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BOOKS ABOUT PROJECTORS

and a bit about films

There must be tens of thousands of books about films, the movies, stars, directors, the (F)Art of the Kinema with a capital K and etc and etc., most of which are a frightful bore. But books about getting all that onto the screen, about projectors and the technical aspects of the stuff itself? Virtually zilch. Here are a few I have come across; news of any more would be welcome.

First and foremost must be Gerald McKee, whose books Film Collecting, Half a Century of Film Collecting, The Home Cinema - Classic Home Movie Projectors 1922-1940  are like oases in a desert.

In earlier times, Harold B Abbott was a prolific writer on cine; I have two of his books, Motion Pictures with the Baby Ciné (of which I have the third edition) and The Complete 9.5mm Cinematographer. A more recent production is A Handbook of 9.5 Cinematography, by Douglas Macintosh. (Thanks to Colin Loffler for info on this last).

A good coffee-table book, if you can hack the Froggo, is Kermabon (ed); Pathé Premier Empire du Cinèma. Relatively light on narrow-gauge stuff, but some stunning pix.

For the more commercially- and cinema-minded, there is the series of I think four editions of The Complete Projectionist by R Howard Cricks, required reading for any aspiring Head Projectionist at a cinema in the 1940's, and The Projectionist's Handbook by Pitchford and Coombs. Also Commercial Cinematography, by George H Sewell, aimed mostly at the industrial film-maker using 16mm. It has interesting pix of early 16mm sound machines, including sound-on-disc, and also a picture of the 17.5mm Rex. At www.cinesales.com you will find a CD-ROM on how to be a projectionist. It's aimed at the pro, but has much of interest for the amateur. Behind The Screen, by Kenneth MacGowan, is more a history of film and techniques, whereas Principles of Cinematography, by Leslie J Wheeler, delves deep into the technical side of processing and printing film. For the really dedicated, there is the Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers. They later added "and Television". I had to go to the British Library to find copies to look at. A recent addition to the canon is The Advanced Projection Manual, by Torkell Servadet, with support from the Norwegian Film Institute and the International Federation of Film Archives.

A truly nerdy book that I love is Build Your Own Projector by W G Rowell, kindly found for me by Chris Bird; probably a bit hard-core for many tastes. A recent addition (thanks to Bob) is Practical Sound Conversion for Amateurs by F G Benson, more a booklet, really. My edition is April 1943; the first (cyclostyled) was September 1941. He appears to have set up his own company, Cineluxe, to sell conversion parts. And of course there are the Wallace Heaton Blue Books, full of pictures of then current equipment. Andrew Alden has produced two volumes on Bolex; A Bolex History, covering all the equipment and the Bolex Bible, entirely about the H16 camera.

For the historically-minded, how's about the Cyclopedia of Motion Picture Work, published in two volumes by the American Technical Society of Chicago in 1911. It appears to be designed as a teach yourself aid for budding projectionists. It has stills from early Photoplays, as it calls them, and beautifully illustrated spares lists for early machines. I only have Volume 1, unfortunately. Despite its early date, it treats of sound films, including an apparatus for synchronising a projector with a behind-the-screen sound reproducer (acoustic gramophone!) by means of a geared drive thru a long shaft running under the seating in a raised auditorium.

Turning to film, there is interesting reading in The Film Preservation Guide, published by the National Film Preservation Foundation in California, but the best thing I have seen on the care/preservation area is The Book of Film Care, a Kodak publication, but I think now out of print.

Then there are catalogues, apart from those Pathescope themselves produced. Maurice Trace has produced a comprehensive 9.5mm sound catalogue, and another on 17.5mm. Grahame Newnham has produced a list of French 9.5 sound releases. I have been working on 28mm (see Catalogue ). Geoff Newman has I believe produced a 9.5 silent catalogue, tho' I cannot at present track the precise reference. A specialist publication, of interest to 9.5ers, is Felix - The Black and White Catalogue, by C E and T J Cowles, which, inter alia, lists Felix B&W films on 9.5.

Magazines are another source of interest; Amateur Cinematographer, Home Movies and Home Talkies, Amateur Cine World, Amateur Cine Enthusiast (ACE), Group 9.5, Flickers, Projections; only the last three of these are current. Movie Maker and Making Better Movies are other titles I recall. Pathcope's own Monthly and Gazette have high grade pix and details of 9.5 films. In France, Pathé's Le Cinèma Chez Soi (CCS) seems, from what I have seen, to offer more in-depth technical stuff than its English counterpart, but you have to be able to do Froggo. (I have, thanks to Grahame Newnham in particular and also Pat Moules accumulated scans of many of CCS and have more awaiting scanning). There have been other, short-lived specialist mags, like the Buckingham Movie Museum's quarterly Home Movie (the covers can be seen in the Buckingham section, part 2; another, Film Collecting, edited by Dave Wyatt, ran for only about 8 issues. Articles also appeared in more mainstream magazines from time to time. Recently, a German-based magazine, Small Format, has appeared, but I haven't yet found out how to make them take my money (Managed it now). Again if you can hack the Froggo, there is Ciné 9,5, Journal of the Ciné Club 9,5 de France. They go on too much about the films that have been shown for my taste, but there are articles with higher projector nerd ratings from time to time.

Finally, a fairly recent book, wholly about projectors, Movie Projectors, by Jurgen Lossau (who is also the man behind Smallformat). This is a coffee-table book, in both size and cost, and has lots of projector pictures and info, including many from Eastern Europe, previously pretty much unknown over here. Incidentally, it's dual language English and German. It does claim, however, to be "The Definitive International Guide", which it clearly ain't. I expect most people could identify some of the lacunae, but such enterprise is not in my view to be discouraged when we have so little in this field. (There is supposed to be somewhere a massive, multi-volume German catalogue, but I've not seen it.)

Lossau has also published similar books on cameras. I think he produced one volume, then a supplementary volume to cover all the extra stuff that had emerged. Maybe he will do the same this time. I did email him offering pix of 17.5 and 28 projectors (which he specifically did not include) and of others such as the Bolex tri-gauge sound. I got no response tho', so I decided to have a website of my own where I could promulgate all these pix. On the subject of cameras, a much cheaper book is The Collector's Guide to Cine Cameras by John Wade. First published in 2001, it covers pretty much the whole field as we ever knew it in the UK; not many new cameras introduced after that time.

 

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