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1930s Voltage Inconsistency = Shutter Variegation?


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#1 Kelley Cross

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 03:31 PM

Fantine.jpg Kind of an esoteric question, but I’m on a project where I’m trying to emulate a mid 30s look. One of the aesthetics I’m after is the frame to frame variegation in exposure. As I examine some captured plates, I can see an inconsistency of upwards to a 1/2 stop and more between them.

I realize there are a myriad of factors that could be contributing factors, (a shiny pressure plate, faulty shutter, uncoated Cooke Speed Panchro’s, and on and on). But as a starting point, I’m wondering if “mildly” creating some inconsistency with the supply voltage to camera might be a starting point. I'm sure consistencies in voltage from the 30s is not what it is today.

I’m beginning some tests with a Mitchell BNC and come Cooke lenses. Also, I want to achieve all effects and artifacts in camera, or photo-chemically. No digital.

Attached are three plates of Gregg Toland’s “Les Miserables”. A good gauge, for me, of the variegation is the pattern size of the key highlight on Fantine's forehead.

best,
Kelley Cross

Edited by Kelley Cross, 18 September 2012 - 03:36 PM.

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#2 Stephen Williams

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Posted 19 September 2012 - 04:41 PM

Fantine.jpg Kind of an esoteric question, but I’m on a project where I’m trying to emulate a mid 30s look. One of the aesthetics I’m after is the frame to frame variegation in exposure. As I examine some captured plates, I can see an inconsistency of upwards to a 1/2 stop and more between them.

I realize there are a myriad of factors that could be contributing factors, (a shiny pressure plate, faulty shutter, uncoated Cooke Speed Panchro’s, and on and on). But as a starting point, I’m wondering if “mildly” creating some inconsistency with the supply voltage to camera might be a starting point. I'm sure consistencies in voltage from the 30s is not what it is today.

I’m beginning some tests with a Mitchell BNC and come Cooke lenses. Also, I want to achieve all effects and artifacts in camera, or photo-chemically. No digital.

Attached are three plates of Gregg Toland’s “Les Miserables”. A good gauge, for me, of the variegation is the pattern size of the key highlight on Fantine's forehead.

best,
Kelley Cross


Probably more to do with hand processing than anything else, if you try to hand crank badly there is hardly any change between frames.
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#3 Dom Jaeger

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Posted 20 September 2012 - 08:45 AM

Also possibly some flicker from the arc lighting?

Certainly not shutter speed variations, even a large variation of 1 or 2 fps would only be a tiny fraction of a stop in exposure. Not sure what a 'faulty shutter' means in this context, if it was out of sync you'd get constant smearing not exposure variation, the shutter angle wouldn't change frame to frame. Uncoated lenses might cause some flare or reflections or loss of contrast but again it would be consistent, not frame to frame.
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#4 Kelley Cross

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 12:46 PM

Also possibly some flicker from the arc lighting?

Certainly not shutter speed variations, even a large variation of 1 or 2 fps would only be a tiny fraction of a stop in exposure. Not sure what a 'faulty shutter' means in this context, if it was out of sync you'd get constant smearing not exposure variation, the shutter angle wouldn't change frame to frame. Uncoated lenses might cause some flare or reflections or loss of contrast but again it would be consistent, not frame to frame.


That’s a very good point, and one that was brought up to me by a friend as well. I put a call into one of the old guard at Mole Richardson to see if I could glean any info. I believe that most of the arc lamps were DC although some were AC powered. I think in addition to Mole, there was a company called Beattie.

There could be a host of elements to contribute to this artifact, but I think with bringing in an arc lamp into the test is a good start.
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#5 John Holland

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 12:52 PM

Never known any flicker from a arc !!! Brute arcs and the rest were all DC.
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#6 Justin Pentecost

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 07:43 AM

I've spent a alot of time embaressing myself trying to recreate these sort of effects .. Joe Dunton let us have a 1909 Moy which we loaded with modern stock and shot some shots for a music video ... it did not seem to matter how "Badly" be handcranked .. it just looked superb, perfectly exposed and perfectly stable.

I go with Stephen It's processing or filmstock or it may well be taken from a print and there was some issue with the printer illumnination (I'm no expert on this but I guess that is possible). My experience is that cameras reagrdless of age actually produce a really good image and the artifacts we associate with "Old film" are exactly that .. artifacts from old film.

Did Arc lights flicker if the arc was not set correctly? I understood they needed constant attention to make them work correctly, did they flicker on the "Way out" ?

By the 30's Syncronous motors were well established which locked the camera speed to the mains frequency so variations were unlikely ..especially with a camera like an NC or BNC ..
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