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Want to buy a flatbed editor...


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#1 Evan Samaras

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Posted 14 January 2017 - 11:06 AM

Hello everyone!

 

I've been shooting some super 8 and 16mm footage. I've recently been contemplating the upgrade to a crystal sync camera. Perhaps a CP-16R, but that's another topic.

 

This brings me to the interest of acquiring a flatbed editor, but preferably one that could sync up to my computer for digital audio. I will be scoring and engineering the audio myself. I've only worked on songs in the past, sound track will be fun! Let me not stray...

 

I was hoping to ask for suggestions. I have read that I might be able to use the interlock port on a Steenbeck to sync to my computer. Does anyone have any flatbed editor recommendations for this use? I found an article online about a KEM Rapid-S with interchangeable picture heads for Super 8 and 16mm. That would be nice since I also shoot super 8, but not necessary. My focus is more on 16mm. Also, even if I found the KEM, i'm not sure I would be able to sync it to the computer. 

 

I wanted to ask for flatbed editor recommendations that would allow me to sync to my computer. I am also unclear about pricing. I passed on a free flatbed editor months back in Brooklyn and now I'm kicking myslef. I didn't have the room at the time. Now, I will make the room! Could someone tell me what I should expect to pay, or maybe even refer me to source that might want to pass theirs along? (free or sale). 

 

I am in NYC and would prefer somewhere close for pick-up, but I guess since I might be picky in my needs I shouldn't expect miracles. I see plenty pop up on ebay, but i am not sure what to look for, and most seem untested. If I'm paying I would prefer to know the unit is tried and true.

 

Thank you in advance!


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#2 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 14 January 2017 - 11:26 AM

Sent you a PM.


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#3 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 14 January 2017 - 03:45 PM

Ya know, I have two KEM flatbeds, one 16 and one 35. I grew up editing on flatbeds and use to have the whole kit, magnasync and everything. Today however, flatbeds have become more about looking at old material because they're gentile on film and of course conforming reels for theatrical release on 35mm. Outside of those to industries, they're not as widely used anymore and for good reason.

Audio is the bane of everyone's existence with flatbeds... mostly because of the transfer and interlocking (edge code) process required to make sound on a flatbed work. This means all your audio has to be transferred to mag stock and then cut up along with picture, then striped with edge code so if you drop a piece of picture or mag stock, it's not impossible to re-sync. Mag stock doesn't sound good, even the 35mm stuff isn't great because it needs noise reduction badly. So for years people have tried to come up with some sort of solution to this problem and it's called an NLE... non linear editing system... LOL :)

So, what can a flatbed do for you? Not much. A lot of them have been modified with little tachometers that read the motor's movement and then a little box that translates that data into timecode numbers. This is generally there for "reel breakdown" purposes, where you're trying to time out things. It has nothing to do with the physical media at all, it's only good as a "counter" of sorts. Unfortunately, nobody developed a good timecode on film system, even though Aaton and Arri do have them, it's not good and it's worthless on a flatbed. So you can't "cut" film and expect it to sync up with a computer, that's 100% impossible. With a lot of work and knowledge, you COULD build an adaptor that will send the sync pulses from the flatbed to a USB adaptor and with some software coding, it MAY be a trigger for your digital audio playback solution. The problem is, how do you know it's running at 24fps? The flatbed never needs to run perfectly because it was designed to have audio in sync with picture on it, so how do you know if you play an external source, that it will "sync"? I don't think it will frankly, even if the computer software you develop compensates for the minor fluctuations, it would absolutely fall out of sync, same as a film projector.

