APS Film and the 1990s TV Photo slideshow

In this video, I’m going to be taking a look at APS film. But really more in the context of it being used in this device This photo-player should enabled developed APS films to be displayed on a television screen or at least, that’s the idea I bought this about a year or so ago and I thought it’d be a nice fun, simple video to put together but it turned out to be anything but APS arrived on the scene in 1996 when a number of film and camera manufacturers got together in an attempt to update the format as well as to get everyone to buy new equipment It met with the most success in the point and shoot market where the compact and easy to drop in cartridges resulted in slightly more compact cameras In addition, a magnetic layer on the film could be written to by more advanced cameras which would provide additional information to the photo developing lab Although, the pro photographers had little interest in the format due to it’s 24mm film size, resulting in reduced quality compared to the existing 35mm films APS was killed off by the rise of digital cameras in the early 2000s Now back in the 90s when APS turned up in the stores, I was aware of it’s existence, but I wasn’t interested in it because I didn’t take photos back then When I went on holiday I used to take a camcorder with me In fact when this particular model came out, I’d just bought the first Mini-DV camera, The JVC JRDVJ70 as it was known in the UK However I did eventually get a camera, but it was only when digital came out and became a little bit more affordable This is the Canon IXUS from 2000, it was known as the Digital ELPH in the US and Canada This is 2.1 megapixels, so ironically the APS camera would have taken better photos than this back then But it’s very hard to compete with the idea that once you’d bought the equipment all the rest of the photos you took after that are pretty much effectively free Now getting back to the point of this particular video, I wanted to demonstrate this device But because I don’t have any developed APS films I’ve had to go and buy myself a new APS camera Well, I think it’s second hand, but I got it off eBay and it’s in very good condition So, first thing you have to do; set the date and time Notice it starts off in 1996, because that’s the earliest it could possibly be for this particular camera and I’m changing it to the 8th August 2017 because that’s the date I was shooting this segment Now, back when APS came out I remember them making a particularly big deal about the introduction of the index card This was something that was introduced with APS, however it was subsequently adopted by 35mm developers and it showed a thumb sized picture of all your images that you’d had developed So, for example you look at your index card and you like the picture of that bus you say ‘I’ll have some more of those done’ so that’s 3 more ‘Number 12s’ and you go to your photo developers take back your film cartridge, which they gave you back when you had it developed which has got your negatives rolled up inside and they print those out. Now, getting that cartridge back with the negatives in it means you can store it in a nice little box along with those index cards because they’ve got a number on the side that matches up with each one But also you can take that cartridge and put it into a film scanner, connect it up to your computer and it’s a relatively easy way to get your photos onto a computer, for 1996 But they also did this version which is what I want to demonstrate which instead of scanning them onto a computer, shows them on your television in the form of a slideshow On the bottom of the box I found this sticker which dates it to the 12th July ’96. Inside the box, everything that should be in here, is and that includes the wire to attatch it up to a television, the power lead and the remote control, and of course the instructions On the front various controls for manipulating the images that are being displayed and around the back, aswell as a composite and S-Video output, there’s an audio out So I’m intrigued to find out what kind of sounds this thing is going to make after all there’s no audio recorded on an APS film, but the first thing I need to do is find out where or not it’s actually functional. So, put the power in, the light comes on the front, so just a matter of pressing the eject button and after a but of whirring, that door pops open ready to accept it’s first film So, I might aswell go and get some. There’s just one problem though and that’s that they don’t make APS film anymore The packet that I bought here expired in February 2011 In fact they kept making it up until 2011 and I’ve no idea what date those expired but that’ll have passed by now aswell. So, there’s no telling what kind of results I’m going to get out of this film. Well, there is a way to tell and thats to take some photos with it and see what happens One of the features of APS cameras was this ability to choose between three different aspect ratios C was a narrower images, H was the full frame, 16:9 aspect ratio and P was for panoramic images The only thing was they all used the exact same film frame and the full frame was developed aswell It was just that when you got it printed you specified which version you wanted of that print So if you asked for a P image which is what you’d selected on that dial you just got the centre part of the image printed which was a lower quality that if you’d got the full one done. But you could go back later and get reprints of the other versions But anyway, I