I spent this week cutting and editing my film reels from Iceland. This is my first time editing film on any kind of scale; I’m used to looking at hours of digital footage but even ten minutes of actual film is intimidating, given how permanent a mistake is and how basic the tools are.
I have an old, inherited Hama splicer, a Chinon 8000 projector and a Goko viewer I picked up on eBay. I’m using Hama splices, a clear plastic ruler, a scalpel and torch to do the editing. I also have a simple frame viewer, sellotape and a few spare reels.
The first thing is to work out some shot lengths; my projector runs at eighteen frames per second and according to Wikipedia, a single Super 8 frame is 4.01 mm tall, so I came up with the following table;
I want to play this film back to music, so I’m going to go with two second cuts, about a bar of a song. The next step is to mark this out on the floor.
I tape two pieces of paper and put the viewer at one end – this way I can see what the cut is going to end on and I have some leeway to move it. In-camera cuts will appear randomly, like accents within a bar – this kind of chance operation appeals to me.
Once I have a process in place, I begin the work. Sometimes I shift the end on a few frames and use the Goko viewer’s frame marker to indicate where I want the cut, although generally I’m satisfiedwith the random results. There are a few points, such as the geyser eruptions, where I don’t want to lose the drama but even here I accept a cut or two. A cut up reel looks like this;
I want the contents of all four reels scrambled, so I resist running a few samples through to see if the two-second length feels right. After a couple of hours I end up with this;
It has taken longer than I expected to get to this point. Every clip has to be wound up and stored, each offcut is thrown on a pile and I splice together some of the clips that I have manipulated the ends of, in order to bring them up to two seconds.
One of the reels contains a length of processed unexposed film – this is an opportunity to do some chemical manipulation. Household bleach is sufficient to soften the emulsion and, because I am too lazy to start drawing on frames with a pin, I scrub the film with a wire brush and then dunk it in a blue ink wash. For a final effect, I paint on gold ink, hoping that the projector bulb will pick up the particles and give the film a glitter effect.