It's funny because last night, after spending this last week re-building my 35mm KEM, I was thinking about how to get timecode on the film that matched the digital audio recoding. I went through so many scenario's and there really isn't a way of doing it. It would have to read edge based timecode on each frame that was positioned exactly at the picture head. So the reader would need to be a laser on the picture head, pointing at the edge of the film and the camera would need to write identical time code on each frame, to match the audio recorder. All of those things are just impossible to achieve without developing a new camera system, hardware and software. So yea... just a dream at this point. :(

The only real solution is to buy a magnasync and transfer your audio, clip by clip to mag stock and edit the way us old-fashion guys do. Magnasync's are big/heavy and really expensive for some reason. Mag stock is also not cheap and again, it doesn't sound good. However if you just use dialog, and you don't care about what it sounds like, you MAY be able to get away with it. I have a 6 plate 16mm flatbed, so I run one track audio and one track music. Then after cutting I will transfer the cut audio and picture into my computer and do the audio digitally. Once it's digital, it's easy to send off a file with the proper marks to make an optical track for a film print if you want. But as I said above, theoretically you can slave your computer to a cut film print and play it back from start to finish using the timecode generator on the flatbed. If... and I mean BIG IF, you can make it all work. I haven't tried... :(

Just an FYI, I spend a lot of time working on flatbeds, I'm going to be the "go to guy" in LA for KEM's eventually, I'm mentoring with the current guy and when he retires, I'll be the guy to see. So I've been getting my hands dirty and unfortunately what I've been learning is sad. Most of these flatbeds are falling apart at the seams. Everything from DC tachometers failing to belts, power supply, cabling and calibration issues. My 16mm flatbed needs so much work, it almost doesn't seem worth it in the long run. They're well made, but they're also problematic and even when they work flawlessly, they're still not great. Because they use toothed belts, there is always play in the system, so the sync is never perfect. My little moviola 16mm viewer, actually looks better then my 16mm KEM, though it doesn't play smoothy of course. Projectors are SOOO much better. My Kodak Pageant looks fantastic and the more modern xenon machines are bright and work great.

Truth be told... the only real digital audio solution is to stripe timecode pulses where the soundtrack normally goes on your finished film print. Then find a box that will plug into the headphone jack of your film projector that will convert that analog TC pulse into digital and then lock it to software. This way you've got excellent quality picture on the projector side, with decent digital audio. Of course, not gonna cut a movie that way, but for presentation sake... which is all you can do on a flatbed anyway using digital audio, it looks a lot better. Again, none of this has been fully developed and it wouldn't take much, just some ingenuity. I've seen some projector syncing solutions, but none of them are based on printed timecode.
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#4 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 14 January 2017 - 04:01 PM

In terms of models... there are 6 brands, but the two most popular are KEM and Steenbeck.

All of the KEM's have interchangeable modules, from 16 to 35. I don't know if they ever made super 8 support, but they may have in recent years.

KEM's use one motor to drive the sprockets and picture head, with separate motors to drive the reels.

Steenbecks are an entirely different breed of machine. They are single function only, so you can't interchange any modules. They also use one motor, but the same motor drives everything. This means, there are a lot more belts and much longer ones to boot.

Steenbeck's are lighter on film for sure, they are smoother operating machines. KEM's aren't as smooth, they seem to be harsher on start/stops.

I have a 16mm Rapid and a 35mm Universal. Both are from the 70's and they both work totally different from one another, which is funny. I kinda like the Rapid's design better because it's easier to work on and the picture head doesn't rely on a sprocket to run the prism, the prism itself pulls the film through, which is very nice. It's easier to get the film in and out of as well, making it easier to edit. The Rapid also has a more standard "jog shuttle" control, where the universals are buttons. I personally like the jog shuttle over the button control.

KEM's also fold up to fit through doors and Steenbecks' don't. This is a HUGE problem with fitting flatbeds into a house or apartment. You have to almost disassemble the entire top of the Steenbeck to fit it anywhere, where the KEM just glides right in after removing a few screws that allow it to tip up. These are critical things to be thinking of when buying such a large piece of equipment.
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#5 Evan Samaras

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Posted 14 January 2017 - 04:14 PM

Thank you for the message Bill!

 

and Thank you for the detailed response Tyler!

 

It seems like a lot to consider. I was recommended to stick with a Steenbeck, but based on what you mentioned, it may be easier to fit a KEM. Although I guess that largely depends on the size of the flatbed as well.

