V-TYPE BI-PACK ADAPTOR FOR THE BELL & HOWELL 2709
Manufacturer Unknown 1930's - 1940's
Unmarked as to manufacturer, this V-Type Bi-Pack Adaptor for the Bell & Howell 2709, permitted the use of two 400-foot 35mm motion picture film magazines for color or process photography.
Some 2-color processes of the late 1920's and early 1930's, such as Multicolor and Cinecolor, involved running (or overlaying) two strips of film together. Wikipedia describes the general process as " In bipack color photography for motion pictures, two strips of black-and-white 35 mm film, running through the camera emulsion to emulsion, are used to record two regions of the color spectrum, for the purpose of ultimately printing the images, in complementary colors, superimposed on one strip of film. The result is a multicolored projection print that reproduces a useful but limited range of color by the subtractive color method."
The adaptor's base mounts to the camera, with the film magazines being attached to each extension resulting in an inverted "V" formation as shown below, hence the industry designation "V-Type":
Bell & Howell 2709 with V-Type Bi-Pack Adaptor and 400-foot Film Magazines
Adaptors identical in concept, were being built in the early 1930's by the Fearless Camera Company for their Silent Super-Film Camera. The Fearless Company's adaptors (or "adapters" to use their spelling) were much steeper in design to accommodate the length of their larger 1,000-foot capacity magazines:
Ad from The International Photographer, May, 1931 Source: The Internet Archive
Experimentation with multi-color film processes began as early as 1899. However, it wasn't until the late 1920's and early 1930's that some of these would become truly commercially viable. Bi-packs by Bell & Howell and Mitchell came into greater use during this period, with various multi-color processes continuing to be developed into the late 1940's. With the introduction of single-strip 35mm motion picture color film by Eastman Kodak in 1950, virtually all 2-color and 3-color processes would disappear by the middle 1950's. Most bi-packs used on Mitchell and Bell & Howell cameras were vertically stacked, and this is the style almost always seen today:
Mitchell 35mm Bi-Pack
Although the side-plate cover's grip design on this V-Type adaptor is similar to those found on Fearless Camera Company's film magazine lids, and despite the fact that Fearless built their business manufacturing all sorts of accessories and components for motion picture cameras by Mitchell, Bell & Howell and others, this unit was probably made by someone other than Fearless or Bell & Howell.
Fearless Camera Company 50mm magazine for their Convertible 35-50 Camera
The unit featured here most closely resembles a V-Type adaptor for the Bell & Howell 2709, sold by the Hollywood Camera Exchange, 1600 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, California. Although Hollywood Camera Exchange had a machine shop, with castings involved in its construction, more than likely their "HCE Magazine Adapter" was manufactured (or at least partially manufactured) for them by someone else. Shown below with its side-plate removed, Hollywood Camera Exchange's version appeared in one of their catalogues believed to date to the mid-1930's or early 1940's:
From Hollywood Camera Exchange's mid-1930's or early 1940's catalogue
Close-up of HCE's Magazine Adaptor on a Bell & Howell 2709
Although the V-Type's construction and appearance might seem like something more reminiscent of the late 1920's, Hollywood Camera Exchange's catalogue ad stating that their "V-Type Bipack Adapter is gaining popularity" suggests the V-Type followed the stacked-style. And, stacked configurations for bi-pack work were already in use by the late 1920's, as reflected in the December, 1929 ad for Multicolor Films, Inc. seen below:
Ad from The International Photographer, December, 1929 Source: The Internet Archive
Bell & Howell and Mitchell stacked magazine bi-packs were already in widespread use by the early to mid-1930's, and despite the V-Type's introduction, stacked magazines would continue to dominate. With no other advertisements for the V-Type style, no patents found that might cover their designs and no photographs seen of any V-Type in use, it's difficult to narrow its period of manufacture.
This V-Type Adaptor is the only physical example of the style that I've ever encountered. This, together with a lack of information, and that Bell & Howell and Mitchell bi-packs are seen with some frequency today, these adaptors apparently never gained a serious following. With Hollywood Camera Exchange's version priced at $125 (without magazines) when a Bell & Howell 400-foot bi-pack (two joined magazines) could be purchased for the same amount, I'm guessing that relatively few were ever made. Of those, most were probably relegated to some dusty bin, eventually being thrown out or recycled.
A very rare and unique piece of cinematic equipment from Hollywood's Golden Age that I'd like to know more about.
For more information on bi-packs, the Hollywood Camera Exchange and the Fearless Camera Company's products, look for them under the "Cinematography" section of this website.