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Re: Transferring really old film...

Joe writes:

>I've got about 800 feet of circa 1920/30 35mm tint-base archive acetate
>(which is really heavily vinegar syndrome).  The client wants to leave the
>base tint in the colorimetry.  Historically, is this the thing to do with
>respect to projected fidelity?  Or, is the base tint there to try to
>the carbon arc to "black & white"?  The film also looks like it was shot at
>about 18 fps.  How common was that in those days?

I've got a 1927 copy of the New York Institute of Technology motion picture
guide, which mentions that yellow-tinted stock was sometimes used to make
black-and-white images look less "harsh" with incandescent light sources.
The tint is in the print base and runs throughout the entire piece.  For the
same reason, gold-tinted (as opposed to silver) screens were sometimes used
as well.   I've tried out samples of both old yellow tinted film and gold
screens, and have to say that the theory does indeed seem work as
advertised.  But I'd point out to anybody trying to color correct such film
that the effect does not look like sepia tone, or anything else seen today.
It can best be described as black-and-white with a slightly off-white light
source, and if you even notice it in the first place, your eyes adjust after
a second or two and you just see black-and-white images.  Probably this (and
the development of better projection bulbs) explains why such tinted film
stocks  disappeared from the scene after the mid-1930s.

I don't know as I would recommend trying to preserve this sort of tint in a
telecine transfer.  Most people watching it will not know what it is and one
or two may think they have to adjust their monitors!

18 FPS was the standard speed for silent film, and was extremely common once
upon a time.  Projected with a three-blade shutter, it did not
flicker--though motion rendition was obviously less than with 24 FPS film.

Best regards,
Christopher Bacon

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