Film Rescue International

Earlier this year, I sent in a roll of film we found in an old Kodak Vest Pocket Autographic camera to Film Rescue International for their cycle starting April 1, 2014.  The camera was in my grandfather’s office and was presumably my great grand uncle Herb’s at some point.  Herb probably took it off to war with him and after he passed away, my grandfather kept the camera since he was quite the shutterbug.  As far as turn-around time goes, I had a link to the scans in my inbox on May 16th.  It ended up costing $34 for 5 images which is steep, but I’m not sure I would’ve trusted film that was over 30 years old to just anyone.  Even though Kodak Verichrome Pan is more stable than other films, it could have been anywhere between 30-50 years old, and the possibility of some lackey at a lab not familiar with developing old film screwing up what may have been priceless photos was just too much of a risk to take.  As it turns out, there was nothing really precious on the roll, but it’s great to know for sure, rather than sit around wondering what the heck is on there.  I am VERY happy with the level of communication and the extra care they take to manage expectations.  Expired and old film is a real crapshoot and sometimes you win big, sometimes you lose big.  I opted to download the free scans (at 532×864, 300 dpi), but if I wanted quality copies, I could’ve purchased the full resolution download for $.99 each with a 20% discount if I placed an order in the first two weeks.  The images are available on their website for a full year.  They mailed me the developed negatives in plastic sleeves along with the original spool and backing paper.

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The images are below, and that first image is the one I shot out of the front door of grandpa’s old house when I realized there was still live film inside.  Clearly, I’ve got some practicing to do if I want to use the camera again, but it appears to be light leak free which is a plus!  The next three shots are of grandpa’s junkyard in the snow which helps me date them to somewhere in the 1970s probably and the last one is the view from great grandma Olga’s house.  It’s a view that shows up over and over again in photos, so it’s one I’m very familiar with, even if the house no longer exists.

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Memories Matter

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Leon and Romayne, 1963

Earlier this year, my grandma Romayne passed away.  Step-grandmother if we’re getting technical, but she had been my grandfather’s second wife since well before I was born.  Her husband Leon, my grandfather, passed on about a year and a half before, and while I’m sure it was difficult, Romayne carried on, and kept herself busy working around the house, cleaning up, sorting through box after box of who-knows-what that Leon left behind, all while going through treatment for cancer (Multiple Myeloma).  Grandma started to share things she’d found that none of us, including my father, had ever seen.  The first find, that Red Velvet Victorian Photo Album I’d blogged about before, sparked a new interest in genealogy and family history which launched a bigger and ever ongoing family tree project.  Grandma was willing to share stories and would answer any questions we had about family history, and we were finally starting to ask.

No one had done this before.

It was understood that you didn’t ask questions about family history because they wouldn’t be answered.  There were some touchy subjects involved, and it was generally considered a good idea to keep your questions to yourself.  The amount of data that I now realize I’ve missed out on, the stories that won’t ever be told… it’s really hard to fathom.  I don’t think I’ll ever understand the reasons behind not wanting to talk about the past, but I bet the truth isn’t nearly as salacious as the fog and mystery.  On top of that I really didn’t have the desire to even bother digging until that photo album came out of hiding.

DSC_4487sAfter grandma passed away, the family was left with a house full of treasures.  Every box we opened yielded another find – a drawing she’d saved 30 years ago from an 8 year old nephew, a letter from a niece, box after box of photos from grandpa, stacks of polaroids, negatives from film she’d shot as a girl, and the list goes on and on.  One trunk yielded 17 reels of super 8 film.  All those home movies and no projector!  The photos and negatives I could scan at home, no problem, but film movies?!  No one had any idea what was on the reels, only a few had labels, so I was chomping at the bit to see what was on them.  I started by checking ebay for a projector, thinking I could play the movies on a white sheet and then record the projected image with a camera I already have.  The cost of a projector and shipping was going to be upwards of $100, plus the time I’d be spending at the computer transferring and editing, and it was all stacking up to not be worth the bother.

