How were 35mm films reproduced?

Technically-oriented discussion of classic films on everything from 35mm to Blu-Ray
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Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

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How were 35mm films reproduced?

PostFri Jan 12, 2018 11:46 am

Did they shoot the negative and edit that negative to make the final film negative? Did they make the various positive copies to be distributed to the theatres from the original negative?

If not, what was the generally accepted industry standard that a film was reproduced for distribution?
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luciano

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Re: How were 35mm films reproduced?

PostSat Jan 13, 2018 1:56 am

I’m a little rusty, someone can probably give you a better explanation but here goes. Sometimes there would be two cameras side by side, one for an American negative, the other for foreign prints. You’d end up with two negatives which would be cut to match a work-print (the first print made off the raw negative which is a messy print used to edit the film on a Moviola or something like that). Then you’d get a one light print of the edited negative to tell you how to adjust your light levels in the printer. Different scenes are shot at different times of day with different exposure, things need to be “graded” as some say. I think that term makes a little more sense than timing.

As I recall it was the practice of printing off the OCN combined with higher silver content as to why nitrate prints look good. In other words if you were to tweak the coating of current B&W stock a bit and print right off the negative you’d get a picture just as beautiful (and your base would be a stable plastic not an explosive).

This practice wore out the OCN, which is the price you pay for mass producing something from the original source. I’m sure someone made duplicate negatives to print off from instead at some point but I feel like a read something about how duping didn’t work to well back then.

To be a little more detailed if there was tinting involved the OCN wouldn’t be cut to the work print. Instead all amber scenes would be strung together, all blue scenes would be strung together, etc. The positive copy of the clusters would get split up and matched to the work print.
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Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

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Re: How were 35mm films reproduced?

PostSat Jan 13, 2018 7:47 am

Thanks for the rundown.

Sounds complex. It is amazing this stuff survived. Didn't know they used to shoot an extra camera for international distribution.

I've never seen a nitrate print. Is it supposed to have deeper blacks, better shadow detail or what?
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luciano

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Re: How were 35mm films reproduced?

PostSun Jan 14, 2018 5:30 am

https://theleastpictureshow.files.wordp ... olis-1.jpg

The image above represents to me what a good older print looks like. It’s just a very clear, sharp image with really good grey tones/shadow detail and striking highlights. Using good lenses with 5222 stock (you can order 400ft from Kodak to this day) gives you the same effect. The art is in the grading. I feel that they were consistently better at grading in the past because all you were using is B&W film, and so that was everyone’s specialty. Thus the myth of nitrate is born. Now it takes a rare kind of expert to produce the right image from your negative, since nobody is doing anything in B&W anymore.
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FrankFay

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Re: How were 35mm films reproduced?

PostSun Jan 14, 2018 6:41 am

Daniel D. Teoli Jr. wrote:Thanks for the rundown.

Sounds complex. It is amazing this stuff survived. Didn't know they used to shoot an extra camera for international distribution.

I've never seen a nitrate print. Is it supposed to have deeper blacks, better shadow detail or what?


The supplimentary material to Murnau's FAUST has clips from foreign versions showing differences- not just second camera footage was used but alternate takes. Countries considered unimportant in the distribution chain might get a version containing obvious errors- in one clip a man takes an unexpected fall, and in another a man walks into a swinging ceiling lamp.
Eric Stott

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