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Mystery "track"

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  • Mystery "track"

    I have a 16mm film that looks at first sight double perfo but it is not. The soundtrack side has perfo-like marks (but they are smaller than perfos). The film is a French studio one (couldn't find any reference of it, sadly), more than probably from the '60s and originally with sound. I see two possibilities : 1) My film is a copy of a double perforations films on a single perfos stock. But then, why would a studio sound film had been released as a silent one without intertitles or any explanation ? 2) what looks like perfos are a kind of "bip" synchronisation system (like the "bips" on magnetic tracks). But then, again, why for a studio film and I have never heard of such a synchronisation system on an optical "soundtrack". What do you think ?

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  • #2
    Interesting! I'd be inclined to rule out any sort synchronisation system, having never heard of that with 16mm. If you can't find any reference to it, it's clearly an obscure film and perhaps for some reason no prints exist with an optical track. Maybe yours is the only one of it's kind and someone intended to screen it with a double band projector, or possibly even get it striped and recorded. Good luck with finding the soundtrack, as you might then have a unique rarity! What's the title and about how long is it? Does it look like it might be entertaining if you could hear the sound?


    • #3
      The title is : "Monsieur Dubois n'en croit pas ses yeux", you could translate as something like "Mister Dubois Cannot Believe His Eyes" (Dubois is a common name like Smith in English). It's about 25 minutes, I would say. The main character, Monsieur Dubois, come back to his home and a child is watching a film with a projector. At a moment, the actress of the film goes out of the screen. She explains, as I could guess, things about Georges Mélies and other inventors. If you ask me, yes, the content is of great interest in my opinion. The three actors are not famous but I could find some little informations about them. I dated the film in the "60s thanks to the age of the child. What was unexpected is that the actor playing Monsieur Dubois seems, following Internet, to be still alive (and would be over 100 year old), but as said before he's not that famous so who knows if the informations are up to date ?

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      • #4
        I have a print of a Swiss TV film which has a separate (English) sound track on perforated magnetic tape. The sound being full stripe for use on a double band projector. I understood that this is relatively common for sound to be separate as Switzerland has three languages, French, German and Italian.

        I see that Belgium also enjoys three languages, Dutch, French and German. Perhaps the sound for Dominique's film is on a separate film.

        As regards the print. Could it possibly have been printed through from a 17.5mm print as used for Pathe Rural? I realise this is a very long shot as the wartime occupation of France forbit the use of with only 16mm being officially approved.

        17.5mm PATHESCOPE (


        • #5
          Maurice, your suggestions are certainly interesting but I'm afraid don't solve the mystery.. My film is from the'60s, so I believe there is no chance a commercial film would have been shot on 17,5 mm (as you remind it, the nazis forbit that gauge and material had to be converted to 16 mm, reason why "few" projectors survives). I also doubt there is a soundtrack in Dutch. Unlike German, the Dutch speaking market is narrow ans most if the films are subtitled in Dutch, not dubbed. Also, on Dutch-speaking TV channels, all series and films are brodcasted with the original sound and Dutch subtitles, while on French-speaking channels, almost everything is dubbed. Until some years ago, the only place to see films with original soundtrack and French subtitles was...cinemas. That has changed, first with dvds, and then with languages options on TV boxes. So back to M"Dubois n'en croit pas ses yeux", I'm still hoping for ideas.


          • #6
            Thank you, Dominique.
            It was the printed through perforations which made me say it was a very long shot. 😀


            • #7
              Those pictures look very interesting Dom I would love to watch the film itself.


              • #8
                I'm puzzles by this film, Lee. I hope one day I get an explanation.

                Out of topic but perfect timing : Maurice, today I got the American Reel Image magazine and the French Infos-ciné (one of both surviving amateur movie publications in French, the other one being the Ciné club 9.5 de France magazine). In Infos-ciné, there is the first part of an article about 17.5 mm. It says that in 1929, 4.000 silent 17.5 projectors were in circulation. In 1932, when a sound version became availaible ("before the American companies could do the same for 16 mm films" says the writer of the article 😉), the owners (small cinemas in villages most of the time but also catholic communities, 1.500 17.5 projectors were owned by them in the '30s) of a silent projector had the opportunity to send their machine to Pathé, pay 9.000 francs (instead of the 12.000 francs, catalogue price) and receive the same day a brand new sound machine. It is not said what Pathé did with the silent projectors collected that way. All this gives an Idea of the number of projectors manufactured in that interesting gauge. The camera is also mentionned and it is said that it was sold only to the users of a 17.5 projector. The purpose of the camera was to add local events footage during the projections. Next issue of the magazine (and so, the second part of the article) is due on mid-september.

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                • #9
                  Been into 17.5 since I was a boy following on from my Dad who got his first sound machine in the 30's projecting films around the villages of Kent UK at the time into the war. Dad had the wooden cased version a little later as well which the Dot Gov public information people paid to be converted to 16mm so that Dad could project films to the villages in wartime.

                  This is one of my 17.5 machines which was the original one used in the Buckingham Movie Museum to great effect. Few years back we had a go at making a 17.5 film perf machine which was reasonably successful and we hoped to perfect it. Time to get back to that at some point I hope. The projector itself has two lenses, one for short throw and one intended for halls.

                  17.5 did have a very short practical life with 16 and 9-5 gaining much ground and was pretty much forgotten. Anyone who gets chance to do the INSIGHT TOUR at Bradford museum will see the 17.5 equipment range on display in the basement archive along with much more of course.

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                  I'm wondering it the extra perfs on your film is some sort of pulse click track used for synchronization perhaps? In the 60's all manner of systems were knocking around as we know. Could be they used the optical pickup as a pulse.


                  • #10
                    How very interesting, Dominique.

                    I took the magazine "Amateur Cine World" from Spring of 1946. There was a company advertising that they could convert 17.5mm sound projectors to run 16mm sound!

                    Pathescope had a large pre-war library of 17.5mm sound films in the the UK. The main advantage of this gauge was that the films were released in their full lengths.

                    Many of them eventually turned up on 9,5mm sound but very heavily cut, for instance, most musicals lost their music! The music items were released as shorts called Vox Revues. Clever owners could, with a lot of work, re-insert the missing musical numbers back into their correct places.

                    Here are details of the 17.5mm sound library:-

                    UK17.5MM SOUND FILM (


                    • #11
                      Secret of the Loch and Sing as we go are astounding good prints 8 and 9 reelers.

                      Pathescope were already offering 16mm versions of the 17.5 sound machines so it was reasonably simple for them to convert backwards to 16mm. I have a 16mm machine as well which is black.

                      We 17.5mm types are few in numbers it should be said and has always been niche but reely interesting


                      • #12
                        I can't see clearly enough just what's there in the photo. Could have been a lab mistake. I have a short piece of Laurel and Hardy's "Blockheads" that was printed on double perf stock before someone realized what was wrong.


                        • #13
                          The perforations are not the same size, nor do they line up. It doesn't appear to be double perf stock.