got my photos done, eagerly stood outside the shop opened up the container and thought, hold on a minute, where’s the flippin’ cartridge, that was the whole point So I thought, maybe they’re not mine, had a look inside Yeah, these were definitely my photos, so perhaps the cartridge has fallen out in the shop or something So I went back in and said ‘Hold on, the APS film cartridge is missing out of here and the shop assistant there looks at me and goes ‘no mate, they’re here’ Sticks her grubby finger inside the container and pulls out the negative ‘There it is mate, there’s your film’ I’m like ‘No, but this is an APS film, it’s supposed to be developed inside the cartridge and you get the cartridge back it looks like this’ and she looks at me with this blank expressing as if to say ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about you old nutter’ And she wouldn’t do either, The last person that got one of these developed, probably did it 15 years ago in that shop. Apparently they said it didn’t go through their machines so they had to send it off to their head office to get it done and this is what they’d done with it. So a pretty clueless operation all the way though But, they’d ripped it off the inside of the cartridge as you can see there But I thought, well nothing I can do about that now I’ll take apart one of my other film cartridges, the ones with unused film in it of course I’ll be destroying that film but hopefully I’ll be able to spool this film onto that roll and then I’ll be able to put it into my machine and finally watch it on a TV screen So that’s exactly what I did. Going back to that photo developing place there, it’s a high street retail chain and I was surprised when they said that they could develop APS film but they mentioned it on their website and when the Mrs when into town one day She took the film along with her and took it in and said ‘Do you do these?’ and they said ‘Oh yeah, that’ll be no problem, it’ll be ready in a couple of hours’ Anyway, a couple of hours later they ring me up and say ‘Oh, they’re having problems, it’s gonna be another week’ and then a week later, that’s what I got back But, hopefully now I’ve been able to resolve the issue and I’ll be able to have a look at these So let’s pop it in the machine and see what happens Unfortunately the machine identified the cartridge as being an unprocessed film and refused to play it, now how could it do this? Well, on the side of an APS film there are some markers that indicate the current status of that film It’s a white dot that moves around in a clockwise direction At the moment it’s in the number 1 position, that means this is a new, unused film 2 would be partially exposed, 3 would be fully exposed and 4 would be developed and there’s a key to these on the side of the film itself. There is however a further indicator, and as you can see the difference between these two cartridges is there’s a hole punched out on the right hand side of one, that’s the properly developed cartridge When it gets developed that hole get’s punched out, a little bit like the write protect notch on a cassette and there’s a corresponding switch here; a pin that pushes into that hole and if it can go into the hole it knows it you’ve put in a developed film and if it can’t go in it thinks it’s unproccesed and therefore won’t take the film out of the cartridge Because of course if it could take the film out to read it, it would expose an undeveloped film So it’s just a matter of me punching out the hole on this one I’ve put together Putting it back into the machine and hoping for the best. *whirring noise from machine*
But no, unfortunately it just didn’t like it at all The way I’d wound it up or something it just made a screech I tried multiple times to put the film back into the cartridge I tried different ways, it just didn’t want to load it So I ended up putting this project on hold over winter But during that time I did contact a local photo developing lab and I asked them if the developed APS film and put them back in the roll just like they used to do back in the day and they said yes they did So, the next time I went on holiday I took the camera along with me with a different roll of APS film, took some photos, sent them off to this chap, he sent them back and sure enough this time he did send me back the APS film inside the cartridge Unfortunately at some point light has either got into the camera more perhaps more likely the film cartridge, so the first 9 images are no use But from there onwards, I can use those In fact if you look at number 10, you can see I must have accidentally slid that switch up to the C position and then that shows you a frame around that part of the image So that’s what gets printed, However you could go back to the developers and say ‘Right, I want the full image’ and then you get the full frame of it But yeah, some of these photos hadn’t come out bad at all So I’m looking forward to putting this cartridge into the machine and having a look at these finally, after all this time on a TV screen Now, when you turn it on, it tells you to wait for a few minutes, that’s while it gets the light inside up to the full strength and while it’s doing that you can hear it’s playing some background music That’s the audio coming out of the back of the machine, so now we’ve found out, it’s just background music really But now, we’re finally getting to the point where it’s going to read the film so it’s starts pulling the film out of the cartridge and then it says ‘Is it a cleaning cartridge?’ I’m like ‘Oh, what’s this now?’