 

I stumbled across the following article that made me believe I should be able to sync to my current setup:

http://www.zachpoff....-digital-audio/

 

I have a Super 8 GS1200 that accepts a pulse sync that will allow it to run at consistent speed. I was hoping for something just as easy.

 

I really don't want to have to transfer to mag, as the film costs are high enough for me as it is. 

 

My plan was to eventually create an optical track and then to marry it to a print. I was hoping to go from start to end. I will be filming a music video for a friend in the coming month and I hoped to use this project as a great way to introduce myself to the whole process.

 

I'm fortunate enough to have a lab nearby that will allow me to do most of what I need to do from start to finish in terms of creating a work print and marrying the sound track, etc. 

 

I have seen a few old discussions across the web regarding the ability to sync a computer to their Steenbeck. Maybe someone who has had success in the project can weigh in as well?

 

Thanks again!


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#6 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 14 January 2017 - 10:05 PM

As I said earlier, it's easy to get a computer locked to a sync pulse. But what good is that outside of playing back a complete product.

I guess my question is, what are you trying to achieve? Do you want to edit a film on a flatbed with sync audio? If so, you HAVE to use the mag tracks, there is zero other options. Think about the workflow and how it would work digitally and you'll see the gaping hole that nobody has yet to fill.
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#7 Evan Samaras

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 12:39 AM

Tyler,

 

Thank you again for the response. After having some time to re-read your detailed explanation I think I have a better understanding. I will try to follow, but please correct me if I am wrong.

 

There are ways to sync a flatbed to my computer/DAW (where i conduct my audio editing). The DAW will act as the slave and chase the flatbed's sync. However, eventually the image and audio will start to drift, even with the sync. Is this correct? I think I recall something on Super 8 re-recordings, that even with the sync, after 400'-600' some drift may start to occur. I assume the same would happen in this case. 

 

Now you also stated "theoretically you can slave your computer to a cut film print and play it back from start to finish using the timecode generator on the flatbed. If... and I mean BIG IF, you can make it all work."

Here I am assuming you mean only after I've made the magsync transfer to digital?


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#8 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 03:46 AM

Yea, not quite there yet! LOL :)

So... I'll try to explain.

Just because the audio playback device is synched to the flatbed, doesn't mean it's synched to the "material" on the flatbed.

So you build a timeline in Pro Tools or whatever editor you want to use. You painstakingly sync everything to match the timecode on the flatbed. You label everything with a grease pencil, so you know you're on.

Now... you make a cut in that original camera reel... what happens to the audio then? It's completely lost. You no longer have "continuity" in your camera roll. Now you want to cut in 60 seconds of that 2 minute shot you pulled, how does your audio playback system have any idea where that goes and what it's doing? In fact, your playback system doesn't even know what the "new reel" full of cut content has in it because you don't either.

The only way to "edit" on a flatbed WITH AUDIO, is to cut the audio with the picture, physically.

The process works by cutting out the shots you want, including mag audio. Then assembling the shots on paper first and then cutting them together on film. The pertaining audio for each shot is physically spliced exactly with the picture in sync with one another throughout the entire process.

So yea... if you simply wish to playback an already cut piece of film, your little trick with the timecode generator will work fine. If you plan on doing any cutting, you've just changed your entire world and reset it from ground zero, every time you make a single cut. Not saying it's impossible to slide audio around, but it would be so much work on the pro tools side, work you'd have to do on every single cut, I have a feeling it wouldn't be worth while in the long run.
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#9 Evan Samaras

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 10:05 AM

Okay, so I THINK I got it now, haha

Even though it is possible, it would require much work and really doesn't make sense.. Meaning, every time a physical cut is made for the image, a corresponding audio cut would have to be made in the DAW.

Now, please correct if I'm wrong, but for something like a music video it seems like less of an issue to me. I could see how it would become very painful for other matters.

However I guess this is also based on whether I was correct in my statement regarding sync drift. Do I have to worry about sync drift? If I edit my film according to the song, could I then send out a digital track to have an optical track made, and would I have to worry about drift if I were to marry it to a print?

