Slides were big. In the Sixties, enterprising folks at the World’s Fairs and Art Museums used multiple slide projectors with remote controls to create a stadium show synced manually to a soundtrack.
Kodak invented the dissolve control, which told two of it’s carousel projectors to slowly fade down the projected image from prokector one and fade up the image on the second projector, creating a “dissolve”. It then advanced the slide tray on the first projector, ready to turn the bulb on in that projector when it was time.
Kodak made this device so people could make nice speeches, but it soon recognized that people were trying to do more with these Carousel projectors and their dissolve controllers.
Kodak next gave us the slide synchronizer. It assumed you had at least a two track tape recorder, and a line was run from the “sync box” to the tape recorder, so that the slide changes could be recorded. Whenever the remote control was pushed, a buzz tone (Bahhhhp) was created, recorded on the free track next to the soundtrack track, and later, the path was reversed, to seamlessly create what some of our clients called “movies.” The show played unattended, automatically, driven by a tape recorder, dissolver, sync box and two projectors. It was experientially a movie.
Slides took off in the 1970’s. Industrial / Corporate film was becoming just too expensive for everyday audio-visual communication. Whereas major corporations like GM could afford to make movies every month, small or regional companies simply couldn’t afford the cost of film production for their training or human resource communication needs. Further, corporate filmmakers were always trying to stretch the envelope creatively, since this was, after all, “film”…
And video wasn’t ready for the industrial world. And filmstrips? Please.
But slide shows didn’t thrive because of the other media’s negatives.
Slides had strengths.
First was the cost- a fraction of film. Once the slides were processed, they we “edited” by culling the best images, creating a sdtory in script or interview, and laying out the slides and producing a compelling soundtrack. Voila- done, ready for showing. None of the complications and post image processing or conforming of film. And slides didn’t require the crews or lights of film- Ektatgraphic film could be “pushed” to 1600 iso, enough to capture documentary slices of life, no matter what the location.
Second was the image itself… extreme high definition, clean, crisp, colorful.
Third was the dissolve effect…. there was something about it. A very slight dip toward black as the other image came up. Hypnotic in it’s own way.
Fourth was the introduction of the language of film into the shows. Sophisticated scripts and soundtracks. Film-style shooting methods (long shot, medium shot, closeup, cutaway). Powerful music. Darkened rooms.
And matched with a great photographer, slide shows could envelop you in a story… an emotional, make you cry story.
If the shooter knew how to capture the peak moment (or was using a motorized drive), he or she could capture peak moments, faces, expressions. Ten or fifteen moments of high-points- ambrosia for the eyes.
Enterprising electrical engineering companies soon began improving on the Kodak dissolve / sync box system. Why limit the number of projectors, or the transitions to one speed and type? Soon there were multiple screen shows, screens with six or nine projectors on them, and lifelike animations.
We did a show for the Milwaukee Art Museum called “The River”. It was part of an exhibition called “The Urban River”. It decried the fouling of the river by industrial pollutants, the ignoring of a potential San Antonio type river experience, and documented the work architects and engineers were doing to plan and present a renewal project to the city.
We had 8 screens in a configuration that allowed us to simulate traveling up the river.
It took twenty five years, but today, Milwaukee’s river life is alive and well, with a Riverwalk, river restauranteurs, boat slips, condos, and clean water.
It was growing on us that slide shows changed lives. We made friends and had impacts on the lives of our corporate, volunteer, political and arts clients.
We would tell life history stories, sales stories, motivational stories, health care stories, and recruitment stories for the arts, charities, and of course small and big business.
For us, it lasted about 15 years, until it became obvious that video- increasingly a part of our media mix- was the only way to go.
Beth Algiers-Manley RN,MA, talks about the work she did for hospitals in the 1980’s and 90’s:
“I took photos/slides of hospital staff, in the surgical arena, cath lab, ICU, pre and post- op floors,,volunteers etc. I respected HIPPA confidentiality, even though it did not exist then. No patients were shown in the slides.
The purpose of the shows was to thank all the nursing staff, therapists and all who helped take care of the Cardiac Surgical patients our team attended to. There were so many deptartments involved in the care of our patients.
So, when the staff was leaving after their shift, they would come over to our office in the adjacent Professional Arts Building for this party. IT was always held on Valentine’s Day which we declared as our ”national holiday” for our heart team, led by Dr. Richard T. Shore MD.
We had a wonderful buffet set out. THEN, our perfusionists who ran the heart lung machine, rigged a machine up with sterile bags, filled with “perfusion punch” The perfusionist would clamp and unclamp the tubing to fill glasses.
That was a hit.
Each wave of staff would drift into the waiting room where a large screen was in place.
Then from behind the glassed in area of the office I set up 2 KODAK slide projectors. Speakers and the cassette deck were in the main area. I then showed the dissolve show, featuring them, set to great music. They loved it, and 20 years later, still talk about it when I should happen to run into one of the staff somewhere in Milwaukee.”
We got to know many competitors and other slide-show (by then called multi-image) industry people through the years, especially though the industry group Association for Multi-Image (AMI), which ran an international festival yearly. Some of shows won big at those events, and the acclamation of our peers was a wonderful thing. They had stumbled into this crazy medium just like us, just in different markets and in some cases countries.
It was a great ride, and the education we gained during it set us up for the next thirty years in major meetings, video production, and interactive and web media.
Thanks, Kodak…. wherever you are.