So I select ‘No’ and from that it goes ‘Oh, alright then’ and just chucks the cartridge out of the front of the machine So, I put it in a few more times, kept going through the same process, saying no So I thought this time I’ll say yes, it is a cleaning cartridge So what it does, it takes the film all the way out of the roll and then puts it all the way back in again. Presumably that’s what it would do if it was a cleaning cartridge That would be a process of cleaning the optical path inside the machine But it’s not much use to me, it means that I’ve got a second film developed now that I’m unable to display using this particular machine. So at this point, I’m pulling my hair out. Okay, now here’s what I think has caused the problem; If you shoot an APS film with a compact point and shoot camera, it put’s this optical data next to each frame which includes simple information such as what the frame number is, however if you use a more elaborate camera, like an SLR for example, some of them had the ability to write to a magnetic data layer on the same film and that could include information that was more akin to what we would now call EXIF data Stuff which would be used by the developing labs So my theory is that the machine that this guy used to develop this APS film isn’t writing the information that this machine is expecitng to be on that magnetic data layer, so it tries to read it, it finds there’s nothing there and it assumes that what you’ve inserted in the front must be a cleaning cartridge. So, I’ve got no doubt that first film I got developed would also be missing this necessary magnetic data and therefore even if I had been able to get the machine to unspool it from the roll it would have refused to read it anyway So, with very little else I could do I thought I’d take the lid off this We can at least have a look inside and see how it all fits together But then when you look in here, there’s not much to see There’ll be a big circuit board below that metal panel at the botom At the back’s a power supply, and at the front is the scanner mechanism and it’s all contained in this small area, it’s the kind of thing that I couldn’t really take apart without completely destroying it. But yeah, you put the film in on the right hand side, it pulls it across on the left hand side, there’s a bright light in there that scans it and it displays it on your TV screen, there’s really not much else I can say, you can’t even see the film come out of the roll there, of course it doesn’t want to get dust on it, but there you go, that’s the insides of it So that’s really all I can show you as far as that goes But I didn’t want to give up just yet, I had one final idea I asked the people who support me on Patreon if anyone had any developed APS films that they wouldn’t mind me showing in a video and fortunately a few people got back to me and the first one was Phil who said he had quite a few and he sent me three in the post, and thanks to Phil we can now finally see this machine working as it’s supposed to do So, just a matter of putting one of his films in here which will have been developed properly back in 2000/2001 by a lab which will have had all the right equipment that’ll have written the data to the film, all the rest of it So you put it in here, you can see it starts getting further than it’s got before It shows the film coming out along the bottom and then starts generating thumbnails for each of the images that it’s scanned as the film is going by So once all the thumbnails had appeared on the screen I decided to start a slideshow Now to do this you just pick the first image that you want it to start at and then it works it’s way through the rest of the film sequentially Now it doesn’t store all the images at the beginning, what it does is it scans each one and then it displays it on your screen one at a time Now, inbetween each image it displays some kind of wipe, or zoom or crossfade type effect, randomly and of course there’s this music playing in the background but I think this is really quite effective, to me this is a very interesting and slightly awkward meeting of two very distinct eras of photography For years people had done slide shows, but they had done it with slides and a projector and then after this product came out, just a few years later people were doing slideshows with digital photos using some kind of software This is right in the middle, we’ve got analogue photos, then scanned digitally and then displayed on a TV screen You’ll be glad to know there is the ability to switch off that background music, but there are some other options in here, you can display the photos in different orders Rather than just have them as a slideshow you can show one image or you can page through them one at a time, and you can even program the order in which you want them to display You’ll notice you can also choose your print options here, now this isn’t for you to do at home, this is to specify what you want your developer to do with the photos So you choose which