Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Kinetta scans!

The 16mm hand-processed b&w footage shot for "78rpm" has been scanned by Kinetta -- a lovely looking digital incarnation of the analog film footage -- at the recently opened Kinetta Archival facility in NYC.

Some aspects of the making of the project to contemplate in relation to the film's subject matter, since technology and obsolescence as one of the project's main themes:

The scenes between the interviews have been shot with newly manufactured ORWO film stock on a Bolex camera made in the 1960s, and yet these analog technologies haven't become dated, they still work to give you a "film" image.  But, on the digital side of filmmaking, what's up-to-date or out-of-date changes practically from one day to the next.  If I was making this film a few years ago I would have had the film footage put onto video (with a video tape as backup) using a state-of-the-art telecine transfer -- perhaps not even an HD transfer, since those were very expensive at the time.  But now, those telecine transfers seem to be the old-school method.  With "scanning" rather than "transferring," we've leapfrogged ahead of even High Definition video: the scans are larger than HD, and actually have to be reduced down to High Definition for editing.

I was able to sit down with the creator of the Kinetta Archival Scanner, Jeff Kreines, to see the difference in quality between a low-cost HD transfer and a Kinetta scan.  One of the striking things was the difference in the look of the film's silver halide grain itself.  Sometimes in a transfer from film to video the film grain is translated as a layer of digital "mush" spread across the image, like the lumpy surface of oatmeal. But with the Kinetta scans — at about five times the resolution of HD — the look of the grain is still there, resembling film much more than other transfers. Some nice examples can be seen here.  This is of particular relevance to a project that has been hand-processed, since hand-processing introduces all the beauty of analog imperfections, the sense of tactility, to an even higher degree than film developed at the lab -- in an ironic sounding sense, it's a matter of having the imperfections be seen at their best.

And yet, while it's easy to accept the notion that anything analog is old technology and anything digital is new, I'm editing now with Final Cut Pro 7, perhaps the most out-of-date aspect of the whole project (the 50-year-old Bolex included).  This is the discontinued version of Apple's editing software, supplanted by Final Cut Pro X, much to the consternation of the professional editing world. The term of art in obsolescent software (lacking in bug fixes, updates, and tech support) is to call it a "legacy system."  So while you can still get film for the 16mm Bolex, the days are numbered for this particular digital editing software (as soon as Apple introduces a new operating system that won't run FCP7, it's bye-bye software).

And so, to sum things up, we have a panoply of different technologies put to work, with modes of evolution and longer and shorter lifespans: The good, old Bolex (still relevant as a tool for gathering beautiful, filmic images a half-century later), newly manufactured 16mm film stock (a format first introduced in 1923), and Kinetta scans of a quality that are practically ahead of the curve (that is to say, higher quality than even HD), and obsolescent digital editing technology (Final Cut was acquired by Apple in 1999, version 7 of FCP introduced in 2009 and discontinued in 2011 -- a pretty short lifespan).  So I suppose the "newest" aspect of the project (besides the Kinetta scans) is the 16mm film, since it was just recently manufactured.

And so, as I cut together interviews of people discussing the relevance of the obsolescent 78 record in a world of rapidly changing technology, I can readily relate this issue to the world of filmmaking. . . alas.

"That's all."

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