chapter  3
44 Pages

Optical printing: getting to know the JK optical printer

Optical printing is reprinting already filmed images onto film. It is a way to move one film size and/or type onto another. It is a way to change the speed of a series of images, including moving film that was shot at silent speed (18FPS) to sound speed (24FPS) so that it projects at the speed the original action took place. It is a way to preserve fragile images by transferring them onto new stock. It is a way to create superimpositions, dissolves, traveling mattes and other optical effects. Until the advent of digital effects and compositing it was used extensively in the mainstream film industry to create title sequences and a whole variety of optical and special effects. In the 1960s it was embraced by experi - mental filmmakers as a creative tool. In their 2010 book The VES Handbook of Visual Effects authors Zwerman and Okun differentiate between special or practical effects, those that can be done in camera/during production, with visual effects, image effects that require laboratory processing. This chapter is about experimental filmmakers and visual effects made through a very particular process called optical printing. However, these processes/technologies evolved out of the industrial practice and in order to fully understand the tool it is essential that you comprehend its history and the way it made its way into the avant-garde.