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Steven Budden

Old, classic film look

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I'm filming with a bolex and wondering if it is possible to get that look of very early films, by the lumiere brothers for instance. In a dvd I saw of many directors using that early Lumiere cinematograph to make their own shorts, the films looked so beautiful. I can't imagine this has much to do with the camera? Perhaps the film speed? I assume it has something to do with the lens and the film stock? I'm wondering if there is any way to duplicate that with modern stock? What lenses would be suitable? Kind of like old Muybridge photos. I suppose if I could hand wind I could get that flicker from the exposure varying slightly as the speed of the wind varied?

 

Any help appreciated.

 

Thanks!

 

Steven

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Hi,

 

Hand wound can get you flicker, if you do it sufficiently badly!

 

But in what way did you find the images beautiful? The very earliest stuff would have been mono stock that was sensitive only to blue, and you can duplicate that by shooting a modern panchromatic stock with a deep blue filter. Skies look bright, leaves and women's lips look dark (big smoky eye makeup in early movies perhaps motivated by this.) It might also look very contrasty compared to modern stock, and you can shoot, even push, current hi-con black and white film for similar effect. Also, early lenses might have vignetted, darkening the corners of the image. This is still something that's done intentionally in telecine, and you can do it there or even on your desktop computer.

 

Or, are you seeing the faults that exist in any very old film - things like scratches, dirt, instability, which are also very evocative of an era?

 

Phil

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Hi,

 

Hand wound can get you flicker, if you do it sufficiently badly!

 

But in what way did you find the images beautiful? The very earliest stuff would have been mono stock that was sensitive only to blue, and you can duplicate that by shooting a modern panchromatic stock with a deep blue filter. Skies look bright, leaves and women's lips look dark (big smoky eye makeup in early movies perhaps motivated by this.) It might also look very contrasty compared to modern stock, and you can shoot, even push, current hi-con black and white film for similar effect. Also, early lenses might have vignetted, darkening the corners of the image. This is still something that's done intentionally in telecine, and you can do it there or even on your desktop computer.

 

Or, are you seeing the faults that exist in any very old film - things like scratches, dirt, instability, which are also very evocative of an era?

 

Phil

 

Thanks!

 

Actually, what I found beautiful was in part those things you mentioned, but in part I felt like there wasn't that much contrast. Many of the films had a slightly washed out look, like certain Steiglitz photos of figures in fog. Not the high contrast of classic film... I should've said maybe pre classic? Almost antique. They were delicate and subtle almost like a graphite drawing. Maybe they didn't have light meters back then so they would just eyeball it?

 

Have you seen that selection of shorts? I think it was called Lumiere and Company?

 

Steven

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There's something ephemeral about old images that look frail -- although if you see a good print of a Silent Era film with a negative or copy in good condition, it looks very modern in some ways, sharp & fine-grained. I saw a new print of Buster Keaton's "The General" on the big screen and it looked fantastic. Of course, that's not pre-1900.

 

The softness of the lenses and the lack of anti-halation backings help give those movies a somewhat diffused quality; diffusion filters on b&w film may help, older uncoated lenses too. Some had a tendency to fall-off in brightness towards the center, although that was mostly done with an iris in front of the lens in later Silent Era films.

 

The pulsing of the image has less to do wth hand-cranking and more to do with the method of processing on racks back then, causing uneven development, made worse over time due to aging. But hand-cranking at lower frame rates (like 16 fps) also contributes to the sense of "surging" motion.

 

There is efx software that simulates some of the pulsing & decay of old movies.

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Also, use older lenses. I have several pre-1920 lenses I use for just this effect, and they're super-easy to find as well. Also, use super-slow stocks, like Plus-X reveral, and cross-process them to further reduse the ASA, helps get things as close as possible. Another option is to shoot on Fomapan, which has a very old-fashioned look as it is, and combine it with the older lenses for the right effect.

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In a dvd I saw of many directors using that early Lumiere cinematograph to make their own shorts, the films looked so beautiful."

 

Sorry I can't help you achieve that aesthetic, but I have to comment on the Lumiere project. I really enjoyed watching most of those shorts. David Lynch's piece was amazing. It was interesting to see the different approaches each director took toward making a short without editing or modern equipment. Everytime I see one of those cameras surface at auction, I have to wipe a little drool. ;) It would be a lot of fun, and a big privelege, to get my hands on one and shoot a roll.

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In a dvd I saw of many directors using that early Lumiere cinematograph to make their own shorts, the films looked so beautiful."

 

...Everytime I see one of those cameras surface at auction, I have to wipe a little drool. ;) It would be a lot of fun, and a big privelege, to get my hands on one and shoot a roll.

 

John Dowdell, Chief Colorist at Technicolor Creative Services in NYC used an old 1911 Willamson hand cranked camera to shoot a demo using modern film stocks to show the kind of quality you could get from modern film, even with very old equipment. When transferred on a Spirit telecine, the quality from the 90-year old camera was amazing. John has presented his demo at various seminars, and a DVD "Film - A Medium for All Resolutions" is available from him:

 

http://www.cinewomenny.org/cinenews/jan02/takenote.html

 

http://www.digitalmediatraining.com/zoomin...ights/tech.html

 

http://www.technicolor.com/Cultures/En-Us/...unchesMajor.htm

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I've seen a few of thse old cameras sell for really high prices on ebay.

