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To understand the 65mm project

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Luc Barthélémy, Paris, France Date: 26.07.2009
Luc Barthélémy doing some animation (mid 80's)

In France, Mr. Luc Barthélémy is working on his own 65mm film scanner/recorder. He has been a film fan since the 1970s and he is especially fond of large format 70mm film. He has his own DP70 and and the past few years he has bought some large format equipment on e-Bay, which he is putting together for a private project. I'm delighted that Luc Barthélémy has accepted my invitation to tell a little bit about himself and share his project ideas with other in70mm.com readers. editor

My name is Luc. I'm French and I live at 30 Km from Paris (south). I was born in 1968. In 1976, my father worked as a projectionist in a cinema near Montparnasse. There, I was bitten by «cinema». My mother brought us, my brother and I, every Wednesday. So we could see the films my father projected. I had the chance to see every film released during this year ("The Enforcer" with Clint Eastwood, "King Kong" with Jeff Bridges, and so much others).

There were four screens and four 35mm projectors. The chief projectionist left one day. And several months later, during year 1977, he told my father to come see him at his new cinema: Le Broadway.

He was projecting "2001:A SPACE ODYSSEY" for its 1977 re-release. I can say that I saw 2001 when I was 9 and that was the big trauma for me ! It was absolutely astounding. This screen was known as SPACIOVISION, one of the biggest 70mm screen at the time, or something like that. After the projection, we went in the projection booth to see my father's friend reloading the two enormous DP70s (I was a child and they were giants). Since then, I only wanted to do films, with 70mm and "2001" in mind.

More in 70mm reading:

Cosharp 35mm to 70mm printer

FotoKem Restores "South Pacific"

65mm / 70mm Film Scanning in the UK

Cinerama Inc. Scans 70mm Film at Crest Hollywood

Some ruminations after "The Reel Thing XXV"

70mm Magnetic Striping Machine for Sale

Gulliver Arane 65/70mm Laboratory in France
65mm 5-perf camera on the Solitaire 8XP film recorder

Because I loved to draw, I started to make small animation films (my parents helped me to buy a Super 8 camera). I really started to film cartoons around 10 years' old. So I continued during my youth to do small films. I experimented animation, animated models, SFX, explosions, etc. They were not really films but some kind of tests or demo reels that I loved project to me and my brother.

Then I jumped to 16mm. I did a lot of small films again. At that time, there were plenty of S8 and 16mm Kodachrome everywhere. It wasn't too expensive. And it was my hobby. It was great time.

During the 80s, I was looking for theaters showing 70mm film and these years brought us some 70mm movies or blowups: "TRON", "GHOSTBUSTERS", "DUNE", "2010", "BLADE RUNNER".
Complete shooting unit

During the 90s, I spent a lot of time at the Max Linder Panorama theater. In August, they usually did special 70mm screenings: one or two films a day, during all the month. There, I saw "TRON", "BRAINSTORM", "2001", "2010". The last film I saw there was "BARAKA".

Being an adult, I started to work as a software engineer in 1991, not in the field of cinema. But I was interested in 3D, computing, imaging, electronics, etc. So I never stopped to work all these subjects, for my own. During these years I also had the opportunity to find some beautiful pieces of machinery: projectors (two FP20, one DP70), cameras (Cineflex 35mm), film recorders (Agfa-Matrix, Solitaire 8XP), etc.

The 65mm project

The 5-perf movement

The last five years enabled me to setup the project I was dreaming of. By acquiring a 65mm optical printer camera (on eBay!) and having found an «old» MGI's Solitaire film recorder, I told myself it would be great to make a 65mm shooting unit.

I wanted to recreate for fun a short sequence of the "TRON" movie. I remembered the fascination I had for the computer graphic imagery of this film especially the lightcycles, the tanks, etc.

The look was very particular, and really away from the CGI we can see every-day now. And because there is no available software to accurately recreate these pictures, I started to write my own software, taking care to closely match the "TRON"'s look. I am still working on it.
Camera and magazine's motors

For the film recorder, I spent many hours to design, adapt and test every parts. It is really a big task. Some years ago, and before I could imagine and had the possibility to setup this project, I contacted the famous lab in Paris that make 70mm films, just to tell Mr Failliot how I admire the work they do and how a pure fan I am.

They were so kind that Mr Failliot showed me the lab, and some months later, Mr Benichetti (Dominique, as he asked me to call him) constructed some missing parts of my 65mm camera.
Shooting software

I had to drive the camera by my own electronics and software instead using the module (black box under the camera) capabilities. The module drives the filter color wheel inside it, my software drives the motor through a custom circuit (not shown on this picture), by the PC's printer port.
8XP's CRT during exposure

Pictures appears sharp and centered in the 65mm gate (here loaded with blue leader). During my tests, I use a thin piece of tracing-paper 53mm wide in the gate, instead of costly optical measurement instruments.

The manufacturer of the film recorder (Management Graphic Inc.) doesn't exist anymore. No documents freely exist.
Front panel during exposure

Everythings seems to be «TOP SECRET». Of course it is, because of highly technical content and patents. And maybe, because a lot of the technology used in these old film recorders are, more or less, the same used in state-of-the-art film recorders.

The film recorder properly receive the pictures, here during exposure. The exposing time is long: around nine seconds per monochromatic pass. An RGB picture is exposed in around 30 seconds. Add one second for the film advance. I am currently working on exposure time to reduce it.

The software works very well. I use pictures of 4096 x 1854 and 8192 x 3708 pixels for my tests. This film recorder can expose from 2048 x 2048 up to 8192 x 8192 pixels. Each pixel use 12 bits of data for each color channel (4096 gray scale values). The color wheel is equipped with red, green, blue and neutral filter. So, black and white pictures can be exposed. This provides chromatic separation recording capabilities.
TRON's like test background

My project is not, at first, intended for commercial purposes because it is a very personal project. I think that people (professionals) wanting such services use state-of-the-art technology. They wouldn't trust the «guy fixing its equipment in his garage», even if lot of adventures have begun in a garage. This being said, it could be a good occasion to see 4K or 8K pictures shot on 65mm for 70mm prints.

I am not a professional in the field of cinema. Just a simple «amateur». I wish I could work in this field but it never happened. The only way for me is to do it by myself. With my own money (very few) and on my own time (very much).
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Updated 21-01-24