats. Single 8 was a niche market anywhere but Japan and a few prosumers. Double super 8 and single strand Wilcam SOF shoots were limited to a brief time in TV news and semi pro production, so I imagine very little footage from these cameras survived. I don't think the later 60's and 70's generation took up super 8 as much as the earlier 8mm crowd did because double 8 didn't have Betamax and VHS to compete with. I just didn't see much super 8 coming in from the Ektasound era that leads me to believe it was any better, but I don't have sales records to know for sure. I'm sure Polaroid's 1976 effort, Polavision instant movies never had a prayer and I wonder how many transfer houses have had the rectangular cartridges dropped off for transfer and how they handled it.

What happened to all of those festival award winning films that were profiled in Super 8 Filmaker magazine from 1972 to 1981? I have yet to find one on youtube. Many of them won international awards in Toronto,Ann Arbor and many others. Also the Kodak Teenage Movie Awards, whatever happened to some of those films?
For help in how to sync your old footage, I suggest yout try Pedro at http://www.super8syn...sync/Home.html.

Edited by Marty Hamrick, 15 November 2011 - 11:41 AM.

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#4 Jim Carlile

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Posted 25 November 2011 - 11:22 PM

Some good questions about the 'heyday' of S8.

Dennis Duggan died about 20 years ago. He had been teaching at San Francisco City College for years-- film of course. He'd also done some local porn in the distant past, too, at about the same time he was writing those S8 articles!

BTW, one of the most interesting of the S8 films mentioned back then was this:

http://www.retroroadtrips.com/

It's still around. You occasionally find others that pop up the same way. You just have to look around, although there are a number of curators and archivists who are starting to ask these same questions. Amateur filmmaking is the big new field of study-- and it's about time.

I think people just lost interest over the years when it came to the technology, like Lipton. A few years back he was said to have donated all of his cameras to some place like SFCC.

Most of the British guys are gone as well. Ivan Watson, Tony Rose, Francis Williams; all gone. The grand old Tories. I think Tony Shapps is still around but not active.

Time for a renaissance? Seems like it.
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#5 Simon Wyss

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Posted 26 November 2011 - 03:40 AM

Super-8, the biggest single business of Eastman Kodak ever. They made billions with it.

Double-8 is the steadier long runner, it is still viable. No astronaut-gloves-cartridge-ado but evolved technique.

Straight Eight was a Bell & Howell child, supported by Agfa. That was in 1935-36. In 1938 they issued the instant-load cassette which perhaps some will remember being tissue-taped around the edge.

In 1962 Eastman Kodak announced the Duex loader, another Double-8 boost attempt. Sort of failure

Double-Super-8 in 1966, interestingly introduced with Comecon industries.

The Paillard-Bolex SEPMAG Synchronizer is a product which doesnʼt work. It torpedos image steadiness. The older COMMAG Sonorizer, clumsier, was better. 8mm Sound-on-Film was very much arranged around projectors, not cameras. There was acceptance of the travelogue, a tradition from the 19th century.

Film with magnetic stripes commenced with CinemaScope in 1952-53. 16mm followed suit, bringing the possibility to re-record different languages on prints. TV producers embraced COMMAG news gathering. That field was covered by Berndt-Bach Auricon, CP-16, Arriflex 16 BL, Beaulieu News 16, Bolex 16 Pro. It made no difference to Kodak whether a laminating machine was loaded with 16mm- or Double-8 stock.

Kodak Ektasound cartridges were the forerunner of the video cassette in 1973-74. That was a blow to creativity since editing implied cutting the sound record 18 frames off of the picture. While professionals would transfer the edge-stripe sound to magnetic film most amateurs just had to capitulate before this problem. On the other hand typical Ektasound users simply had the money for synch sound souvenir snapping. Their 50-footers almost never got edited.

A month ago I began to work at two CNC lathes, one from 1985, the other from 1990. The controls are so old-fashioned, the turret isnʼt even advanced in two axis at the same time. Some of you might laugh about that because you have used punched paper strips. That is prehistoric but it works all the same!
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