EXHIBITION, 27th June - 2nd August 2015

(Fig. Reversed Hammann Film Cleaver On PVC Base)

The Exhibition “Blow Up Direkt” at Kunsthalle-Leipzig takes a closer look at the cine film lab machines and apparatuses, designed by cine lab owner Helmut Rings. Since the early seventies, he has been modifying and adapting the machines to fit his needs and increase the productivity of his working procedures in order to keep up with industrial giants like Kodak or Arri. The exhibition's main focus lies on the negative editing process and the self-made 35mm & 16mm film processing machines.

The negative editing process basically involves two different tools: 1. The film cleaver and 2. the film splicer. Together these constitute an ensemble for realizing two different tasks, and complement each other to achieve the final result, which is to make the film cut in the negative become invisible in the positive, or film print: 1. The film cleaver separates the negative material with a high precision cutter and 2. the splicer unites two separated film strips with film cement (glue).

The film cleaver, has been initially developed by Hammann, and exists in three versions, the first one is from 1938, (Filmhobel), the second one (Schwenktischspalter) is from 1969, and the third one (Filmspalter) from 1973. Through minor but highly effective mechanical changes in the first part of the procedure, the actual negative film cut is perfected by Hamman in a way that, with the 1973 version of the film cleaver, the cut is nearly imperceptible in the resulting film print. (cf. contact print with the 3 film stripes: 1,2,3)

The second part, with the film splicer, merges two separate film pieces. The difficulty is one of dealing with the film glue (more a film solver) in a way to avoid creating an optical prism effect as a result of the diverging densities of the different materials in the printing process through the exposure of the positive material: the transparent film, and the film glue. It is here that Helmut Rings, through his manifold efforts, contributed to the concretization of the negative film cut by adapting 1. The slot in the metal plate and 2. The loose press plate, putting pressure on the film when the splicer is closed. (This pressure plate needs to be absolutely parallel to the film material when the splicer is closed).

And finally, by integrating the peculiar solutions into his workflow (e.g., instead of working with one film cleaver, Rings uses two: one for the first cut and the other, in reversed position, for the second cut) and with a very simple gesture, (e.g., through the inversion down of the standard procedure), he simplifies the working process and avoids an additional rewind of the film strip for the second cut.

Helmut Rings’ film processing machines have been designed and built against the grain of the Kodak instructions for the design of industrial processing machines (most of all the industrial processor, like Arri, or Debrie etc., were modeled on the Kodak instructions) with the focus here amongst others, on the Agitation and on the film transport. Kodak suggests in the manual for design of a motion picture processing machine that agitation should be done through jets perpendicular to the film material. Rings came up with a much more effective solution which favors exchange, through creating a kind of parallel agitation. His solutions for the transport of the film material through the machine is located in-between the different tanks and carried out with only one motor unit. Against the Kodak design, where transport is happening outside and above the tank, so that film material has to leave the tank in an intermediate step that interrupts the process and which facilitates, amongst others, the oxidation of the chemicals.

Helmut Rings's machines and designs seem examplary, in terms of solutions he has developed to solve specific technical problems, and exceed by far the standards and effectivity of any industrial construction.