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First blow-ups?


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#1 Jean-Louis Seguin

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 05:56 PM

A question for film historians:
Does anyone know what would be the first instance of a film containing footage blown-up from a smaller format to a larger one occured?

More specifically 16mm to 35mm, 8mm to 16mm and 8mm to 35mm.

Jean-Louis
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#2 John E Clark

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 07:30 PM

John William Herschel is purported to have experimented with 'enlargements' for photographs, ca 1840's. He is also the one who is attributed to coining the term "Photography"... However, at the time photographic processes were so slow, and a powerful light source required, that perhaps only the sun would have worked to any reasonable level.

 

There were others during the latter half of the 19th century who also attempted enlarging processes.

 

However, it was only until electric light, 'fast'(for the era...) emulsions, that enlargements superceded contact prints.

 

If you are refering to 'moving pictures', I'd suspect that when 'optical' printing came into existence, 'enlarging', or 'reduction' was possible, and would be in the 20's/30's.


Edited by John E Clark, 17 November 2014 - 07:32 PM.

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#3 Jean-Louis Seguin

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 09:29 PM

Obviously I am only interested in the first known occurrance in motion pictures.
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#4 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 09:34 PM

 

If you are refering to 'moving pictures', I'd suspect that when 'optical' printing came into existence......

 

 

Quoting Jean-Louis.."..More specifically 16mm to 35mm, 8mm to 16mm and 8mm to 35mm..".

 

Yes,  I think he was refering to MP.  Or was that still film for little spy cams?  I've seen 16mm ones.  Got to have my laugh for the day.

 

EDIT:  While I wrote that Jean-Louis was simultaneously posting,  so,  more humor.


Edited by Gregg MacPherson, 17 November 2014 - 09:37 PM.

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#5 Dom Jaeger

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Posted 18 November 2014 - 08:09 AM

Interesting question Jean-Louis.

I believe there were optical printers capable of blow ups and reductions early on, more bespoke than industrial though, used for special effects. After 16mm and 9.5mm were released in the early 20s, reduction prints were made of many 35mm movies, the Kodascope 16mm Library had hundreds of titles by 1925. But I doubt that blow-ups were done until the mid 30s or later when 16mm had earned some acceptance as a documentary and news gathering format. The earliest film I can find is John Ford's 1942 documentary "The Battle of Midway" which was shot on 16mm Kodachrome and blown up to 35mm for distribution, but there's probably earlier ones. Maybe the first example was just some 16mm news footage blown up to be cut into a 35mm newsreel?

8mm is harder to pin down, there were reduction prints of 35mm movies made very soon after it was launched in 1932 but probably no one thought to blow it up until the 50s, likely some experimental filmmaker.
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#6 Simon Wyss

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Posted 18 November 2014 - 09:30 AM

US 1921835 A, applied for in 1929; first blow-ups in 1933 presumably, more extensively from Kodachrome originals since 1935

 

Europe, 1936, Truca Debrie


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#7 Dennis Couzin

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Posted 18 November 2014 - 05:04 PM

Thanks to Simon for finding US patent 1921835, applied for in 1929.  It is for a continuous optical printer which can blow up or reduce with the two films kept perfect synch since the large and small sprockets are cut into the same wheel.  The patent text at page 1 line 20 says: "it has long been a problem in connection with continuous projection printers ..." so the 1929 invention wasn't the first of these, just an improvement.

 

Step optical printers are much older.  Any lab with a camera and a projector could do step optical printing. Even before small gauge films existed, portions of the 35 frame were being blown up to the full 35 frame with these. 

 

Continuous optical printing has a speed advantage over step optical printing.  It made optical release printing economical.  (Also it could handle the optical sound track, which step optical printing couldn't).  The step optical printer could always make a less economical (silent) release print or it could make a printing negative.

 

So I'd guess the answer to Jean-Louis' question is: as soon as there was 16 mm film. 


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#8 Dom Jaeger

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Posted 19 November 2014 - 08:09 AM

So I'd guess the answer to Jean-Louis' question is: as soon as there was 16 mm film. 

 

I don't know, for years 16mm was firmly regarded as an amateur "sub-standard" format, why would anyone go to the expense of blowing up their home movies in those early days, the whole point was to provide an affordable format for the masses. Reduction prints so people could watch Studio movies at home, sure, but I don't think blow-ups were immediately on the horizon. News gathering was an established 35mm profession, with cameras and infrastructure in place. There were compact hand-held cameras as well as larger studio cameras so it took a while for 16mm to start being used by professionals. It wasn't until the early 30s that the first 16mm cameras aimed at more than just amateurs - Cine-Kodak Specials and Zeiss Ikon Movikons - became available, but it was colour reversal and WW2 that really elevated the standing of 16mm. 

 

The earliest war documentary blown up from 16mm that I'm aware of is The Battle of Midway from 1942, which I seem to remember reading was only shot on 16mm because the 35mm equipment from John Ford's film unit was lost in transit. After a bit of googling I found an extract from the book "Eastwood's Iwo Jima" which mentions that the process of blowing up  Midways's 16mm Kodachrome to 35mm Technicolor was delayed by Eastman-Kodak, who initially claimed that it couldn't be done. Once Ford exerted some influence and that hurdle was overcome, it "opened up the use of 16mm colour film material in subsequent documentaries like With the Marines at Tarawa, To the shores of Iwo Jima, and Glamor Gal".  

 

So it would seem this is at least the first colour blow-up of 16mm Kodachrome:

 

 

A veteran from the film unit responsible for these films claimed that the reason they shot on 16mm was because the units of the Army, Navy and Air Corps had bought all the existing stocks of 35mm Eyemos, leaving the Marine unit with nothing but "amateur 16mm equipment." It was apparently shot with magazine load cameras (Magazine Cine-Kodaks?). The hokey propaganda introduction quickly gives way to fairly confronting images of actual carnage. Fascinating to see the frame lines jump as something explodes nearby.

 

US 1921835 A, applied for in 1929; first blow-ups in 1933 presumably, more extensively from Kodachrome originals since 1935

 

Europe, 1936, Truca Debrie

 

Hey Simon, 

curious to know why you chose 1933 as a presumable date for the first blow-ups?

 

The European experience is often different and less publicly documented than the American one, do you think 35mm was more entrenched in Europe and the UK before the war, with 9.5mm and 16mm competing for the home movie market?  


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#9 Simon Wyss

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Posted 19 November 2014 - 01:24 PM

Well, what I did do first is to reread about Linwood Gale Dunn, the Hollywood optical printer person. Dunn was involved with specialty printing since the late 1920s. An other entrance to the subject is via King Kong. Stop motion and trick printing was at a high in 1933 with K. K. The mentioned patent was issued in 1933, so from there I presume some relevance.

 

I think you are right about knowledge transfer and or keeping secret in Europe. One difference between the old and the new world could be, let me say so, a stronger tendency to mythmaking here. An aura surrounds the Truca, of course the Oxberry, too. In fact, the core of precision printing and effects machinery is the pair of fixed pilot pins the film sits on. The rest is history.

 

Small gauge film was laughed off as Spaghetti in Hollywood until it got ennobled by—television. The mushrooming TV enterprises after WWII settled for 16mm. The tube wouldn’t show more than .3" by .4" offered. 400' run eleven minutes like 1000' of 35, economy counts.

 

I can think of one or two American documentaries, black and white naturally, to have been blown up from 16 to 35 in the 1930s. Film historians might indulge in the according research.


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