Have you ever attempted to create a film by painting directly onto celluloid?
Would it interest you to try it?
Do you enjoy watching films painted directly on celluloid? Which are your favourites and why?
My personal favourite is Ere erera baleibu icik subua aruaren (1970, Spain, 75 minutes) by José Antonio Sistiaga for a couple of simple reasons: its spotty textures, thick and thin, of brilliant hues, rapidly moving together in and out of the screen into various directions, creating a series of interesting and strangely coherent visual compositions, projected onto a white background, giving it a unique glow. I derive a very strong aesthetic emotion from watching it.
I have seen a bit of this on 35mm when we screened it at my work. Definitely interesting though I couldn’t make it through as I had sat through many hours of films beforehand.
Len Lye and Jeff Keen both do interesting things with paint on film. In fact, in the Jeff Keen box set on BFI there is a documentary called “Jeff Keen Films” in which it shows him cutting up the celluloid and painting on/bleaching out the emulsion. I think I’ve seen a similar video of Len Lye doing this as well from a 60s documentary.
Have you done this yourself? I have a bunch of discarded celluloid that I cut up whenever I get a chance, though not specifically for painting yet.
Wow, you’re lucky to have seen it screened on 35mm!
I have seen some Len Lye which I enjoyed, but I’ve never seen any Jeff Keen so cheers for the recommendation. Also, the documentaries you mention of their working processes sound very interesting; I’ll try to track down a copy of the Jeff Keen BFI box set.
No, I’ve never (yet) attempted this kind of film myself, but I would love to try it one day; I’ll probably have to do a bit more research on the technicalities though, and also see if I can aquire some celluloid and other equipment suitable for such a project.
Excuse my ignorance, but do you (or anyone else reading this) know what kind of celluloid would I need for painting on, and where I would be able to purchase it? I can only assume that it would be different to the regular kind which one can buy for still cameras, but I really have no idea. I’m also aware that one would need a splicer to work with, and probably some other equipment too (I currently own an 8mm projector, but it was given to me from a friend and I really have no idea atm if it’s a good one or not). I’d prefer to paint on film as large as possible.
Also, I’m still working my way through the info on this site recommended to me by Francisco J. Torres.
It toured as part of CCCB’s Xcentric Cinema program From Ecstasy to Rapture: 50 years of Spanish alternative film which we showed at my work in Philadelphia. LINK
The Keen box set on BFI is an amazing package.
The film that I have is all discarded 35mm and 16mm film. I imagine it would be hard to paint on 8mm/Super 8 since they would be so small, so 16mm or 35mm would probably be the best bet. I’d think buying either clear or black 35mm/16mm leader would be a good way to start. Clear leader would just be clear celluloid (thus letting all white light through), black would have emulsion on it (and let no light through) which you could either paint over or scrape off and paint over, bleach, etc. Splicers are sort of expensive but can be found on ebay, tape splicers probably being the cheapest. Not sure of the best kind of paints yet.
What kind of projector is it? Does the motor run and does the lamp turn on? Do you have 8mm film to test it with?
Frameworks is a great resource.
Whenever I learn to work with film, and I mean to one day, one of the first things I would do is paint on it. Scratch it. Do all kinds of physical things to it.
Thanks for creating this thread, Mischa. I suggest you check out filmmakers in Garage about this topic, for sure there must be some experimental filmmakers there that have studied about and work with film in this way. In fact this would be a perfect forum topic for Garage as well. Perhaps re-post it there? You are likely to get at least some response as this is a technical question.
Cheers for your advice, Herbie; yes, I’d probably prefer painting on clear 35mm celluloid, but I’ll also consider emulsion depending upon which would be more practical for my particular scenario (perhaps I could use both); I’ll also look into which kinds of paints would be best for celluloid.
My 8mm projector is a Noris Record SM3 Slow Motion Dual, and the motor/ lamp still works (last time I checked); I have some old 8mm footage which I’ve screened at home just the once, but I don’t have a projection screen for it and so I just projected the footage onto my wall, which had kind of a rough surface at the time (I’ve since moved into a house with smooth walls, hehe). But yeah, 8mm would probably be far too small to paint on, especially because I wanted to try and get some more figurative scenes happening, putting aside the notion that I’d have to paint hundreds or perhaps thousands of frames for this to occur, even for a short 2 minute scenario.
I’ll probably start looking around on eBay etc for splicers and 35mm projectors, etc, but I’m in no rush to buy anything at this point.
Ah okay, cheers for the advice; I’ll have a look in the Garage!
