Sunday, November 15, 2015


    Hey kiddies, through the efforts of Paul Perez (immortalized as Paul Bearer in the Talboto comics way back in 1993) I now have a graphic equalizer to try to clean up the soundtracks to some of my 1970's films. Unfortunately, its arrival here collided with my holiday projects so it will be a while before I can test it out and continue making film to video transfers. Just thought you'd like to see what the device looks like (for you younger nippers) and to remind the more mature ones of all the hardware we invested in for our music collections.

    Since Paul is a big STAR WARS fan and collector, I asked what his plans were for the premiere of the new film in the series. Surprisingly, he said that he's going to wait a week or two before checking it out. As he's gotten older, the crowds at these kinds of shows annoy him and he's rather wait for them to thin out a bit. Except for many of the kid-oriented animated films (and that's about 99% of them now) I usually go to the earliest matinee shows. Most of the time, movie-jerks don't like to wake up early enough to spoil these shows although I'm seen a few exceptions.

         Paul sporting the Indiana Jones look. Thanks for the equalizer, Indy!

Sunday, October 18, 2015


    It looks like finding an equalizer to clean up the soundtracks is going to take some time. I've checked the local thrift stores and came up empty-handed. Former electronics go-to places like Radio Shack and Best Buy were no more fruitful. When I used the words "graphic equalizer" in both stores I got the glassy-eyed stare from the minimum wagers and a quick "Uh, I don't think we carry those". Ebay will be my last resort since this is the kind of item I want to see what I'll be getting in actual reality.
    Newsfilm Laboratory had a 200 foot minimum order. Since JONATHAN LIVINGSTON KITE was under the minimum, I padded the order with three other short films. This gave me the required bang for my buck and allowed me to experiment with various types of films. The reel line-up was as follows:

                             GREETINGS AND HALLUCINATIONS

    This film was shot after J. L. KITE but showed up first on the reel. Jim Ereaux played a harried young man who experiences hallucinations, one of which is Utley menacing him. He tries to get away but is devoured by the clay critter. Although no drug references were mentioned as the source of the guy's troubles, I guess they can be read into the story by modern day audiences. So just say "No" if Utley wanders into your home.

                                      THE SPRITZER FAMILY 3

    The third Spritzer Family film arrives featuring Harry's Groucho-esque boss and secretary Ms. Mimeo. The story was fashioned by high school friend Mindy Kass now known to the world as Mindy Kronenberg big-shot writer. Nobody has traced this film's scribe to her though she hasn't fessed up to it either. Her work on the Spritzer Family is in a Kass of it's own.

                                      THE SPRITZER FAMILY 4

    Mr. Spritzer takes a nap while his mother-in-law enjoys a rousing episode of LET'S FAKE A DEAL. Drifting off to Slumberland, Harry comes jowl-to-face with Deal's host Monty Kristo. Harry gets to choose his prize from three doors and ends up with the Old Lobster for his pains. He awakens and flees the living room with Utley taking his vacant seat. The second story idea contributed by Mindy Kass. 
    At the time I was shooting this one, Jim Ereaux had given me a set of three closeup lenses that could be screwed onto the existing lens of the Yashica. Throughout the film there are several huge closeups of the various characters showing off my fingerprints and other imperfections on the clay surface. These were experiments, after all, and space fillers for JONATHAN LIVINGSTON KITE.
    I'll embed the films as soon as I get their soundtracks fixed.

Thursday, October 1, 2015


    When I returned to Vandenberg after my Christmas leave, I was anxious to continue doing new films. Late in 1973, Jim Ereaux, from the squadron still photo section, and I were working on plans for doing a clay animated STAR TREK. I filmed a short Super 8 clip of the captain beaming in with a card behind him warning that STAR TRICKS was coming soon. Jim, being a skilled model builder, constructed the original bridge and transporter sets. I bought the second or third generation Original Series Enterprise and a Klingon battle cruiser as well. These versions of the AMT models were simple glue-'em, paint-'em and decal-'em kits with no extras like internal lighting found in the original 1960's AMT release. 
    While this work was going on, Jim, myself and a couple of squadron friends went out with our cameras one unseasonably warm January evening. The weather was just what guys from the colder climates would hope for in California during the winter. Jim brought along his kite and I filmed him getting it airborne and doing some maneuvers in the bright blue sky. We shot some additional footage later that week but when I needed a couple of other shots for a gag, the Vandenberg weather reverted to it's foggy, chilly norm. It was just as well, though, since there's a spontaneity to it I couldn't repeat.

Jim Ereaux, and the titular kite, trying to get it airborne on the Vandenberg AFB beach in January 1974. Not a snowy plover in sight. 

    I was having the films duplicated on Ektachrome film stock with a magnetic sound stripe already on it. This made for a faster turnaround time but printed base to emulsion side causing the focus to be slightly softer. Having prints made right after shooting allowed me keep the Kodachrome original from getting too dirty and scratched from projection. Unfortunately, I was so happy with the footage from JONATHAN LIVINGSTON KITE I ran it a few times too much before it was printed and it picked some dirt and scratches anyway. The title, of course, is a spoof a book, a movie and a monster hit soundtrack by Neil Diamond.  

