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Thread: The Polaroid Vectograph Process
12-28-2011, 04:49 PM #1
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The Polaroid Vectograph Process
Polaroid Process - Vectographs
So what is the Vectograph process? Well, it is a printing process that allows you to create the finest possible printed stereoscopic images in black and white.
The Vectograph Process is a polarized process, so you require special polarized viewing glasses. A Vectograph is superior by any measurable means, to all other printed stereoscopic image techniques. Attempts at a color process were tried; the process was called the Stereo-Jet Process. It relied on ink-jet printers and special inks. Costly and not available to the average person.
Careful work will allow you to create stereoscopic prints that look as rich and detailed and sharp as any conventional black and white printing process.
How do you make one? You probably don’t. Sadly, Kodak discontinued matrix film and tanning developers years ago; Polaroid was sold to 3M and 3M stopped making Vectograph film available. That said, another company now offers Vectograph film and modern ink-jet printers can replace the matrix film, so ignore what I just said: you can make them, but you need to kludge your way through the process. There are a few sources for prepared matrices. Costly, yes. I know of one person that will likely make a set of matrices for you, but there are no guarantees.
Vectograph film is a multi-layered material, in which the molecular alignment of the top surface is 90-degrees to the bottom surface. When stained using iodine based Vectograph printing ink, the top and bottom layers become polarizers. Do not think darker or lighter, think degrees of polarization.
Vectograph film has much in common with all polarizer filters. To make the film, PVA is stretched. That’s it. The stretching aligns the molecules. After stretching, the film is stained and polarizer film is the result.
When viewing a Vectograph without the required glasses, you will see two images: the top one and the bottom one. Or in stereo parlance, the left-eye view and the right-eye view. Because the images are polarized, the left filter of your viewing glasses only sees the left image and the right eye only sees the right image. The brain fuses these images together to provide stereo depth.
To make a print, you first create black and white negatives the same size as the finished print. Then sheets of matrix film are exposed and processed. One matrix is exposed like you would expose paper; that is, on the emulsion side. The other matrix is exposed through the back of the film because it must be reversed. The end result is two matrices: one for the left eye and one for the right eye. Remember, because you are looking through the film, one image must be reversed. This is fall off the log simple for Photoshop.
These matrices are best thought of as “rubber stamps” in that they transfer the iodine solution to the Vectograph film. The thickness of the raised matrix image corresponds to the density of the negative.
The matrices are first aligned for proper stereo. You simply lay one matrix over the other, align, trim, and place a strip of filler between the edges of the matrices. The thickness of the filler corresponds to the thickness of the Vectograph film. The pair is trimmed and taped. Think of a “V” shape; the Vectograph film is sandwiched between these two matrices.
The Vectograph film goes between the two matrices, it is passed through a set of soft rollers, and allowed to set. The iodine solution will permeate (imbibe) the Vectograph film, and create the final stereo image. By changing the alignment, you can move the objects towards, behind, or through the stereo window.
Matrices can be reused unless scratched.
Your lab must be clean, your technique must be flawless, and simple issues like a scratch on one matrix or a dust speck on another will be immediately noticed.
The image can be painted with silver paint for prints or not painted for backlit displays.
The Military produced thousands of these images during the war. The co-worker that taught me the process ran the Air Force Vectograph Printing School during the war.
Many of you have seen a Vectograph. Remember the Stereo Fly (Titmus Test) your eye doctor often uses?
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