Optical Printer K107


Optical printers are machines used primarily as an analog process for special effects. They can slow down time, speed it up, capture freeze frames, and much more. The apparatus, essentially, is a Bolex 16mm camera fixed to a slider and facing a projector, allowing the camera to re-photograph whatever is being projected.


Before You Begin...

To use the optical printer, you will need to checkout a small split reel. There is a small take up reel in the room, along with a set of rewinds and three different gates that can be swapped out on the projector (35mm, 16mm and Super 8). Make sure the camera has no film in it by turning off the light, opening the Bolex, and feeling around inside the camera. If there is film inside, inform a staff member on duty. They will remove the film for you.

Check the camera and make sure that a) the variable shutter is closed down, and b) there are no filters in the filter slot. Use compressed air to clear off the camera, film gate, lens, and projector gate. Also check the voltage on the projector lamp: it should be all the way down before you turn the projector on. Leaving the voltage all the way up when turning it on may blow the bulb. Once powered on, slowly bring the voltage up to your desired amount, being wary of the limit marked on the fixture itself. 

Setting the Gate

As mentioned above, K107 features an interchangeable projector gate that can swap between 16mm, Super 8, and 35mm. The gates are in yellow, black, or orange cases on the cart underneath the printer and are labeled accordingly. You may need to check K105 (606F) if your desired gate is not present. 

To change out the gate with a different size, remove the two black screws on the top and bottom of the gate that is attached to the projector. Then, pull the gate toward you, wiggling it slightly to loosen it but still being careful not to damage any components. Once the gate comes free, gently lay it on the counter and find the gate you wish to use. Line up horizontal pins with their inverse holes on the empty slot. You may need to turn the sprocketed wheels on the gate in order to line them up, but it should slide in and fit properly. Replace the black screws on the top and bottom so the gate is secured. Place the free gate in the box of the gate that you're currently using for safe keeping, and replace it when done.


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Getting Started

Once you've set your gate, you can supply power to the machine itself. The computer that controls the camera and projector runs to the power block under the projector, and said block runs into a power strip on the right side of the cart itself. This power strip can be plugged in to any of the outlets on the wall behind the printer. Once plugged in, ensure that the red light is on on the power block, then flip the silver switch marker "POWER ON" on the back of the camera mount (the side facing the door). 


Loading the Camera

The camera loads like any other Bolex, however, due to the electronic motor that is connected to it, it can only be operated via the keypad. The small panel next to the keypad has two buttons on it: one labeled "cam." and one labeled "proj." These will each advance the camera or projector one frame forward or backwards. The switches that control the forward and backward operation are on the back of the camera mount, above the power switch. When the switches are up, the corresponding mechanisms will run forward. When down, they'll run backwards. 

Thread the Bolex like you would normally, however instead of running the camera from the body itself, use the "cam." button on the panel to advance the film through the gate and back down to the take up spool. Once the take up feels secure, close the camera and enter the following sequence into the keypad: 

CAMERA PRESET COUNT – enter 100 on the number pad – ENTER – RUN

Allow the camera to run until finished. It should now be ready to use. 

Loading the Projector

Verify that the projector is running forward by checking the switch on the back of the camera mount and then pressing the red button labeled "proj." on the smaller panel. The projector feeds from bottom to top. This is so that when the film is re-photographed, it appears in the proper orientation on the new film. 

Load your source material onto a small split reel and place it on the bottom of the projector. Attach the head to the take up reel and spool out a few feet to thread through the gate. Watch this video for a visual guide on how to thread your film.

Once the film is threaded through the gate, it should advance frame-by-frame, similar to the camera. If the film slips off the rollers, just thread it back through, though there should be enough tension to keep it in place.

Turn on the projector lamp using the switch on the back. Once on, slowly bring up the voltage using the dial on the back, being careful not to increase it past the limit of 100 volts. It should kick on around 50 volts. 


Using the Sequencer

Once your film is loaded into both the camera and projector, it's time to start shooting! The Bolex and projector are controlled solely by the keypad and panel in front of them; they cannot be operated manually, so take some time to refresh yourself with our guide on different combinations and methods for achieving the effect that you want. Your procedure will always involve the following: select PGM before you input your commands, and when you're done, select PGM again before selecting RUN. 

Setting Focus

Find a frame in your source material that you know is in focus. Alternatively, you may also ask a staff member for a SMPTE film to determine focus, however you will need to load it separately from your film you'll be re-photographing. 

Open the aperture all the way up on the lens and press the SHUTTER OPEN/CLSD button on the keypad. This will open the shutter of the Bolex. The two knobs behind the camera control the camera body and the lens on their respective ends of the bellows. Adjust the lens until you have your desired frame, using the knobs on the top and side of the lens mount if needed, then find the best possible focus by adjusting the camera body. Once you have your focus, press the SHUTTER OPEN/CLSD button again and close the shutter.


Getting the Shot

When you're ready to run the camera, be sure to close down the viewfinder so that no light escapes. Turn off the overhead light and close the door so that the only source of light is the projector lamp. Click here to view our guide on optical printer effects and how to achieve them.

Using Filters

In some cases, you may wish to use a colored gel filter or ND filter. K107 is equipped with a small collection of gels as well as filter slides to put them in. To place a gel into the slide, open the slide itself by pulling apart the two pieces of plastic, place the gel in the the center of the guides, then close it back until you hear a snap. Alternatively, you may hold a gel in front of the projector lamp and cut the light that way, though be careful of the heat from the lamp itself.

Wrapping Out

Once you have finished using the optical printer, shut off the projector lamp and remove your source material from the projector. If there is film on both the take-up and feed sides, unthread the projector by pulling the film from the rollers, unlatching the gate, and sliding the film toward you. You can use the rewind table in the main area to spool it back onto the split reel. 

If you ran through all of your film in the camera, remove the take-up spool from the camera and put it back in your box, making sure it's sealed. If there is film still on the feed side, take a pair of scissors and carefully cut the film between the feed spool and the first sprocketed wheel inside the Bolex. Remove the feed side and put it in another box (ask a staff member if you do not have one). Advance the film frame by frame using the panel with the red "proj." button until it is clear of the second sprocketed wheel, then remove it and place it back in the box for processing! Depending on your comfort level, this process can be done in the dark as well. 

Once your film is squared away, be sure to secure the projector gate, make sure the voltage on the lamp is all the way down, and power off the keypad. Then, turn off the power strip on the cart and unplug it from the wall. Make sure that the camera is closed up and that there is a daylight spool available for the next user (if there isn't, inform a staff member). Place the take-up reel back on the top of the projector and be sure to put the pillowcase back over the machine when done!


Congratulations! You've successfully used JK Optical Printer K107. 


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