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Old September 18th, 2017, 11:30 AM
Doug Kerr Doug Kerr is offline
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Location: Alamogordo, New Mexico, USA
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[Part 3]

In The first chapter of this series, I "fast-forwarded" through the initial phase of Eastman Kodak's development of the "home movie" art - the introduction of 16 mm motion picture film and cameras to use it - and got quickly to the second phase, the introduction of 8 mm motion picture film and cameras to use that.

Ciné-Kodak 16 mm motion picture film

But now I will go back to the initial phase. In 1923, Eastman Kodak introduced 16 mm motion picture film, which enabled economical (sort-of) "home movies". The film, called "Ciné-Kodak Motion Picture Film", was B&W panchromatic reversal safety film.

Panchromatic meant that, unlike the "orthochromatic" film earlier available, the response of this film to differing wavelengths of light closely followed the "luminance" response of the human eye to those wavelengths. The result was a "more realistic" rendering of subjects.

Reversal meant that this film, after a clever two-stage processing, itself exhibited the frames in positive form, ready for projection. (In the 35 mm world, the film from the camera was developed into a negative, which then had to be printed onto positive stock to have a print that could be projected.)

Safety referred to the fact this this film used the essentially non-flammable cellulose acetate base, rather than the highly flammable cellulose nitrate base of the 35 mm film then used in studio cameras and as well for the release prints that were shown in theaters.

At the moment, I don't know how this film compares to later well known "named" films, or even what its sensitivity was.

The Ciné-Kodak 16 mm motion picture camera

Kodak's first motion picture camera, the Ciné-Kodak, was introduced in 1923. It was intended for "home" use, the value of 16 mm filming in commercial and educational work being only later discovered. It as of robust construction, the case being entirely of die-cast aluminum, with a weight (loaded) of about 7.25 lbs. The dimensions were 7.9 in. high, 11.8 in. long, and 4.6 in thick. We see it in a stock photo here:



Ciné-Kodak motion picture camera
Stock photo
Aficionados may note that the most common form of this camera had a pan-like hinged flap that could be closed to cover the taking lens and the port for the viewfinder. This specimen did not have such, in my opinion an aesthetic blessing.
This camera had no motor (spring-wound or otherwise). Rather, it had to be hand-cranked during the entire shot. Thus, operation from a tripod was essentially mandatory.
This may seem outrageously primitive, but note that in this very era, the professional 35 mm cameras used in studios to shoot feature films were hand cranked in just the same way, as in fact were the 35 mm projectors used in theaters.
The camera could take film on up to a 100 ft. spool. The shot time for that length of film, based on the nominal frame rate of 16 fr/sec (and remember, the frame rate of this camera was not regulated in any way other by a label next to the crank, "Turn crank 2 revolutions per second") would be a little over four minutes.

This was a wondrous machine, which could be appreciated by a teletypewriter engineer or submarine designer, but not so much by a typical suburban would-be home movie maker. The next step was a rather more convenient camera, the Ciné-Kodak Model B, introduced in 1925. At this point, the Ciné-Kodak camera was redesignated "Ciné-Kodak Model A". Here we see a Ciné-Kodak Model B, one of two in our personal collection, this one estimated to have been made in 1927 (yes, it is 90 years old):



Douglas A. Kerr: Ciné-Kodak Model B motion picture camera (1927)

The beauty weighs 5.1 lbs, and its dimensions are 5.0 in. high, 9.6 in. long, and 2.8 in thick, a substantial improvement, handling-wise, over its predecessor. But the big improvement was that it is motor driven, by a spring motor wound with a crank. Thus hand-held operation became feasible.

With the spring fully wound, the camera could run for a little under one minute of shooting. The camera could take film on a 50 ft. or 100 ft. spool. The overall shot time for a 100 ft. spool, based on the nominal frame rate of 16 fr/sec would be a little over four minutes.

The camera in the form shown had a fixed-focus Kodak Anastigmat 20 mm f/3.5 lens. A portrait attachment (included with the camera) allowed putting a supplemental lens in place to provide (still on a fixed-focus basis) for subjects at distances ranging from 2 to 5 feet.

As on the Ciné-Kodak Eight Model 25 we saw earlier, the aperture indication plate had descriptions of scenes and lighting conditions as a handy guide to choosing an aperture. This of course was predicated on the camera frame rate (but this camera only operated at the standard frame rate of 16 fr/s) and on the use of Ciné-Kodak Panchromatic Film, the only film type initially available for "amateur" use with this camera. We see that aperture plate here, in situ:



Douglas A. Kerr: Ciné-Kodak Model B aperture designation plate

As with the Ciné-Kodak Eight, from 1940 on one could have this camera (then no longer in manufacture) retrofit with the Ciné-Kodak Universal guide. As part of that process, the aperture designation plate was replaced with one not showing scene descriptions, but only having the aperture indications themselves, plus the iconic EKC Eastman Kodak Company logo. We see that replacement plate here (actually on our 1925 Model B):



Douglas A. Kerr: Ciné-Kodak Model B - replacement aperture designation plate

[To be continued]
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