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  • Memory Lane: Kodak/Trumbull 70fps demonstration film

  • Bob Cole

    June 30, 2021 at 12:29 am

    Does anyone remember the fabulous holiday feasts and film demonstrations that Kodak used to put on, for producers who ordered their film stock? I ask that sincerely, as I want to test my own memory. What follows may or may not be an accurate recollection of the best one ever, probably from the early 1980’s.

    These were annual occasions for Kodak to demonstrate the latest film stocks. One year, the Washington, DC show was held in a very high-tech film theater attached to a Chuck-E-Cheese restaurant. The idea was to demonstrate the quality of the latest emulsion, shot and projected at 70 fps. Douglas Trumbull had determined that the human eye could perceive more visual detail up to that rate. (I suspect that Kodak saw an opportunity here to nearly triple our film stock budgets!)

    The venue had a huge screen. But the film began, surprisingly, with a relatively small rectangle in the middle, showing an oversaturated, grainy, scratchy film print about a family fireworks business. Soon the film stuck in the projector, and a hole burned in the image; the screen went black. A light turned on, behind the screen, which was, like most large screens, perforated. We saw the “backstage,” with brooms, brick wall, and a technician, who came up to the screen from behind it, and addressed us with an apology for the malfunction. At one point, he leaned against the screen, and we could see it bow toward us where he pushed.

    After about 30 seconds, you heard gasps from around the theater, as we began to realize that we were looking at “The Movie” – Trumbull’s 70 fps demo – the whole time. There was no man behind the screen. The screen had not moved toward us when he leaned on it. But we would have sworn, at least for a few seconds, that it had.

    Does anyone remember these occasions, or am I the 3000-Year-Old Man, in the midst of a bunch of youngsters? I have to say: Those days had their good points.

    Bob C

  • Michael Gissing

    June 30, 2021 at 3:43 am

    Showscan was 65mm shot, 70 mm projected at 60fps. I worked on a Showscan production in Australia in the late 1980s. An unblimped camera running 65mm film @ 60fps sounded like the loudest dentist drill. The camera op had to wear industrial earmuffs. I was recording sound (wild) of a bagpipe band two city blocks away just to not hear the infernal machine ramp up to shoot speed. Insane but astounding images.

    Trumbull’s research was that above 50fps was the sweet spot and 60 being 2.5 x 24fps was the logical rate. I found it interesting that 48fps was chosen for The Hobbit which made sense for a 3D image, although I remember the howls of disgust when traditionalists thought it looked like ‘video’. I think higher frame rates are a good idea with 3D. In fact Trumbull went on to develop a 3D 4k system at 120fps called Magi.

  • Oliver Peters

    June 30, 2021 at 6:40 pm

    I remember reading about the project, but never saw it. Trumbull also did the films for the Luxor hotel in Las Vegas when it opened. These were part of the in-house entertainment. As I recall those were done at 48fps, because the budget didn’t allow for the licensing fees associated with Showscan, even though Trumbull was involved.

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