Sunday, April 2, 2023

A Different Kind of Work (Fatigue)

There are different kinds of work, of course.  Yesterday, your Old Spring Cowboy worked his ass off, but not outside.  I bought a Wolverine Moviemaker Pro to bring my father's old 8mm films into the digital realm.  I got the old Tupperware container that held them, brought it to the kitchen, and opened the top.  The odor that spewed out of it knocked me to my knees.  I was woozy.  Quickly, I took the whole thing outside afraid I had just damaged my lungs and brain.  I came back inside to use The Google to see.  

Vinegar syndrome, officially named acetate film base degradation, is a condition that results from the deterioration of cellulose acetate over the lifespan of a film. As vinegar syndrome progresses, it causes the film to become brittle, shrink, and take on an acidic odor, which smells like vinegar.

 There was no mention of toxicity or permanent damage, so somewhat relieved, I looked at a couple other pages that popped up on my search.  How do you clean old film?  A lint free cloth and 99% alcohol.  Or you can use a film cleaner which I happened to have.  What I would need, though, was a way to spool the rolls from one reel to another.  

(video link)

Voila!  Enter the dinosaur.  I had the idea to use the old film projector in rewind mode to move the film through the wetted cloth I would be holding.  I grabbed the first roll and gave it a try.  It worked, so I took the freshly cleaned film and loaded it into the Wolverine.  Now the learning curve.  Instruction book, online tutorials.  Bending the film into the film gate is really stupid, but that is how the machine is designed.  Finally figuring out the internal menu, I hit the record button.  And man, did things move.  Slowly.  Very, very slowly, digitizing one frame at a freaking time.  

So I decided to clean more film.  This is not a quick process, either.  I was learning.  I managed to clean a couple rolls before I broke the middle of one old, brittle plastic reel.  Now I had a problem.  I looked at the empty reels that were in the box thinking to use one of them.  There were plenty.  And they were all kinds of warped, the width of film spool varying wildly from one side to the other.  I took the one that seemed best and tried bending it so that the film would spool onto it.  As I was doing that, the Wolverine finished its first roll.  Now I had to figure out how to play it.  

I'm going to spare you the tedium.  I ran that roll of film through the Wolverine three times before I realized that I did not have the right kind of SD card inserted.  Finally, mid-afternoon, I managed to record.  But when I took the SD card to the Mac, I couldn't open the files.  

The Google.  The YouTube.  I was losing my mind.  I couldn't open the files in anything but QuickTime.  I couldn't ope them in iMovie or Premiere Pro.  Like the big baby I am, I was ready to cry.  Then. . . and I don't remember how or why, I had Premier Pro open and tried to import the file.  


I couldn't open the file with the program, but I could import it once it was open.  Now all I had to do was learn how to edit using the bins, menus, and tools of the video the program again.  I I thought to try iMovie's it is a simpler program.  I was able to import.  I tried editing in iMovie and realized that I needed to go through the tutorials all over again.  Same but more so with Premiere Pro.  

I guess I didn't spare you much there.  I just want someone to weep along with me.  O.K.  O.K.  I will try to skip ahead.  I put on one of the bigger reels with many of the smaller reels spliced together.  There was so much film on the reel, though, that when I loaded it into the Wolverine, the film would fall off the reel and loop and twist.  I tried for . . . ok. . . sorry. . . uh. . . I figured out a workaround and let it go.  

While that was going on, I watched a few editing tutorials.  Ahhh!  Yes.  

It was five.  Five.  I had spent the entire beautiful day inside trying to get things to work.  The resulting files from the Wolverine have a lot of digital artifacts and can't be viewed well on a big screen, and I am disappointed in that, but I have figured out the controls, what few there are, on the digitizer now and I have some rudimentary editing skills once again.  

At the end of the day, I slapdashed something together just to have something to show for the hours of work.  I recorded audio with the computer mic.  The narrative is awful.  But I was able to cut out a lot of bad footage and try to color correct a little.  The reds and yellows and oranges have just about faded from the film.  I'm hoping I can do something in post, but that is going to require a lot more of The Google.  

Anyway. . . . 

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