“I couldn’t help it. I happen to have been born to do it.

I am sure that I would have been a rotten failure doing anything else.”

~ Ends Of The Earth ~

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Roy Chapman Andrews ~ Video by Mike44920

I found this nicely compiled 5 minute pastiche of Central Asiatic Expedition stills, and original motion film on YouTube.  It was put together with an interesting soundtrack by a user who goes by the mysterious moniker Mike44920.    I like this 'short', and thought I would bring it to the attention of visitors to Whales, Camps and Trails.

It is my understanding that a large portion of the original motion film shot by James Shackelford, the official photographer of the expeditions, was lost due to it being on Nitrate film.  Sadly, this was the fate of many early movies, now lost forever.

Here is an excerpt taken from Wikipedia that more fully explains the problem.

Nitrate film
Nitrocellulose was used as the first flexible film base, beginning with Eastman Kodak products in August, 1889. Camphor is used as a plasticizer for nitrocellulose film, often called nitrate film. It was used until 1933 for X-ray films (where its flammability hazard was most acute) and for motion picture film until 1951. It was replaced by safety film with an acetate base.

The use of nitrocellulose film for motion pictures led to the requirement for fireproof projection rooms with wall coverings made of asbestos. The US Navy shot a training film for projectionists that included footage of a controlled ignition of a reel of nitrate film, which continued to burn when fully submerged in water. Unlike many other flammable materials, nitrocellulose does not need air to keep burning, and once burning it is extremely difficult to extinguish. Immersing burning film in water may not extinguish it, and could actually increase the amount of smoke produced.[4][5] Owing to public safety precautions, the London Underground forbade transport of movies on its system until well past the introduction of safety film.

Cinema fires caused by ignition of nitrocellulose film stock were the cause of the 1926 Dromcolliher cinema tragedy in County Limerick in which 48 people died and the 1929 Glen Cinema Disaster which killed 69 children. Today, nitrate film projection is normally highly regulated and requires extensive precautionary measures including extra projectionist health and safety training. Projectors certified to run nitrate films have many precautions, among them the chambering of the feed and takeup reels in thick metal covers with small slits to allow the film to run through. The projector is modified to accommodate several fire extinguishers with nozzles aimed at the film gate. The extinguishers automatically trigger if a piece of flammable fabric placed near the gate starts to burn. While this triggering would likely damage or destroy a significant portion of the projection components, it would prevent a fire which could cause far greater damage. Projection rooms may be required to have automatic metal covers for the projection windows, preventing the spread of fire to the auditorium.

It was found that nitrocellulose gradually decomposes, releasing nitric acid and further catalyzing the decomposition (eventually into a flammable powder or goo). Decades later, storage at low temperatures was discovered as a means of delaying these reactions indefinitely. It is thought that the great majority of films produced during the early twentieth century were lost either through this accelerating, self-catalyzed disintegration or through studio warehouse fires. Salvaging old films is a major problem for film archivists (see film preservation).

Nitrocellulose film base manufactured by Kodak can be identified by the presence of the word Nitrate in dark letters between the perforations. Acetate film manufactured during the era when nitrate films were still in use was marked Safety or Safety Film between the perforations in dark letters. Film stocks in the non-standard gauges, 8 mm or 16 mm, were not manufactured with a nitrate base on any significant scale in the west, though rumours persist of 16mm nitrate having been produced in the former Soviet Union and/or China.[6]

The volatility of nitrocellulose film was used as a plot device in the 2009 film Inglourious Basterds to start a theater fire during the film's climax.