My husband then found Southtree.  I checked out their site and found that not only did they seem to have an abundance of technical knowledge and all sorts of awesome equipment to do the conversion from film to digital, but they really cared.  They tweet with the tag, “#memoriesmatter” which I absolutely love.  I placed my order, packed up a box, and shipped the reels out.  Over the following weeks, Southtree emailed me to let me know where my order was in their process and what they were doing in that step.

DSC_4484sWhat returned weeks later is.. I don’t even know what to call it.  SEVENTEEN reels of film, seventeen snippets of their life in movement instead of still images, seventeen memories of people who are now gone, seventeen incredible surprises converted into digital format on one DVD.  All the reels were returned to me along with a box that contained two DVDs – one for the movie, the other with the data file in mp4 format.  Given that these had probably been in a box in the attic for at least 20 years, I was shocked to see that the folks at Southtree managed to churn out something that was pretty well color correct, clear and sharp, and even looked good on our stupidly huge 65″ TV.  I shared the DVD with my parents and my grandmother’s niece who actually made an appearance in two clips.  There were some tears shed for the people who had passed, chortles for nostalgia, and some dust blown off memories long forgotten.  The real treat for me was seeing my great-grandmother on film – she passed away when I was 7, and while I have a random memory or two of her, it was really neat to see film of her when she was alive.  Then there was a film snippet of my mom and dad as teenagers.  They really were young once!

I’ve decided to post a clip here of grandma and grandpa at Christmas sometime in the 1970s.  They had no children together, but Christmas was grandma’s thing and she absolutely loved decorating and going all out for the holiday.  At one point, she opens a gift, a lighter, courtesy of grandpa’s prankster tendencies.  He apparently did this sort of thing every year – wrapped up some everyday sort of item as a gift to be silly.  There are a bunch of clips of various Christmases showing the two of them opening presents – it’s a really neat glimpse into their everyday life together.


Memories DO matter and I cannot thank Southtree enough for being around to carefully preserve and convert those memories.

The Stereo Realist, Scanning, and You

I picked up an old Stereo Realist camera on ebay a while back and finally developed my first roll of film today.  Yep, I developed the film all by myself and didn’t fry it.  Took a little bit of a refresher course in the chemicals and dilution ratios, took a deep breath and popped open the canister post-final rinse.  It worked.  Beautifully.

Now, with dry film in hand, I sat down with my Windows 7 machine and trusty old Canon Canoscan 8400f.  The two have been having a disagreement (Scanner is TWAIN and Windows 7 is really primarily WIA, two differet protocols for image aquisition), but I finally managed to get things rolling after downloading the TWAIN plug-in for Photoshop (it’s not standard anymore).  Your scan driver/software should have a way to allow you to specify the size of the negative and to turn off any auto-correction (exposure, tone, sharpness, etc). Ideally, every scan should be exactly the same, straight from the negative. Then there was finding software for the 3d stereo vision setup.  The one most peple use, apparently, is StereoPhoto Maker.  Free to download, and the installation/set-up instructions are pretty straight forward.  The instructions tell you to also download something called AutoPano.  The version they tell you to download doesn’t comply with Windows 7, or at least it doesn’t right now.  However, AutoPano Pro is available here, found via google search and works perfectly.  You just have to plug in the path to the .exe file in StereoPhoto under Edit/Preferences/Adjustment.  I found it best to make sure my left and right images are both about the way I want them (cropped, adjusted, etc) before importing them into StereoPhoto.  Then let StereoPhoto run Auto Alignment, go into Edit/Add Fuzzy Border (turn the fuzz down to zero for a plain border), and File/Save Stereo Image.  VOILA!  Just cross your eyes a little (or look down at your nose) and allow a third image to appear between the two images and come into focus.  That image should be in 3d!

It’s been really fun going through the stereo images and now I can’t wait to go back out and burn through another roll!  Click Here to view my Stereo Realist set on flickr.

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