Pass me a C-47 - or how a clothes peg got its film-set name

I was flipping through a book on film-making when I stumbled over a box-out mentioning the C-47. Or a clothes peg. Wooden clothes pegs are much-used on film-sets, where they don't conduct heat so can't burn people or melt. They make perfect handles for hot barn doors and they hold gels in place without dribbling into a puddle on the floor. Not to mention their grip over scripts, straws, and cables. Sometimes simple soilutions are the best. It did set my mind a-thinking, however. How did the humble clothes peg come to be known as a C-47? After a little digging, I don't have a defnitive answer, but I do have some pleasing stories.

Pass me a C-47!

After a plane?

The C-47 was a plane used extensively throughout the Second World War for troop movements, medical evacuations, and reconnaissance, and afterwards when it played a crucial role in the Berlin Airlift. It was a versatile plane, which mirrored the versatility of the clothes peg. Servicemen returning from the front to film studios carried over the name.

From a storage bin?

Some film studio somewhere stored its clothes pegs in a bin designated C-47. The name has stuck.

Its requisition number

Clothes pegs were assigned the catalogue or military requisition number C-47. They became known by their catalogue number rather than their common-or-garden name. Which leads neatly into the accountancy theory...

For accounting purposes

When gaffers and key grips were submitting requisition forms or expenses claims to film studio executives, accountants, and tax officials, they had trouble doing so for a bundle of clothes pegs, no matter how vital their presence was on set. By changing the name to something far more significant sounding, for example the clothes pegs' catalogue number, nit-picking officials were none-the-wiser and the best boys', grips', and lighting crew's fingers remained unburned.


It makes a great joke to ask the new boy or girl for a C-47 and they have absolutely no idea what one is. And I'm reliably informed that what I know as a clothes peg (or even just 'peg') here in the UK is known as a clothespin in the US. Not that I'll be using any today for their traditional purpose of hanging washing on a line: it's pouring down.

Written with help from:

Reflecta lets you digitise Super 8 reels with its new Super 8 Scanner

My grandmother has shoeboxes of old photos and negatives and even Super 8 film reels stashed away in her house. The photos we get out and look at every now and again, the negatives are a useful resource, but the Super 8 films don't get much of an airing anymore. Doubtless we're not the only family like this. But Reflecta has just announced its new Super 8 Scanner, that easily digitises old Super 8 film reels, giving them a chance to see the light of projection again. Although it's meant to be easy to use—you connect the scanner to a (Windows) computer via a USB cable, open the provided Cyberview software, insert the film reel into the scanner, and it then trundles through converting two pictures every five seconds, which you can crop and adjust the brightness and contrast of, too—it's not exactly cheap at £1,710 including VAT. It might be a good add-on for printing businesses, though.

Colour or black white, from Super 8 to digital

The scanner produces videos with a file size of 190MB per 15m of film in HD quality, and its saved in AVI format.

If you're interested in one, the Reflecta Super 8 Scanner is being distributed by Kenro in the UK and Ireland. You can find out where to pick up one here.

Paramount Pictures makes the digital-only distribution switch in the US

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times published over the weekend, Paramount Pictures has announced that it has ceased to distribute films in analogue format in the US. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues was its final 35mm format release and The Wolf of Wall Street has been a solely digital release. This transition to digital-only distribution is hardly unexpected. Both Disney and 20th Century Fox have communicated the expectation of digital-only content within the next few years to cinemas. Now that Paramount has set the ball rolling, it could happen sooner rather than later.

What of the impact on cinemas? First of all, this distribution decision applies only to US cinemas. In regions where analogue projection is still the norm, 35mm imprints will still be sent. Second, about 92% of cinemas in the US are capable of projecting digitally distributed content. For the remaining 8%, the cost of replacing their analogue projectors with digital projectors will be in the region of $70,000 per unit. For some smaller community-led cinemas, this could sound their death-knell.

At roughly $2,000 to produce a 35mm print and $100 for a digital print, studios' preference for digital format is obvious. Even if it does leave those who favour analogue prints reeling.

(Headsup to Engadget)

The winner of the Well Done U short film competition

In early October, we featured a short film competition called Well Done U: the quest for a well made two minute film, suitable for all. That is, it needed to conform to the British Board of Film Classification's U certificate criteria. The competition was being run by the Kermode and Mayo Film Review Show, hosted on BBC Radio 5 Live. Last week, after receiving hundreds of entries, they announced the winner. The honour of a formal BBFC certification for the film and a trophy went to Philip Chidell for his short, Pong.

The winner is great, but the runners' up films are super, too, and worth a look.

No more Fujifilm FP-3000B?

I woke up this morning to the plaintive cries of a small but dedicated group of photographers who are lamenting the loss of the next in Fujifilm's line-up of films that has hit the discontinuation wall. Apparently, Fujifilm is winding up production of its FP-3000B instant black and white film. This peel-apart film was renowned for being quick to develop and being highly sensitive to light with an EI of 3,200. With its axing, there will be no other 3×4 black and white instant films available. For anyone who shoots medium format and uses instant film as a quick proof, it's a loss. And of course it's a loss to the people who just enjoy taking photos with it.

If you're particularly concerned by the loss of 3000B, a petition has been established to request that Fujifilm reconsider the decision. There's also the #fuji3000b hashtag to keep interest levels up. But in the meantime you might do well to stock up on the remaining supplies.

As I've not seen any official correspondence on this, I have emailed Fujifilm UK to confirm. I await its response.

Update: Fujifilm US has issued confirmation via Twitter.