You’re likely not going to find a 35mm projector. 35mm is not an amateur format and projectors usually come on a pedestal and cost thousands of dollars. 8mm and 16mm were both home-use formats and thus you can find projectors for both fairly cheap as a good amount of homes had them during the 40s-70s. But 35mm was always a theater format, so it’s not the same case. What you could do would be to find a Moviola or other similar editing machine which would let you view the film through some rewinds. You would have to build a rewind table, though all the materials you’d need to do that (rewinds, reels, etc.) would be fairly cheap I think.
For these reasons, you might elect to go 16mm. It would give you less painting area but you’d be able to project it yourself (though be careful not to use paints that gum up the projector… some actually recommend inks like ink from Sharpies). When filmmakers finish painting-on-film pieces I think they generally use an optical printer to scan the film frame by frame and make a new print (or internegative then print) off of that.
FYI, splicers are generally only for one format, so you’d either look for a 35mm or 16mm splicer when you decide what to work with.
And typical frame rates are 24 frames per second (sound speed) and 16 frames per second (silent speed). Many 35mm and 16mm projectors can use either speed, but not all. So to your point and your example of a two minute film:
2 minutes = 120 seconds X 24 fps = 2880 frames
2 minutes = 120 seconds X 16 fps = 1920 frames
That is why I think many of these types of film are abstract; you can’t spend too much time on each individual frame or you would drive yourself insane (or more insane…). I don’t think this process really lends itself to figuration.
Herbie — question: can’t you also paint on negatives used for regular ol’ 35 mm camera film?
I started this topic about Lomokino in the Garage forum and I’m going to try it next year. All you’d have to do is paint it, scan it, and then you’re off to the races with your digital editing program. The ending result is not projected with a film projector but hey, it’s really inexpensive and good for experimenting I’d think. And you don’t have to build all kinds of equipment, etc. etc. Nor run the film through a projector, the only limit is being able to scan it well.
On this train of thought, it would be VERY cool if they came out with a large format camera film version, that would be ideal for painting, maybe it will be in the works down the line……..
35mm camera film is the same as 35mm movie film but there are only 36 exposures, or frames. The Lomokino partitions the frames differently so I believe it places four images on one traditional “frame” (four sprocket holes). I’d like to check out the Lomokino but I think the limitations of having to work with it digitally are somewhat of a turnoff for me, also due to the fact that processing isn’t cheap for the small amount of footage you’d get. I’m going to spend this winter working on my Cinema Products CP-16 16mm film camera that I found. Just needs a film magazine and I need to splice some smaller rolls of 16 (I have 1000 feet on 100’ rolls) together for the proper magazine length, then I think I’ll be ready to start shooting some tests.
To your original question, I guess you could paint on 35mm still camera film but I wouldn’t really see the point as it would just be 36 exposures (or whatever) which when projected (or animated digitally) would be really fast. It would make more sense to me to just buy a roll of either clear 35mm film leader or buy an old film and scratch or bleach the emulsion off. You could probably scan this type of thing in the same manner that you are talking about.
Brakhage painted on some 70mm as well. Not sure of anyone else that did. I’d think 70mm everything is more expensive though, since it is more rare.
Clear 35 mm film leader! Brilliant idea!
Actually what I thought about was having several rolls of 35 mm. Yes there are only 36 exposures max, but you can make a film by linking a bunch together digitally, repeating and altering certain portions of the same footage, and just slowing it down a LOT in an editor, thus extending the film time-wise. I make pretty short pieces and do this sort of thing with bits of digital footage, so the time issue is not a big deal to me. What IS a big deal to me is being able to actually get my hands on the film itself, play with it as a physical element. THAT would be right down my alley.
OK I did not hit a double post maybe this is an ie issue… whatever…
Herbie — 35 mm camera film is more expensive to process than 16mm?
If you’re processing 20 rolls of 35mm camera film vs. 400 ft of 16mm (which is a lot more length-wise), probably. I’m not positive, though.
Also, I’m a bit confused at this point of what kind of “processing” we’re talking about here anymore when all that we’re talking about is painting on film and scanning the images. I guess it’s to the point I spoke on above about optical printing, internegative, print, etc. You could potentially just use your painted original as a print, especially if it’s just a test. However, you’d have to find a sympathetic projectionist who would be willing to run it (in the case of 35mm, or your own projector in the case of 16mm). That’s why things like Sharpie ink might be better.
I’m talking about processing the roll of film before you get the negatives — i.e. developing the film itself.
