Make custom viewmaster reels on your computer!
By Charles Barnard (cb3d@aol.com)

These files are freely distributable to anyone who feels they can use them, but please keep the archive complete with the following files:

READ_ME_FIRST.txt - Has this info
vm_template.psd - A Photoshop 5.x file for placing stereo pairs to be printed onto film.
alignment_grid.tif - A grid image for testing punch alignment.
template_directions.doc - Microsoft Word document containing directions for using the files.
template_directions.txt - ASCII version of above.
Questions or comments can be sent to Charles Barnard:

Charles Barnard's method for creating personal reels from a digital source (340k zip file)

 

 The full instructions (also in the ZIP file)

Please note that this document assumes you understand basic Photoshop 5.x usage, and stereo imaging principles and terms. If not, there are several good books on both subjects available through various sources.  Photoshop assistance is the easiest to acquire, as there are numerous books on the subject through any good book seller.  Stereo imaging information is not as widely published, but there are some excellent sources on the internet (search for keywords: stereoscopic, stereograph). This document also assumes some working knowledge of the Mark I Personal Camera and Viewmaster Mark I film cutter.

Vm_template.psd

This Photoshop file facilitates the precise alignment of digital images (scanned photographs, drawings, 3d renderings etc.) within a 35mm film for the production of custom viewmaster reels.  When the frame, or group of frames, are recorded onto 35mm film with a high-resolution film recorder, the processed film can be punched with the Viewmaster Mark I film cutter, and mounted in Viewmaster Personal reel mounts.

 Software required:

          Photoshop 5.x or later

         PowerPoint 97, 2000, or 98 for Mac (recommended but not required)

  

Non-computer hardware required:

          Viewmaster Personal Mark I film cutter

 

Other useful items:

          Light box - available at any good photographic supply store, or online. 

          Loupe (small magnifying viewer)– available at any good photographic supply store, or online.

          Hand-held print viewer - an inexpensive plastic viewer for viewing stereographs in the 3inch by 3inch format (product #2018, from http://www.stereoscopy.com/reel3d/.com).  If you are trained in the fine art of ‘free viewing’, then you may not need this.

 

Vm_template Usage

Open the file in Photoshop.  Next go to the View pull-down and make sure that guidelines are unhidden, and that Snap to Guidelines and Lock Guidelines are checked.  Now let’s look at the file. Open the Layers palette (if it isn’t already open), and look at the layer structure.  The layers are clearly named and fairly straightforward.  The top layer, called ‘reel mask’ is presently invisible, so make it visible.  The purpose of the reel mask layer is to show how much of the image is cropped by the reel after mounting.  This also makes it handy to adjust placement of the stereo window for each pair of images - more on this later. This layer is normally made invisible when the frame is sent out for recording to film.  So for now, make it invisible again.  Now look at the other layers.  The layers “left 1”, “right 1”, “left 2”, and “right 2” are stand-in layers to be replaced by whatever images you want to use.  Each image on these layers is 1551 x 1409 pixels in size.  Your imported images should match this size, or be as close as possible.  Alignment is facilitated by pasting or dragging images from other bitmap images, or Photoshop documents, into this one, and moving the image until it ‘snaps’ into position on the guidelines.  Each stereo pair should be mounted side by side as indicated by the stand-in images - “L1” and “R1” representing the first stereo pair, and “L2” and “R2” the second stereo pair.  Thus, two stereo pairs are possible per 35mm frame.  The final file is flattened and saved as a .TIF or a .JPG (for use in PowerPoint).

 

Adjusting the Stereo window

Unhiding the reel mask layer after the images are placed, is a good way to see how much of the images will be cropped by the reel. 107 pixels on all sides of the images are cut-off.  The image layers can be moved side to side or up and down to better compose the images within the reel mask windows. Before a vertical move, you may want to link the layers together, to maintain their correct vertical relationship. Referencing the reel mask layer is also a handy way to adjust the placement of the stereo window.  With the reel mask layer visible, zoom out until the centers of the stereo pair are about 3 inches apart.  On my 17 inch monitor, working at a resolution of 1024 x 768, this means a document zoomed out to 17.6.  Now, using the hand-held print viewer (or ‘free viewing’), you can actually see the pair in stereo, and determine where the stereo window is falling.  To fine tune its placement, just nudge (arrow keys on PC) the left and right image of the pair, while looking through the viewer.  Nudging the right image more to the right and the left image more to the left, places the stereo window further forward.  Conversely, nudging the right image to the left, and the left to the right, places the stereo window further back.  Be careful to not overdo these adjustments, and end up with the either image riding up too tight to the edge of the mask.  A good way to check this is to set the opacity of the reel mask layer to 50% and see where the images are falling to the edges of their respective windows.  I recommend at least 50 pixels still be under the mask edge, to account for some slight slop in the punching and mounting process.  Anything less, and you risk seeing a black edge on one side of your views when mounted.

