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2 The Technologies of Home Movies and Amateur Film Dino Everett Amateur filmmaking was made possible by factories producing miles of photochemical emulsion laid on base, mechanical cameras for exposing the film, and home projectors to showcase the artists’ work. This chain of production, distribution, and marketing of home movie technology has now largely become extinct. To understand the end product of amateur filmmaking—movies that now occupy moving image archives as well as closets, attics, and basements—we need to understand the material objects that filmmakers used to produce and present their moving images. This essay is an overview of home movie equipment used in North America from 1912 to the early 1960s. Technical notes written to accompany each of the essays in this volume provide specific details concerning cameras and film stock particular to the films under discussion, but this essay pulls back to provide the broader context of amateur film technology. While professional movies were almost always shot on 35mm film, home movie makers usually favored smaller film formats because of portability, cost, and ease of use. These are described as “small gauge,” or, in the United Kingdom, “substandard” films. Also, most home movies during this period were shot on silent black-and-white film, but in the 1930s, amateur filmmakers had options for recording and playing back synchronized sound, and color film became available. 28mm Film for Home Shows The 28mm film format was the first to be produced specifically with the amateur film market in mind. The standard film for cinema projection was 35mm nitrate, a flammable film stock that was largely considered unsafe for home use. Eastman Kodak Company (Kodak) produced a nonflammable diacetate film stock as early as 1906, but the commercial industry was unimpressed with its visual quality. In 1911, the French company Pathé released a 28mm film format that was designed to bring nonflammable, commercial-quality movies to the home movie enthusiast . Pathé envisioned that members of the public would build personal library collections of commercial films as well as shoot original film on home cameras . While the positive 28mm print used for projection was nonflammable, the 40 | Dino Everett Fig. 2.1 From left to right, samples of amateur film: 28mm, 16mm, and 8mm. The 28mm example, from Col. F. B. Richards’s Snow White (1916), was originally shot on 28mm negative film in Blue Hill, Maine, and then copied to 28mm for home or club exhibition. The Snow White performance was outdoors at the Blue Hill Country Club and the film may have been shown there, too. The shadow 28mm perforations on the left (two per frame) are artifacts of the negative—and are not physically present in the 28mm print. The 16mm example is 1953 Kodachrome, Stonington & Deer Isle [Maine], by Walter V. Mitton. The 8mm black and white, circa 1942, is minor league baseball in Massachusetts, by Helen V. Bird. 28mm negative used in the camera was still combustible nitrate film stock. Pathé believed that the amateur would never project the nitrate film or keep the negative around the house once it had been exposed. Instead, the customer would buy negative rolls, shoot them, and send the rolls back to Pathé for processing. After a 28mm positive safety print was struck, the negative was recycled for its silver.1 Pathé marketed the 28mm home system along with musical cylinder and disc recordings, suggesting that the consumer could safely bring movies into the home and create a fully stocked entertainment parlor. The 28mm suite of The Technologies of Home Movies and Amateur Film | 41 products was named the KOK, which was a phonetic transcription of the French name of the Pathé logo, a rooster (coq), as well as a compression of the word “Kodak.” The original KOK projector was hand cranked and came in a number of variations. Some had electrical lighting, for instance, while many were powered by a dynamo device that simultaneously provided a charge to the lamp as the user cranked the film. Pathé also promoted the 28mm projector as a way of showing reduction prints of titles from the Pathé 35mm catalog.2 The Pathé 28mm camera was loosely based on Pathé’s 35mm professional camera: it was leather covered, featured internal metal feed and take-up film chambers, and had a newly designed cranked-gear system. Within a year of its introduction, 28mm found its way to the United Kingdom under the name Pathéscope , and Willard B. Cook purchased the North American rights...


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