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Chris Leutger

Flatbed Editing 2014

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I'm a photographer and recently bought a Super 16 camera to start making films. I have the opportunity to get a Showchron flatbed editor for free but am trying to figure out what this entails. My initial thinking was that I could do a rough cut of processed neg then get the final cut scanned to cut down scanning costs. But from research it sounds like that's a bad idea to edit the neg and apparently I would need to get a work print made? Most places I look at for processing seem to process and scan. So my question would be

1. What is the proper process on a flatbed?

2. Where can I get intermediate prints done today?

3. Would it be cheaper to just get everything scanned and edit digitally?

 

I work in color and B&W darkrooms and vastly prefer hands-on processes to time spent in front of a computer so that part appeals to me, but if it's only going to cost me money perhaps I should pass. There was a place in town that had room for this for rent where I could have learned but they seem to have closed up shop so I don't have much in the way of resources to find out and the Showchron is available now. Thanks in advance.

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I still use my Steenbeck flatbed. You never touch your orginal camera negative. You send that to the lab for processing and get a "one-light" or timed workprint made. I usually get a one-light workprint (cheaper) and that is what you use to edit. When you are finished with the editing, you take your editied print and the negative to a negative cutter who then conforms the negative to the same edits that you made on the workprint.

 

Colorlab in NYC & Maryland still make prints. I really started working with FotoKem in L.A. and the prices are about the same for printing & processing. Are you using sound or is this a silent film? And if so, what are you using to record?

 

The biggest problem these days is that negative cutters are few & far between. And the black leader used for A/B roll conforming is no longer manufactured by Kodak. So you would definitely want to line everyone and everything up (just as I am) before you decide on the post-production workflow.

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Bear in mind that unless the flatbed is modified for Super-16 you won't see the entire frame. You would also risk some scratching to the workprint. You wouldn't want to run neg on an unmodified flatbed al all.

Edited by Mark Dunn

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Never run negative on any editing table. Get a film workprint or a telecine transfer with embedded keykode if you want to conform and print the negative in optimal conditions later. Most film students are amazed when they see the full quality of a projected S16 print and we even have a school that makes a direct blow-up from S16 to 35mm once a year to show.

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Thanks for the information. This is starting to sound like it would do the opposite of what I want, which is to save me money. I went with Super 16 because I tend to see that way. I shoot 4x5 color neg film and I'm always cropping my prints so they're wider. But now I can see that I've introduced complexity into the associated equipment. My guess is that if it's possible to modify the machine it would not be cheap. The work print part would be an expense that would offset my my digital savings so I'm not saving money there. I probably wouldn't want to get the workprint conformed, just scanned. Digital projection being all the rage these days. If I got to the point where I was famous with art world clout like Tacita Dean then I would want prints for gallery projection but at my level that would not be in the cards.

 

The movies i had planned would be silent or would have field recordings edited in digitally. I had planned to do field recordings on a Tascam but had been thinking about getting a tape recorder such as an old Nagra. But syncing sound wasn't important to my process.....

 

Sigh, it's a damn shame because the idea of working on a flatbed is way more appealing to me than working in Premiere.....

 

Thanks everyone, good to get these insights since I was supposed to pick up that Showchron tonight...

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There's also this on craigslist: http://seattle.craigslist.org/sno/pho/4631589522.html

 

It looks like exactly what you might need. Either way, I say go with a flatbed, especially if you can get one for free and you have the space for it. Get a work print made. Edit that down and, viola, you have something you can project with a projector. Beyond that, you could also have it negative-cut from the original camera negative and then you'd be able to either make prints from that or just scan it. You might also save some money/hard drive space by not having to scan all of your footage, just the final conformed negative (depending on how much footage you shoot). Plus, you'd always be able to make prints at a later time if you wanted.

 

Also, that KEM table looks like it has timecode, which leads me to suspect you might be able to sync it up to playback with digital sound. If it works, that is.

Edit: On second thought, it's probably just be a digital footage counter.

Edited by Josh Gladstone

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Thanks, looks like it's raining editors here in Seattle. If the Showchron could do Super 16 film I would get it.... but Mark had a good point, since these machines are made for 16mm that they'll scratch my print....

Edited by Chris Leutger

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It entails some DIY, but it's quite easy and cheap to make your own workprints. This can be done with a homemade contact printer which will include the edge numbers for conforming later, or a simple optical projection set-up. I currently use the latter, marking the original between the frames every few inches. This works with Ultra-16 but unfortunately Super-16 hasn't got that space available, so probably contact printing is easier using an old modified camera with a widened gate. Film stock can be any old stuff you find, perhaps b/w neg and easy to process. It's really quite straightforward to do your own conforming and neg cutting, rather laborious maybe but at least you know your own footage.

Edited by Doug Palmer

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Thank you! That sounds fascinating, I like the contact printing idea a lot. I like it as a way to generate work in general. Before I run off to google is there anywhere you could direct me for more information?

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... I like the contact printing idea ....

Years ago I did some DIY contact printing. I bi-packed the B&W neg/print stock through a pic sync (motorized syncronizer). I used my small maglight with a custom cardboard shroud on the end, a thin slit for the light. A couple of wedge tests to set the basic exposure level (can't remember if I used slit size or ND gel or both) and I was good. Sounds ridiculous but it gave me a good usable WP.