 

Recording to Film

Unless you own your own film recorder (all of us should be so lucky), your final frames containing stereo pairs will need to be sent out to a service bureau to print the images to film.  I use Konold Kreations (www.colorslides.com) for its reasonable prices and personalized service.  George Konold  (order@colorslide.com) is the owner of the business and is very helpful in answering any questions.   It is important to understand that the current vm_template.psd file has been aligned to work only with their Agfa film recorder.   This does not mean that the file cannot be used with other film recorders from other service bureaus, but it will probably require some adjustment (see ‘Customizing the File’).  As each frame of pairs is completed, the layers should be flattened, and the final image saved as a .JPG or .TIF.  When you save a .JPG in Photoshop, a dialog box appears allowing you to set the quality of the compression.  Move the slider all the way over to the right (maximum quality) and save.  For .TIFs, be sure the ‘LZW compression’ check box is checked on export.

 

Konold Kreations excepts frames as .JPGs or .TIFs attached to separate emails, if the size does not exceed 1.5 mg.  Most frames will more than exceed this, and probably fall closer to the 6 -8 mg range per frame.  Sending frames on ZIP 100 disk or CD is the best bet.  They then take your images and place them in PowerPoint as ‘slides’, and send the final ‘slide show’ to their printer.  If you have PowerPoint 4, 97, 2000 or 98 for Mac, you can make the slide show yourself, saving the slide show file (.ppt), and sending that on ZIP or CD.  This is the preferred way to go, as they charge an extra $1.00 PER FRAME if they have to work with separate images.  Check their website for more information on sending files, and setting them up in your version of PowerPoint (www.colorslides.com).  When you place the order be sure to request NOT MOUNTED and the Agfa film recorder (they only have one).   Also, I recommend requesting an extra frame at the beginning and end for easier handling with the cutter, and allowing punching of the pairs at the far edges.

 

Cutting the Film

When the filmstrip is returned from the service bureau, cutting or punching of the film strips in the VM Mark I film cutter can proceed as it would for any other roll shot by the Personal camera.  The main difference is the vm_template file actually groups each left and right pair into a single frame, as opposed to over a course of three frames. This is more efficient, and a cost saving, as all areas of the 35mm film real estate is used, as opposed to having partially filled areas at the beginning and end of a roll.  Thus, two reels worth of images (14 pairs) can be compressed into just 7 standard 35mm frames.  This would take at least 9 standard 35mm frames, if shot with the Personal camera.  The cutting procedure starts the same: Thread the film (emulsion down) from the right, and line up the right image (earmarked with a rectangle) of the first frame under the left punch window.  The left image (earmarked with a crescent) from the pair three frames later should automatically be aligned in the right window.  Punch them, and proceed punching the rest of the top images from the set as usual. The only difference in procedure is you will want to roll the film further forward, at the end of the roll, to get the last right image.  You will also need to roll the film further back, at the beginning of the roll, to get the first left image (this is why you want the extra frame at the beginning and end of the roll so that you have film for the sprockets to grab onto).  The film is turned over, and the process repeated for the second row of images.  The only down side of this procedure is that each pair is not cut simultaneously, which can make keeping the film chips for each pair together challenging.  While cutting, I place my punched film chips on a nearby light box for easier sorting with a Lupe.  The ‘earmarks’, delineating right and left images, and the distinct images themselves, makes it pretty easy to see which pairs should be together.

 

Customizing the File

If you prefer to use a different slide service bureau, then a simple test, and some adjustment to the vm_template file may be required.  The primary adjustment is in the horizontal placement of the layers within the document.  Most film recorders print their images in slightly different positions related to the film sprocket holes.  This is critical, as the VM cutter punches the film chips in precise alignment to the sprocket holes every time, so it is important that the images recorded to film line up with the film cutter.  A test grid is included with this archive (alignment_grid.tif) that, when printed to film and punched, will show you exactly where within he 35mm frame the film chips are being taken from.  To do this, have the service bureau print at least three frames of the grid image. Punch at least one complete pair (left and right film chips) from a frame, and view the punched film over a light box with a magnifying glass or Loupe, noting where the center space between the pairs falls on the grid.  Next, open the vm_template file and paste the alignment grid into the document over the “black background” layer.  Set the “reel mask” layer to 50% opacity, and then link all of the other layers to it – except for the grid layer.  Now, nudge the layers horizontally  (right and left arrows on PC) until the location between stereo pairs aligns to the location you determined on the grid background.  Finally, select the layers “left 1”, “right 1”, “left 2”, “right 2” individually, and move the guidelines to snap to their edges.  Now you can paste and ‘snap’ your stereo pairs to the revised guidelines.

 

Potential Uses

The sky is the limit as to the kind of stereo images you can now create and enjoy in the Viewmaster format.  With powerful photo imaging and editing programs like Photoshop, as well as true 3D programs like Lightwave or 3D Studio Max (to name just a couple), any ‘world’ can be realized.  Other uses for the Photoshop template might include:

 

          Have film taken with the Personal camera (or any stereo camera) scanned (if you don’t have a slide scanner, Konold Kreations also provides this service), and then bring the images into Photoshop, where they can be color-corrected or manipulated for special effects.

          Titles are a snap in Photoshop with the Text tool.

          Duplicates made easy! Just have the final frames printed multiple times by the service bureau.  For most service bureaus (Konold Kreations included), the more you print, the less you pay.

          Get creative!  Combine scanned images, stereo drawings or computer 3D elements, to make individualized and unique reels.  Most of all have fun!


More Info:
A nice article in Stereo Views magazine about Film Recorders which mentions this template
How Film is Exposed in the View-Master camera (shows how the film should look with the camera and with this template).