If i don't have to worry about drift, I feel as though it may be a decent way to start with physical film editing. This gives me some time to work on smaller projects, practice, and learn my way around the table before throwing in magnasync.
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#10 Simon Wyss

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 12:03 PM

Please excuse my comment but I see no sense with making a hybrid fuzz out of a Steenbeck.

The manufacturer may have offered an interface and such. I shouldn’t bother. The only useful electronic elongation I ever encountered with a flatbed editor was a frame counter. For the rest you better work with your hands and brains.

 

Do you know how fast one can proceed with such a thing? If you separate the physical cutting from pure marking on the flatbed, an assistant could do the assembly, you literally rush through the rolls. Editing happens in you first, then to the materials.

 

Use Rivas, not Cattozzo.


Edited by Simon Wyss, 15 January 2017 - 12:06 PM.

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#11 Mark Dunn

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 12:17 PM

KEM's also fold up to fit through doors and Steenbecks' don't. This is a HUGE problem with fitting flatbeds into a house or apartment. You have to almost disassemble the entire top of the Steenbeck to fit it anywhere, where the KEM just glides right in after removing a few screws that allow it to tip up. These are critical things to be thinking of when buying such a large piece of equipment.

My 4-plate Steenbeck fits through the doors in my house. Even if it didn't,  I don't "almost have to disassemble it", I remove two bolts and the bed tips up to 90 degrees. Most of the weight ( the best part of 3cwt) is in the base, though.

There is still some manufacturer support for it, at a price, and the sync is perfect, because of the toothed belts, not in spite of them. Replacement belts are stock items, and older ones are perishable, unlike the new polyurethane ones, so be prepared for a bill north of £150 or however many dollars depending on the model. Another weakness is the grease in the prism unit setting solid and causing inexplicable stoppages. It's fixable if you're mechanically handy. A post-1975 model is a better bet- there was an electronic redesign and ICs were put in. Mine is older,  ex-BBC. It's even older than the ones I used at film school in 1979-82.

I'm sure most of these things apply to KEMs as well- most of these machines are a few decades old now.


Edited by Mark Dunn, 15 January 2017 - 12:29 PM.

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#12 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 03:39 PM

Even though it is possible, it would require much work and really doesn't make sense.. Meaning, every time a physical cut is made for the image, a corresponding audio cut would have to be made in the DAW.


And how do you know how many frames to shift something? How do you know how many frames to reduce the length of the clip? How do you re-sync? It's really impossible to do all of that.

Now, please correct if I'm wrong, but for something like a music video it seems like less of an issue to me. I could see how it would become very painful for other matters.


If you don't care about lip sync, it's not a problem. If you're making a music video with lip sync, then ya it wouldn't work and it's for the same reason. When you cut shots you like out of the print and hanging them up, you have no idea what audio is associated with them. Now in a music video, it's easier to determine that obviously, but it's still difficult.

So you would start by syncing the first picture element to your Pro Tools playback, but you'd have to remove that picture element from the machine to find the NEXT picture element, which requires syncing it up as well and then pulling a section you want from it, then re-threading the first picture element again and resynching.

The solution is to record your song a few times onto mag stock and when you pull shots out of your camera rolls, you've got audio synched to the picture. It's then a lot easier to determine where things are. With a 6 plate, you could use two of the audio plates for 2nd picture elements if you wanted. I would use a double picture head editor for music videos...

If i don't have to worry about drift, I feel as though it may be a decent way to start with physical film editing. This gives me some time to work on smaller projects, practice, and learn my way around the table before throwing in magnasync.


I think you underestimate the complexity of the problem. When you cut shots out of your camera roll, you no longer have a sync point. So you'd be futzing with sync forever. You'd basically turn Pro Tools into a video NLE, only the "video" aspect would be cut by hand.
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#13 Evan Samaras

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 05:01 PM

Thank you for all your help Tyler, I appreciate it very much.

 

I am determined to have some fun, so I will keep an eye out for a flatbed editor. It sounds like I will need to acquire a reel to reel magnetic tape recorder as well as magnasyc (assuming the flatbed won't have one).

