Monday, November 13, 2006

Half-Frame Madness

Today I make note of a major personal milestone, by having taken a step backwards in technology.

I remember sitting through a science lecture in high school, back in the early 1970s. Geology in fact. It was a large lecture room, one of those assemblies where a hundred kids were crammed in together, from various individual science classes, to receive a common lecture on the earth sciences.

The lights dimmed, and the large screen was suddenly filled with the glowing colors of a filmstrip frame. A loud, booming voice from the tape player began the geology lecture, interspersed with an odd, high pitched beep, whose tone automatically advanced the filmstrip projector's frame.

Fast-forward twenty-five years. Mixing with an eclectic group of film buffs, of all ages. The lights dim, and the screen behind the stage is filled with the glowing colors from a filmstrip projector. The performance artist on stage uses the backdrop of color slide frames, with accompanying sound track and beep tone that automatically advances the frames, as counterpoint to his dialog.

It was at that moment that I refound my lost memory of that distant, high school science class presentation, and suddenly realized that here was a lost, despised, discarded multimedia format.

I tinkered with the thought of finding a half-frame camera with which to expose a roll of slide film, to make my own filmstrips, but only realized that I had no filmstrip projector with which to display the results.

Fast-forward fifteen years. This morning, I projected a filmstrip presentation in my living room. Of course, it was absent a sound track, but that's only a temporary setback.

You see, several years ago I was given a filmstrip projector, complete with built-in cassette tape player and speaker. It was a surplus projector from the local schools. I had tested it out on a section of 35mm film, just to prove that it worked. Playing a cassette tape of Pink Floyd music, the film would advance seemingly at random, as a particular musical tone would activate the auto frame advance of the projector.

I packed the projector away, knowing I had no half-frame camera. But in the back of my mind I had high hopes.

Then, several months ago, a neighbor of mine died. I didn't know him at all, but another neighbor, who had visited the house while it was being cleaned out, mentioned to me that the gentleman had been a camera repairman, and had a collection of old cameras that I may be interested in.

I ended up with two cameras: a Kodak Retina IIIc, and an Olympus Pen D.

The Pen D is a half-frame camera. It included the original box, instruction booklet, UV filter, lens cover and leatherette case.

So I loaded up a roll of Fuji chrome. The mechanics of the Pen D's half-frame feature means that the 24 exposure roll of film is actually 48 exposures. Since I wanted to test the full functionality of the camera using the built-in selenium light meter, I would not be able to tell if the whole affair was bogus or not until the roll was finished. Yet, I didn't want to blow the shots on junk compositions. I didn't want to rush it, but I also wanted to know as soon as possible if my dream was going to be realized.

This last week I finished the roll, shooting interesting window displays in a colorful, eclectic shopping district. All the shots came out fine.

One more aspect to this technological step backwards: I have had, for several years, a Tascam 424 Mk2 4-track cassette porta-studio. That means I have the ability to produce the cassette tapes to accompany my future filmstrip productions.

I am sure you can see where this is going: with this odd triad of half-frame camera, film strip projector and cassette 4-tracker I will be soon forcing friends and relatives into indulging my own eclectic multimedia tastes.

So, if you happen to get an invitation to come over one evening for a presentation, you may want to first ask 'what's on for tonight?’


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12:26 AM  

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