Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Filmmaking Gear - Film Synchronizer

Filmmaking Gear - Film Synchronizer

When you're shooting real film, and you need the magnetic sound film to match up to the picture film time-wise, sometimes you have to get your hands dirty. You need...the machine.

Although you'll probably be cutting the sound on a digital workstation, you might see a venerable "film synchronizer" or "sync block," on a shelf somewhere in your editing facility, because they're still useful for measuring print length, and comparing exact length or duration of any two pieces of picture or sound film.

A film synchronizer is a blocky aluminum casting, usually painted green or silver, some are black. A common shaft on bearings supports 1 to 8 sprocket wheels, called "gangs," each a foot in circumference, with keeper rollers that clamp down, and keep the film on the sprocket teeth. The gangs can be coupled or decoupled from the shaft, and so can rotate independently of one another.

65mm film has 12.8 frames per foot, 35mm has 16 frames per foot, 16mm has 40 frames per foot, Super 8mm has 72 frames per foot, Regular 8mm has 80 frames per foot, so each turn of the synchronizer's shaft moves the film one foot, and is geared to a mechanical counter, which displays how many rotations (feet) have gone by.

Yes, they're still made, and new they're thousands of dollars. You can find shiny brand-new ones at good old Christy's Editorial, or EEP (Editorial Equipment Parts.)

I can remember how much of my early filmmaking training was geared (pardon) toward learning how to use, borrowing, renting, or finally buying, a film synchronizer.

It was a lot, and they were soooo expensive, hundreds of dollars then, and now I see used film synchronizers cheap on eBay, and like much film equipment, I've bought at least one of each film gauge.

Film gear still works fine, and this current topsy-turvy situation, where heavy metal quality is cheaper than junky ephemeral digital gear, somehow feels rich.

Sam Longoria

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