Jeff Altman, a professional film colorist in Chicago, revived his grandfather's beautiful 16mm Kodachrome footage from a trip to Las Vegas in 1962. It's an amazing time capsule of a city that looks very different today. Altman tells the story of how he gave the film a second life on the Internet in an interview below.
Who shot the footage? How did you end up with it?
My grandfather shot all of the "archival" movies I have put up on the Internet. He was a veteran and a Chicago cop who was an enthusiast for 16mm film, opposed to 8mm which was more of the norm for home movies. It was an expensive hobby, which apparently lead to quite a few arguments with my grandmother over its costs.
The timeline as far as how I obtained the footage is a little long. My grandparents have always lived out of state during my upbringing (I've always lived in the Chicago area). My grandfather died about 11 years ago, and some five years later my grandmother moved back to Chicago to be closer to the rest of the family. When she moved back, she was getting rid of a lot of stuff she didn't need anymore. I was in film school at the time, and rather than throw it out or give it to charity or something similar (she, or anyone else in my family, didn't know what to do with it), she gave me several large boxes of his film, a projector, and his 16mm camera.
I stowed the stuff away for another four years, because I knew enough at that time how much care that sort of stuff needs and I would have probably destroyed it if I had tried to project it. Fortunately, career wise, I wound up working at a post-production company, specializing in color correction and film transfers. Being able to do all of the restoration myself was, oddly, a nice way of being able to reconnect with my grandfather.
Who are the people in the video?
My grandparents, and most likely other people involved in the American Legion, or similar organizations. The only people I recognize are my grandparents.
It's gorgeous footage, and very much captures another era.
It is! Kodachrome was a very beautiful film stock that, when exposed properly, could render very beautiful colors and images. The real disappointing thing to consider is how much film out there that's just like this, that people don't know what to do with, is just slowly rotting away in basements or attics. I wouldn't at all consider this footage he shot as rare or even particularly unique; a lot of people took these sorts of home movies during these eras. I'm merely in a unique position to be able to do this sort of work.
For more videos by Jeff Altman, check out his Vimeo channel.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.