Camera Registration Check

There are problems evaluating a registration test or the questionable dailies. Projecting the print on a screen without the aperture matte in the projector is great, if that option is available. Labs can do this for you, but most local theaters can't. They can show you the frame line which is OK for vertical registration. What you are looking for is a difference, a giggle, in the distance between each frame. A local theater can't show you the perforations for a horizontal registration check, giggle of the distance between the image and the perforations. Most local theaters can only show you 1.85 or "scope". They can't show you full aperture but can show you most of it on scope. That means your picture will be unsqueezed when you don't want it unless you are doing a scope picture. With the 1.85 setting you will miss part of your picture unless you are shooting 1.85. Ignore any giggle between your prints and the projector appature. The projector is not registered and the image will bounce up and down anyway whether your film is OK or not.

Most local theaters run their films full length in a tray and may not be able to show short reels without a lot of trouble. Ask before booking time. You will need to talk to the projectionist in the booth. Bring walkie-talkies.

If you shoot a registration test with a double pass of film through the camera, you can look at it on any projector or even a Moviola. Here the reference is between one exposure and the next not the image and the film as above. I prefer to use a thin white line grid on black paper. After the first exposure I rotate the grid about its center by a few degrees and offset diagonally less than the width of the lines. If there is movement up and down the separation between two vertical lines, there are horizontal registration problems. If there is movement between two horizontal lines, there is a vertical registration problem. Of course the camera and chart have to be very well supported to avoid camera movement from the floor, the camera motor, etc. Expose for an incident reading.

If you don't have access to a motion picture projector, you can check the horizontal and vertical registration on a film strip still projector frame by frame. Focus the space between two frames on the screen . Place a ruler or calipers to measure this distance. Check between one frame and the next and so on. Check the distance between the frame and the perforations for horizontal registration. This is cheap and dirty, but will give you some relief or grief about shooting with your non-pin registered or questionable camera. Don't assume that a camera with registration pins shoots perfect registration and that a non pin camera shoots poorly registration film.

If you want to measure this distance directly on the negative or print, you can make a reticle on still transparency film. Draw lines on white paper of varying distances apart. Over expose them by 2 or 3 stops to render the film clear. You can measure the distance of the image to the perforations for a horizontal registration check by placing the reticle against the film. You might also try a bar code on clear plastic wrapper as a reticle. View with a loupe or 50 mm lens.

Another way to check registration is to run the developed negative back through the camera framed so you can see the frame line with the lens removed. Light will help see the frame line as the film runs. Developed film may or may not cause wear on the pins and gate. I have done this, but don't know the dangers. Try with caution or better advice.

People often desire to shoot time lapse and other footage with non-pin registered cameras. Some such as the Eclair CM3 do very well, others such as most ARRI II models are not so good. I don't know about the Russian cameras available now. (Let me know)

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