 

I'm trying to remember if I did a similar trick on a flatbed, using the maglight.

 

Everything depends on what kind of project you are trying to achieve. If it is consistent, clean, photo-realistic then you may need the lab.

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Years ago I did some DIY contact printing. I bi-packed the B&W neg/print stock through a pic sync (motorized syncronizer). I used my small maglight with a custom cardboard shroud on the end, a thin slit for the light. A couple of wedge tests to set the basic exposure level (can't remember if I used slit size or ND gel or both) and I was good. Sounds ridiculous but it gave me a good usable WP.

 

Not ridiculous at all. This is the basic concept of a Bell and Howell Model C printer. The sprocket diameter is even correct for lining up short pitch negative with long pitch positive stock. I've often wondered about a DIY project along these lines, and the fact that you did it proves its merit! Would like to hear more about it.

Edited by dan kessler

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Trying to remember what the film stocks were. I think it was PlusX reversal processed as neg and telerecording film as print stock. I was completely unthinking about the perf pitch at the time. I remember holding the edges of the two layers of film between my finger and thumb, giving some tension.

 

I also made a DIY optical printer with an old projector head and a bolex, extension bellows macro, household bulb as a source with filters from the Lee swatch. A singer sewing machine motor served when shifting film through quickly. The frame by frame was done manually.

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1. Workprints are viewed and marked on a flatbed editor. Some people separate the physical cutting and splicing from the machine, some edit the footage as they go.

 

2. An intermediate print hasn’t been heard of. It’s a print, workprint or first contact or daily or rush print. Not that that was important, only to mention.

 

3. The more time you spend on editing, the cheaper it gets with film.

Edited by Simon Wyss

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Gregg - that's pretty cool! I think I've got a lot to learn.....as for the look, for what I'm working on now I'm not looking for a clean look. And at this point just wanting to figure out how this stuff works.

 

Simon, thanks for the information.I'm at beginning of a long learning process and appreciate everyone's assistance!

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I expect you'll find all kinds of film lab kit around eBay if you don't want to go the DIY building route.

 

You should be able to pick up some second hand books on subject.

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I've gotten a couple and am ordering a couple more......and am working on meeting some people in the film community. I've taken some classes here and there and done some Super 8 messin' around like so many others but have decided to get serious hence the purchase of an Eclair......

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Thank you! That sounds fascinating, I like the contact printing idea a lot. I like it as a way to generate work in general. Before I run off to google is there anywhere you could direct me for more information?

Surprisingly, this old contraption gives very sharp and steady workprints. http://filmisfine.co/new-life-for-16mm-antiques/

I made it for regular-16 but for super-16 you would widen the gate both sides (to include all the edge number information and image). Also probably file off any sharp edges on the sprocket wheel etc that could scratch the S.16 image. Or if no DIY preferred, perhaps use your own super-16 camera and see if it will handle 2 strips of film without problem. Then in the dark, interleave the original and the print stock (which could be b/w neg) on to a spool or mag, load up allowing extra loop for the print stock, and aim the lens at a diffused light source. But this way you won't include the edge number info for conforming. You'd have to eyematch instead.

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I should have said the original to be copied needs more loop, both above and below the gate. Just one extra frame is needed. It of course sits in front of the print stock.

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I'd say definitely don't pass up the free flatbed if you have space.

I get half a dozen enquiries a year about renting my Steenbeck.

Edited by Mark Dunn

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Although I make the DIY printing sound fun and easy, it does require some serious tinkering skill and would probably not be fun for most people. Nowadays maybe its easier to start with an old printer from the lab.

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Too late. I gave it up. There had been others wanting it and I thought perhaps it should go to someone with more expertise. While I had the space, I didn't really have the space. My spare bedroom is a combination lighting studio, viewing wall for photography, painting space and not a large room. I think if the Showchron would have worked with S16 and I had a better idea of the workflow it would have made more sense but at this point I think it would have have been more in the way. Of course now I'm suffering from....well not buyers remorse.....but denial remorse?

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Oh, I'm committed to film, don't worry about that. It's just a matter if I can edit on film with my S16 ways. For the time being I'll just have my film scanned when I get it processed and ugh, work in Premiere. I have a fair amount of shooting and testing to do to learn proper metering and such with my brand new Eclair.

 

I do a huge amount of shooting with my 4x5 and spend a lot of time in the darkroom. There's a local institution that has a Steenbeck but has been undergoing some....revamping of things. I'm hoping that they start allowing people to rent it again. To be honest, much like with the darkroom I do like getting out of the house to do work like that so this might work out well for me. At home I tend to....procrastinate...and then experience procrastinators remorse....

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I owned a 35mm KEM once, it was shifted between storage and storage until I had to pass it on - wish I had the chance to get it running ...

 

anyhoo, time to get off-topic re. wide 4x5:

 

I used to shoot near to 4x8 by having splitting a dark slide in 8x10" - get two shots per sheet that way - trick is to shift slightly to get central shift again (if it matters for the content) and then not get confused to what sides were exposed so far etc... no reason 2x5 wouldn't be the same.

 

Once I got into larger and larger formats and contact printing I never did it again ...

 

Maybe it's an old idea that you're well aware of - regardless, nice to hear from other LF photographers ;)

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