P.S. Normally I would have embedded the film itself but there's a technical problem with the sound track. It seems that when I mixed the track onto the Eumig projector, a 60 cycle hum (that's what I was told) was audible in the playback. When it was first transferred to VHS in the 1980's, the technician knocked out the hum with a graphic equalizer between the projector and the video deck. I tried to use the iMovie equalizer but once the hum made it to the computer, it just got tangled up with the rest of the track. As soon I find an equalizer to drop out the hum right from the projector I can continue transferring the old films and their sound again.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


   After figuring out the exposure situation on the Yashica, I began shooting various films that this new camera could handle. That especially included animated films and one of the first revived The Spritzer Family. Their 1971 debut was hurriedly shot in one night but now I could take my time. It clocked in about half a minute longer than the original but had a bit more dialogue and more of a story. Utley was added to the family as well as Junior, their son. They were menaced by the dreaded Eek-Eeks and only the timely arrival of Utley finished them. June's mother, the Old Lobster, survived her seeming demise at the end of the original Spritzer Family film. She was the one who summoned Utley but is later seen fleeing the vengeful Eek-Eeks.
   I brought their ramshackle set from New York with me and got down to business as usual. It never occurred to me to start from scratch with a brand new set made of sturdier material. I guess it was a bit of loyalty to their origins or perhaps not wanting to clutter up my barracks room little cardboard buildings. When I was working on Star Trix we had an open closet inspection and the starship crew got some funny looks from the First Sergeant and his staff. 


As mentioned in my previous post about the Yashica LD-6, it was after shooting MANNY MOUSE in July 1973 that I discovered how to get the exposure brighter using the backlight switch. The discovery was like a bulb lighting up, which is exactly the scene in this film where it happened. Of course, it was a bit bizarre when Manny supposedly turned the light off to go to sleep and the room suddenly lit up. By the time the film was processed and the goof was discovered, I was 3,000 miles away back at Vandenberg. However, once I found out how to get the exposure right, I was off and running with new projects. Besides, MANNY MOUSE lived in a world of his own so turning the lights on to sleep seemed pretty normal after all. 


Sunday, July 26, 2015


    About two weeks after high school graduation, I was on my way to Air Force basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas. Texas is no place to be in July and after my six weeks there in 1972, I never returned. 
     My movie projects were abandoned for the time being and I nearly didn't get into any job photo-related at one point. Fortune smiled on me, however, and I ended up being sent to Lowry AFB, Colorado for motion picture laboratory school. Although I thought I signed up for motion picture camera school, having it your way was not an option in the military. I sent for my Lafayette Super 8 camera but it arrived damaged and unusable. The sights and delights of Denver 
were lost for those three months since my finances weren't covering many luxuries.
    When I finally arrived at my permanent assignment at Vandenberg AFB, California, I started saving up for a new movie camera and this is what $133 got for me:

This is my Yashica LD-6 Super-8 camera. Featuring a 6 to 1 zoom and through-the-lens viewing, it had a power zoom, three speeds, single frame shooting for animation and built-in lap dissolve feature. It could fade out on a scene, backwind the film 54 frames and fade in again allowing me to transition from scene to scene in the camera. It could also be used for my favorite disappear/reappear effect except now the character could slowly fade out of the scene instead of instantly popping out.

The camera took a 50 foot film cartridge which translated to about four minutes at 18 frames per second. The faster speeds of 24  and 36 fps meant you ate up footage faster so pretty much all my films were shot at 18. I always kept aware of the footage meter, of course. Below it is the remote control port, the knob above the meter was to focus the eye piece for your particular vision. On the right is the door release where the film cartridge was loaded.

For the first six months that I owned the camera, I left the backlight switch in the center position but always felt the exposure was a bit dim. Actually, I was the dim one because when I shot a scene that I wanted dim I switched it to the + position and everything was brightly lit at normal exposure. The fader could be used independently of the lap dissolve switch for standard fade-ins and fade-outs. 

Ahhhh! The number 1 indicates that the camera is set for single frame exposure which allowed me to finally do my own animation without borrowing anyone else's camera. The R means normal Running film speed, RL is Running Lock so you could start the camera and step into the frame yourself. L stands for, well, you can guess what the L is for.

    I generally used the power zoom although I quickly found out that all these power features ate up the six AA batteries very fast. Later I bought a rubber zoom stick so I could manually zoom in and out.
    When shooting outdoors, the top-mounted flood lamp was removed and a neutral density filter slid down inside the camera to balance the color for sunlight. If you were shooting indoors with lights not mounted on the camera, the key was inserted to remove the ND filter to balance the color for tungsten light. The red button on the side was for the battery check which emitted a green light. The dimmer the light, the weaker the batteries.
    This was the workhorse camera that saw the further adventures of the Spritzer Family and the maiden voyages of STAR TRIX. It helped launch Capt. Coors, Ordinaryman and many short one-shot films throughout the 1970's. It was my companion on leave to the east coast and anywhere else I wanted to document. I haven't run any film through it in years but I'm sure it will respond whenever I call upon it. Not bad for $133. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


   About late May or early June of 1972, I was winding down my various projects and preparing to leave for Air Force basic training on July 7 (43 years ago today, whoopee!). I decided to shoot one last short film capturing classmate Bill Higgins' flower balancing (or valiant attempts) that entertained the library staff and visitors (we hope). This being a normal New York late spring, the humidity was quite high and Bill's shirt displayed it quite well. He claimed that he used spray deodorant but only after putting his shirt on. It was grungy before grunge surfaced elsewhere decades later. 

    There were a few scenes shot in the school library but I think we were asked to leave. We took our act to the small group instruction room up the hall but had to contend with the highly reflective projection screen on stage. Eventually we got enough scenes of Bill actually balancing the flower and called it a day.   
    I don't remember who came up with the unhappy ending but any sequels to this will have to take place in that big library in the sky.