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The Oxberry Optical Printer at Filmwerkplaats was a donation from a special effects company in London. There, the printer has been purely deployed for commercial ends. It has been used for the special effects of over a hundred films including Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Special Effects Oscar nomination), Aliens, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Donnie Brasco and Twelve Monkeys, just to name a few.
The machine is robust and in excellent condition so it can easily serve another century of film work. The massive shift to digital technology in the film industry, with special effects having moved to computers, has depreciated this machine for commercial use. Now it can serve as the perfect tool for artists and filmmakers who consider the medium of analog film an important part of their practice.
The Oxberry optical printer is the cream of the crop among analog optical printers, for manually created, special effects on 16mm and 35mm film. This device – a beast weighing about 3000 kg –, will be freely available for students, filmmakers and artists making their own, handmade experimental films at the Filmwerkplaats lab. Our aim is also to offer workshops on the Oxberry printer so that new generations of filmmakers can learn how to work with the medium of analog film and get familiar with one of the most versatile and precise optical printers of the world.
What is the Oxberry Optical Printer?
The optical printer is designed for motion pictures special effects. Today, they are mostly used as an artistic tool by experimental filmmakers, for educational purposes, or for photochemical film restoration. An optical printer is a device consisting of one or more film projectors mechanically linked to a film camera. It allows filmmakers to re-photograph one or more strips of film. With special lenses for resizing and distorting material and projectors sending the film image to the camera, fade-outs and fade-ins, dissolves, slow motion, fast motion and image overlays can be easily achieved. More complicated work can involve dozens of elements, all combined into a single scene. A good example of optical printing is the “matte” work in Star Wars in which two or more picture elements are combined into a single, final image.
Oxberry LLC is the leading manufacturer of analog film scanners, recorders, animation tables and professional optical printers. The company is located in New Jersey, United States. Other artist-run labs with Oxberry printers are a.o: L’Abominable Paris, MTK Grenoble and Lift Toronto.
RE-ENGINEERING THE OXBERRY
MASTERCLASS, October 13-16, 2016
The MasterClass focused on re-engineering the Oxberry Optical Printer, and the transfer of this analog film device into a modern controlled machine. Making this workhorse, this sophisticated tool of yesteryear, future-proof.
In the Master Class industry professionals and the Filmwerkplaats Rotterdam artists were connected to design a new control program for the Oxberry 1200 that fits the contemporary artistic demands for the machine. The Printer can still run totally manual but now it can also be operated through an Arduino control program. All operating parts were checked and the functioning and operating explained.
The Master Class was open to Filmwerkplaats Rotterdam members.
Simon Lund: director of technical operations at Cineric in NYC, a motion picture equipment services Inc. with a focus on digital technology development. Worldwide THE specialist in redesigning optical printers.
James Rubery: specialist on analog electronics on the old-fashioned way. Restorations, repairs and replacements. Previously connected to CEM: Centre for Electronic Music, institute for electronic-and electro-acoustic music and research in Amsterdam.
Rebecca Erin Moran Filmwerkplaats member and addicted to working with, and the work created with, Oxberry Optical Printers. Recently dedicated her residency at LIFT Toronto to their Oxberry.
Bart Koppe Filmwerkplaats member, media artist with a special interest in internet related media art installations, experienced system administrator and computer repairer.
OXBERRIAN MOTION | screening
Previous to the Master Class there was a film program, curated by Rebecca Erin Moran, with filmic highlights from the history of artist made constructions of composite crazy, analogue visual effects on film.
• Tango, Zbigniew Rybczynski / 1980 / 35mm / 8:14 / color / sound
• Saugus Series, Pat O’Neill / 1974 / 16mm / 18:00 / color / sound
• Fluke, Emily Breer / 1985 /16mm / 7:00 / color / sound
• Earth of Delightful Gardening, Francien Van Everdingen / 2009 / 35mm / 6min
• Place Mattes, Barbara Hammer / 1987 / 16mm / 8:00 / color b/w / sound
• Force Majeure, Lily Jue Sheng / 2015 / 16mm / 5:00 / b/w / sound
• Variations on a 7-second loop-painting, Barry Spinello / 1970 / 6:00 / b&w
• White Roughage, Steve Cossman / 2011-2014 / 16mm / 7:35 / color / sound
Artist in Residence Johann Lurf at WORM Filmwerkplaats Rotterdam
2016 November 22 - December 12 | Screening December 7th | Workshop December 10/11th
The main focus of of Johann's residency period was to put on the technological possibilities of 16mm and 35mm film in connection to the Optical Printer. With its possibilities of magnification and zooming into a 35mm film frame he could study the aesthetics and attributes of both the analogue and digital soundtrack as well as the particular quality of laser subtitles that are burnt into projection prints for film projection. The stereoscopic lens for the Bolex camera at WORM Filmwerkplaats made it possible to work with 3D moving images in a simple, analogue way.
Furthermore Johann worked with the possibilities of editing film with the means of the electrically heated negative splicer. All negatives, work prints and final prints were hand processed in the Filmwerkplaats.
In a screening at WORM’s cinema at the end of his residency period, six of Johann's films were shown (from 16 and 35mm prints) to a dedicated audience, there was a lively discussion on his work in a moderated Q&A.
During the residency stay at WORM Filmwerkplaats Johann Lurf guided a 2-day workshop open to local artists. The first day was focusing on ways of filming different places. He was showing film examples, discussing ways of approaching space in research and using the characteristics of the moving image to narrate space. Strategies on how to use formal ways of editing and camera motions and stereoscopy were explained. On the second day the participants learned about the fundamentals of the optical printer, its possibilities, methods of treating 16mm and 35mm film as well as its limitations. Participants worked with found footage, again with film examples and considering structural practices. The workshop was concluded by hands on practice with different types of film splicers. This way each participant was able to bring home a self edited loop of 16mm found footage film.
Oxberry Optical Printer Workshop
16 June 2017
This workshop learned the members how to operate the machine: how to load the projectors and camera, operation of the controls, bi-packing, matte printing, double exposures, making blow-ups en re-photographing (found) footage.
The workshop was lead by Jan Scholten, analog restorer at EYE Institute Amsterdam, and with his former company Image Creations for almost forty years the Dutch specialist in analog special effects made on optical printers and rostrum cameras. Amongst other films, he has made the analog opticals for Prospero’s Books (1991) a film by Peter Greenaway.
This was a real hands-on introduction workshop on the Oxberry Optical Printer. Part of it was that Jan Scholten helped us align the machine so both projectors as camera are now in the ideal position for 1:1 framing. Thanks to this workshop the machine was immediately employable for several film projects by Filmwerkplaats members. Plus a standard (in filtering and f-stop etc.) for several film stock is achieved.