In cinematography, bipacking, or a bipack, is the process of loading two reels of film into a camera, so that they both pass through the camera gate together. It was used both for in-camera effects (effects that are nowadays mainly achieved via optical printing) and as an early subtractive colour process.
Use as a colour processEastman, Agfa, Gevaert, and DuPont all manufactured bipack film stock for use as a colour process from 1920s onwards. Two strips of film, each sensitized to a primary colour (generally the combination of red and blue or red and green) would be exposed with the emulsion layers in contact with each other, resulting in one of the two negatives being reversed.
The process had its beginnings in providing a repeatable method of compositing live action and matte paintings, allowing the painted section of the final image to be completed later, and not tying up the set/sound-stage whilst the artist matched the painting to the set. It also alleviated the considerable difficulties caused by matching shadows on the painting to the set on an open-air set. The process worked equally well for matting-in real water to a model, or a model skyline to live action. The process was also referred to as the Held Take process. Perhaps the most famous example of a held take is the long shot of astronauts clambering down into a lunar excavation in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The technique, if used with a camera not specially designed for contact printing, runs the risk of jamming the camera, due to the double thickness of film in the gate, and damaging both the exposed and unexposed stock. On the other hand, because both strips of film are in contact and are handled by the same film transport mechanism at the same time, registration is kept very precise. Special cameras designed for the process were manufactured by Acme and Oxberry, amongst others, and these usually featured an extremely precise registration mechanism specially designed for the process. These process cameras are usually recognisable by their special film magazines, which look like two standard film magazines on top of each other. The magazines allow the separate loading of exposed and unexposed stock, as opposed to winding the two films onto the same reel.
The bipack process, which is a competing method to optical printing, was used until digital methods of compositing became predominant in the industry. Industrial Light and Magic used a specially-built rig, built for The Empire Strikes Back that utilised the method to create matte painting composites.
The Dunning ProcessVarious improvements and extensions of the process followed, the most famous being Carroll D. Dunning's, an early method built on the bipacking technique and used for creating travelling mattes. It is described thus:
- The foreground action is lighted with yellow light only in front of a uniform, strongly lighted blue backing. Panchromatic negative film is used in the camera as the rear component of a bipack in which the front film is a positive yellow dye image of the background scene. This yellow dye image is exposed on the negative by the blue light from the backing areas, but the yellow light from the foreground passes through it and records an image of the foreground at the same time.
bipack in German: Bipack-Verfahren