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Origins Of Chinagirl

Published : 27th August 2004


Emmanuel from Munich asked :

>Why is a LAD also called "Chinagirl"?


The origin that I have read about began back in the pre-sound days of laboratory operations. For a quick visual check of print quality, a lab worker spliced into the leader of a finished negative two or three frames from a properly exposed negative from a camera test of a young starlet. The film was otherwise not needed for its original purpose. The girl was wearing a straw Chinese peasant hat, hence the name. The concept was valid for a quick, visual check of processing and printing.

In those days, all release prints were made from the original negative. The practice has continued, but now you see a face along with various color bars, gray scales, or LAD patches. I have actually seen b & w prints from the era with the China girl check frames in the leader.

Wade I. Ramsey (the other Wade Ramsey)
Dailies Projectionist, Projection Engineer
Formerly Camera Assistant
Fort Mill, SC



>Why is a LAD also called "Chinagirl"?
>The girl was wearing a straw Chinese peasant hat


I've never heard the straw hat story. However, the term Chinagirl predates LAD. My understanding is that the original Chinagirl negatives were a basic head and shoulders and a 3-step greyscale, used as Wade suggests, as a visual and densitometric check of printing and processing consistency. As the neg was consumed quite quickly, Kodak shot considerable amounts of it to supply to labs. Rather than have a real girl sit on a stool for hours at a time they used a china (porcelain) mannequin. This was originally black and white but became far more valuable for colour processes.

I've heard it referred to as "Chinagirl" "doll" or "lady-wedge", among other things.

LAD, or Laboratory Aim Density, was based on a complete frame exposed to standard 18% grey: the ideal density of the processed film, and a set of aim densities for prints, IPs etc from that original formed the basis of a duplication and printing control system devised & published by John Pytlakin 1978.

Great minds eventually thought of combining the Lads and the lasses, so that the mid-grey on the greyscale part of a Chinagirl was exposed to the Lab Aim Density.

It's a rather unimaginative story, and I've often wished for a more romantic or unlikely reason for the Chinagirl. Any ideas? - how about a competition for the most unlikely - over on cml-chat please, if you want to suggest one!

Dominic Case
Atlab Australia



I've heard it the same as Dominic's recollection. Early versions were a china mannequin. Although some think the early models wore a multicoloured "Chinese" style dress.

Even in the 1930's, control tools like the Technicolor "Lily" were used. For many years prior to the early 1980's, Kodak did shoot many thousands of feet of "China Girl" original negative footage each year to supply labs, using a live model. Trouble was that it was a bit different each year, with a different model and slightly different lighting. It was primarily intended as "representative" footage, and not a standard.

The "LAD Girl" I developed was photographed in 1982 (I was on the set when we shot the two 400-foot rolls of 5247), and all film supplied since is made from the same original negative, either as a duplicate negative, and now as a digital intermediate:

http://www.kodak.com/US/en/motion/support/h61/

http://www.film-tech.com/trailers/filmtechpytlak.html

John Pytlak
EI Customer Technical Services
Research Labs, Building 69
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, New York 14650-1922 USA
Telephone: +1 585 477 5325
website :  http://www.kodak.com/go/motion



John Pytlak writes :

>The "LAD Girl" I developed was photographed in 1982 (I was on the set >when we shot the two 400-foot rolls of 5247), and all film supplied since >is made from the same original negative, either as a duplicate negative, >and now as a digital intermediate :

So how has that footage held up after 22 years? As accurate as when it was originally photographed?

Mitch Gross
NYC DP



Mitch Gross asked :

>So how has that footage held up after 22 years? As accurate as when it >was originally photographed?

It's held up very well, thank you. Better than me.

Of course, Kodak did store it properly.

The reason we have moved to making it via digital intermediate is that we want to supply it on a camera original stock, rather than as a duplicate negative.

Little tidbit: To add some humour to my SMPTE presentation in 1982, one of my slides was of me dressed in drag as "LAD Girl". I have the original slide safely locked away.

John Pytlak
Eastman Kodak Company



John Pytlak writes :

> I have the original slide safely locked away.

To be used only with the Dorian Greyscale.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



John Pytlak writes :

> I have the original slide safely locked away.


Brian Heller replies :

>To be used only with the Dorian Greyscale.

That deserves a no-Telly award!

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614


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