 

Could I ask for recommendations on a specific magnasync unit? I've seen a few on ebay, but also hope to also find one I know is reliable and working.

 

How about suggestions on a magnetic recorder?

Is it wrong to assume that most recorders should run at a constant speed?


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#14 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 05:28 PM

Sorry,  I don't have time t read everything Tyler wrote...

What is meant by a "magnasync unit"....?

 

Let's go to the most primary,  most interesting,  most important thing.... Cutting picture and sprocketed sound is enormous fun and is a fairly direct connection to what the nature of the film medium is....

 

The only practical, technical problem I see is that after cutting the sprocketed sound (flatbed or pic sync) is that there are almost no mixing facilities left that take cut sprocketed tracks...

 

However,  even in the 80s,  higher end mix facilities would dump your sprocketed tracks onto a wide magnetic tape,  which,  I cant remember,  may have been locked by pulse rather than sprockets.  So,  wide multitrack machines are still around.  One could cobble together in ones garage,  a mix facility that accepted sprocketed cuts.

 

Issues of noise on the sprocketed tape...?  Doesn't this depend on the nature of the project?  All the extra modern technology...is it giving more freedom...or is it adding more boundaries and difficulties...?


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#15 Evan Samaras

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 06:16 PM

I may be misunderstanding, or using the wrong terminology. By magnasync unit, I meant a a recording unit that will allow me to transfer my audio to magnetic tape. From there, I should hope to align the start points, in order to allow me to edit at that point. I think the unit Tyler referred to was a magnasyc. Am I wrong? Are there alternatives to a Magnasyc? 

 

 

It seems like I am getting myself into quite a bit of work/fun, but it will be a great way to keep me busy. 


Edited by Evan Samaras, 15 January 2017 - 06:22 PM.

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#16 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 06:34 PM

Magnasync is a generic phrase used in the US to describe magnetic playback and recording systems for film editing.

http://www.ebay.com/...zUAAOSw8oFXzQGI

This is basically the only piece of equipment needed. Then you'd run the output from your computer directly into it and record to magnetic tape.
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#17 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 07:39 PM

I thought magnasync was a company that made various stuff.  What may confuse things is that around 1960 the magnasync/moviola names became joined. 

 

Finding a 16mm recorder/playback machine may seem like a hurdle, but setting up an analogue mix process is more so.  However,  multitracking on sprocketless magnetic tape would make that achievable.


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#18 Evan Samaras

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 07:58 PM

I guess there is no rush, as I will have to wait patiently for a flatbed editor anyhow.

 

I assume that not every 16mm recorder will run at a constant rate. I read somewhere that most recorders made after a certain period of time should run constant, but I guess I will have to investigate models as they show up. I hope they are all not as big as that Tyler! haha!

 

Will sprocketless mag tape run on a flatbed editor? If so would it stay in sync even without the perforations?


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#19 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 08:32 PM

One must detrermine how important the accuracy of the tape speed is.  This answer comes easily if one understands the nature of the project one is intending.  Otherwise,  one is just guessing,  trying to assimilate what others consider to be important or usefull.

 

I have a Magnasync (fairly sure) 16mm recorder under my desk with a valve amplifier and a really crappy looking belt drive in there.  But all quite upgradeable if one had the knowledge and a few skills. This is to answer the question about "constant rate"...

 

If looking for a sprocketed 16mm recorder,  go for the latest one you can find for the cheapest price.  They aren't all on eBay...

 

When I talk of a sprocketless mag tape recorder,  I am thinking of a 1/2',  1' etc tape machine that one could use a pulse to lock the speed.  Dump the 16mm mag tracks on that.  Mix away.  Send it wherever you want.

 

Finding a 16mm recorder should not be that hard...Finding a sprocketless multitrack will be easier.... But these are just my guesses...


Edited by Gregg MacPherson, 15 January 2017 - 08:37 PM.

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#20 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 08:40 PM

No,  the wide mulitrack (unsprocketed) tape I amthinking of will not run on a Steenbeck...!

 

I think you need to research this more aggressively before asking questions on the forum.  Then you can ask some more difficult questions...


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