I assumed people were buying these just as collectors, but do you think any of these guys are picking these up to shoot with?

 

How would you rate the lenses? (They would have to be pretty damn good, if the footage with modern stocks looked amazing)

 

MP

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How would you rate the lenses?  (They would have to be pretty damn good, if the footage with modern stocks looked amazing)

 

MP

 

I saw the demo about three years ago. I recall that Mr. Dowdell used the tools available on his telecine to compensate for the deficiencies (unsteadiness, flare) of the old camera and lenses. And this is 35mm viewed on a NTSC monitor from a DVD, so I don't think he is suggesting the Williamson for a feature film. ;)

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OH come on there John, it would be a real novelty to produce a feature using such ancient equipment. I've often considered shooting a film on my filmo, just for the experience and to say "I've done this!"

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One online dealer of the classic hand cranked cameras can be found here:

 

http://www.samdodge.com/

 

My first 16mm film was shot with a handcranked camera. It was formerly a B&H Filmo 70 which had been stripped down for use as an Air Force gun camera. When I got it surplus it had no lens, viewfinder or motor. I stuck a handcrank on the shaft coming out of the body. Made a wireframe viewfinder and stuck a lens on it. I shot a roll of outdated Kodachrome which I had a friend process with black and white reversal chemicals. The results looked like one of those films made at the turn of the century. Yellowish cast, flicker, and high contrast. I still have that camera though I can now handcrank any of my Bolexes or old Cine Specials. I also have two Russian made 35mm cameras which came with handcranks. I can imagine handcranking several thousand feet of film for an entire feature. You would have to develop a strong arm to do that. ;)

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That reminds me Herb, I've been trying to figure out how to open up my Filmo in order to have a similar conversion. I've always wanted a hand-cranked camera, and may as well use the camera I have now for it.

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You don't need to open up a Filmo or Eyemo to hand crank it. Every filmo from the 70-DA on at least has a slot for hand crank, it takes 8 frames per turn. If you're shooting 24 fps you'll need to turn it 3 cranks a second, which gets tiresome after awhile. You can even crank it backward for a few seconds, but then you're fighting the winding spring.

Edited by Robert Hughes

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How does one crank a bolex? Do you use the rewind crank forward or do you use a handle in the motor drive shaft?

 

I was wondering about that. I had an epiphany that I could just use the rewind crank forward but then I found out it wouldn't really work because of different claw system? I dunno.

 

Herb, that sounds interesting. SO you got that old look? I suppose editing without a workprint could give some of the scratches and things. George Kuchar suggests to do this so a film feels like a rediscovered treasure which has been cleaned up as much as possible.

 

I've been interested to in hand developing. For 100 ft spools it wouldn't be so hard right?

 

Steven

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I've taken my Filmo apart before but it was easy since it doesn't have a spring motor. I think it was a 70DA since the original mounting place for the handcrank socket it still there. Instead a shaft that connected directly to the drive came out of the hole where the winding key was.

 

You can handcrank a Bolex using the rewind crank after disconnecting the spring drive. The crank won't stay in place so I have considered building a special handcrank plate that mounts to camera using the bolt holes for the motors. You can handcrank a Cine Special as well. I also have a Kodak K100 which has a socket for a handcrank though I haven't found one for the camera yet.

 

I have a Konvas 35mm movie camera with a handcrank, it has a 200 foot capacity magazine. I also have a Rodina 35mm pin registered movie camera which came with a handcrank along with two electric motors and 400 foot magazines. I'm adapting an animation drive for this camera. Both of these cameras expose 8 frames per turn of the crank. I find it takes a bit of practice to crank these at 16 fps and keep the speed consistent. 24 fps speed will really wear your arm out.

 

When my friend processed the film he just had a 25' tank for double regular 8mm. So for my old 100 foot roll of 16mm Kodachrome he processed it in a sink. The results really looked homemade.

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I saw the demo about three years ago.  I recall that Mr. Dowdell used the tools available on his telecine to compensate for the deficiencies (unsteadiness, flare)  of the old camera and lenses.  And this is 35mm viewed on a NTSC monitor from a DVD, so I don't think he is suggesting the Williamson for a feature film.  ;)

 

I have the DVD, yes they had to do some post image stabilization - a bit jittery in the transfer. No compensation for flare problems that I can see, othing unduly bright in the scene. Looks pretty nice actually :)

 

-Sam

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Herb,

 

Sounds like you have a whole room full of cameras! I'll scrounge around for some of those models you mentioned and start working on the hand cranking idea. It seems like if you were going to build a handcrank system for the bolex you might as well make one that attaches to the drive shaft. Why in my bolex SBM manual does it say IMPORTANT: Do not use the rewind crank for filming!. Of course, that's all it says. It actually makes one want to try it? I asked someone and they said it was because of a different claw system. But you say you've gotten decent results with it?

