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Film purists insist film is better than digital.

I’m not a film purist.

For decades I worked with 16mm. Some of the prints I got were awesome. Some were far from awesome. But good or bad they were all vulnerable to the many things that can and do go wrong with analog film.

That means the film got emulsion scratches that sometimes went right down to the acetate base. Bad on black and white film, they were even worse on color film.

Then there were the inevitable breaks requiring splices as the film got older and more brittle.

Then there was the actual shrinking and warpage of the acetate base.

Sometimes with automatic projectors the film got jammed in the gate. Then it would accordion. When that happened the screen would show the film stock burning. That left a hole that had to be spliced out.

Sometimes the sprockets got torn.

With color stock there was also fading of the color.

Film is also expensive.

With films sent out to army bases, film clubs and societies, theaters, etc., there was always the very real risk of incompetent projection.

Then there were the actual projectors themselves. Few 16mm projectors could stand up to repeated use. The lamps on 16mm projectors, even my top of the line theatrical 16mm projector, were both expensive, limited in hours of usage and nowhere near as bright.

Getting projectors serviced was difficult at the best of times. As digital replaced film in the school system service people dried up.

Digital actually saved our motion picture heritage. Suddenly, because there was a market and a demand those prints rotting away in film vaults got a new lease on life.

We are living in a golden era for film preservation and restoration.

Get yourself a good digital projector. Make sure it has 3D capability.

Acquaint yourself with the different image settings.

Do that and you are going to be in motion picture Heaven.

Here are some screenshots from the Kino Blu ray of CHANDU THE MAGICIAN (1932) Fox Films. Edmund Lowe plays Chandu. He gets top billing. The real star of the film, the main reason it has drawing power today, is Bela Lugosi as the villain Roxor. Bela got to play Chandu himself later.

Right now while we’re all going batty stuck at home don’t dwell on what you can’t do. Think about what you can do.

Thanks to the web we have access to the world.

Enjoy this moment. That will create a healthy harmony in your body that will make it more resistant to disease.

A digital print of course can not be better than the film it is taken from.

But where a 16mm print is reduced from a 35mm print (or larger) our digital prints are made direct from, where available, the original 35mm materials. Those materials are cleaned. We are today seeing those movies better than people first saw them.

Those who saw CHANDU in 1932 carried away only the memory of the experience. Today we have more than the memory. We are able to own a legitimate copy of the movie which we can return to at any time.

As I said, we are living in a golden moment of film restoration and preservation. Let this moment enrich you.–Reg Hartt 2020–03–25.





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