Fujifilm to cease UK E6 processing

Fujifilm has announced that from 1 November 2014, it will no longer provide E6 processing in the UK. The year-long notice period is to ensure that anyone with remaining rolls of Fujichrome Sensia process-paid film and pre-paid processing vouchers have sufficient time to use them. Gabriel Da Costa, product manager for Fujifilm, commented that the lab's closure had a degree of inevitability to it: '... increased production costs coupled with decreasing global demand led to the Fujifilm Corporation in Japan discontinuing Sensia film in 2010. As UK stocks of Sensia were run down the numbers of E6 films being processed has obviously declined too.'

Fujifilm ran its lab in partnership with CC Imaging, a Leeds-based pro lab. CC Imaging will continue to trade as normal and its customers will still be able to have their transparency films developed there, but not under the 'Fujifilm Processing Laboratory' brand after 1 November 2014.

Da Costa added: 'Particular recognition must go to Mark Senior and John Weldon, the owners of CC Imaging, and their team who have looked after the lab and its customers so well. We would also like to thank all the lab's customers for their support over the years. We are delighted that CC Imaging plan to continue and we wish them every success for the future.'

Queries regarding this announcement can be addressed to the Fujifilm Processing Lab by email:, or visit the processing lab website, or call 0113 244 8221.

Well Done U - a short film competition

Have you ever said something off-the-cuff and then after a moment's pause you realised that it was actually a rather good idea? This happened a few weeks ago, on live radio. Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode have a film review show on BBC Radio 5 Live on a Friday afternoon. They insist it's more two middle-aged men wittering on, with the odd mention of films, hence its moniker 'Wittertainment'. That's slightly by-the-by, but when one of them came out with 'Well done you!' in response to a listener's correspondence, the other mumbled something about it being a good title for a film competition. So it came to be. The BBC Radio 5 Live Kermode and Mayo Film Review Show's Well Done U short film competition.

If you want, you can watch two middle-aged men wittering on about the competition in this video:

What are the judges looking for? Pretty simple in concept but probably not so easy to achieve: a well done 'U' certificate film. As you'd expect, it needs to be creative and technically competent, but the judges want you to think about what you're producing, too. You need to write a brief summary of what you're looking to achieve with your film and they'll look to see if you achieve it.

Your film needs to be two minutes in length and conform to the BBFC's 'U' certification criteria; you need to be an amateur film-maker and a UK resident.

You have until 8 November to submit your entry and if you want to work as a team, that's perfectly acceptable. The entry form and full requirements and terms and conditions can be found on the Well Done U competition page.

Judging happens in two stages. The Wittertainment production team will narrow down the entries to a top 25 by 6 December 2013. These films will be exhibited on the BBC 5 Live website and on the Kermode and Mayo YouTube channel. Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo will select a top three and anounce the grand winner on their film review show on 20 December 2013.

What do you win? Not so much, save for the glory of being chosen to appear on a major BBC radio station to talk about your film, a trophy, and to have the film formally certificated by the BBFC. I'd take it.

Quality versus quantity

This instalment in the Photography Fundamentals series is a slightly cerebral departure from the norm. We're going to explore the idea of quality versus quantity. It's not a debate over the merits of digital compared to film, more a costs and benefits analysis of them both. Quality versus quantity; it's a purely digital conundrum. Back in the days of film, you had a given number of exposures per roll and that was that. Even if you kept a ready supply of film on you, having the rolls developed wasn't a cheap business, so you thought carefully about every image. You set upon the story, you nailed the composition, and you got the exposure bang-on. Or at least you tried to. The point was that you aimed for quality every time.

Red collared lorikeet

Now, memory is cheap—you can pick up an 8GB memory card for under £10—and you can shoot and shoot and shoot until your heart is content: I can get several hundred Raw images from my Canon 6D on said same card. If you fill up your memory card and don't have a spare, you can scan back through your files and delete those that are out of focus, horribly exposed, or just don't work. We're no longer hide-bound by physical (and economic) limitations of film, allowing us the ability to play, experiment, and get things wrong ad infinitum. The barometer has swung from quality to quantity.

This has to be a good thing, right?

Well… yes, and no.

Being able to take hundreds and hundreds of images off the reel is stupendous, especially when you combine it with the ability to shoot in high frame rate bursts. I was epically grateful for this last weekend, when I went out to photograph the final stage of the Tour of Britain. Not only did the cyclists racing around the central London circuit ten times give me ample opportunity to capture them as well as stand and cheer, so did my memory cards. I wasn't concerned that I'd waste rolls of film and not have anything to show for my endeavours; digital had me covered.

Sir Bradley Wiggins

However, there's also a possibility that the ability to shoot almost endlessly is making us lazy as photographers. We don't have the over-arching need to plan our photos properly anymore, we can simply 'hit and hope'. Are there elements of the craft that are being forgotten, lost, and ignored because quantity is ruling over quality? If I'd only had one chance to capture those cyclists on Sunday, as opposed to ten, would I have been able to get the shot because I'm too accustomed to being able to go back and try again?

Sauvignon Blanc

Does this make me sound like a curmudgeonly luddite who'd rather be shooting wet plates? Probably. But it isn't meant to. It's meant to highlight the balancing act that we need to perform between the limitations of restricted exposures and the potential for exploration and experimentation with virtually unlimited exposures. It's actually me saying that quantity is awesome, but we shouldn't worship at its altar to the ignorance of quality.

So why don't you try this as an experiment. Allow yourself 36 exposures, and no peeking at your LCD screen. How many shots from your 36 make the grade and what did you learn from the experience? Maybe you always under-expose, or perhaps you have a tendency to sloppy framing. Are you thinking about your aperture carefully enough? You might notice that your subject placement is something that you do consistently well. Perform the exercise on a regular basis and it could lead to an improvement in your photography. Then you won't need to take so many shots off the reel!

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