Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Registration Testing For Film Cameras

Where can I get proper documentation of the correct and "Union approved" manner to test film cameras for registration.

Exactly which type of registration charts work best and why?
Where can I find this documentation in a book, article, or other means of printed information.


Charles Rose a.i.c.

> Charles Rose a.i.c.

It would help us if we knew where you are from .There are different kind of unions out there ...

Eric Bensoussan
1st AC
Montreal Canada

Hi Charles,

Doug Hart's definitive book, "The Camera Assistant" covers registration tests in detail.

There's an easy-to-use device that some rental houses carry that attaches to the PL-mount and is a self-illuminated chart that can be shot twice, 180 degrees off for each pass, and this will show you any registration errors. The advantage with this device is that the camera doesn't have to remain in the exact position relative to the chart, and it's easy to dial in the exposure. I think it's made by Century Optics if I'm not mistaken.

It can be tricky to get the film rewound and run through again, and it can seem a bit laborious, especially if you have to start over because you jammed a mag or something when rewinding the film.

Having a camera\mag that can run in reverse along with a good footage counter is very useful for this.

Check out Doug's book. It's very comprehensive, and one of two or three books I recommend to everyone who asks me where to start to become a DP.

By the way, Doug, I have an older copy... have you updated it for working with newer digital\HD cameras? I might have to go buy it again.

Graham Futerfas
Los Angeles based DP

>>It can be tricky to get the film rewound and run through again, and it can seem a bit laborious, >>especially if you have to start over because you jammed a mag or something when rewinding the >>film.

As a veteran of literally thousands of steady ( registration ) tests during my career, I can tell you that the main cause of unsteadiness (?) is that the test was rewound in the magazine.

You really need to minimise wear and tear on the perforations. Sending the film stock back through all the sprockets, rollers and registration pins can and will cause bruising to the perf edges. Use a rewind unit and try to handle the film stock as little as possible. When testing 35mm cameras DON'T forget to mark the perforation at the gate...

All rental houses will have a special set up for steady tests, you have to be really careful to avoid a false result.

The century unit is good, but don't rewind in the mag...

Andy Taylor
Camera and Lens Engineer
ARRI Media
DDI:01895 457141
Tel: 01895 457100
Fax: 01895 457101


You won't find a better explanation than that in Doug’s book. Check out pages 103-109.

Martin Shepherd
1st AC

I worked at a rental house as a tech before going freelance & some of the differing techniques camera assistants used for shooting registration tests were real eye-openers.

In the days when 35BL's were the feature camera for non Panavision projects, I remember an assistant claiming the main camera had some subtle but obvious 'float'. This was a surprise to me because I had just finished servicing that camera body & had personally tested it, deeming it perfect! Luckily the projection room was next door. While watching the projected test, I noticed relatively steady motion every 1½ seconds or so. The assistant turned to me & said I had better fix the camera properly this time! I asked, "Did you look through the viewfinder while shooting the test on one of the passes?", "Yes, of course I did" was the reply. Hmm, not a very bright assistant.

Another time, an assistant shot a reg test using a tripod with a carpeted floor with the chart taped to a plasterboard wooded framed wall! They too complained about a registration problem. NEXT CONTESTANT PLEASE! Unfortunately, not all rental houses have proper testing facilities. To me, it is false economy not to have a proper set up for an assistant to perform proper tests without too much un-necessary prep. Something like a nice, fat, heavy steel post, Dyna-bolted to a concrete floor, with the chart attached to it on a welded steel frame, so there is no movement between it & the camera position will help reduce any testing errors, plus, of course, an experienced assistant performing the test, so the poor camera techs don't have their valuable tie wasted chasing ghosts! I put two Siemens stars on my chart when I shoot registration tests. It is more of an 'acid’ test for the camera to show any potential registration errors. The angular intersecting lines show errors very effectively, no matter how subtle - as long as your exposures are not incorrect!

Don't just tape a paper chart to a wall which is under an air-con vent - a billowing chart will give false readings.

No carpeted floors.

Don't look through the eyepiece - there is no action to be of concern during this test.
Don't put the camera in reverse - laziness is not a good trait for an AC.

Just some thoughts! Some from the distant past.

Angelo Sartore
1st. AC


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