- A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed the E.G. Lutz book, Animated Cartoons. I was also intrigued by another of his many books, The Motion Picture Cameraman, and quickly ordered a copy from Amazon. This 1927 book is obviously dated, but like his earlier book, Animated Cartoons, it’s so filled with information that most of it has held up over the years. Of course, today everything is digital, so there’s no need for a lot of information about film and film stocks, but there’s still of lot to be learned for the aspiring motion picture photographer.
This is all illustrated by detailed drawings by Lutz, himself.
The book starts out talking about the camera. Lutz, at first, sticks to the simplest, the box camera, and moves on from there ultimately comparing and contrasting a number of different makes, at the time.
The simple box camera
The book offers lots of charts and details that are pertinent to the subject. Everything from filming outdoors “When subjects have a preponderance of red and yellow hues they require a large stop and a long exposure to procure any kind of result. In subjects where blue and violet prevail a smaller stop will do.” Naturally, there’s a chart analyzing daylight hours at different months of the year.
He has an entire chapter on shooting within a studio of the period: “A Motion-Picture studio is a huge structure with glass roof and sides in which artificial lights supplement daylight, or are used exclusively for the illumination.” Certainly, this is not what studios were even five years on. They would soon be doing color, and they would need to very carefully control the conditions for photography.
How quickly it all changed and how casually we shoot now with our digital cameras.
He has a chapter on effects photography covering everything from glass matte shots to split screen photography. Many of these effects are illustrated.
The glass matte shot explained in a very clear way
How people hang precariously
from clocks in silent films (see Hugo).
He has an entire chapter on how titling is done, and there’s another chapter on “‘One Turn, One Picture’ Work”, or as we call it “animation.” The “one turn, one picture” means that you crank the camera only once around to film one image. It took 16 cranks to shoot one foot of film, or one second in the silent pictures. Film ultimately went to 24 frames per second to accommodate sound photography.
In that animation chapter, he analyzes the different types of animation from cut-out to stop-motion to time-lapse photography. It’s very succinct and well informed, as we might expect from the author of the first how-to book on the subject.
Ultimately, we even get instructions on how to develop the film. Fortunately, labs were created for that purpose and handle such an important part of the process today.
Equipment needed to develop your own film.
I guess the book seemed valuable for me because I have an interest in the process, both that of the past as well as that of today. I’m not sure everybody has that interest, but this book will serve you well and entertain if you do.