Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Age of Film (Part 3) – Slides

There is one type of photo that I often took during the 1980’s and 90’s because of my job as a management consultant. These are slides. I suspect many of my younger readers do not know what is a film slide. To them the word ‘slide’ probably conjures the image of a Powerpoint slide.

A slide is a film negative mounted on a stiff rectangular frame. To show the image to a group in a classroom or a conference hall, you need to mount the slide on a carousel and project the images onto a screen using a slide projector.

The film by the way is different from that for normal photography; although they looked just the same. You have to check the roll of film carefully. The method of processing is also different. I remember a very nasty incident with a shop located at Coronation Plaza. I brought my roll of slides there for processing but they mistook it for normal film. In the end the film was ruined and the images came out all black and yellowish. My precious effort in taking the photos at my client’s factory was all wasted. The shop was unapologetic and simply compensated me with a new roll of film.

In my work, I have to take a lot of photos of situations in the client’s premises that could be improved by 5S. (A Japanese technique for good housekeeping and workplace organisation. Please see my other blog to if you want to know what is 5S). But using slides was a very tiresome affair, and I am really thankful for the new digital technology. For one, not all the clients had a slide projector because it was very expensive. And, they are very heavy.

Using the slide projector can also give rise to many problems. If you placed the slide into the carousel in the wrong position, the picture would come up wrong; either upside-down or front-to-back. A trick I used was to draw a small stick figure at the lower corner of my slide. When the slide is positioned correctly, you should be able to see the man standing upright. Thus, at one glance, you can spot any slide that has been positioned incorrectly in the carousel. In 5S jargon, this is known as visual control (mede miru kanri in Japanese).

As a trainer, you had to get to the class early to set up the equipment and also to arrange all the slides properly and test the equipment. If possible, I would bring my own carousel with all the slides already pre-arranged. The carousel has a transparent cover and the slides won’t fall out. But some machines - usually the cheaper ones, used a straight tray instead of a circular carousel.

Another problem with slides is that they easily get jammed in the projector. This is especially so when you needed to tilt the projector at an angle to project your image upwards. Let me explain.

As I said earlier, the slides are arranged in a carousel with 80 slots. The first time you pressed the advance button, the carousel would rotate anti-clockwise by 1 position. The first slide would drop into a slot in front of the projection bulb. As you continued to press the advance button, the previous slide would be ejected, the carousel would rotate and the next slide would drop in and so on. If a slide gets jammed in the machine, you have to rotate the carousel manually to the beginning, remove it and eject the jammed slide and start all over again.

In the nineties, after I left the NPB to go into private practice, I did a lot of work in Malaysia. Can you imagine how tedious it was every time I went for an assignment outstation. Not only had I to carry along a heavy load of transparencies, I also had to remember to bring along my collection of 5S slides.

With a huge collection of film slides, I needed a good system of storing and organizing them. I used a special folder or album like this one. The slides are placed into individual pockets on a plastic page that can be filed in the folder.

So you can see why I took to digital photography very happily when the technology came along. But first I had to convert some of my slides to jpeg images. I remember paying a hefty sum for the service.


Anonymous said...

I never like the slide projector. 2 worse problems I came through. 1. slides upside down (or reverse)and the darn thing so hard to figure out which was which. 2. projector light bulb usually blow at the wrong time.

But I must admit, slides give very high quality reproduction; e.g. like my 1962 STC bus photos. But today to reproduce a hard copy dam expensive. I paid $5 dollar for a 4R.

Icemoon said...

I remember them 'cos we had them in the house. The most fun part for me was to see the projector fired up and projecting in-house. A wall is needed as a screen and you may need to shift the furniture for that purpose. Quite magical to see the images finally on the wall.

Not sure whether we used folder/album like Chun See. I remember the slides were stored in boxes like dominoes. The box could be paper or those transparent plastic kind.

yg said...

chun see, i thought a slide is a negative film which has been processed to a positive one. i, too, used to take a lot of slides, using ektachrome, kodakchrome and later agfacolor. the ekta and kodak - processed by kodak - came in a cardboard holder whereas the agfacolor came in a plastic holder. i preferred the plastic holders because they did not get jammed so easily in the projector.
sometimes, we paid extra to convert a particular slide into a photograph; the quality of the photo (the colour) was not as good as when you used a colour negative.

Lam Chun See said...

YG is right. The Kodak Ektachrome ones had cardboard frame. I still have a few of those. But I think it could be the older ones. The one shown above is a plastic type. I believe those that got jammed easily could be the cheaper non-branded ones. I have a lot of those. They were usually grey in colour.

Anonymous said...

I came across this twice: once when my art teacher was showing photography he took while in college in the late 90s and mounted on slides; another time visiting a photography exhibition where the artists purposely pretended to be tourists in their own country in old, nostalgic locations. Personally I'm a bit fond of them because of the physical "click" you get from progressing to the next slide.

On a tangent, I wonder when overhead projectors will truly die out in schools - in my JC they were used only for impromptu student presentations; teachers used tablet PCs in lectures.

Icemoon said...

Re: overhead projectors, I think those that can beam books and papers quite useful but ex also; those transparency-only may die from limited usage.

Huh, I work in TPC software company but didn't know JC uses TPC in lectures, haha.

yg said...

icemoon, those that can beam books and papers, aren't they called visualizers? they are also overhead projectors?

Lam Chun See said...

Peter is right. Images shown using old fashioned slide projectors are very sharp.

I know what passerby mean by the clicking sound as the slides advance. We often see it in detective and spy movies. But I understand that with Powerpoint, you can set the transition to make similar sounds like this.

As for the overheard project (OHP) which uses transparencies; I have a friend who is an NTU lecturer who still uses it. He says he needs to demonstrate a lot of mathematical calculations and so it is more effective to use this than powerpoint.

Icemoon said...

yg, I don't know what they are called, but they were pretty rare and seldom used in my time.

The clicking sound, we still see that in police dramas right? Haha, whenever they give briefing about the criminal (with all the photos), they will use that. Or have they switched to powerpoint now?

Those more traditional Maths lecturers prefer to use transparencies or whiteboard. I heard in Ox-Bridge they still using blackboard.

Unk Dicko said...

Chun See or anyone here,
I have a lot of slides too taken in those years when I was so devoted to their superior quality when projected for viewing. We used to have "slideshows" after each trip with club members much like people have bar-b-qs today. It was very enjoyable back then.
I have a serious question for you.
Is there a way to scan a slide successfully without that costly method of first converting it into a photo printout?
Does anyone know or can help throw some light?
Is there any computer programmes that can do this?

Lam Chun See said...

unk Dicko. There is some discussion at this website. ClubSNAP Photography Forums.

Unk Dicko said...

Thanks C S,
Read through the comments on the forum thread at ClubSNAP. So, seems like there are 4 possible ways to reconvert, all costly and with somewhat diminished quality and results.

Anonymous said...

Well my Canon canoscan 4400F scanner does the job very well, it has a special holder for four slides at a time and will scan and then save each as a jpg in a couple of minutes. I have been impressed with the results - ok not as sharp as the originals might have been and with definite loss of the brightness of the colours. But perfectly acceptable, and the scanner was quite cheap - not a specialist machine at all

Unk Dicko said...

Thanks Brian for the valuable tip. My scanner is also a Canon but has no such features. Have you posted any of your converted slide pics yet? Would love to see them.

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