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Damian Tyler

Old school editing and titling

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Posted (edited)

Hi,

If this had been dealt with previously, my apologies, though I can't find any posts on it.

I'm interested in the workflow of manually editing super 8 reveral film, using an editor. I've got several books that deal with this, but not in quite the detail I want. The first part of the process I think I understand. I would put the film on the editor, winding from the feed reel to the takeup reel, markng my cut points as I go. Then I'd wind it back on to the feed reel. I'm assuming that the next step would be to pull it throught the gate by hand, cutting each shot in turn. Is this right? I'd then have my individual shots hanging from pins or in pill boxes or however I wanted to store them. Then, when reassembling the film my impression is that I'd put some leader on the takeup reel, feed the leader through the gate towards the feed side and splice my first shot to it, followed by the second etc. etc., winding on to the takeup reel until the whole film was reassembled. Is this correct? I'm sure this all sounds basic and obvious, but I want to get it right.

Secondly, what do people feel about using cotton gloves for editing? Some of the books I've got say they are essential, but then other things I've read say definitely not to use them.

Finally, for my titles I'm planning printing them out, sticking them to a wall where the light is as even as possible, and shooting a few seconds of each with the camera on a tripod. I don't have a titler and anyway I've got more choice of fonts if I do it this way. Any suggestions as to a better method?

Edited by Damian Tyler
missing point

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Sounds about right. As long as you hold the film by the edges I don't see why you would need cotton gloves. What are you planning to do with your completed films?

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At this point, project them for family and friends to view. When they get to the stage where I'm prepared to show them to other people I'll have them scanned and post them on the internet. But that might not be for a while...

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Unless I have overlooked something, cotton gloves should be OK, but not for splicing. I don't use gloves myself.

If it is important archival material you should not project it much.

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- Pull out the scenes you want to use from the B-Roll 

- Hang them with flags that identify what they are (usually shot numbers) off a wooden dowel hanging into a cotton bag (trash bags can scratch film) 

- Organize shots by number in order and organize complete scenes located in each bag of film. So once you've pulled your takes, you should have bags of film that equate to each scene. In the old days, they'd have a trim bin for each scene. 

- Then all you have to do is splice the film together in order, trimming heads and tails of each shot to make the scene work. 

With Super 8 sound this was pretty easy since your soundtrack was on the film. With separate sound it's a bit more difficult with super 8. For 16mm and 35mm, you'd just use mag stock and transfer the audio from source to mag for editing. With Super 8, there isn't a system that works, so you gotta make it all up. Obviously if you're doing a experimental film or something, it doesn't matter. 

Use cotton gloves to handle the film if possible, but you will scratch it no matter what ya do because it's hard to keep it from dangling and hitting things it's not suppose to. I don't use cotton gloves on work prints, but if you're final piece is going to be projected from that cut, then you should be careful. 

 

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Posted (edited)

Wouldn't it be a lot easier to just digitize the reels up front then use digital video/audio editing?

Edited by Bob Speziale

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It would certainly be a lot easier if I wanted to end up with digital footage. However, any scanning I do will be of secondary importance. The main point is actual celluloid running through a projector. For me, film is film. This is just my view point, and not meant as a criticism of anyone else's way of doing things, but if I'm going to edit digitally and view digitally, I might as well save myself a lot of expense and effort and shoot digitally.

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Posted (edited)

Tyler's advice is very good. I started out hanging the film on pins but it was very fiddly so I moved on to clothes pegs to hold each shot- you can pin them to the dowel or even thread them on a string. If they are numbered you can make a note of each shot. A pillowcase is a ready-made bag. You'll want to mark your cuts with a Chinagraph pencil which can be wiped off later.

I would wear gloves to cut camera original. Make sure that the editor is clean and that there are no rough patches in the film path which could scratch it.

Film is fairly delicate so you will get dirt and scratches. All you can do is try to minimise it.

Edited by Mark Dunn

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Back in the day, professional editors  cutting 16mm camera originals (i.e, reversal), which is going to be transmitted, wore cotton gloves. 

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Lots of great advice from several folks, really nice to see such helpful comments.  For film splicing, unless you have sweaty hands issue, I would just go and wash my hands really well and dry them off well, and make sure they are dry before editing.  There are cotton gloves and there are cotton gloves......the better ones allow better dexterity and fit snuggly and also have elastic wrists so they don't slip.  I also shoot film primarily for projection.  I do suggest these days making a digital backup prior to lots of projection.  There are some good film cleaner lubricants out there, and the industrial standard that is used a lot these days is FilmGuard.  This has allowed scratch free clean projection of 35mm film prints to extend from the so-called standard run of 300 times to over 1200 times.  Although this stuff tends to stay 'wet' on the film so I would only use it on a final fully edited and well spliced final film project.  It also has the ability to minimize scratches and tram lines showing so in digital transfer, it would offer the benefits of something more like wet-gate transfer.

For Titles, there is so much you can do to make really cool analog titles!   One of my favorite methods is to shoot background footage just for titles, such as time lapse clouds etc.  Then projecting this via rear projection onto a large milky glass thick plate glass (I have tried various ground glass pieces but there are issues, so unless you can avoid using the main projection lamp and go to LED or a less brilliant light source or cut the light down more, it'll be too bright), anyhow, then using transfer letters rubbed onto document protectors and taped in front of the milky glass plate.  This way you can use a variety of fonts. Just mark the corners of the plate glass so you know where to put the title 'cards' each time, make sure the mirror you use is front surface, but not always necessary unless the moving background is sharply delineated.  You could also use 35mm slides taken just for your backgrounds. 

Refilming this with the rear projection will cause some out of synch strobing, but it's slight if you use an XL type Super 8mm camera with a 220 to 230 degree shutter opening and film at 18fps while running the projector also at 18fps.  Otherwise, if you want a perfect synch, you'd have to use a fully working ELMO GS-1200 with its ESS setting and a pulse synch generator putting out signal from the Flash Synch terminal on your Super 8mm camera.

Also, building a title setup, you can use a darkened room in which the title setup is lit from behind if translucent or front lit, and use a long zoom lens camera, then you can do a zoom in from where the title is very tiny to it filling the frame, for a neat effect.  Watch some old films and see how their titles look to get some ideas for making your own.  I think it's fun and rewarding, and certainly different than anything digitally generated these days.  However, it is possible to design some digitally and then refilm those titles off your monitor using again a XL type camera since with the longer shutter opening any strobing is minimal to none.  You can also film as slower than 18fps, in which case you won't see any enough to be bothersome.   Scrolling is nice also and can be done with paper titles rolled up and either filmed in real time movement or single framed.  And then there's drums which you can put lettering or titles on and rotate for a different look.  Years ago there was a nifty unit called the "CINEGRAPHICA Super Imposing Titler" made in Australia which allowed rear projection, mixing of sources and title cards to make interesting titles.  There's so many ways to make unique and interesting titles, even those shot on location, using beach sand, stones, sticks, bottles and even childrens' alphabet blocks which could also all be animated using stop motion.  Have fun!

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Thanks for all the advice. Mark, you are right, the pins are fiddly! Martin, lots of great ideas about titling. I've just shot some basic ones that I printed out - old-movie-style card with lettering. I might try something more ambitious in future.

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