Monday, June 11, 2012

Studies in Chronovision (1975) by Louis Hock


The preservation of Louis Hock’s Studies in Chronovision (1975) was fairly simple.  I had been interested in Louis’s films for some time, but hadn’t talked to him about depositing them at the archive until only about 2010 or so, thanks to the help and instigation of my buddy Vera Brunner-Sung, who’d been working with Louis down in San Diego.

Louis periodically comes up to L.A., so once he’d decided to deposit his films, he brought them up in a few separate carloads when he was visiting up here anyway.

I had never seen Studies in Chronovision before he brought his films in, but had read some intriguing and complimentary references to it here and there.  Once I finally got to see it, I found it one of the more interesting, beautiful, and expressive time lapse films I could remember seeing.  And given the fact that the camera original had been discarded by Louis (due to extreme color fading and deterioration), it seemed like an obvious preservation candidate.

As I mentioned, the 16mm reversal camera original was gone, having faded badly over the years.  I don’t know for sure, but this is almost definitely because it was filmed on the dreaded 7252 Ektachrome Commercial (ECO) stock.  When Kodak reformulated ECO from 7255 to 7252 in 1970, it may have improved the stock for production use at that time, but it would prove devastating for filmmakers and archivists down the line, as its color fades badly, pretty much without exception.

All that otherwise survived for Louis’s film was a 1970s internegative made from the original, and two reversal prints, both on 7387 (Kodachrome) print stock.  The two prints were in good physical shape, and with completely stable color.  Kodachrome famously – and very unlike 7252 – is incredibly color-stable. 

One of the prints was a bit warmer and more magenta than the other.  Louis and I compared the two prints on a bench, and he indicated his preference for the cooler of the two prints as more accurately reflecting how the film should look.

Also, the film is silent, so no sound work was needed.

From here, the process was pretty easy.  I got the internegative and the preferred Kodachrome print to FotoKem Lab in Burbank, and asked them to print the internegative, matching the supplied Kodachrome print as a reference.  In the 1970s, it was common for internegatives (from reversal originals) to be a ‘one-light’, meaning the color correction/timing was already built into the internegative, and striking a print from it could be done at a single set of printing lights, rather than numerous timing changes from scene to scene.  This was generally accomplished by answer printing the reversal original to reversal print stock, possibly multiple times with corrections, and, upon approval of the reversal answer print, those timing settings would be built into the internegative.  If a filmmaker planned to make several prints of their film, it would be ultimately cheaper to make an internegative, as release prints off a single-strand internegative would be notably cheaper than release prints off an A/B –rolled reversal original.

When printing one of these ‘one-light’ internegatives these days, they may require a bit of extra timing, due to the changes in film stocks and the fact that a different lab with different printers is now printing it.  But generally they’re not too tough to time.

Since Louis’s internegative was made as a one-light negative, a minimum of timing was needed at FotoKem, making the printing job a check print rather than an answer print.  At FotoKem, a check print generally means a minimum of timing effort is needed, and it’s quite a bit cheaper than an answer print.  An answer print job could require not just a lot of timing changes throughout the negative, but also potentially a few passes of the negative, making multiple prints with corrected timing changes until the results are to the filmmaker’s liking.

Once approved, an interpositive was made from the internegative, and an additional two release prints.  This was a pretty basic preservation, as no additional internegative was made at this time.  Though it’s always nice to have as many protection elements as possible, it didn’t seem necessary at this time to make a new internegative from the new interpositive.  The only preservation benefit to having a new internegative would be to double the number of newly made elements.  The internegative otherwise doesn’t offer any additional archival stability (it and the IP would both be the same stock, 3242), and no other prints are needed at this time.  Louis isn’t really focused on circulating 16mm prints of his older works, so the three new prints made seem like enough for now.  If additional prints are needed down the line, a new internegative will be made from the interpositive, to avoid over-printing the original internegative (which is now, practically speaking, the original).

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