I bought the Lomokino around four years ago with the explicit intention of using it to make a music video one day. Four years later, I’m happy to say I finally got around to it. Thirteen rolls of film, several days of shooting, hours of scanning, cropping, colour correcting, and assembling into Adobe Premiere, and it’s finally finished.
To explain the Lomokino 35mm Movie Camera quickly, it is a crank-operated camera that takes 144 frames on a 36-exposure roll of film. It captures images at the speed at which you turn the crank, up to 3-5 frames per second. There is no view-finder, per se. It has one of those pop-out viewfinders but it is cumbersome to use since it is placed so awkwardly close to the front of the camera. I have never found it useful nor trusted it to represent what was truly in frame and just pointed the camera in the vague direction at what I was shooting. It has three aperture settings (f/5.6, f/8, f/11) that you can change with a little dial on the front. I often forgot to change it whenever shooting conditions changed. It has a 1m-infinity focus with a close-up button you can push and hold for 0.6-1m. I never made use of it. You are also supposed to be able to use a hot-shoe flash if it supports continuous firing. I never tried it.
When it came to deciding what type of film to use in bulk for this, it was an easy answer for me. My favourite film over the years has been Lucky Charm 200, redscaled by hand. If pushed to be slightly over-exposured, it has all the features of cross-processed film (blues and greens) and if under-exposed, it has the classic redscale look (orange and red). If you look at previous blog posts, it must easily make up 1/3 of my posts. I’ve gotten it really cheap on eBay straight from China. I already had about 20 rolls of it on hand. Done. I redscaled the film myself using an empty film cartridge, tape, scissors, and a dark room to respool each roll of film backwards so that I was exposing the “wrong” side of the film. You can read more about how to do that here.
One thing that was hard to wrap my head around was what the tone and the pace of the video were going to look like in the end. It’s not like I could take a few test shots and play it back immediately. How many frames should I aim to shoot per second? How many frames did I want each scene to be to set a good pace for the video? How much motion did I want to try to introduce to an already shaky method of taking video footage? I decided on 8-16 frames per scene then move on to another shot. In hindsight, I would have made most of those scenes longer. Eight frames of footage goes by too fast. From watching other videos made with the Lomokino, I decided I liked it best when the camera was mostly stationary but the subjects moved. It was easier to keep your attention and focus on the action that way. So from there, the concept became shots of us standing still as tableaus with the handheld camera movement being the only indicator of motion. After a taking a few rolls of shots like that, unsure of what it was going to look like, I began to worry that the footage was going to look like a series of photographs and not a video at all. So I began shooting turning shots, walking shots, just to introduce some variety of motion. In retrospect, some of those shots moved too fast and are hard to follow… Again, I could not come to most of these conclusions until months later when we finally reached the point where we could assemble the footage digitally. That was the only point in which I could grasp the pace of the video.
Shooting in St. John’s, Newfoundland proved, as usual, to be difficult when the film you are using depends on sunny weather to be properly exposed. I have the most experience shooting with 100 iso film on sunny days. Those are the days when I feel confident that the shots are going to look good. The day we went shooting in Bannerman Park, it was sunny when we left the house, but it immediately clouded over. Our kids were with a babysitter. We shot the roll anyway and hoped for the best. Many of the shots turned out too dark. Even with the lowest aperture, f/5.6. Oh well. The day spent shooting in La Monche Provincial Park was sunny and generally turned out better. At one point that day, I accidentally opened the camera without rewinding the film. The footage of me on the bridge became flooded with red light leaks. Very cool.
My rule of thumb was one roll of film producing around 30 seconds of footage. After 13 rolls, I decided that it was enough shooting to cover 4 minutes of video. I got the film developed and it was scanning time. I used an Epson V500 scanner with the included 35mm scanning mask. It could not find each frame automatically, I had to select each frame manually. 144 frames. 13 rolls. Almost 2,000 images to then be manually cropped to a set, uniform size. I did some colour correction but since much of the footage was so dark and grainy, there wasn’t much I could do. Just staring at the spools of uncut film was daunting.
Next was assembling the footage in Adobe Premiere! My husband and bandmate, Matthew Thomson, took care of editing the footage together. After a few test scenes, we tried 3 frames per second, which we decided was too slow and painful to wait for the action to move. The final magic number was 4 frames per second. It felt like a comfortable pace. Long enough to notice what was going on. Fast enough to keep your attention.
I should note at this point that I do own the Lomokinoscope and the smartphone holder so that you are supposed to be able to screen the footage within the viewer and film it with your smartphone using the Lomokino app as a fast alternative to the process explained above. It was a disaster. The teeth on the Lomokinoscope did not always grab the film to advance the roll. When this happened the frame didn’t line up nicely with the viewer anymore. So you would have to adjust the frame within the viewer and try again. It also ripped some of the film while it was trying to advance it. I will never use it again.
The video is for the band I play in, Land of the Lakes. It is for the song I Will Turn from our 2015 self-titled album. All in all, I am happy with how it turned out. I will definitely try using this camera again with my own improvements in mind for scene length and camera movement. It was well-worth the considerable amount of effort.
Here it is!