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The Immoral Mr Teas

Modern Aspect

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Anyone else been really interested in watching a documentary subject then given up because the archive aspect ratio just jumped about without any correction? Fat normal fat normal fat! How the hell can people - our colleagues - working in this profession not give a damn about their craft? If you are working with picture (assistant editor ... editor ... producer ... director ...) how can you not notice the picture is wrong? Is it getting to the point that younger folks actually think that screwing up the archive aspect ratio is a visual 'language' way to tell us "this is old"? On the documentary I was hoping to get through one of the main interview subjects actually ran a major studio for a while - not to mention winning Oscars. Is HE ok with this (a fat faced younger self)?!


I'm beginning to think of the 'wide/golden' visual to correspond to a 45/33 rpm sound ratio that we may start to have a little fun with our nearly blind colleagues and audience. Every time we are given a non-converted insert in a mix slow down the sound (or if obvious sync just drop the pitch half an octave). On the less common occasions we are presented with 'heroin chic' footage then speed it up or up the pitch.


Let's try this without even saying we're doing it ...


"Bear with me here for a second, I'm just matching sound to archive ..."


If they have no critical faculty for their own expertise (picture) it will be funny to try to find out if they still have any judgement left in the subconscious for that strange, unfathomable world that is sound.


If (as I suspect) they do not we can all be privately happy that we have created a new aesthetic for our apathetic audience.



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You've not only identified a problem -- but also a solution. 


I just finished watching such a doc -- I found myself wondering if they were simply lazy, or maybe thought the audience would panic at the sight of black bars. 

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Silent films were shot and projected at 16 FPS.


Actually, the first films were shot at frame rates closer to 30 FPS. There were no standards in the beginning but that’s about the speed of much of the very early production. Persistence of vision needs about thirty images per second to appear as smooth motion. Very early on engineers discovered that it wasn’t necessary to shoot thirty individual frames and project each one. Satisfactory results were achieved with about half that many images if each image were projected twice. The projector was equipped with a butterfly shutter that flashed each image on the screen twice before pulling down the next frame. With that innovation, good results were possible using about half the film needed to shoot at thirty pictures per second. The cost savings were obvious so the rate of about 16 FPS came to be broadly accepted. 


All these frame rates are approximate, of course, since the cameras were hand cranked and steady speed relied on the smooth hand of the camera operator. 


When sound was introduced, the standard speed of 16 FPS was too slow for good audio reproduction. The higher speed of 24 FPS was adopted as a good compromise between economy and better quality. The practice of projecting each image twice using a butterfly shutter continued, thereby enhancing the smooth persistence of vision. That was probably needed as familiarity with watching movies made perception more acute. 


Sometimes the early silent films, shot at 16 FPS, and intended to be played at 16 FPS, would be projected at 24 FPS because that was the only playback speed available on many sound projectors. 





Edited by David Waelder

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