The Third Image

A very long time, when I got involved with audio-visual, my manager handed me several boxes of 35mm slide, some music selections on tape and the order to make an audio-visual out of this. The images were a selection for a photographic competition and the music tracks were selected by the organizers. The show was to be presented in two weeks time, about 400km away from my locations.

Now for the younger readers, a 35mm slide is a photographic image on slide film which is transparent. 35mm slides were common until about 20-25 years ago for projection onto large screens. In the 50’s and 60’s, most projections were done with a single projector, which had the inevitable ‘black’ screen in between slide changes and more often than not were very boring.

But almost since the invention of projectors with artificial light sources, the ‘dream’ appeared to have uninterrupted image sequences and various types of ‘dissolve’ technologies were developed.

So at he time I appeared on the scene, 35mm projectors were well established and our factory had converted two ‘standard’ Kodak Carousel S series projectors to accept an external ‘blending’ system. This system was a 20kg box the size of two shoe boxes which connected to the projectors on one side with a cable, the diameter of a garden hose. A second control box with a large tunable knob and for buttons on top for step forward and backward was attached to the main system .

So very rudimentary you would say. Correct, but from a creative aspect these dissolve controls were better than anything I ever used since. The wheel would be turned and the light of one projector would fade, while the other one came on. Offering a seamless transition. Without any lag or delay. This provided a great control over the projector lamps. No electronic system ever could re-create what we managed with these manual controllers. Very subtle dissolves, which would accelerate halfway through or flicker effects, created with the twist of the wrist.

All shows had to be run manually. No synchronization to tape. The audio would play from a reel-to-reel tape, like a Uher recorder or later cassette recorder and we had to memorize all sequences. A great fun and sometimes also great mix-ups, if you forgot to advance the projector, since that had to be done at the end of each blend cycle.

We toured Germany with this system, while our colleagues from France would have mechanical blending in front of the projector lenses.

What appealed to me was the third image we could create during the blending. You let one image dissolve into another one and in between a ‘third’ image out of the combination of both would appear. We would spend hours selecting suitable images which could create the best effect. You could also very effectively let a lighting strike ‘flicker’ over a landscape image.

I think these shows had something magical. At least judged by the applause by the viewers. Maybe it had to do with the emotions from the projectionist, his engagement with the music (I can use the male gender here, since we had no girls in the team). This translated into the flow of the show.

During one evening session we would run four or five of these shows.

I have created some images in Photoshop to demonstrate the ‘blending’ effect. The Third Image was and possibly still is an interesting subject discussed and practiced in numerous camera clubs around the world.

Of course dissolve shows have evolved. From two projectors we moved on to four and than multi-screen with edgeblending. All of these advance have had their advntages and their individual impact. But I still feel that these very first blending shows, recardless if they were run by one or two people in our German team or a six to eight in the French team, they had something magical and spontaneous. They were ‘human’ and not canned.

Now we live in a world where millions of images are created and uploaded to social media. Few people take the time to create blended shows. A pity, because by creating blended shows, you put a purpose back into your photography and not only relive the moments of creation, but the emotions of seeing something new appearing on screen. Nowadays, we can do all this on a computer and projectwith a single projector or even go, though less impactfull, directly to LCD screen.

But whatever you do, enjoy it.

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