Re:Voir has released Rameau's Nephew, etc., on DVD.


On Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 4:49 PM, Fred Camper <> wrote:

> Since I've been known as a rather arch defender of film on film, I have to
> weigh in a bit on David's side here.
> As film projection becomes rarer an d rarer, various perhaps unexpected
> but not unanticipatable problems occur.
> A few years back I went to a projection of Snow's *Rameau's Nephew* at a
> generally well-run college film society, committed to showing films on
> film. I had not seen this complex and impressive film since the mid-1970s,
> when it was first released, and so was eager to see it again. It's over
> four hours long, and doesn't exactly play often at the local Bijou. As most
> likely know, Snow stands with Gehr and Kubelka as being unwilling to
> release his work on video, the idea being that it was made for film and
> should, or must, be seen on film.
> The film started. There was something seriously wrong with the sound.
> Specifically, it sounded like the film was threaded loose around the sound
> drum. Any experienced projectionist would recognize this sound, because
> we've all misthreaded this way at least once. At the same time, I
> remembered Snow played around with the sound quite a bit in this film -- I
> just didn't remember what he did at each moment. After about 20 minutes,
> though, I was sure the projection was wrong, and sent a friend sitting with
> me who knew the student projectionists back to tell them to fix it. The
> message came back that they had tested the film in advance, and that this
> is the way the film was supposed to sound.
> They had mounted it on two huge reels, so after the first two or two and a
> half hours there was a break. The whole first half had been shown with this
> wobbly sound, and now I was 100 per cent certain that, however faulty my
> memory of short sections might be, I would have remembered if the sound of
> the whole first half had had that "loose loop" quality. I sent my friend
> back again with the message that someone present had seen the film when it
> was first shown forty years ago and was certain that the film was being
> projected incorrectly. Three students huddled around the projector for
> twenty minutes, investigating the situation. When they finally started the
> second half, the sound was fine.
> Is anyone to blame here? Perhaps projectionists could be better trained,
> but that is less and less likely to happen with fewer and fewer films being
> shown on film. Perhaps others in the audience should have recognized the
> telltale sound of film loose around the sound drum, but how rare it is to
> see film on film anymore, and of course for an "experimental" film perhaps
> some would feel that one can never quite be sure what it is "supposed" to
> sound like.
> I left thinking how much better the screening would have been for me if
> the film had it been shown on DVD, though of course it is not on DVD. But
> still. The sound is just as important as the image in this film, if not
> more so, and the damage done to the sound was the aesthetic equivalent of
> showing the film severely out of focus, out of focus to the point of an
> almost total blur, a blur that anyone would have loudly objected to,
> whereas the damage done to the image in transfer to digital projection,
> even on a sub-par projector, would have been far, far less.
> Those of us, such as myself, who might have at one time self-identified as
> "film fundamentalists," have to awaken, however sadly, to the realities of
> our current situation. I would guess that David made, from my point of
> view, the best possible choice.
> At the same time,we should of course support those venues that continue to
> show film on film.
> Fred Camper
> Chicago
> On 2/28/2017 4:41 PM, Dave Tetzlaff wrote:
> I’m more techy-geeky than most. I once tried to get an old pageant arc 
> projector going in an effort to get a brighter image in our schoolo 
> auditorium, but gave up. The technology is not really suitable for infrequent 
> use sans tech support: there’s that massive old-school power supply driving a 
> short-lived arc-lamp, and it’s all ‘analog’ in the sense that if it’s not in 
> tip-top condition it still ‘works’ but in a substandard way. Thus, while I 
> did get the one we had going, the image was far too blue to be usable and not 
> much brighter than a regular Pageant either. I thought about getting a new 
> lamp (dude, it’s not a ‘bulb’) but after checking price, availability, life, 
> and the odds that would make it usable (too dicey), I scrapped the project. 
> Part of that was concluding the best I could get it would still leave any 
> prints I could readily get projected too far out of proper color balance for 
> reasonable aesthetics. I.e. Xenon lamp color balance is off for most 
> available prints, but tolerable most of the time, but the arc lamp seems 
> significantly more cool than a Xenon and intolerable with a tungsten balanced 
> print.
> My firsat conclusion was/is that these old Arc Pageants just aren’t worth the 
> time/effort/operating expense now. It’s a shame because they are ‘classic’, 
> and sort of film-artifacts in themselves. But if the idea is to get a nice 
> celluloid image on a screen, they’re just a ball of frustration, and there 
> are better ways to spend your budgets of money and (especially) labor.
> After I junked the Pageant Arc, we inherited a pristine Xexon lamp Elmo, and 
> I thought we were set for the extra brightness I was hoping to get. But even 
> that was hardly a no-brainer in terms of bightness v. color-shift tradeoff. 
> So my second conclusion was that the best 16mm projection option was getting 
> the brightest tungsten lamp and fastest lens. I found you can use a brighter 
> lamp than the one speced for the projector if you’re careful, assuming 
> there’s one that fits…
> The auditorium I was using didn’t have that big a house, but did have a 
> fairly good sized screen, so the throw was pretty short, requiring a fairly 
> wide angle to match the image from the video projector in the booth, around 
> 27mm IIRC. I never was able to obtain an ‘optimum’ combo of 1) bright lamp, 
> 2) fast/wide lens 3) reliable projector mechanism that would be kind to the 
> film. Lenses were hard to find in the mid-late ‘00s when I was searching, and 
> I can’t imagine it’s any better now.
> So my final conclusion was the then-Frameworks-heresy that video projection 
> from a three-chip DLP (we managed to get a nice, big Panasonic ‘professional’ 
> model) from a DVD source was the best solution to both represent the films I 
> was showing the students well and preserve what was left of my mental and 
> physical health. Since even the SD digital sources looked fine (upconverted 
> to 720P by the players), I can only imagine any native HD would be even 
> better. Sure, nothing beats good projection of a fresh celluloid print, but 
> you don’t get fresh prints from FMC or MoMA – you get shifted color, lots of 
> scrathes, and plenty of ineptly made or now-separating tape splices that look 
> like crtap at best, if they don’t send the print off the sprockets or 
> collapse the loop, or just come apart and dump the film on the floor or in 
> some other way add even more damage to the print - keeping in mind that your 
> old 16mm projector no one within 500 miles can service has seen better days, 
> too. So (yes, reluctantly) each time I taught my class I wound up using more 
> video sources, only using 16mm for the films I felt I absolutely HAD to have 
> on the syllabus and weren’t available in any electronic form — most notably 
> ‘Christmas On Earth’.
> Of course ‘A Roll For Peter” falls into the 16mm only territory, and the 
> ionstitutional situation is different for a cinemateque than for the sort of 
> small college where I worked, so YMMV. There’s no getting around the fact 
> that 16mm projection is a real challenge. So rather than tear your hair out 
> trying to make it ‘excellent’, my been-there/done-that advice is just do the 
> best you can with the resources you have, and save your stress and energy for 
> the non-technological aspects of keeping ‘experimental cinema’ culture alive 
> and well in the age of Trumpism.
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