photos you are interested in, how many of that photo you want to print, you can then choose what aspect ratio you want it to print in and also whether you want data on it like the date, and whether you want that on the front or the back of the photo and you can even add a title here using this on-screen keyboard Once you’ve set what you want, you then write that data to that magnetic layer that’s on the film and then take the film into your developers and they’ll print out whatever you’ve requested Now when the slideshow’s playing it can’t identify pictures taken in the verttical orienation and it just puts those on the screen sideways, but you can view those if you look at them individaully, you can rotate them using the button on the remote control and then you can also zoom in on them, if you want You’ve also got four arrow keys, which allow you to look around the image once you’ve zoomed in on it Although they do take a little bit of getting used to because pressing Down moves the image Up Pressing Up moves it Down, pressing Right, you guessed it, moves it Left But yes, you can zoom in and have a look round the photos Now I thought you might be interesting in seeing a video capture from this device, So I’ve hooked up the S-Video output which is the highest quality to the capture card and that’s what you’re looking at on-screen now Now this zoom function of course what it does, it scans the image and then you’re zooming in on the scan and it only goes to a certain distance. But there is another button on the remote control, which is labelled x2 Now what happens when you press that, it seems like it puts an extra lens in front of the scanning circuitry and then it re-scans the image, but only the central part of it, and that enables you to look at that area of it in even more detail it feels a little bit like the old Blade Runner ‘Zoom and Enhance’ although there isn’t that much detail in an APS photo When you’re looking at an image, if you press the information button you get the frame number press it a second time, you get the date the photo was taken press it a third time it brings up the data about that particular image In this case we’ve just got the aspect ratio, but on some cameras those other fields would have been filled in I thought you might want to get the full photo slideshow experience So what I’m doing here, I’ll start it off on a particular photo, I’ll just let it run though a few after that, and you can watch it happen in real time and just as a treat, I’ve left that beautiful background music on aswell *music plays* Now, just going back to some of those photos that I took with my APS camera I’m quite happy with some of them, its just the colours are a little bit washed out which is no doubt down the fact that the film had expired So what I did, I’ve scanned those photos into my computer and put them into a piece of software called PhotoLemur Which will automatically enhance them, and it does a particularly good job in areas like this where the image is all bleached out, it brings back some of the colours and the detail Now, I’ve got no intention of giving up digital photography and just using film but it’s nice to know that the photos I took while I was putting this video together weren’t a complete waste of time and I’ve got something to show for it at the end I think the biggest legacy of APS cameras is compact point and shoot cameras that look like this You see, at the time APS came out this is what the rivals to that model looked like these are very much 1990s cameras, cameras just don’t look like this anymore But the IXUS or the ELPH, pretty much changed all that A 1996 digital camera looked like this, but by 2000 The looked like this and that design of camera really doesn’t look out of place nowadays And there’s one thing that I’m taking away from this whole experience and it’s that I like traditional photos, and I’m not talking about taking them with a film camera sending them off, getting them developed, getting them back with stickers on and blurry ones ones with light in the lens or your thumb in front of the image No, it’s about holding physical photos, It’s something I feel I’ve been missing out on with all these digital photos I’ve been taking, they’re all stored on a hard drive somewhere So that’s why I got that photo printer that I did a video about the other week and I’m very happy with the results from that and I just think there’s something a bit special about holding a printed photo But taken with a modern digital camera, I’ve got no intention of going back to film I’m afraid this camera is gonna go in a drawer now And that means I’ve got no use whatsoever for this Fujifilm AP-1 anymore I can’t even take film that I can display with it, so what am I gonna do? Well, I’ll pack it up along with those films that Phil sent me, send the whole lot back to him and then he can watch his old holiday snaps on his television Anyway, that’s it for the moment As always, thanks for watching

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