Retro Telecine

Building an 8mm Telecine Machine with Style

Friday, January 30, 2009

Movie Making

img_griswold.jpgA few months before I was born in 1958, my Dad started making 8mm movies. He took his new hobby seriously, learned good camera technique, and invested the time to edit what he shot. Dad built an editing desk in a cabinet in the corner of the family room. I remember many pleasant hours playing nearby and the sounds of the whirring gears as Dad cranked the spools back and forth, the clip of the scissors as he cut out scenes and tucked them in the neat, numbered holes of his plywood clip boards, the scrape and clank as he opened and closed the clamps of the splicer, and the smell of the acetone cement that held our memories together.

img_bolex.jpgThe product was a pair of films for each year, one of the big vacation trip, and one of the rest of our lives. The second always ended with Christmas. Dad would set up movie lights and tripod and we would have to come on stage on cue and act surprised at the pile of presents under the tree, even though we had already seen them, and in fact probably knew what was in them after covert operations under the bed and in the closet.

I was fascinated with the whole business. Though I never did much shooting (film and processing were pretty expensive for a kid in those days), I loved to fondle the cameras and lenses and pretend to be a real cinematographer.

img_dejur1000.jpgI was a real projectionist, and getting out the old DeJUR projector and watching movies was at the top of my list of fun things to do. The projector, like the cameras, had so many knobs and switches and involved proper procedures and adjustments to work smoothly and not damage the precious films. I can still smell that 1000 watt lamp and hot projector oil, and I can still hear the motor and the clicking of the claw in the sprocket holes. I have fond memories of enjoying our memories.

Dad continued to make movies until I was a teenager in the 70’s. In college, I began doing 35mm still photography, which led to a job at Eastman Kodak, where I met my wife, and also became a bit of a pioneer in digital cameras, and… well, Dad’s hobby has certainly left it’s impression.

Fortunately, we still have those old movies, and the film has not deteriorated noticeably… yet. Dad had a VHS tape made from the 1958 family movie a few years ago. It’s fun to watch it, but the picture looks so bad that we never had any more done. It’s just as well, since we’re in the DVD age now and copying the old movies digitally means they can be re-copied in the future without losing anything. But it’s still very expensive. It would cost around $2000 to do Dad’s whole collection and so we have procrastinated.

Recently, my son was trying some stop motion animation, making fun short films of lego men fighting epic battles on his desktop, using a little webcam. It occurred to me that the same process could digitize the old movies pretty easily. Google brought me some sites of others who had done that very thing with success, so I jumped in. This blog is the story of that project. Maybe it will give you some ideas or encouragement.


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