From the first examples of Eadweard Muybridge’s Horse in Motion and on through the history of motion pictures, we have subjected ourselves to the illusion that a stream of pictures moving at a fast rate is a display in motion. Film is where mechanics, psychology, and art collide.
But there’s something special about the idiosyncrasies and spottiness of old film. It doesn’t take you out of the experience as much as builds a camaraderie with the viewer. One has to accept the illusion to participate, so dull your senses and be amazed.
One DIYer has been working to give us back that sense of illusion. As first spotted by The Film Stage, YouTuber Denis-Carl Robidoux developed a machine of his own design called a Gugusse Roller, which uses a Raspberry Pi, camera, stepper motors, alongside dozens of other custom and household parts to capture and digitize film as it winds through several spools, much in the same way film is reeled through old school projectors.
Using that tech, the YouTuber has worked to digitize hundreds of old school 35mm film trailers over the past several years and uploaded them to his channel across multiple playlists. He also shows off the mechanics of the Gugusse Roller and the digitization programs. There’s a unique satisfaction to watching the internal mechanisms of the machine reproduce film-like quality onto YouTube, like being up in the box of an old theatre fumbling with rolls and rolls of shining, black film.
Robidoux described in comments how, excluding prep time, a single trailer can take his machine about 10 hours to record with another hour used for stabilizing the film, not to mention the time it takes to edit and upload it to YouTube.
Robidoux even offers free detailed instructions on how to build one yourself if you’re so inclined.
Most of the film trailers are from the late ‘90s and early 2000s, though there’s a few old classics and modern films thrown in there. The trailers come from a time when the movie industry was making the expensive transition to digital, but scrolling through the list of videos leaves little sun spots of recognition and nostalgia on the brain. Many of these movies weren’t great, and hell, most weren’t even passable, but young people growing up at that time didn’t really notice how bad they were as they watched them in theatres, and over and over on VHS and DVD.
The old-school trailers are a reminder that movie ads are essentially an art form in and of themselves. In respect to Robidoux’s work, here’s a non inclusive list of movies that sparked a tinge of memory for us growing up at the cusp of the turn of the century.
The Ridley Scott-directed epic Gladiator is the kind of movie that you spend enough time away from and forget just how drawn out parts of the movie can be, especially compared to how most people remember it as a emporium for Russell Crowe lines like “Are you not entertained?” However, the trailer really sells that feeling of old school cinematic historical epics in the way of Ben-Hur.
Kangaroo Jack (2003)
You forgot about this movie, didn’t you? Now it’s all coming back. There was a rapping kangaroo in this, wasn’t there? “The hip, hop, the hippy…” Oh God, that’s right, the main character was hallucinating a rapping Kangaroo. Why would they do that? Why….
28 Days Later (2002)
This small UK film would rock the horror conventions of zombies for the next 20 years. 28 Days Later still feels fresh in the way that it knew it was trying something different. Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comics wouldn’t come out for another year, so it’s hard to say who came up with the whole character wakes up from hospital in the middle of a zombie apocalypse thing first.
Spy Kids (2001)
Robert Rodriguez’s foray into kids films actually is pretty interesting on its face, without the foreknowledge of the major franchise it would become. The trailer does little to emphasise the strange visual effects and plastic-y set design that gave it a weird, otherworldly feel. It does what a lot of the trailers from this time did, give us jokes and slapstick out of context, hoping to trick children’s lizard brains into convincing parents to buy movie tickets.