Got you about using the original as a print — yes, archivally you are never supposed to really use the original for anything except making copies off it, because if you ruin it, that’s the end of that.
However if we’re talking about a digital copy there isn’t the issue of running it through a projector. I’m mixing up the use of film with the use of a digital image of a film – didn’t mean to be confusing. Was just carrying on the thoughts I had about the Lomokino process.
A Trip to the Moon (1902)
^ Hand painted the way they used to do stills back then?
I see. So painting over film with an image on it? I wasn’t thinking of that. Though of course there is plenty of precedent with Melies (as shown above), Segundo de Chomon, and many others during the early cinema period.
Yeah — that’s exactly what I was thinking about Herbie. You do your footage, and then you physically mess with it, scan it, and maybe even mess with it some more! :D
If you draw and paint, as I do, it’s an opportunity to have a lot of fun.
My only other thought is to have some way to light the image and maybe be able to project it the way they used to do before the age of computers with presentations (damn I wish I remember the name of that machine, but the thing you put on it was usually a transparency, a clear plastic with writing or images on it). You could watch yourself coloring the neg. this way, and you wouldn’t need a microscope to see what you are doing.
An overhead projector. A lightbox would be pretty essential for doing this without projecting as well.
Yes! And a lightbox — but there’s no magnification there. Unless you’re dealing with large format negs, for which there is no Lomokino machine yet, you’re still dealing with smallness…
Thanks for your detailed responses everyone.
I don’t think this process really lends itself to figuration.
Yes; I was actually thinking of basing my 2min scenario on an Aboriginal Dreamtime story, which would be sort of figurative AND abstract (i.e. it wouldn’t be “photo-realistic”, etc), but I see what you mean, especially with 16mm.
When filmmakers finish painting-on-film pieces I think they generally use an optical printer to scan the film frame by frame and make a new print (or internegative then print) off of that.
Thanks, I’ll look up some information regarding optical printers. And cheers for the advice regarding projectors, Herbie; I can see that an overhead projector would be of use for painting on 35mm.
70mm does look preferable to paint on, but for me it does depend upon how expensive it is, etc. I’ll have a look around and think about it.
Mischa — once you get this all figured out, PLEASE report back. I’m really psyched to see what you do with this!
Likewise, once I get the Lomokino thing in place, I’ll be letting everyone know how I fare and what I do with it.
YAY! (sorry this sort of thing gets me feeling really happy)
The LomoKino does look interesting Odi; its practical limitations may challenge one’s creativity in editing, etc. Yes, I’ll look through the Garage forums and I’ll keep reporting in with more info as I figure more things out! :)
It’s at the beginning of the technology for this — making film more accessible to artists as it becomes more of a niche market. I bet that in the next few years, they’ll come out with some pretty badass stuff for people who want to make FILMS at home. I have a good feeling about this, it’s just at the “stone wheel” stage right now.
One thing that gives me hope, is that even though the studios are not supporting film anymore, it will still exist as a medium in artistic circles. Though I have to say the thought of someone in the future commissioning a work on film when it was taken forgranted for years and years as being a medium for mass entertainment is a very weird thought…
I think the thing about 70mm is that it is not really a standard format. Whereas (uneducated guess here), 50% of the films made from say, 1940-1980 were made and screened on 35mm (feature films, short films) and the other 50% on 16mm (industrial films, documentaries, avant garde), maybe only about 1% of that same portion would have been shown on 70mm. It was a really deluxe format which could be used for things like Jacques Tati, Kubrick, Technicolor classics but not much else. I believe IMAX film is currently 70mm and goes horizontally rather than vertically. I’d guess that nearly all IMAX is digital nowadays anyway.
My main point is, I don’t think in my city (Philadelphia) there is anywhere that is currently equipped to screen 70mm. There are definitely a number of places that do, and our town isn’t the biggest film city, but I would think the scarcity would make all of the elements (actual celluloid, splicers, reels, access to a projector) that much more expensive. Just my (again unsubstantiated and unresearched) two cents.
Yeah, these pics of the IMAX thing and 70mm below from the Bordwell blog post about the demise of film that Daniel Kasman posted in the digital vs. film projection thread.
Here and here are some examples of clear 35mm film leader rolls currently up for sale on eBay (ships only to the US), and here is an old listing on eBay which has already been sold.
For anyone who has purchased 35mm leader: should I just hang around eBay until some leader is listed which would ship to my location in Australia, or are there perhaps any other specific sellers/websites who would sell 35mm leader on a regular basis?