 

Anyone have any advice for processing 16mm black and white 100' spools in an apartment? I've tried to read up on it but mostly what I came up with was for 8mm.

 

Thanks! That gives me plenty to think about.

 

Steven

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Not a whole lot but three Bolexes, three B&H 240 models, a K100 (soon to get another), three 35mm (one still needs asasembly), a bunch of Super 8mm and regular 8mm cameras. Projectors, editors, one 35mm upright Moviola, splicers, rewinds and such. And a huge lack of room! :lol:

 

I had found several online sites on home processing. For 100 feet of 16mm there is the Arkay G3 tank I have seen at camera shows and occasionally on eBay. You might get inconsistent results with this rewind tank. You would get better processing with a Lomo tank made for 100 feet. A Russian dealer, Olexandr, sold these on his site though I don't know if he still has any in stock. I can post some links later today if you need them.

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Well, since we're discussing camera collections:

16mm

Filmo 70A

Keystone A7

Bell and Howell 200EE

Cinkvox

2 Zenit K-3

 

Super8

Chinon 1206SM

Chinon 200/12XL

Vivitar 84A

Vivitar 100D

 

Regular 8

Bolex L8

Bell and Howell Filmo Sportster

Kodak Brownie

 

I want a 35mm, but they're too pricy for me at this time. I also want an upright moviola, but try finding one for a good price in southern florida.

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I want a 35mm, but they're too pricy for me at this time.  I also want an upright moviola, but try finding one for a good price in southern florida.

 

The most I ever spent for my 35mm cameras is $1,800 for the Rodina. Shipped all the way from St. Petersburg. The Konvas (an early model without a motor) cost $500 with two lenses and a handcrank. And I got a DeVry I'm restoring that cost $50 on eBay. The Moviola cost me less than $200 but the shipping from Califonia to Texas was a killer. I'm surprised there aren't any floating around in Florida since Disney shut down their animation division there. I know the animation desks were all sold off.

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Cheapest Moviola I've seen ran $3k. And yes, $200 isn't bad, it's the $500 to ship the sucker that gets you.

 

As for 35mm, I actually want to build myself a replica of an old wooden hand-crank camera, providing I can find a suitable set of plans.

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I'd be interested to see some of the links to hand processing.

 

The Moviolas... I've been seeing them on ebay. I'm sure more and more will crop up as things move towards digital. I haven't seen one in Florida yet. I've seen them for from $199 to $900 on ebay. How large are they? I could probably afford one but I don't think I would have anywhere to put the thing. For now I'm just using a table and a viewer w/ two rewinds. Also, once I got it into my place and something went wrong with it I wouldn't know what to do. Cry?

 

I think film cameras are beautiful machines. I am supressing the urge to keep buying them. It's also exciting that what was once completely out of reach financially (probably) is now quite affordable, even cheap (for bolexes and such).

But I live in a Studio apartment in San Franicsco where the rent is horrendous, so for now that will keep me from buying.

 

Good to see info on your collections.

 

Thanks for the info!

 

Steven

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If you want to try handcranking and have a K3 or can get one here is an add-on handcrank you can get for it:

 

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewI...ssPageName=WDVW

 

I went ahead and bought one for myself (dealer has several). I don't have a K3 yet but do plan on getting one. They sell quite a few on eBay.

 

In getting the classic film look I recently shot some rolls of 16mm Fomapan and compared it to Plus-X which I shot with the same camera. Fomapan seems to have richer blacks and more contrast when filmed through a yellow and red filter. I think it's because Fomapan has more silver in it than Plus-X from what I heard. I used to buy it from John Schwind but he doesn't carry it anymore. I think there are still a few dealers in the U.S. for Fomapan. You could try getting Svema from a Russian dealer to see if it can give you the look you want.

 

The upright Moviola is large and heavy, which is why the shipping is so much. I guess it's about 4 feet tall and 3 foot square. The shipping crate was about 6 feet high. And the machine weighs around 150 pounds so I had to get help hauling it into my studio.

 

Downix, as to building a handcranked 35mm. The guy who sold me the DeVry camera has a number of the inner mechanisms for these cameras. He sells them for around $25 and has told me one buyer did put one inside a wooden box operated with a handcrank. He sells Eyemo lenses to use with these mechanisms. They are the transport, spool spindles, gate, shutter and pull-down claw. Pretty complete except for a body and lens mount. I got some pictures online of it in case you want the links. I imagine you can adapt any lens for a SLR. The one I got has a body with a 39mm screw thread mount. This matches the thread on a Leica rangefinder camera lens. There are a lot of cheap Russian made lenses with this mount on eBay so I have been buying a few for the DeVry when I get it painted and working. It's like an Eyemo to film with.

 

Steven, if you want to start shooting film go with Super 8mm or a cheap 16mm like a Keystone model. Lots on eBay. I even have an old Cine Kodak model E but it only takes double perf film. The K100 takes single perf as well. Which is the problem with buying older cameras. Bolexes made before the 1950's would need conversion to use single perf since double perf is getting harder to find.

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Could I have the guys contact information? I have plenty of lens mounts already I could adapt. (I have several broken SLR's just for this purpose, Minolta mounts) I'd love to see it.

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