Behind The Scenes: Getting home movies into our film

Three Bell & Howell projectors look great but couldn't help us out with film conversion today.During the heat wave here on the east coast, it was far too hot to go on a trip to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, so instead it was an opportunity to view/convert some home movies for use in our film. It's been awhile since we went "behind the scenes" of the film as far as production goes, so let's get started.

First, you may be wondering, "why do you need all those projectors?" Well, the fact of the matter is, it can be tough to find fully functioning projectors, and even more difficult (and expensive) to find replacement bulbs. As a result, I've ended up with many projectors from flea markets, yard sales, etc., through the years. And of course you never know what kind of life you will get out of the bulb until you start trying it. Considering I find projectors for under $15 in most cases, and that replacement bulbs can run $100, it makes more sense to buy several projectors, and hope for the best. Today, none of the three Bell & Howell projectors were going to work: two had blown bulbs, and the third had uneven lighting across the frame. While the bulbs are interchangeable on these three models, I decided to try a few more options.

Next I tried a Kodak Brownie 300 projector. These projectors were like the Apple computers of the projector world: the guts of the machine, with the exception of the two reel holders and the lense were hidden inside the shell of projector. Few adjustments, and hopefully, less to go wrong. Unfortunately this projector wasn't bright enough to capture the image on video (more on that in a minute). 

after 50 years, the Bolex projector (left) came through today.This meant setting up my Bolex projector, which is really here as more of an art piece/collectible than anything else. I have never used it before, and given the pristine condition it was in, it may have never been used before. These things are wonders of Swiss engineering. With a little bit of futzing, soon this hands-off-only-for-looking-at, beautiful piece of machinery was delivering crisp, bright images to the screen.

Next, I setup our Sony HD camera to capture the images on screen. If you've ever tried to do this, then you know that it often results in unacceptable flicker on-screen. The Bolex has a speed control, allowing me to minimize the flicker, but it is definitely still there.

Here's the thing, though: If everything goes according to plan, none of this footage will ever be in the final movie. At least none of it that we shot in this manner. Soon, these films will be packed up and sent off for conversion to digital files, but first, I wanted to have a "safety" backup, and something to work with for early edits of the film.

Digital video/film is great, but everyone who makes a movie should have to shoot on, then also project film, on period-accurate equipment at least once.




Time for a project update

It's been quite some time since I've blogged, so I wanted to take a few minutes to get you up to date on the documentary. First, I received a few emails from concerned visitors as to whether the project was still happening. It is indeed. The last few months the focus has been on finding footage of the fair itself. Over the next month, we turn back to going on the road to shoot at fair relic locations, and several visits to Flushing Meadows Corona Park. It will be a busy few months, and I feel bad when things get so hectic that updating the site falls to the wayside. I want to do a better job at that going forward.

Also, look for the return of the fair "Image of the week" shortly.

Thanks again for all your support, and I wish you all Peace Through Understanding.


Image of the week: April 11, 2012

We've been taking so many photos while working on the film, and we've acquired some great vintage photos of the fair, so we've decided to share them with you here each week. We'll begin with this great vintage slide from Alan Lovitch, showing the exterior of DuPont's World of Chemistry as it appeared at the fair in 1964. Inside, a show we would call multimedia, dazzled as live dancers interacted with projected dancers on a series of moving panels. But that's a story for another day. Note the light fixtures around the building, mimicking molecules:



Our first teaser trailer for After The Fair

I know many of you have waited a long time, but we can finally share our first short, or "teaser" trailer for the film. Let me know what you think:


The surprising challenge to making After The Fair

When you map out a project like this, you try to anticipate the challenges you could face. For this film, I assumed we would have a tough time finding people who would talk about the fair, and an even harder time getting permission to shoot at the dozens of fair-related sites around the country. It turns out, those things have been quite easy: everyone has been incredibly generous with sharing their time, and often providing us with more access than we could've hoped for to all of these treasures.

However, there's one thing that's proven far more difficult than I expected, and that's finding home movie footage of the fair. By my rough math, there should've been somewhere around 100,000 - 500,000 people with cameras at the fair over the two-year run. Granted that was 47 years ago, but let's assume 10% of the footage survives. That means there should still be 10,000 to 50,000 reels of footage out there somewhere. Unfortunately, most of it is probably withering away in attics, long forgotten, or perhaps without any way to watch it now.

Our challenge, and I hoping you can help, is to find those reels of film, and convert them for use in the film. If you (or your parents, or grandparents) attended the fair and shot footage, we would love to hear from you. Heck even if you weren't personally at the fair, I'd appreciate it if you could ask those you know who would've been the right age to attend.

Much like the relics of the fair themselves, we are slowly losing these films to heat, dust, and just plain old age. So please take a look, ask around, and let us know what you find.